2019-02-16

Nash-in-nole Emergence-y

nash-in-ole From "Adolf Hitler: my part in his downfall" by Spike Milligan. This is volume 1, things are still funny, no-one has died. Well, no-one he knows, anyway.

Which seems a rather apt lead-in to Trump; you may as well get your Godwins in early and accurately1.

So, is it a nash-in-ole fuckin' emergency? No, of course it isn't. The idea is absurd; no right-thinking person could possibly agree. Only in a nation with debased political discourse could such an idea even be briefly entertained.

However, as in all such things, Trump has people running cover for him. For example:

* Climate change is a national emergency.
* 28 million Americans without health insurance is a national emergency.
* Children in cages is a national emergency.

No. None of these things are national emergencies. They are all problems that you would like solved, but they aren't emergencies. And pretending that they are just provides cover for Trump and his fanbois.

I'm currently reading The Federalist Papers, which is largely Madison selling the proposed constitution by pointing out the numerous checks and balances. He isn't too bothered by the powers of what he calls the "Chief Magistrate"2, relying on the power of Congress (ironically, of the purse) to restrain him if necessary; and of course underlying all is the will of the people.

Notes


1. Hint: you can't invoke Godwin to mean "I don't like that" without looking silly.

2. I think he uses the term in a deliberate effort to play down the role. No nobility no king was a big thing at the time.

Refs


CHAPTER 34—NATIONAL EMERGENCIES
* There Is No National Emergency on the Border, Mr. President by ALEX NOWRASTEH
* Speaking of comedy, there's What would happen to Earth’s Climate and Weather if we had no Moon? at WUWT - but you may prefer We Like The Moon.

2019-02-10

The truth about big oil and climate change

20190209_LDD001_0 The Economist offers to tell you The truth about big oil and climate change. And on the whole, it does. This is welcome; less than a decade ago their review of Moah Chants of Doot failed to even mention GW1 though to be fair by 2012 they'd given up such nonsense.

However, it is necessary to read what they say if you want to know the truth; just looking at the pix and reading the short words written in big letters and confirming your preconceptions is not a good way of obtaining information. There are any number of people getting this wrong; either egregiously or egregiously.

The easiest way to go wrong is to stop at their sub-title: Even as concerns about global warming grow, energy firms are planning to increase fossil-fuel production. None more than ExxonMobil. Bad oil companies! Bad Exxon! What could possibly excuse such behaviour? If you really can't think of the answer and need to be told, then you need to go back to remedial school4. The answer is the bleedin' obvious: Yet amid the clamour is a single, jarring truth. Demand for oil is rising and the energy industry, in America and globally, is planning multi-trillion-dollar investments to satisfy it. And It would be wrong to conclude that the energy firms must therefore be evil. They are responding to incentives set by society. The financial returns from oil are higher than those from renewables2.

The Economist admits that the market cannot solve climate change by itself which I think is both true and uncontroversial. But it continues Muscular government action is needed. Contrary to the fears of many Republicans (and hopes of some Democrats), that need not involve a bloated role for the state. After a pause for a brief sideswipe at the Green New Disaster, it continues The best policy, in America and beyond, is to tax carbon emissions, which ExxonMobil backs3.

As I Twote:
Setting policy is a task for Govt. Don't blame Exxon if your govt is crap. Mostly, blame your voters.

Disclaimer


Did I mention that my parents in law used to work for Exxon? And that we have benefited financially from this. I've said this before, of course.

Notes


1. They were fairly shitty over CRUgate, too, but then so were the rest of the Meeja.

2. And perhaps in implicit rebuke to those worried about "stranded assets" it notes that the typical major derives a minority of its stockmarket value from profits it will make after 2030. Incidentally, the bit about returns-from-renewables being less is something of a red herring. FF companies know about... FFs. They have no particular advantage in renewables. Although the mindless tend to think "they produce energy. Renewables also energy. So FF companies can do renwables! It logic!" this is not logic, it is wrong. Indeed, as I've argued before - but cannot now find - I would argue that it is better for FF companies not to invest in renewables: that way you have a nice investment choice: if you want to invest in FF you can, if you want to invest in renewables you can. If substantial work in renewables were done by FF companies, the market signals would be all mixed up.

3. Technically it is true that Exxon backs a carbon tax, but their support is weak at best. They were sponsoring sane things all the way back in 2005, I find.

4. Note that you don't have to agree with the answer (though you're wrong if you don't); but you do have to be able to think of the answer; or rather, you should already know it.

Refs


Who Gets How Much in a Carbon Tax-and-Dividend? - QS
* Cowen on the Egalitarianism of the Economics Profession - by David Henderson

2019-02-09

Old suing: Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp.

50732285_2186088528122735_7685062365158572032_o Oddly enough, I missed this one when it first came out a decade ago: Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corp.. I find it now via ClimateLiabilityNews's Ninth Circuit Nominee Has History of Defending Big Oil, Including in Liability Cases. And there's little to say, other than I would have argued it an obvious precedent for the Alsup case; with the slight difference that the "tenuous" chain of science is stronger; but that's not the key issue. I only wrote this so I have a note.

But while I'm here...

Kavanaugh


Since I previously opined on K, I note the Graun's whinging in Brett Kavanaugh should never have been allowed on the supreme court. This comes in the category of news-that-is-not-news: all we learn is that the Graun has not changed it's "mind", yawn. I pass over the analogy to sub-prime, which is stupid1. Now I look closer, that entire article is an undigested regurgitation of all past grievances; let's pass on to another. The substance is The US supreme court voted 5-4 to block a Louisiana law that would have dramatically reduced access to legal abortions in the state. So the Graun has what it wants (for others) but that isn't enough, because K dared venture a dissenting opinion. The Graun is terribly worried that K will overturn the RvW precedent, and is therefore obliged to ignore K saying All parties... agree that Whole Woman’s Health is the governing precedent for purposes of this stay application. I therefore will analyze the stay application under that precedent. And goes on to argue -correctly I think - that the case turns on competing predictions about whether certain doctors can obtain "admitting privileges". And produces a certainly plausible, and arguably correct, argument that the predictions could have been tested experimentally with no harm. See-also SCOTUSBlog.

The missing element here is the question as to whether the law could possibly do what it purports to do, offer any protection. K's proposal would leave no time for training of any sort, so the doctors would either end up, bureaucratically, with a piece of paper with a rubber stamp on it or not; and why that would do anyone any good is unclear. However, against that, the law is full of instances where pointless rubber stamps are required, so perhaps there's no reason this shouldn't be another one.

My own view is that the usually-omitted context for all of this is not that the SCOTUS is making law but that it is striking down law, or not. The positive law-production is the province of the states, in this case; and being in the middle of The Federalist Papers2, it seems clear that the original constitution was intended to give wide latitude to the various states.


Refs


* Kivalina: And so it begins… (2015)
Kavanaugh’s views on EPA’s climate authority
Kavanaugh's other dangerous assault - on the environment?
* BRIEF OF INDIANA AND 14 OTHER STATES AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES - via WUWT (sadly none of my other sources seem to cover this)

Notes


1. The analogy is stupid. My passing over it is sensible. Arguably it would have been even more sensible to treat it with the contempt it deserved and ignore it entirely.

2. Interesting, and I will finish them, but they're something of a burden.

2019-02-08

500,000,000,000 is a small number

frankie Small compared to the number of atoms in the universe, of grains of sand on a beach, or of bacteria in a hooman; but in units of dollars it would be enough to get me out of bed. Written into a political tract it certainly looks like a large number, but we all know that we shouldn't trust political tracts. Which brings me to Cortez the Killer1 via Dave Roberts: global warming at or above 2 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrialized levels will cause... more than $500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year 2100.

What is $500 B small in comparison to, in financial terms? Yes, that's right: the US GDP, currently $20 T or if you like, $20,000 B. By 2100 it will be - go on, let's guess a round number - $50,000 B; and so $500 B is 1% of that.

Throwing away 1% of GDP is not something you want to do wantonly3. Which is why you shouldn't adopt the policies in the Green New Deal, because they would cause far more damage than that. Just look at Venezuela4.

Refs


* Having said all that, for balance I should give you someone who likes it: David Roberts.
* David Appell isn't keen on all aspects.
Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. I must find somewhere to work this is.
The case of the reviewer who said cite me or I won’t recommend acceptance of your work.
* Making Tracks in the US - Eli.
* They Live.
* Utopia now: The problem with the Green New Deal: A deeply unserious proposal to tackle climate change - the Economist.
* Republicans Have Better Solutions to Climate Change say Greg Walden, Fred Upton & John Shimkus. Their solution is to do nothing; this is better than the GND, but their inability to say "carbon tax" condemns them.

Notes


1. Appropriate, no? And the women all were beautiful / And the men stood straight and strong / They offered life in sacrifice / So that others could go on. / Hate was just a legend / And war was never known / The people worked together / And they lifted many stones / They carried them to the flatlands / And they died along the way / But they built up with their bare hands / What we still can't do today2. Everything was harmonious, and even the human sacrifice was done in an ethnically appropriate manner.

2. This annoys me. Of course we could do it today, if we wanted to. This isn't LotR world, or Plato's Age of Iron looking dimly back to an Age of Gold.

3. Yes, I know. There's a long difficult and currently-inconclusive argument to be had about how accurate any such estimates are, and whether they wildly underestimate the true damages. But today I'm just trying to talk about Timeo Civilibus et dona ferentes.

4. Or that nice Mr Lenin. You may think the pic "unfair". But I like it, and the song.

2019-02-07

Moah costs and benefits

While ATTP tries and fails to find common ground with JC, I rather liked the pic which he found over at Reducing greenhouse gas emissions helps the economy by Patrick T. Brown, PhD1. In the end, it will turn out that there's less to the picture than meets the eye, but it isn't a view I was familiar with, so worth looking.

We start from the assumption that we're on the blue dot at the moment: which is to say, we're burning as much fossil fuel as we possibly can, consistent with making a fast buck. This is obviously a heavy idealisation but I think it is in principle trueish. And from this and smoothness assumptions, we can deduce that the shape of the marginal benefit curve of extra emissions is flat at the point we're at. And therefore we can deduce that as long as the shape of the marginal costs is negative, as we'd plausibly expect, then the "optimal" emissions - if all was accounted for - would be less than they are now.

This is little different from the familiar idea that "social cost of carbon" represents an uninternalised externality consequent on FF burning, and if costed in would reduce FF burning by increasing its costs. Although what this figure does it make it clearer that adding in SCC doesn't then reduce your "optimal" emissions to zero.

If we continue with ATTPs thoughts, we come to It’s already clear that there are economic (and other) benefits to emitting less than we otherwise could. Of course, this doesn’t tell us how much less we should emit, but it does tell us that some kind of optimal pathway involves some level of emission reductions. And here we hit the problems. Firstly, indeed, this kind of schematic gives us little clue as to how big the "optimal" reductions might be - indeed they might be trivial - and the Nordhaus stuff he inlines indicate an "optimal" pathway with apparently flatlining emissions; we've already talked about whether this is plausible or not. But there's also the problem that there's no control knob on the economy marked "FF burning", other than the one we're not prepared to use, carbon taxes2. And this is a problem because you only get to quote the "optimal" results if you do it in the optimal way. If you do it in a distinctly non-optimal way by subsidies and regulation, you get a non-optimal result.

Notes


1. Don't tell anyone, but PTB credits it to Tol. Look closer; his name is even on it.

2. Or cap-n-trade, which is worse.

2019-02-02

A note on fossil fuel subsidies

In the course of discussions on GW, one often encounters statements like direct subsidies for fossil fuels amount to more than US $500 billion per year worldwide. In this case, because of the magic word "direct", you can probably trust that the number is plausible. However, there still remains the problem of interpretation. Who is the statement aimed at? Apparently, the people and government of the West. Unfortunately, that page doesn't really provide references (it makes some token towards them, but since nothing is connected or annotated, their "references" are useless). Some Googling gets me Direct Fossil Fuel Subsidies Worldwide: Half a Trillion Dollars Annually - commentary and findings, whereupon it becomes clear that the numbers are most of a decade old, but never mind (actually it is a bit worse that that, because although the headline is $500B, and the text carelessly says "roughly $500 billion in 2010", as the graphic shows the number is $409B, which does not naturally round to $500B). We discover that $125B comes from Iran+Saudi, quelle surprise. Russia+China are another $60, and India (madly; but their pols are perhaps even more broken that others) are $22B. For a grand total of most of half the $500B more than half of $409B. and we haven't gone anywhere near the West yet.

But wait, it gets worse. The number for India is very badly out of date; this for example suggests "only" $8B in 2017. And if I then poke around, I find that the global total for 2017 is "only" $300B.

So, isn't this just a bit shit? How come that of the proudly-touted list of 3200 Belgische wetenschappers en academici, not one of them could be bothered to source their statements properly or check the numbers?

Anyway, here's a fuller pic, from the IEA. As you'll see, and as you'd probably expect, it's a pile of tin-pot energy-banana-republics.

tinpot

Which of course points you to the solution: it's nothing to do with GW, or subsidies specifically; it's "better governance".

Refs

* Imaginary $500B not enough for you? Why not go for $5T instead?
How to decarbonize? More free market!
* Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement by William D. Nordhaus; NBER Working Paper No. 10433
* The marten menace: What’s cute, furry and can disable a particle accelerator?
Corruption is still rife around the world - Economist
Analysis: Why the UK’s CO2 emissions have fallen 38% since 1990 - Zeke Hausfather

2019-02-01

L'affaire Christy

50837219_2006761279392719_3327335112948842496_n John Christy has been appointed to an EPA panel, and people are sad. For an example of a plausible response1, I offer you John Christy Was Just Named An EPA Science Adviser. His Climate Studies Have Been Repeatedly Corrected, from BuzzFeed. For an implausible example, you can have Scientist Who Rejects Warming Is Named to EPA Advisory Board from NotReallyVerySciAm. They kinda give the game away in their subheader: John Christy has advocated for the repeal of regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. This is a crime in NRVSciAm world.

But what are JC's actual crimes? He was one of the first to push the federal government to conduct a “red team, blue team” debate on climate science. That was a decade ago. Now he wants to use his new perch on the agency’s Science Advisory Board to challenge climate science consensus. I noticed him arguing for a Red Team in 2017, along side the other JC, and I'm afraid his arguments didn't impress. But, meh. The Red Teamers are a bunch of clowns who have  hidden behind no-one actually bothering to run a Red Team; if Christy wants to stand up and present his errors to the panel, they'll get rebutted.

There’s a benefit, not a cost, to producing energy from carbon, NRVSciAm report JC as saying, and so contemptible is this statement that they don't even bother to attempt to refute it. But, it is true: burning FFs has benefits and costs; if you want to reduce it to one number of (benefit - cost) then it is a net benefit2.

But wait: NRVSciAm has When asked what his first priority would be as a member of the SAB, Christy said he would try to convince his colleagues that nature is responsible for rising temperatures, not people. If those were JC's actual words, then they would have him bang to rights. But of course they aren't JCs words. Instead, we have “I think it would be to demonstrate to the board what we know about climate and its variability and what’s really going on,” Christy said. “And secondly is our inability to characterize it well with our models.” Notice that NRVSciAm cant let you read JC's words without pre-interpreting for you, just in case you might make up your own mind. I'm not convinced that our inability to characterize it well with our models is particularly accurate but it's within the bounds of reasonable debate.

In contrast to the apparent panic at NRVSciAm at one not-one-of-us getting onto the EPA panel, Gavin rather wisely appears unperturbed: If they want to waste their time going after the endangerment finding, they’re just wasting their time, and better that they waste their time than they do something actually destructive.

Notes


1. In the headline, and much of the article. I think their starting a history of botched research is unjust. They made mistakes, and we're exactly that forthcoming when others found their mistakes, but meh; that's not unusual. For something I wrote in 2010, try here; but there's loads more history on this one.

2. We've done this before. Remember?

Refs


* Twatter reminds me of John Christy, Richard McNider and Roy Spencer trying to overturn mainstream science by rewriting history and re-baselining graphs by Bart Verheggen from 2014. Which won't improve your view of JC.
* Symposium: Government agencies shouldn’t get to put a thumb on the scales by Jonathan H. Adler: on Auer deference, as compared to Chevron deference.
* [[UAH satellite temperature dataset]]

2019-01-31

Yet more bollox from Oreskes

Via complete and utter Twatter, apparently an amicus brief for the United States Court Of Appeals FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT:
At least fifty years ago, Defendants-Appellants (hereinafter, “Defendants”) had information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil fuel products would result in material dangers to the public. Defendants failed to disclose this information...
Can you see the problem with this? Just as a hint I've bolded some of it. Yes, that's right: these idiots are actually trying to claim in a court of law that the Evil Fossil Fuel companies failed to tell the world about published scientific research. FFS. They'll get ripped to shreds, if anyone even bothers read this drivel. Not that Monkers was dissuaded, so there's a fine exemplar for them to follow.

You cannot rescue this rubbish by claiming that "their own internal research" was the important factor, because it wasn't.

This is yet more of the deeply morally broken attempt to blame the world's problems on Someone Else; to pretend that the public and the politicians were mere innocent victims of the EFFCs. It is nonsense1.

Notes


1. Not that the EFFCs haven't done their share of lying. But "I did bad things because people lied to me" is pretty feeble; and definitely no excuse since the turn of the millennium, when (true) information has been so widely available.

2. It took me some time to work out which case this is, even. It's probably this one, if you care. Which enables me to tell you that Mario J. Molina, Michael Oppenheimer, Susanne C. Moser, Donald J. Wuebbles, Gary Griggs, Peter C. Frumhoff, and Kristina Dahl are idiots as well; the lesson from the Alsup tutorial was that the science isn't in doubt in court. But don't miss their shameless Foote fanbois stuff, although why anyone would want to yawn through their tedious rehearsal of well-known not-in-dispute stuff I don't know. Perhaps they had the slides pre-prepared and were reluctant not to use them.

Refs


Nierenberg, concluded: Oreskes is wrong.
I was a teenage Exxon-funded climate scientist?
Gongos and Bongos
Holy Alsup, Batman!
* And don't get me started on the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 12 years to death meme.
CAN THE EULIPOTYPHICENE SURVIVE THE ANTHROPOCENE? - no issue is too trivial for govt to intervene.

2019-01-23

Christ Carrying the Cross (Bosch, Ghent)



Christ Carrying the Cross (Bosch, Ghent). Although, apparently, not.

Well, what can you say? But I should try to say something. It is immeadiately striking, yet another of those paintings that reminds me of eternity and the triviality of one's own existence. It's a sort of inverse of Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Again - though I am no art historian - it seems so original. But I don't find the comment As a study of human facial expressions this work is unparalleled helpful.

Refs


Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
* The Fall of the Rebel Angels
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

The IPCC are idiots

tf The IPCC are idiots. With a New Leader they decided their website was the wrong colour, and so set about a vandalism spree, breaking all the old links. So for example the succinctly titled Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty linked to http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf, which is no longer there. Well I'm buggered if I'm going to painfully trawl through all my old posts correcting them link-by-link, since I don't have the patience of a Gavin.

I'm surprised there isn't more outrage across the wub. Perhaps no-one reads old posts.

Refs


* On Being an Arsehole: A defense - h/t ATTP
* New Ocean Heat Content Histories - Zanna and Gebbie
* Not my Best Side - U. A. Fanthorpe
File:Paolo Uccello - St George slaying the dragon - Google Art Project.jpg
It speaks clearly to truth
* Earned wealth or unearned wealth: we want it; TF; from Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century by Matthew Smith, Danny Yagan, Owen Zidar, and Eric Zwick.
Democrats More Positive About Socialism Than Capitalism; and 538 on Twatter.
Why I'm Optimistic About Venezuela by Bryan Caplan
* Kamala Harris’s Disappointing Economics - Proposals from the Democratic presidential candidate fail to account for some basic aspects of supply and demand - by Tyler Cowen
* Pride and Prejudice and Violence - by David Henderson

UK has biggest fossil fuel subsidies in the EU, finds commission?

44833099_2052946934770229_3277484643019915264_o Sez the Graun. Anyone with any experience of these matters will be unsurprised to discover that the calculated size of the subsidies depends on what exactly you consider a subsidy. In this case, you have to go a few paragraphs down before you come to A significant part of the UK fossil fuel subsidies identified by the commission is the 5% rate of VAT on domestic gas and electricity, cut from the standard 20%. This is the Graun; quantification is not their thing; they do not trouble themselves with how large a share "significant" might be.

Now "cut from the standard 20%" is an interesting phrase, implying - to my mind - something recent. And definitely implying that it once was at 20%. But no, this is not true at all, not even a tiny bit. As VAT on fuel & power, Research Paper 97/87, 9 July 1997 will tell you,
When VAT was first introduced in 1973 supplies of fuel & power were charged the zero rate. On 1 July 1990 'non-domestic' supplies to industry and commerce became liable to VAT at the standard-rate, leaving the zero rate covering supplies to final consumers only: ie, supplies used in houses, flats, dwellings, etc, as well as supplies used by a charity for its non-business activities. On 1 April 1994 domestic supplies of fuel & power became liable to value added tax (VAT) at the reduced rate of 8%. It had been the Conservative Government's intention that these supplies would be charged the standard rate of VAT - currently 17.5% - the following year. However in December 1994 the Government was defeated on a Budget Resolution vote on this question, and was required to introduce amending legislation so that these supplies continued to be charged VAT at 8%. In October 1995 the Labour party announced its intention to cut the rate of VAT on domestic supplies of fuel & power from 8% to 5%, a commitment included in their election manifesto. On 2 July 1997 in his Budget speech the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced that the new 5% rate would come into effect on 1 September 1997.
So the question becomes, is charging VAT on domestic G+E at 5% rather than 20% a subsidy to fossil fuels? Maybe, but not obviously.

And so we have The UK government did not dispute the data but denied that it provided any subsidies for fossil fuels under its own definition and that of the International Energy Agency. “We do not subsidise fossil fuels,” a government spokeswoman said. Whether that is true of not depends on your defns. So what are we to make of the unparliamentary language of Shelagh Whitley, also at ODI, was dismissive of the UK government’s claim to provide no fossil fuel subsidies. “They are lying,” she said. “It’s absurd..."? SW is lying in asserting that the UK govt is definitely lying. You may, if you wish, dispute the UK govts interpretation of the definitions.

What of the report?


The Graun, of course, is only picking snippets out of a long report which is mostly about other things. I, of course, am not going to read the whole thing, I'm just going to ctrl-f for "subsid". The first interesting quote is It is important to note in any discussion of subsidies that there are multiple legitimate reasons for intervening in the energy sector with financial or regulatory support, to correct imperfect markets and to give long-term strategic direction not provided otherwise. I should have expected that; this is the EU; they are always going to provide themselves a let-out for subsidising things that they like for reasons that please them. Notice what they don't have to say, though: that what is a subsidy depends criticially on your defn. This is definitely not an aspect they wish to consider. Figure 10 shows that whilst UK "subsidies" are higher than France's, ours have fallen from 2008 to 2016, whereas theirs have risen.

Unfortunately the report provides no detail of the break down of the subsidies, only Subsidies to petroleum products (mainly tax reductions) account for the largest share within fossil fuels, so just for once I can't fault the Graun for providing an irritating lack of detail: that's the EUs fault.

Other reactions


Craig Bennett, the Friends of the Earth CEO, said: “Spiralling climate change is going to cost people and our economy huge sums of money, through the damage, disruption and instability it causes. So it’s astonishing that the UK government is still throwing taxpayers’ money at... Which makes it clear that people are going to "misinterpret" this stuff. Because whatever charging a VAT rate of 5% rather than something higher is, it certainly isn't throwing taxpayers money at anything. Quite the reverse: increasing the tax rate would be flinging the money at the govt :-).

Refs


The emergence of modern astronomy – a complex mosaic: Part I

2019-01-19

Climate change could kill over 500,000 people per year by 2030?

50337670_1078953748967611_7249466790588186624_o Via Twatter (re-tweeted by Da Mann, no less) we learn that climate change could kill over 500,000 people per year by 2030. The link is to a site called "weird things" which presumably explains the lack of an initial capital on "climate". There's little substance to the article, about all is a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine tried to estimate an annual death toll which could be attributed to climate change. That number? At least 250,000 by 2030; but that report link, fetchingly titled The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health, begins The WHO predicts that 250,000 deaths yearly from 2030 to 2050 will be attributable to climate change, so it seems that this is just more lazy "journalism", and there's nothing especially new.

500k is a lot of stiffs but the world population is large: about 7kkk. Supposing everyone lives to the nice round number of 70 years, then, 100kk people die each year if we're in a steady state which we aren't but it's probably not too far off - actually, I've just looked it up, it's closer to 50kk, fine, I'll use that - so an extra 500k is an extra 1% on the death rate. Not something that you'd do by design, but (all together now) if you had a large amount of money, where might you spend it to reduce deaths? I'd put it into improving governance in the many regions of the world where the govt is shit1, if I had any brilliant schemes for actually helping. But I'm a big ideas man; I'd have people to deal with the details.

If we now turn to the WMO report itself, which I think is here, we find climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050; 38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60 000 due to malaria, and 95 000 due to childhood undernutrition. The point about "mostly the elderly" came up in 4th National Climate Assessment report: Extreme Temperature Mortality - see the comments. But I'm afraid I find much to doubt in those numbers; my suspicion is that the absolute not just percentage number of malnourished children will continue to fall (and the rather smaller number of overweight children will continue to rise). So instead of 500k we seem to have 250k; and of those less than 50k are directly heat related - so we're down to 0.1% instead of 1% - and so on.

I still think that, apart from just being a bad idea, Global Warming damages aren't going to show up clearly in this kind of simplistic analysis; see-also Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death?

Notes


1. Yes I know that neither the UK or the USA are currently setting especially good examples of govt competency at the moment, but compared to Venezuela, Zimbabwe and the like we're paragons of virtue. BTW, before you call me a Statist of enthusiast for Big Govt, I should point out that "governance" doesn't just apply to govt; indeed, one could argue that the UK and the USA are showing fine examples of why you'd want as much of the country not run by govt as possible.

Refs

Flight to Sky-Blu - from Ramblings to and from Antarctica by Mike Rose

2019-01-18

Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice volume: Causes and consequences

seaice Rapid decline of Arctic sea ice volume: Causes and consequences by Jean-Claude Gascard, Jinlun Zhang and Mehrad Rafizadeh in The Cryosphere Discussions, https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-2. Doubtless containing much fascinating science, but the only bit anyone cares about is “it should take no more than 12 to 15 years to melt away the remaining 25% of sea ice still resisting the summer melt”. But where does this prediction come from? From Based on a steady loss of -300km3 of sea ice per year and a Pan Arctic sea ice volume minimum estimated to be about 4000 km3 at the end of the summer by now, it should take no more than 12 to 15 years to melt away the remaining 25% of sea ice still resisting the summer melt. Thus, just curve - on in this case, straight-line - fitting; no physics. So this is just a re-run of the Maslowski stuff, though the last time we discussed that, I found I hadn't a clue about what Big M had actually "predicted".

In case you've forgotten, I inline what they think the volume trends look like. I'm doubtful their prediction will come true. Why would I think that, other than to be curmudgeonly? I'm not expressing any great faith in the CMIP5 models, which predict something later. No, it's more of a feeling that volume doesn't respond linearly, especially when the ice gets thin (see-also their figure 8, though that's for May; it's a shame they don't show it for September too). I could be wrong, of course. Sadly 12-15 years is too far away for any kind of useful bet.

Refs


* Dosbat also sees the light, from 2015.

2019-01-13

Tucker Carlson has sparked the most interesting debate in conservative politics?

49739198_2167080283356893_8140536757771829248_n I almost decided to pass this one up. But it touches on so much that I'm interested in that I can't. Starting on Twatter via the obligatory I-disagree-with-David-Roberts I find my titular post, by someone called Jane Coaston. TC I know nothing of and care less, but he appears to be manifesting the familiar kind of right-wing populism: that god-fearing honest white folks just can't get along nowadays what with all the evil global elite bankers at the top and the evil mexicans doing all the hard work at the bottom. After lots of wurble the article finally links you to the correct answer: libertarians have critiqued Carlson’s monologue as well, so that's nice, and spares me from having to write a whole pile of stuff. But you don't get off totally unscathed:

The article ends with a question, which is presumably intended to be tricky: But what to do about those dying little towns, and which dying towns we care about and which we don’t, and, most importantly, whose fault it is that those towns are dying in the first place. But the answer is easy: let them die. The structure of our landscape and the distribution of population has been shaped by various historical forces, if those forces no longer apply there is no point in propping up the corpses. Why "whose fault is it" is the most important question is a mystery to me; the desire to blame someone for every problem is stupid, and in this case there is no one person or thing that is to blame, just the march of progress.

Which points to the solution to the overall problem. The problem, of course, being that things aren't like they were in the old days. The solution, of course, is that things aren't like they were in the old days. Or, in their own words Capitalism/liberalism destroys the extended family by requiring people to move apart for work and destroying any sense of unchosen obligations one might have towards one’s kin. Which I take to be typical of the usual sort of claims. But of course it isn't true. Changes - liberalisations - in society give people more choices; they no longer need to remain in the same place as their parents; and taking advantage of that freedom is popular, and comes with some disadvantages. Perhaps, over time, we'll come to feel that it wasn't such a good choice. But to blame the freedom you've been given for your own choices is childish.

Refs

* A reasonably decent article on Hobbes in TLS.
The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition. Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. A review... - Bronte Capital
Oft-quoted paper on spread of fake news turns out to be…fake news
* The Spontaneous Evolution of Commercial Law - BRUCE L. BENSON
* The Right Should Reject Tucker Carlson’s Victimhood Populism - DAVID FRENCH
* A Failure to Adjust. We can't blame all of the struggles of the working class on "China Shock" -  SCOTT LINCICOME
* Standing Still is Not an Option by DON BOUDREAUX in CREATIVE DESTRUCTION

2019-01-08

Aristotle's politics

We have owned a copy of Aristotle's politics for countless years, featuring a funny old chap on the cover apparently wearing a tea cosy6, and I have not read it up until now. I suspect I've bounced off it a few times, and only finished this time after a few months. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy2 tells me it is his lecture notes3, and it reads like that rather often: not properly systematised, incomplete and repetitive. Although starting perhaps from Plato's views A is differently directed: rather than building a theoretical edifice5 he is more interested in practical observation; indeed part of the tedium is him attempting to categorise everything and failing. Hobbes's "there are only three forms of govt" is I now realise a response to A's six1. I ignore the aspects of slavery and treatment of women as being irrelevant here. A's context - a city-state amongst others - is different from today. I'm not at all convinced that the "A has been influential down to modern times" meme is of any utility; he's just another dead white male.

But mostly, and mostly interesting to me, A is interested in trying to balance different power blocks within a city, or rather - since I don't think he has much useful advice to offer, other than "think about it" - he observes various different efforts. In the end, shorn of detail but retaining the bit that interests me, it comes down to trying to balance one-man-one-vote, and one-dollar-one-vote8.

Nowadays we fetishise democracy and find it hard to believe that anything other than OMOV makes sense or can be justified, whilst living in a system that we know doesn't actually operate this way except on the crudest and most superficial level. People tend to denounce ODOV7 as an obvious evil, though without any obvious thought; and things done without thought are not always good. A, who is generally in favour of compromise and avoiding extremes, advocates a compromise between the systems; and I think that's about right4.

Update


CIP is unhappy about me suggesting [giving] power to the rich. He doesn't use the G-word but I think it is implied. My reply on reflection is incomplete, because what I forgot to say there is that this is about recognising where power lies; not about shuffling it around, still less about "giving" it to people or entities. Having a political theory that doesn't match reality leads to much unproductive discourse.

Another update


From the quotable Constitution of Liberty (via Twatter):

Closely connected with this is the usual attitude of the conservative to democracy. I have made it clear earlier that I do not regard majority rule as an end but merely as a means, or perhaps even as the least evil of those forms of government from which we have to choose. But I believe that the conservatives deceive themselves when they blame the evils of our time on democracy. The chief evil is unlimited government, and nobody is qualified to wield unlimited power. The powers which modern democracy possesses would be even more intolerable in the hands of some small elite.
It is not democracy but unlimited government that is objectionable, and I do not see why the people should not learn to limit the scope of majority rule as well as that of any other form of government. At any rate, the advantages of democracy as a method of peaceful change and of political education seem to be so great compared with those of any other system that I can have no sympathy with the antidemocratic strain of conservatism. It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.

Notes


1. For H, they are democracy, aristocracy and monarchy; being rule by all, some or one. A has these, plus their "bad" (or "perverted") versions for a total of six, where the difference is whether they are run for the common good, or the good of only a few. This is a typically A-type attempt at classification that probably means little in the real world.

2. The wiki article is poor.

3. As does the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

4. Foes of inequality will be delighted to know that he regards inequality as a source of division and revolution, and therefore wishes to minimise it. They may be less pleased that he doesn't regard it as bad in and of itself.

5. I was skimming by the time I got to book 7.

6. I now realise it's the bloke on the left in this picture. See-also here.

7. As should be clear from the preceding, and from the update, one-dollar-one-vote isn't a replacement for OMOV, but is to be understood as alongside it.

8. By chance, I discover that I briefly talked about ODOV back in July 2018.


Refs


Men spake from God being moved by the Holy Ghost / Every man in his own language.
* My Problem With the Wall by DON BOUDREAUX
There’s something threatening about this unanimity of protest. They are so sure they are right - TF

2019-01-03

ethos anthropoi daimon

Bernat_Martorell_-_Saint_George_Killing_the_Dragon_-_Google_Art_Project I seem to be having a proverb-heavy start to the new year. ethos anthropoi daimon or, for those of you with Greek no better than mine "character is fate", comes via Why the Trump presidency will end poorly in the LA Times, which comes via CafeHayek. That character is destiny is related to Aristotle's3 excellence is a habit, not a virtue1. In Trump's case the theory seems to apply. And perhaps, as the LA Times notes, it explains some of the passion of his supporters: they have bought into him; they don't greatly care about the policies in any detail what matters is the idea, or the man; and so they are obliged to buy into his character; so the attacks on Trump look like an attack on their own character?

See-also: keep your identity small, by Paul Graham.

Notes


1. Note that "quote" isn't in quotes because it isn't a quote. See-also wiki or this blog post. When I say it, I mean that it is no good relying on your excellence alone. If you try to do things - solve puzzles, do real work, athletics - and repeatedly fall short of what you were aiming for, but tell yourself each time that was only a trial, you could do better but didn't actually try your best that time, then when it comes to the "real thing" you will fail as well. The converse, of course, is that you can observe people's "excellence" from their everyday lives, you don't need to wait until they try some difficult test.

2. That wiki page also contains the nice "Those who can, do. Those who understand, teach" which is a paraphrase of A's "We regard master-craftsmen as superior not merely because they have a grasp of theory and know the reasons for acting as they do. Broadly speaking, what distinguishes the man who knows from the ignorant man is an ability to teach, and this is why we hold that art and not experience has the character of genuine knowledge (episteme)--namely, that artists can teach and others (i.e., those who have not acquired an art by study but have merely picked up some skill empirically) cannot."

3. That his physics was crap doesn't mean I have to diss all his stuff.

4. The picture is irrelevant. I'm not slaying any great dragon here. I just liked it. See Bernat Martorell for the full image. h/t Bibliothèque Infernale.

Refs


Climate change: LED lights making dent in UK energy demand
Rationality and Knavery - David Hume
* No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character - John Morley

2019-01-01

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set

Googling, as folk are wont to do, the humble phrase "For out of olde feldes, as men seyth" I stumbled across Faithful Magistrates and Republican Lawyers: Creators of Virginia's Legal Culture, 1680-18102 and my heart beat faster - yes really it did - for I had found the elusive connection between the Common Law of Olde Englande and Chaucer, and it is Coke. From Institutes of the Lawes of England (Widely recognized as a foundational document of the common law, they have been cited in over 70 cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States), probably volume four, we find: Let us now peruse our ancient authors, for out of the old fields must come the new corne. Which runs on, via some obscure connections I've now lost track of1, to the Rule in Shelley's Case, which you don't want to know about. Even better, from the title page I find Proverbs 22 28Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

Notes


1. One is a file on the history of the law of due process, which only belatedly do I notice is from electjudgeduggan.wordpress.com, who (Ballotopedia tells me) was a candidate for Supreme Court 3rd Judicial District in 2013. But he got stoated, receiving only 5% of the vote, despite his fine scholarship.

2. Or perhaps more usefully, William Fitzhugh.