0.5°C makes a big difference for mitigation?

[Note: written rather a long time ago and finally published when I reviewed 2020.]

An interesting post from Glen Peters at Cicero. Keeping global warming below 2°C is hard, but 2.5°C is a walk in the park!; found via Twatter. Not everyone was happy with this, but I'm going to ignore The question is "when people argue 1.5/2C is not 'achievable' but 2.5/3C is a 'walk in the park', what are the unstated assumptions about policy, econ, and values being smuggled past scrutiny in that formulation?" because I don't think that is the interesting question, at least not to start with. The interesting question is, does changing target from 2 oC to 2.5 oC actually make things so much easier?

This had not previously occurred to me, and I had I thought about it I'd have said it didn't make all that much difference.


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.


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

2. Update: actually nephew (see comments).


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.



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.


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.


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


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" answers2.

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.


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.

2. Re-reading, 2020/05/28: I wish I hadn't said that. What I meant to indicate was "the job of govt  is not to get involved in individual decisions". The "guidance" I'd like to see is of course a carbon tax.


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?


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


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.


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.


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


* 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


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.


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.


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
Connections of climate change and variability to large and extreme forest fires in southeast Australia - Abram, N.J., Henley, B.J., Sen Gupta, A. et al. Connections of climate change and variability to large and extreme forest fires in southeast Australia. Commun Earth Environ 2, 8 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-020-00065-8.


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.


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

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


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