Climate chickenhawks

ATTP has a post on Climate Hawks (arch), a term the post itself does not define (this doesn't appear to trouble any of the commentators other than me; everyone else proceeds merrily using whatever meaning of the term they happen to like). When challenged on this, ATTP points to a David Roberts post from 2010 that introduces the term, with definition people who who care about climate change and clean energy. That doesn't fit very well for me; people for whom the rather weak word "care" is a useful description would more usefully be called "climate doves" to my way of description; hawks are fierce single minded killers in my world.

The true meaning of fat

In the comments (I've pointed you at the post, I can't be bothered to dig out individual comments, just search for my name) things get rather philosophical, with people talking about peoples' "real" intentions. I think asking about peoples' "real" intentions1 makes about as much sense as asking, in a QM sense, what an electron's "real" position is. All you get is what you can observe: what people say, and what people do. People who are persistently overweight and who persistently say they truely want to lose weight but don't are showing that they value eating above losing weight. Asserting that they "truly", "rationally" or "really" wish to be thin doesn't mean anything in the external world, if outweighed by other desires of theirs.

Determining the truth

And so we turn to the GW side of this, a Ted Nordhaus post On Climate Hawks’ Revealed Preferences, which sparked ATTP's article. This explicitly uses the concept of Revealed Preferences, a concept that really really annoys people who like believing in fairies. So, just as those who say they would like to be slim but aren't reveal, not that they wouldn't like to be slim, but that they value other things above being slim, TN argues that those who passionately "believe" in GW nonetheless show by their revealed preferences that they don't really believe this quite as strongly as their words would suggest. Note that TN is probably using the term "Climate Hawks" in a different and stronger sense than ATTP: the article begins by discussing Ken Ward and the small band of eco-warriors he is working with to shut down fossil fuel infrastructure. Ken and his colleagues are not engaging in symbolic protest and action. They are taking actions that risk serious jail time, and then through what is perhaps sleight of hand uses the same term to discuss a much broader mass of people.

Does any of this matter? After all the science remains the same whatever people believe and however they act. And even if some people are hypocritical, that doesn't excuse bad behaviour on your part. But I think it does matter, for reasons I tried to explain at ATTPs: how do people decide what to believe about GW?2 Of the broad mass of Folk a negligible number are capable of evaluating the science for themselves; and few are even capable of reading the IPCC reports. Many will get a general impression from a mass of diffuse sources; one of those sources is what people they observe say and do. Naturally - people not being entirely born yesterday - they will be more strongly influenced by what people do. And politicians - that small minority who aren't purely altruistic - will base their policies on how to win votes. If you, a pol, observe people and think "hmm yes these people are willing to accept some pain, I can see that" you're more likely to propose and support such policies; if all you hear is people talking, well, you've heard that before.

The best answer at ATTP's was effectively that this is a Prisoner's Dilemma: those talking loudly but doing nothing beyond the symbolic would nonetheless accept real pain as long as everyone also had to accept that pain. That isn't implausible: a similar argument is made by Hayek in favour of some level of taxation. But in the case of GW I think more than just symbolic gestures are required.


1. BATTER my heart, three person’d God - John "wacko" Donne at his raving finest: for I Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free, Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee. Damn, but he's good.

2. It turns out that I discuss how you're going to have to accept argument-from-authority to some extent in Scott Adams is a tosser.



" hawks are fierce single minded killers in my world."

Thin end of the wedge, Robert-- here come the climate weasels.

Anonymous said...

But I think it does matter, for reasons I tried to explain at ATTPs: how do people decide what to believe about GW?

I thought I had broadly agreed with this (with the caveat that one is still ultimately responsible for one's views). The problem I was having was determining what is the appropriate action for someone who accepts AGW? Can we address AGW without substantially changing our lifestyles? If so, why is it inconsistent to self-identify as a Climate Hawk while still behaving pretty much like everyone else? If not, then I would agree that maybe their behaviour is inconsistent, but that would then seem to imply that everyone who accepts AGW should then either modify their behaviour, or acknowledge that they've decided to behave in a way that is inconsistent with addressing AGW.

So, it seems to me that some are defining the kind of behaviour that is consistent with a belief in AGW, without themselves believing that this is the kind of behaviour that is consistent with a belief in AGW.

The other rather obvious irony, is that if people were to go around arguing that we need to substantially change our lifestyles or else catastrophe will ensue, they will be regarded as overly pessimistic and alarmist. However, if they don't behave as if this is the case, then they get criticised for being inconsistent.

But in the case of GW I think more than just symbolic gestures are required.

As far as I'm aware, you regard the optimal solution to be a carbon tax. So, maybe you can explain what would be a non-symbolic gesture that is consistent with the implementation of a carbon tax.

David B. Benson said...

I have the fortunate opportunity to observe Swainson's hawks several times a week, most weeks. They are not single minded.

Especially in mating season.

Kiwigriff said...

Gee I commented.
From my personal perspective if you take AGW on board it should influence your lifestyle.
Becoming a realist has made me reevaluate my politics, lifestyle even my personal relationships.
I have changed my lifstyle because of AGW... so Smegging what.
I also believe that my personal life is actually no one else's business.

Walking the walk is not as important as talking the talk.
It does not matter what any of us do on the individual level.
If the few thousand or so individuals who read or comment on realist blogs all had a zero carbon foot print it would not change the keeling curves future to any noticeable extent .
When we comment or engage in the wider world we are making a difference.

The post that sparked this off it reeks of straw man arguments and binary thinking.
Most climate Hawks do x
Do most of us act in the extreme or fail to act at all.?

No we all act individually within differing paradigms.
There is not a binary option to be considered by everyone.There is a range of responses from do nothing to destroying the machine.
What seems right and acceptable to me is not going to work for you or anyone else.
Most of us merely seek to add our own input to the market place of ideas.

crandles said...

>"and few are even capable of reading the IPCC reports"

Most are 'capable of reading' but very few do read the entire IPCC reports.

Are you trying to be obnoxious?

Tom Fuller said...

Hmm. I am a lukewarmer, frequently reviled by climate hawks. However, I do feel (and frequently express) concern over the possible impacts of human contributions to climate change. (Funnily enough, so does Anthony Watts, although I don't cite him as an examplar.)

I have made extensive changes to the way I live my life for two reasons--those who care enough are free to judge which reason is more important.

1. I do want to lessen my impact on the environment

2. I do want to show evidence of walking the talk when expressing my opinion on the issue

One would think the same factors would impact climate hawks--indeed, I have seen occasional instances where it does.

I don't think anything's amiss when a scientist flies to a conference in her or his specialty.

I do think it hypocritical when climate envangelicals bounce all over the planet to keep saying the same stuff to pretty much the same audience year after year.

Somewhere between those two lie a balance. I doubt if I'm the right person to judge that.

William M. Connolley said...

> I thought I had broadly agreed

Yes; this post mostly re-states what I said in comments at yours, for my own reference.

> what is the appropriate action for someone who accepts AGW? Can we address AGW without substantially changing our lifestyles?

OK, so a two-part problem. If the answer is "yes life-style change is required", then we have our answer. Is that indeed the answer? I could certainly find you many many "climate hawks" saying exactly that. And if we *don't* have to change our life-styles in any significant way then, errm, what's the big problem in the first place?

> non-symbolic gesture that is consistent with the implementation of a carbon tax

Well, there one is perhaps back to prisoner's dilemma stuff: I'd like a carbon tax, globally, but I've argued for a local one as a start. So, I could tax myself: charge myself $100/ton and do something with the money: give it to some appropriate charity. Or, adjust my live-style to emit less CO2; arguably I already do that.

> Swainson's hawks

It's a concept not necessarily a reality.

> Gee I commented.

There's a first time for everyone who does.

> It does not matter what any of us do on the individual level... When we comment or engage in the wider world we are making a difference.

Well, that's kinda the point of the post, so I disagree. It is true that any one person's carbon emissions are small on the global scale, but if you *only* comment in favour of GW while personally spewing out CO2, you aren't likely to be convincing.

> Most are 'capable of reading'

Really? Many could pick out the individual words and look up the ones they don't understand, but would find the sentences difficult and the paragraphs tricky and would simply give up before they'd got very far.

> hypocritical when climate e[n]vangelicals bounce all over the planet

Indeed. On the great scale of emissions, it is again trivial. But as an example, it is a poor one.

Phil said...

"Something beyond symbolic." Hard to have much impact, when one of billions of people.

I bought compact florescent bulbs in starting 1988. Yes, mostly symbolic, as my purchase saved a few kWh per month at first. At best marginal in economics at that time. But my little purchase helped, in a very minor way, to establish a market for energy efficient light bulbs. Which can save about 3% of total carbon releases. Offsetting maybe two years of economic growth. Or something like that.

I bought an electric car in 2012. Yes, mostly symbolic. Saves roughly 250 grams of CO2 per mile relative to the average US car. Even better than the Prius we bought in 2006. Marginal economically, at best, but likely to improve. Could do better on CO2 savings, with cleaner electric power. If current economic trends continue, could both be cost effective without subsidies and long enough range for almost everyone by 2025 or so. Short haul trucks, buses and such already have compelling economics, but need to get past the technology start up phase. If fully implemented, might offset a few decades of economic growth. Give or take a bit.

So tell me, anyone. Buying more time is about the best impact I can hope for. And that is only if I can get enough people to follow my mostly symbolic actions. How can I have an impact beyond symbolic?

libertador said...

> And if we *don't* have to change our life-styles in any significant way then, errm, what's the big problem in the first place?

It is possible, that political and technological changes are enough without changing the lifestyle. It can be imagined, that one things that the new technology can only be implemented socially.
Actually, one should expect to see a go for better technology, so there would likely be detectable behaviour changes. Buy a cleaner car or electric devices.

Anonymous said...

Your comparison with obesity reveals the underlying mistake of the assertion that actions speak louder than words.

It is clear from the demographic distribution of obesity that is is not a matter of the individual disposition, but largely a situational problem.

The consumption of junk food is not a matter of individual choice but of constrained opportunities imposed by financial and social status.
The only alternative is to cleave to the Victorian idea that poverty is a matter of moral turpitude, not systemic constraints.

William M. Connolley said...

> not a matter of the individual disposition

I don't believe you. I think it is a matter of individual choice.

> The consumption of junk food

Notice how you've elided two things together. Consuming junk food doesn't make you fat. Consuming too much of it does.

Anonymous said...

@-“I don't believe you. I think it is a matter of individual choice.”

Then your belief requires an explanation of why obesity correlates with poverty far more strongly than it does with any measurable personality trait.

Attributing poverty to individual choice is pretending there is no society only individuals.

William M. Connolley said...

> Attributing poverty to individual choice is

Something I didn't do. So, don't put words in my mouth, if you want to talk to me. If you'd like to erect strawmen and talk to yourself, then there's no need to do that here.

> obesity correlates with poverty

Globally? Or in some particular country or group of countries? And, as we all know, correlation isn't causation. Though people have a strong tendency to forget that whenever their own ideas come up, but remember it when they see something they don't like. Anyway, at this point you've asserted so it's time for you to provide some evidence.

crandles said...

WHO an appropriate source?

Deals mainly with Europe. Seems to be saying obesity correlates with education level and(/or) income level. Also with income inequality.

"The relative culpability of energy intake (food consumption) versus energy expenditure (physical activity) in gaining weight is sometimes debated, but most studies point to overconsumption of energy-dense foods being the main culprit"

William M. Connolley said...

> overconsumption of energy-dense foods

Overconsumption yes; and there will probably be some effect of food quality.

> http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/247638/obesity-090514.pdf

See fig 1. Yes, there's a correlation, no it isn't deterministic. People should be encouraged to look after their own lives not to blame their status.

Anonymous said...

@-"Something I didn't do. So, don't put words in my mouth, if you want to talk to me.

Fair enough, although it was intended as a pre-emptive strike rather than a strawman. Experience tells me that often poverty is re-classified as a matter of disposition rather than situation by 'neo-libertarians'.
Or sometimes tories.


Portraying obesity as some sort of moral battlefield between a rational choice of diet and hedonistic self-interest is as facile as claiming that only the choice of a low carbon lifestyle is proof that a person honestly believes in AGW.

@-"People should be encouraged to ((look after their own lives)) change a sub-optimal social structure, not to blame their status."
Fixed it for you.

Next thing you know, some fool will suggest a Sugar Tax to stop all the poor from stuffing themselves with the cheapest calories on the market.

William M. Connolley said...

> Fair enough

Thanks. Poverty is clearly not entirely disposition, but also clearly not unrelated.

A sugar tax, and Scotland's minimum alcohol pricing (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-42066394), are stupid.

The Indep link is, I think, useless: far too full of moral indignation (you suggested that framing this as a moral battlefield was bad, so it is an odd thing to link to; CRs is better). The Indy isn't an RS any more.

You're still talking about "choice of diet" which I think blurs the difference between the entirely true idea that a healthy balanced diet is much easier to obtain if money is no object, against the equally true idea that buying less of something is cheaper than buying more.

Anonymous said...

@-" Poverty is clearly not entirely disposition, but also clearly not unrelated."

The causal chain is predominately FROM poverty (wealth and education), TO disposition. The tendency to reverse this and put disposition as the reason for the situation is wrong. It would require individual agency to be an intrinsic quality independent of circumstances or context.


William M. Connolley said...

> put disposition as the reason for the situation is wrong

Asserting that any one thing is the sole cause is wrong. Asserting that there is a one-way relationship is wrong. But to assert that individuals cannot fix their own (fatness) problems because "poverty" is also wrong.

> https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3987603/

Appears to be about "children’s oral health outcomes" which is different.

Anonymous said...

@-"Appears to be about "children’s oral health outcomes" which is different."

But encompasses the same issues in sharper form.
It can be fun to parallel the general harm from (over?) consumption of refined carbohydrates and refined hydrocarbons.
One causes global warming and ocean acidification. The other obesity and dental decay.

The point about the dental damage to children is that it is not possible to blame them for making irrational choices. They may have influence, but it is parents choosing the food they feed their children, so it is not personal hedonism or a weak will, that can be blamed.

Climate activists sometimes portray AGW as a generational problem, that people would act differently if they grasped the potential harm they are inflicting on the next generation. children's oral health reveals that argument is weak, parents risk harm to their children by dietary choices as well as by consuming fossil fuels. Choices shaped by economics given the distribution of the problem between rich and poor.

William M. Connolley said...

> But encompasses the same issues in sharper form.

No, I disagree. The issues are fundamentally different.

Obesity is caused by eating too many calories (and not burning them off, but for the sake of simplicity ignore that for the moment). It may well be easier to eat fewer calories if you have access to a rich diet, or perhaps it's other aspects of being well off that matter. But as I said above - and you failed to address - even if you're poor it is *cheaper* to eat less. There is no cash-related barrier to eating less.

Dental health by contrast can clearly be impacted by poverty and poor diet and may well cost cash to avoid.

> dental damage to children is that it is not possible to blame them for making irrational choices

Yes. Which is exactly why this is a different problem. Switching to a different problem in the middle of a discussion is going to be confusing. Why not start a new discussion instead? Pretending you're still discussing the same issue is wrong.

William M. Connolley said...

DB addresses a similar point re intentions in http://cafehayek.com/2018/03/freeman-essay-101-private-decisions-trustworthy.html.

Jan Galkowski said...

Well, I've made my position clear at ATTP and other places.

Some people clean up their lives and daily practices almost as a spiritual ritual, e.g., Claire and I always bring bags for plastics and cans and such we find on walks. We might justify it as ``Every little bit helps'' or ``It's a good example'' but not really buy either.

I can't speak for Claire, but the entire engagement on climate change and impacts has convinced me that, as a country, a planet, and a species, we are not as much in control of our destiny as we like to think we are. We are moved by the same kinds of resource available, consumption-driven differential equations that constrain other animal populations. We are not as deliberate as we think.

Accordingly, I know the problem will get fixed, but it probably won't be pleasant. I don't see physical catastrophe. I do see economic catastrophe and turmoil, as assets which are presently sheltered from harm are exposed, and plummet in value.

Anyway, while I push for zero Carbon energy, and many of the things Stewart Brand advocates, I'm less emotional about it than I used to be.

Anonymous said...

I drive an inefficient old pickup truck. I can't afford a new one. There is also a substantial sunk energy cost in manufacturing the truck, so it's not clear that junking it would be a net win anyway. I live in a rural county with no public transport, so I need a vehicle. I could move, but why should I leave my home of 27 years? My work requires international travel. Should I forgo my career to avoid flying? My health demands a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Being vegetarian is not an option, if it really is less carbon-intensive. And so on.

And regardless, one aircraft-carrier battle group probably wastes more energy every second than I could save in the rest of my life. The problem is the system we are embedded in, and small personal changes are not going to make a difference.


Phil said...


You could install mostly LED lighting. Would save you money as well.

Cars/trucks don't last forever. At some time, you will need to replace your truck. When you do so, remember to add to the prices of the cars/trucks you look at an estimate of the cost of the fuel. Sure, you still might buy a pickup truck, but only if it is enough cheaper than the cost of a more fuel efficient car. By that time, you also might have the choice of an electric car. Multiply your electric rate by about 8-10 to compare with gasoline. For me this is significant, $3.05 vs $1.20. Current low cost used electrics (with ~20kWh batteries) perhaps don't have the 'no worries range' for most rural people, but the next generation (with ~60kWh batteries) probably will. Same size and mass, lower cost and more energy stored.

When your furnace or water heater fail, think about installing a more fuel efficient model. Again, don't forget to compare the total cost including fuel/electric used between alternatives.