2020-02-18

Tasting the whole worm

86697897_1395874010608915_5526347119981494272_oOr; "Pielke shumps the jark?". Stoat is the blog of record, so I feel obliged to record the strange disappearance of Roger Pielke Jr, at least in his Twotter incarnation. Some might say that this sad tale deserves to be passed over in silence, and indeed most people do seem to be doing that, but it is so easy to forget, so that seems wrong. Speaking of memory I'm re-reading Proust again; I thought you'd like to know that.

Over at Curry's I discover what I think is the best / only extant account of the endgame: I was watching in real time as Roger Jr. melted down on Twitter. First he “doxxed” a load of folks and got his account suspended for violating Twitter’s terms and conditions. Once his account was reinstated he announced he was taking a leave of absence, then apparently closed his account voluntarily. If you know of a better one, do tell1. That the account is now gone appears to be true.

On the 5th of Feb RP was engaging in bizarre puffery of Curry to which I brilliantly replied "I don't think that's true. She didn't reach the top; middling, perhaps. And I doubt the "many important papers" bit; care to name any? And more recently, some trash e.g. https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/wyatt-and-curry-part-ii-not-waving-but-drowning/. Strangely, no-one did care to name any of her epoch-making papers.

On the 7th he was laying into Skeptical Science; to which I made the brilliant reply Oh, FFS: sharpen your reading skilz. No, that isn't what they say. My recollection was that I was replying to his misinterpretation of the SkS "misinformer" page2; you still get to see his misinterpretation because it's on Forbes. Seeing that, I couldn't decide (Feb 9th): Weird. Is RP jumping the shark, falling off the deep end or just trolling?. My best guess was going to be "just trolling" but it seems he was rather more serious than that3. I think this then segued into meltdown, from insisting rather too insistently that of course he was entirely right about all this.

Prof. Matthew Nisbet is a twat


Well come on, who puts their prof-ism in their Twatter handle?4 Also, he's a Professor of Communication; case closed. Not only is he a twat, he's also an idiot, in evidence of which I put forward "as wealth continues to concentrate among a few politically active billionaires, philanthropists are likely to surpass national govts" in defining the climate agenda. But that wasn't my point; my point was that he appears to have taken on the role of annoyer-in-chief for ATTP and AD with Twits like ...@rogerpielkejr has played a valuable service in committing his career to this role, inspiring & informing the types of innovative, self-reflective thinking needed to identify new solutions + new alliances. See for example this recent piece. I quite like RP's pieces, but self-reflective is the last thing I'd call them; PMN doesn't seem the sort of person who would recognise SR if it hit him in the face with a haddock. "New alliances" is also odd, unless it's referring to the RP article posted "by request" over at the Dork Side. Or you may prefer the GWPF version.


Refs


Trump and science: malice or indifference?
Curry jumps the shark
My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic
* RP in Bloomberg: Good News And Bad News As Carbon Dioxide Emissions Grow More Slowly Than Models Predict - 2020/02/18 - so he's deffo not completely gone. Ironically, the piece ends "Follow me on Twitter"; someone is using an out of date template.
‘Eugenics is possible’ is not the same as ‘eugenics is good’
* Moral Approximates by Bryan Caplan
How to Write Usefully - Paul Graham

Notes


1. See-also Sou: "He appears to be having a meltdown".

2. Ironic, no?

3. Notice that Curry pops up with her malign Mann obsession in the middle of this stuff.

4. Also, he looks terribly young... and, he isn't a prof. He is an ass prof, which is rather different.

2020-02-01

XR

IMG_20200123_084746 In these dark days I keep starting blog posts and then abandoning them half finished, since if even I can't be bothered to write them it seems unlikely that anyone would bother read them. Will this post on XR - Extinction Rebellion - fare any better? If you're reading this, it has...

Last week or so there was a manifestation on the Milton Road. That's a pic showing the road leading out of Cambridge. If you turn left in the picture above, you go into the science park. I'm standing on the corner leading into the business park. This is about 8:45 am. By blocking the outward-leading road they are minimising fuss; at this time of day, the inward-going road is far busier; blocking that would probably back up to the A14 causing chaos and fun - well, fun if you're a cyclist, as I am.

FWIW the tactics were - or so I'm told - to shuffle on when the lights are red, and then stay there for 5 minutes through several green phases. Then have five minutes off, and repeat, from 7:30 to 9. They explain - at least to those at the head of the queue - what they are doing and, I presume, for how long. Those at the back just get to fume, I presume. Although traffic jams in Cambridge are hardly uncommon. Also, all this was known in advance: the estate managers mailed all the bizniz folk days beforehand. Happily for XR, many people chose to work from home to avoid disruption. Less happily, they chose to do it just for the morning and then drove in anyway.

Anyway, enough of that. In the course of fb'ing this, I got pointed at RUSHING THE EMERGENCY, RUSHING THE REBELLION? STORY AND VISION FOR XR IN 2020 By Marc Lopatin, Skeena Rathor, Rupert Read. Sorry about all the shouting but some of these people are quite shouty - notice the megaphone in my picture. Interestingly, the critique in that doc echoes stuff that I found RR saying (after ATTP raised the issue, so he gets a nod) somewhat earlier: Climate activists often compare their struggle to victories from the past. But in my view comparisons which are often made – to Indian independence, the civil rights movement or the campaign for universal suffrage, for example – are over-optimistic, even fatuous. These historical movements were most often about oppressed classes of people rising up and empowering themselves, gaining access to what the privileged already had. The Extinction Rebellion challenges oligarchy and neoliberal capitalism for their rank excess and the political class for its deep lack of seriousness. But the changes that will be needed to arrest the collapse of our climate and biodiversity are now so huge that this movement is concerned with changing our whole way of life. I offer you that to show his viewpoint; I think he is wrong, but I've said that before, so won't push that here.

Our authors start with soft soap: Over the last year and a half, you have come together and created something truly beautiful and so on. But quickly come to the point: XR is at a turning point... or see us plagued by the incoherence that many of you have been feeling since last October’s Rebellion. And this is kinda the point. You can do demos and get lots of PR - the press loves a Newe Thinge - but at some point you run into the problem that effective demos means inconveniencing and annoying a lot of people. Which people will stand for, for a while, but if you just turn yourself into a chronic nuisance, you're going to be unpopular. Which won't work brilliantly for something aspiring to become a popular uprising.

They ask: this pamphlet is about how XR can grow and catalyse by first taking an honest and searching look at itself. What are our blind spots, tensions, and paradoxes that have produced success and incoherence in almost equal measure/amounts these past months? Rest assured that the "honest and searching" look will not involve examining the science: the emergency is taken for granted and will not be questioned.

Complexity and fragility


They state, as an article of faith, how vulnerable the complex human systems that sustain our lives are to a near-term future characterised by shock, disruption, and even breakdown. But is this true? To them, it is so true that it requires no evidence. A quick Google provided me with nothing to the point. I'm reminded of AMOC shutdown: simple models tend to show "catastrophes"; more complex AOGCMs don't. But what of human society? We recently suffered what many tell us what a grievous shock: the "great crash" of 2009. But, no-one starved to death2. Our massively complex society just dealt with it. There may be a parallel with "daisy world", where adding the daisies stabilises the middle bit, but transfers the jump to the end. Do feel free to put useful references in the comments.

Equality


For unclear reasons, equality appears to be the cure for fragility: they want lived reality can pivot from vulnerability to radical equality. Frustratingly, this too is so obvious to them that they feel no need to justify it. Perhaps their logic goes: more equality implies a less complex society implies (by the previous dodgy logic) less fragility. But why (other than the purported link to less fragility) would I want a simpler society? I feel no urge to return to the Goode Olde Dayes of Happy Peasants, no matter how lovely their literature and world view was1 - and that, of course, wasn't written by the peasants and was also highly unequal. Complex societies are better at freedom. So I think they need to fill in their logic on this one - though, to be fair, this is a document for the choir, not for the unwashed masses.

3.5%


There's then some weird stuff like XR co-founder Roger Hallam noticed that successful rebellions tend to get a small percentage of the population taking part in illegal action, a far smaller number arrested, and a far smaller number imprisoned. He reasoned that if XR attained those numbers, then rebellion will be successful. But that simply does not follow. This is new to me, but would explain some of their activity. I agree with our three authors that the reasoning is indeed flawed. The rest of it I didn't read in detail; it seemed somewhat repetitious and angsty and unsurprisingly floundering about what to do next.

The polluter elite


As usual,the problem is the "polluter elite". If by "elite" they are thinking globally, and means essentially all citizens of the West, then they might be right. But I don't think they are. They mean the nasty rich folk, not all the nice middle-class folk who fly off on holiday each summer. Or possibly they mean different things according to who they are talking to. It's hard to tell. But, either way, recall that it isn't the Evil Fossil Fuel Companies emitting those greenhouses gases, it is you me and our fellow citizens.

Refs


For out of olde feldes, as men seyth, Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere.
On morality.
* He Tells Us It's the Institutions by Arnold Kling
Why Extinction Rebellion’s Tactics Are Deeply Misguided - Mike Hulme

Notes


1 Also, as Lewis notes, their literature could be pretty damn dull.

2 Consider the usual platitudes offering sympathy for those who nonetheless suffered to have been ritually uttered.


2020-01-24

Ignore the Fake Climate Debate

IMG_20200119_164755 Ignore the Fake Climate Debate says [Ted] Nordhaus. And he's right1. The second half of the sub-head of The deniers and alarmists may make headlines, but behind the scenes, an expert consensus is taking shape on how to respond to global warming is perhaps a bit more dubious. That almost everything you see in the Meeja, Twatter and indeed blogs is about the fake debate is all too true. That doesn't mean it's actually wrong, just not the real debate. But there's so much drivel in the public eye that anyone trying to be responsive ends up mostly talking about drivel, even if they're not actually talking drivel. I feel this to be so uncontroversial that I can't be bothered to demonstrate it; do tell me if you disagree.

Father2 Ted picks Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump as his archetypes of Alarmists and Deniers, and that seems reasonable enough. DT as denier seems uncontroversial so again I won't bother demonstrate; GT as alarmist may ruffle a few feathers but At Davos we will tell world leaders to abandon the fossil fuel economy? may do. And he says:
In the real climate debate, no one denies the relationship between human emissions of greenhouse gases and a warming climate. Instead, the disagreement comes down to different views of climate risk in the face of multiple, cascading uncertainties. On one side of the debate are optimists, who believe that, with improving technology and greater affluence, our societies will prove quite adaptable to a changing climate. On the other side are pessimists, who are more concerned about the risks associated with rapid, large-scale and poorly understood transformations of the climate system. But most pessimists do not believe that runaway climate change or a hothouse earth are plausible scenarios, much less that human extinction is imminent. And most optimists recognize a need for policies to address climate change, even if they don’t support the radical measures that Ms. Thunberg and others have demanded. In the fake climate debate, both sides agree that economic growth and reduced emissions vary inversely; it’s a zero-sum game. In the real debate, the relationship is much more complicated. Long-term economic growth is associated with both rising per capita energy consumption and slower population growth.
And so on. It wasn't quite all sensible; I don't quote everything. But for an Op-Ed in the WSJ it seems pretty good. He never really justifies "expert consensus is taking shape on how to respond to global warming"; the closest is somewhat different:
All of this suggests that continuing political, economic and technological modernization, not a radical remaking of society, is the key to both slowing climate change and adapting to it. And while the progress we’ve made has mostly not been due to climate policies that would cap, regulate or tax emissions, it has required government action.
That's probably his consensus; and it may be right. Somewhat like Brexit: we appear almost doomed to a rather pointless Brexit, when just remain would be more efficient. We could deal with GW more efficiently, but are doomed to muddle through.

Notes


1. But controversial; as he says, "This oped has stoked predictable outrage and ad hominem". Woo, such bravery.

2. Update: actually nephew (see comments).

Refs


Scientist Strike for Climate - Tamino
* The best way to help the climate is to increase the price of CO2 emissions - Jeffrey Frankel, in the Graun of all places.
Update day 2020! - RC
* Franta on Twatter reveals himself to be more pol than sci.

Pix


2020-01-18

End of the line for photogenic teens?

DSC_6095 Appeals Court Dismisses Landmark Youth Climate Lawsuit Vs. U.S. Government says ClimateLiabilityNews, or if you prefer the Dork Side, Climate Kidz case scuttled by 9th Circuit Court. And the reasons appear to be much as before. This is Juliana, if you haven't been paying attention; I say that so that Search will find it when I need it.

Read the judgement here; although for nominally sober judges is reads like they've been at the sherry: A substantial evidentiary record documents that the federal government has long promoted fossil fuel use despite knowing that it can cause catastrophic climate change, and that failure to change existing policy may hasten an environmental apocalypse. Probably, they're feeling a bit guilty about dismissing it, so have thrown them a bone1.

According to Vox, Andrea Rodgers, a senior attorney at Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit backing the youth who filed the lawsuit, described the decision in an email as “unprecedented and contrary to American principles of justice.” This is of course a lie. It has several precedents, most obviously Alsup, as my previous post noted. Have these people no shame?2. And the reasonning here is similar: the panel held that it was beyond the power of an Article III court to order, design, supervise, or implement the plaintiffs’ requested remedial plan where any effective plan would necessarily require a host of complex policy decisions entrusted to the wisdom and discretion of the executive and legislative branches. In case you're tempted to argue "but that leaves us no recourse!" I point out that you are wrong: the forum for resolution of such disputes is the political process; if you reply "but we get nowhere with that!" then the reply is: well, yes, indeed. So, you need to think about why very carefully, rather than go forum-shopping.

The judgement is weak scientifically and factually; I'm actually rather surprised at some elementary mistakes they make; just possibly, they are repeated the Juliana errors. But  in the 1990s, the EPA implored the government to act before it was too late. Nonetheless, by 2014, U.S. fossil fuel emissions had climbed to 5.4 billion metric tons, up substantially from 1965. This growth shows no signs of abating is drivel3.

So what of the plaintiffs claim that the government has violated their constitutional rights, including a claimed right under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to a “climate system capable of sustaining human life.”? First, allow me to note that previous reasonning in the chain (particularised injury, and causation) that the court accepts seems weak to me; I'd expect that to get scrutinised more carefully if it goes to appeal. Then, we note the court's Reasonable jurists can disagree about whether the asserted constitutional right exists. Ah, but they don't decide it, because they don't need to: In analyzing redressability, however, we assume its existence and then go on to find lack of standing. So, the "right" will have to wait for it's day in court.

Wittily, one reason for the court deciding not to act is the plaintiffs’ experts make plain that reducing the global consequences of climate change demands much more than cessation of the government’s promotion of fossil fuels. Rather, these experts opine that such a result calls for no less than a fundamental transformation of this country’s energy system, if not that of the industrialized world, and much more text around the same ideas5.

Notes


1. Or, as they put it, "The plaintiffs have compiled an extensive record, which at this stage in the litigation we take in the light most favorable to their claims". So, even taking all their claims favourably, they still don't win.

2. Don't answer that.

3. Note that although it's drivel, it seems to be quite easy to pick up the wrong stats: per person, per $ of GDP, and just the electricity sector are the easiest stats to run across. Also "fossil fuel emissions" is an odd phrase; I presume they mean "CO2 from fossil fuels" or somesuch.

4. But again, There is at least a genuine factual dispute as to whether those policies were a “substantial factor” in causing the plaintiffs’ injuries suggests the court leaning towards the plaintiffs in order to make the dismissal.

5. And as if designed to wind up Progressives, another prong in their argument is analogy with Rucho v. Common Cause. You can tell the Dork Side is crap and can't read, because they don't even mention that.

Refs


Government Schooling and Supermarkets - CH
* Austerity for Liberty by Bryan Caplan
The Adverse Impact of Government Bureaucracy on Private Employment - AIER
Trump's Impeachment Trial Will Only Make Us Hate Washington Even More

2020-01-17

Citing Climate Change, BlackRock Will Start Moving Away from Fossil Fuels

81791977_1362043940658589_4321250782159568896_n Says the NYer (arch). But screw that - which wasn't what BR said, anyway - instead of their interpretation let's just read the source, A Fundamental Reshaping of Finance, by Larry Fink, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. It's addressed to CEOs; there's also a letter to clients.
As an asset manager, BlackRock invests on behalf of others... to people in dozens of countries trying to finance long-term goals like retirement. And we have a deep responsibility... to promote long-term value. Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects... a risk that markets to date have been slower to reflect. But awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance. The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance. Research from a wide range of organizations – including the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the BlackRock Investment Institute, and many others, including new studies from McKinsey on the socioeconomic implications of physical climate risk – is deepening our understanding of how climate risk will impact both our physical world and the global system that finances economic growth... Investors are increasingly reckoning with these questions and recognizing that climate risk is investment risk. Indeed, climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock... They are seeking to understand both the physical risks associated with climate change as well as the ways that climate policy will impact prices, costs, and demand across the entire economy... These questions are driving a profound reassessment of risk and asset values. And because capital markets pull future risk forward, we will see changes in capital allocation more quickly than we see changes to the climate itself. In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.
And so on. Read the thing yourself. Most of you will mostly be happy with it. Some of it, ter be 'onest, is just a touch strange: What happens to inflation, and in turn interest rates, if the cost of food climbs from drought and flooding? Well, it might. But food production in the real world continues to increase, and I expect core-cost-of-food to continue to decline as a proportion of total spend, so becoming less important into the future. How can we model economic growth if emerging markets see their productivity decline due to extreme heat and other climate impacts? Well, emerging market productivity compared to the West is so much lower it would be weird if catch-up didn't get them a lot; mostly, they need to fix their crap governance1.

But most of it is sensible, and some rather telling: From Europe to Australia, South America to China, Florida to Oregon, investors are asking how they should modify their portfolios. Yes, that's their major question. Not "how can we make the world better?" just "what should we shift our money into?" That's how things are; the job of govt ought to be guiding them towards "good" answers.

Climate Risk Is Investment Risk


Govt will have to set frameworks, ideally wisely but there's faint hope of that so perhaps we can hope for not too unwisely:
Over the next few years, one of the most important questions we will face is the scale and scope of government action on climate change, which will generally define the speed with which we move to a low-carbon economy. This challenge cannot be solved without a coordinated, international response from governments, aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Accountable and Transparent Capitalism


Ah, glorious. Companies, investors, and governments must prepare for a significant reallocation of capital... Disclosure should be a means to achieving a more sustainable and inclusive capitalism. I find this a bit odd, too. This is all addressed at least nominally to CEOs, remember. So he's beating them up about how they are threatened that capital will shift, but then the major theme turns out to be transparency, which is largely a red herring (you really don't need to read their reports to know that Exxon is mostly oil). So is this just PR perhaps?

Letter to clients


There is also, as I noted, a letter to clients. It starts Since BlackRock’s founding in 1988, we have worked to anticipate our clients’ needs to help you manage risk and achieve your investment goals. This is something that I wish the govt employee non-biznis folk reading this would more clearly understand: biznis really does want to make it's customers happy; or at least, satisfy their needs. Not of course out of altruism; but because they want their money.

More words: Because sustainable investment options have the potential to offer clients better outcomes, we are making sustainability integral to the way BlackRock manages risk, constructs portfolios, designs products, and engages with companies. We believe that sustainability should be our new standard for investing... sustainability-integrated portfolios can provide better risk-adjusted returns to investors. And so on. But what of the actual concrete changes? Exiting Thermal Coal Producers  is one; that makes sense and by now is I think mainstream. Most of the rest is providing potential investors with more sustainable options and hoping they take them; Joining Climate Action 100+, but I can't say I'm keen on that.

Notes


1. Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

2020-01-14

Germany Goes Greener With $95 Billion Push for Train Over Plane

This meeting is bollocks. Germany Goes Greener With $95 Billion Push for Train Over Plane proudly says Bloomberg.
Germany launched an 86 billion euro ($95 billion) plan to modernize and expand its creaky railway system, a move billed as an effort to make transportation greener. The 10-year plan is not only to upgrade rails, bridges and carriages but also build out capacity and electrify more routes so as to lure passengers from cars and planes. The federal government will finance 62 billion euros and state-owned Deutsche Bahn AG is to come up with 24 billion euros... DB, as the railway operator is also known, has been under pressure in recent years to improve punctuality and service standards as its fleet of aging trains failed to keep up with rising passenger numbers and its federal owner kept up pressure on the company to secure dividends. Currently only 58% of rails run on electricity and punctuality on long-distance trains was around 76% in 2019, up one point from a year earlier. Rail travel emits less CO2 pollution than air or road traffic. The company already slashed travel prices across the board by 10% on Jan. 1, after the government ordered a cut in value-added tax on tickets.
And so on. I like trains, really I do. Although I don't use them much any more (mostly, I'm happy to say, because I just don't travel that much any more). However, is what they've done a good idea? How would you even know? If your answer is "yes it's obviously a good idea" then my reply is "but would $195B be better?" Because if it would be, then they've made a distinctly sub-optimal choice, so calling it "good" is odd. If you believe that pols are generally not just wise and well advised, but also able to put aside lobbying pressures and party politics, then you might believe that they've picked the right number. Presumably you'll also believe that HS2 is also a great idea. And can I interest you in this fine bridge I have for sale?

How might we do it otherwise, and use something other than the undoubtedly unsurpassable wit and wisdom of pols? Well, if you don't like hairyplanes because they emit CO2, then you should tax CO2. Which would increase the costs of hairyplanes. If people still flew too much after that, then you'd know that Johannes Public doesn't agree with the pols.

Which brings me back to a rather short conversation with mt on Twatter recently. Well, less of a conversation and more him posting something and me replying. And my reply was to push the prices-as-information theory a-la Hayek. Of which DB's upgrade is not an example. People can signal how they wish to balance cost and convenience by whether they choose to buy plane tickets or train tickets. At the moment the Govt thinks they are buying too many plane tickets. Given that preference, you'd expect investment money to flow into hairyplanes, and that seems to be true. Deciding that you don't like that, and just dumping a wodge of money on DB, is likely to be inefficient. Because how will they know just what to spend it on?

Refs


The collection of resources for government financed or sponsored investment often has a substantial disincentive effect on saving, effort and enterprise...  Peter Bauer, Dissent on Development.
* Slow travel by ATTP

2020-01-11

At Davos we will tell world leaders to abandon the fossil fuel economy?

tour Greta Thunberg and others, in the Graun - where else? Time to update Skolstrejk för klimatet and see what the "No plan, let alone a plan B" looks like now.

But before that, my pic shows Cadel Evans (141, in red) on the Alp de Huez, on his way to winning the 2011 Tour de France. I thoroughly recommend it, if you like that kind of thing; that stage is here but it's worth stepping back a few to get into the flow.

But back to La Greta:
We demand that at this year’s forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now – as in right now.
How to evaluate this? The idea that this can be done right now is of course absurd. I shall assume that it is but a rhetorical flourish and should not be criticised too harshly. end all fossil fuel subsidies sounds good, but without defining "subsidy" it is meaningless. Happily, GT implicitly defines "subsidy" with The IMF concluded that in 2017 alone, the world spent $5.2tn subsidising fossil fuels, because this can be recognised as IMF working paper 2019: Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Large: An Update Based on Country-Level Estimates. This means that GT doesn't know what a subsidy is, because that $5.2T represents all kind of things, mostly pollution - not CO2 - effects; which means that to talk of the world "spend"ing $5.2T is just wrong; and to think they could be ended - by just stopping paying out money - is also wrong. This is careless of GT because generally she is spoken of as someone who actually knows what she is talking about.

"Divesting" from FF generally means selling your shares: to someone else. That expresses your disgust quite neatly, but does mean that someone else now owns those shares. They don't just disappear. And, of course you've profited by the sale of a FF related asset, so are morally contaminated. Perhaps you should instead rip up your share certificate? That doesn't help either really: it's like ripping up a five pound note (in the days when notes were made of paper and were weak enough to tear); all that happens is a tiny amount of deflation. Lots of people selling shares will tend to decrease the price of those shares, and will signal to the markets to invest less in those companies; and that brings us naturally on to investment.

And, jolly good, I've managed to find a thread I was looking forHere's a THREAD about divestment (and why it's driven mostly by economics, not good citizenship), theories of change in climate / energy, and the power of tapping into self-interested economic motivations among corporates, banks, and investers. So that says, as I guess we all know, that coal is doomed; probably, it will collapse entirely quite soon. That will be good as it will remove a pile of people pushing for FF, as well as being good for the climate. GT says that since the 2015 Paris agreement, 33 major global banks have collectively poured $1.9tn (£1.5tn) into fossil fuels. That number may be correct, but again GT is making a mistake like she did with subsidies, and one I think Joe Public makes: that isn't the bank's money, cos they don't have money, they have deposits. It's clients money. Clients like, oh... pension funds. Sensibly, GT says it ought to be in every company and stakeholder’s interest to make sure the planet they live on will thrive. Alas, she cannot bring herself to add: and the correct way to do this is Carbon Taxes. I think because that would amount to compromise; and she cannot compromise.

Update: a more constructive view comes in From shtetl to Forum by Scott Aaronson.

2020-01-09

Plastic packaging ban 'could harm environment'?

Plastic packaging ban 'could harm environment' says Aunty:
Consumer pressure to end plastic packaging in shops could actually be harming the environment, a report says. Firms are swapping to other packaging materials which are potentially even worse for the environment, the cross-party Parliamentary group warns. Glass bottles, for instance, are much heavier than plastic so are far more polluting to transport. Paper bags tend to have higher carbon emissions than plastic bags – and are more difficult to re-use.
And so on. This is all tediously predictable; a simple knee-jerk "plastic is bad" is stupid; and the general public I think generally can't cope with subtlety.

But then again, neither can the Beeb. Because if you actually read the report1, you find:
There have been some minor changes, for the most part switching from one single use option to another. These include the use of new types of material to replace some plastic in the bottled water market and moves away from plastic straws and stirrers ahead of the forthcoming ban in England in 2020. But, overall, the proportion of plastic packaging seen on most supermarket shelves, and the amount collected as waste and reported to the Environment Agency, has not altered significantly.
Which I find somewhat cheerful. Supermarkets were using plastic packaging because it made sense, and it still continues to make sense.
another noted: “It’s been mostly complaints, saying that plastic is evil and has no place, regardless of any positives it might have in addressing food waste and what not… But this outrage is not necessarily translating into changes in purchasing habits... customers’ concerns over plastic pollution are not yet evident in what they are buying. One observed: “A lot more consumers are saying that they are already avoiding what they understand as single use plastics – that is a clear and consistent trend coming through our research. The challenge is that’s claimed behaviour and is not necessarily coming through as actual behaviours from consumers yet.” Another was far more blunt: “When it comes down to real consumer behaviour, they ain’t changing yet.”
As far as I can tell the entire "plastic pollution" scare is, in the West, nonsense. See e.g. Stemming the Plastic Tide: 10 Rivers Contribute Most of the Plastic in the Oceans; The Yangtze alone pours up to an estimated 1.5 million metric tons into the Yellow Sea.

Notes


1. Ignoring the boilerplate "Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our age" which is nonsense.

Refs


* Explain Your Extremists by Bryan Caplan
* The solution to the plastic waste crisis? It isn’t recycling; by John Vidal; There’s no way of making current levels of consumption ‘environmentally friendly’
The Perverse Panic over Plastic - John Tierney, City Journal

2020-01-02

Socrates, himself, is particularly missed; A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's pissed

From Tamino, some nice graphs about the current situation in Australia. With all the wild excitement, it can be hard to see what's actually happening - after all, recall the Bazillion Rainforest fuss of not long ago.

As to ppn, as Tamino puts it, Australia has had dry years before, and will again. Although 2019 was the driest on record, there’s no trend detectable in rainfall amounts, at least not yet; it looks like an unfortunate but random occurrence. This isn’t climate change, it’s bad luck. And that seems a fair assessment.

As to temperature, clearly that is a record high, and part of a trend; though also clearly above the trendline.

Now I draw your attention to the correlations; wet years tend to be cold, and dry years tend to be hot. I'm doing that by eye; Tamino didn't leave his data lying around and I can't be bothered to look for it; but look at e.g. 2000 (and then 2002), and 2010/11; or 1974. 1994 is less convincing. Anyway, as you'd expect, there's a correlation: a dry year has less moisture to cool the earth by evaporating, so tends to be hot2.

And that then suggests that this year's disastrous fire season is unlikely to be replicated in the near future; if it's caused by the exceptional dryness, then it's bad luck. Anyone wanna bet, that 2020's ppn will be back at or above the bottom pink band; and next year's Temp will be at or below the pink; and next year's fire season will be unexciting?

Recall that we discussed this somewhat in the comments at Climate emergency? in November. At least my thoughts there suggest that yearly averages might not be fine enough1.

Notes


1. And now Tamino with prompting has done another post on more regional stuff, but still doesn't find much in the way of trends.

2. Although this isn't obvious when you scatter-plot it; see RR.

Refs


Hot enough to boil a monkey's bum!
* Australia’s Angry Summer: This Is What Climate Change Looks Like; by Nerilie Abram on December 31, 2019
* Australia, your country is burning – dangerous climate change is here with you now; by Michael Mann
‘Two hands are a lot’ — we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos… - Dominic Cummings
Climate change now detectable from any single day of weather at global scale - Sebastian Sippel, Nicolai Meinshausen, Erich M. Fischer, Enikő Székely & Reto Knutti; Nature Climate Change volume 10, pages35–41(2020)
Atlantic and Pacific oscillations lost in the noise; Absence of internal multidecadal and interdecadal oscillations in climate model simulations (arch); Michael E. Mann, Byron A. Steinman & Sonya K. Miller; Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 49 (2020)
* A pre-hurricane climate change analysis gets major revision after the storm. Effort had predicted half of Hurricane Florence's rainfall was due to warming; Arstechnica (h/t VV).
Australia Rain: Seasonal by State - Tamino

2020-01-01

Book review: Homo Deus

80694470_3417507671654844_8495632808285306880_o CIP read Homo Deus but didn't really review it. I however am fearless. I was glad to get a chance to read this (it came as a Christmas present, welcomely as a second-hand book) because I'd heard good things about Sapiens. I haven't read that, so I don't know if much of this is recycled from that, but it somewhat feels like it is. However, I didn't get on with it: sorry.

The main point is that it is fat. Bloated. Obese. 100 pages in and he has barely said anything; a page or two would have sufficed. And the few things he has said are unexciting.

He's also careless. Planck is made to say "science advances one funeral at a time" on p 30. But he didn't say that. He said Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist whose English equivalent is A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. This is trivial but suggests that his scholarship, whilst wide, is shallow.

On p 106 he cites Numbers 28 for the statement that the old Jewish temples were swarming with black flies. Of course, that verse says nothing to that effect. And notice what a cheap reference that is; there are many many other statements he makes that should be reffed, in anything vaguely scholarly, but he doesn't. He only tosses off the odd cheap reference, presumably to look good.

Around p 119 there's a jejune1 discussion of why evolution tends to inflame the passions more than relativity, which (characteristically) he broad-brushes into the untrue "no-one gets angry about relativity". Evolution, he brilliantly deduces, inflames people because it is incompatible with having a soul. But of course it isn't (he knows this; on p 122 he comes close to admitting it; but when you're writing at the rate he is, and when you outrank your publisher's reviewer, you're not going to go back and correct your flow).

Part, perhaps much, of the bloat comes from our author being interested in many things, and insisting on weaving those things in, even when he has nothing to say. From p 123 we get a multi-page disquisition into consciousness, which amounts to little other than "we don't know how it works".

He isn't very interested in science, and shows it about as much respect as the Watties. We repeatedly hear about "current scientific dogma" (e.g. p 139). Or "classical economic theories maintain that humans are rational calculating machines" (p 163) - a regrettably unoriginal piece of drivel.

And so ends part 1. Part 2 starts by saying that humanism is the worship of mankind. This is stupid. Probably, he is just trolling. But he needs to do better; he hasn't got much more credit and I will be giving up soon... ah, his trick is becoming clearer. Perhaps it was worth reading: his defn of "religion"  is "to believe in a system of moral laws that wasn't invented by humans but that humans must nevertheless obey" (p 213). But this is a poor trick, and doesn't justify his use of the word "worship". I think... I "believe in" a system of moral laws that was "invented" by humans, though that might depend on how you define the word "invented". So even by his rather creative defn, I'm still not religious. Phew.

On p 222, he tells us confidently that the pope never makes a mistake. This is nonsense. As the good book sayethPapal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error "when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church."[1] Infallibility is, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, "more than a simple, de facto absence of error. It is a positive perfection, ruling out the possibility of error".[2] 

At that point, I gave up. Looking for a review, I find the Economist:
Although there is plenty to admire in the ambitious scope of this book, ultimately it is a glib work, full of corner-cutting sleights of hand and unsatisfactory generalisations. Mr Harari has a tendency towards scientific name-dropping—words like biotech, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence abound—but he rarely engages with these topics in any serious way. Instead, he races along in a slick flow of TED-talk prose. Holes in his arguments blur like the spokes of a spinning wheel, giving an illusion of solidity but no more. When the reader stops to think, “Homo Deus” is suddenly less convincing, its air of super-confidence seductive but misleading.
Yup.

Notes


1. I like the word, and I've used "shallow" already.

2. Pic: New Year's Day 10k erg. I was trying.

Refs


* Ho ho ho: California Wanted to Protect Uber Drivers. Now It May Hurt Freelancers.