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]]