How to assess the multiple interacting risks of climate change?

IMG_20210425_125453_386 Ponder Dr Nicholas P Simpson and Dr Christopher H Trisos, But not very deeply. They take for granted that A key threat of a warming climate is that it does not pose one single risk, but rather it presents multiple, interacting risks. How convincing is this?

Their first (and, I presume, their best; why would you put anything else first?) example is global warming of 2C is projected to reduce yields of staple crops by 5–20%. Yet greenhouse gas mitigation options can also increase food insecurity if bioenergy crops displace food crops, or can lead to biodiversity loss from land-use change and afforestation. But while GW, all by itself, might reduce yields, nonetheless yields overall are going up. And bioenergy is dumb, and it is unlikely that people will be dumb enough to do it on a large enough scale to affect global food production. So if that's the kind of top-level risk they're worried about, I personally wouldn't bother worry. Unless someone was paying me to, I suppose.

Is there more? Still on food, they suggest Similarly, trade networks link distant food systems together and can, thus, compensate for reduced food security. However, they can also create new risks of global impacts, such as multiple-breadbasket failure, more rapid spread of disease, pests and invasive species, and new threats to local food security from changes in commodity prices caused by policy choices made elsewhere. But this too is unconvincing; the converse - that trade and globalisation smooth out local production problems - is stronger. And, really, it isn't very much to do with GW anyway.

Dull stuff I think. So, I'll stop there :-). FWIW I still think that the most likely real dangerous risk of GW is on the biosphere, but in unpredicatable ways.


*There is no stark racial difference that jumps out, rather a dreary sameness - TF
* The Chauvin Verdict: A Good Start…Or Not - by Tarnell Brown at EconLog
* What has changed over humanity’s recent history is not biology, psychology, physiology, ecology, or geography. What has changed, instead, is their attitudes...
* Incentives Matter in Banking Too by David Henderson

* No, global warming is not 50% of what CMIP6 models predict - Moyhu on Roy

* Fuckwits at Crooked Timber wanting to destroy big tech. I used to think John Quiggin was sane.

* Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 Economic Harmonies; Chapter XXII, titled “The Driving Force of Society”.

* Assessing My COVID Expectations by Bryan Caplan

Welcome To The Terrible World Of Prescription-Only Apps - SSC / AST


Yet moaah climate suing

temptUndeterred by being laughed out of court again, the New York Clown Posse are having another go: New York City sues ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute for systemically and intentionally deceiving New Yorkers. From which we may find their inspiringly-named Earth Day Lawsuit. But wait, this isn't just them rehashing the old nonsense, this is new nonsense, or at least a variant.

They're trying for "Engaging in deceptive trade practices in violation of NYC Code § 20-700", in three variants: "misrepresenting the purported environmental benefit of using their fossil fuel products and
failing to disclose the risks of climate change caused by those products"; "deceived NYC consumers by
engaging in false and misleading greenwashing campaigns"; and one for the API. The API one I think is dull; or at least, I don't care. The second count I also find uninteresting and not especially plausible. And for the sake of brevity-of-examples, I'm going to only consider Exxon. They're the Evilest, after all, aren't they?

But perhaps they have a case on their first grounds? This too seems dubious; indeed, surprisingly dubious. By which I mean that although they repeatedly say stuff like (p. 6) misrepresenting the climate impacts of various gasoline products sold at their branded service stations in the City. In a bid to reassure consumers that purchasing these products is good for the planet, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP advertise them as “cleaner” and “emissions-reducing,” but fail to disclose their harmful effects on the climate, it isn't until p. 24 that we get the first example, ExxonMobil Synergy. And that seems to be about it. And Exxon's marketing sin is According to ExxonMobil, Synergy Supreme+ will enhance vehicle fuel economy in newer engines designed to meet tougher vehicle emissions standards. Or perhaps helps consumers “[r]educe emissions and burn cleaner,” and “was created to let you drive cleaner, smarter and longer”. Or We’re continually innovating to develop products that enable customers to reduce their energy use and CO2 emissions. But sadly for New York, these claims are arguably true. The suit does its rather feeble best to call them true-but-misleading (actually I don't think they can bring themselves to admit they're true, they just say misleading, meh) but that seems unlikely to fly to me.

Also, some idiot has taught them to say "tobacco" as often as they can, under the mistaken impression that this amounts to logical argument. Or am I wrong about that? This is all politically driven; they probably don't even understand the concept of logical argument. If anyone has lied to New York consumers, it's New York pols.

Conveniently, there are reports on this, so let's hear it from ShellA spokeswoman for Shell told Changing America, "We are disappointed to see the City of New York file yet another climate change lawsuit after the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of what is functionally the same suit mere weeks ago. Tackling climate change is a significant challenge the world faces today; it requires smart policy from government supported by inclusive action from all business sectors, including ours, and from society as a whole. We intend to play a leading, transparent and collaborative role in helping society face this challenge." I think Shell have learnt to talk the talk better than new York has. I'm slightly doubtful that it is "functionally the same" but it's a good line to take, at least in public.



Equity Isn’t Just Ethical, It’s Stupid

PXL_20210411_081540077~2Or, The latest Covid insights from former CDC Director Tom Frieden. I may have tweaked his headline just a little; but it is a common error, so don't think I'm attacking him in particular. I suppose I have to give you the correct headline to show you the error: Equity Isn’t Just Ethical, It’s Essential. But perhaps you prefer the body: Vaccine equity is imperative. Now the most important point of this article and the reason I wrote it this week after planning not to write one: equity, equity, equity. First of all, we're not going to get equity, obviously; so it is fortunate that it isn't imperative. The rich world is going to get vaccinated first - those bits of it that aren't too stupid to accept the vaccine, of course; or unfortunate enough to have idiot bureaucrats in charge. And within the rich world, the better off are going to do better; as they always do; it is, after all, part of the definition of "better off".

I should give him a chance to make his point, for the sake of fairness. It is 100 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of vaccine. But about 50 million people over age 50 (~37 million age 50–64 and ~13 million age 60+) haven’t been vaccinated at all. Vaccinating these people, who are disproportionately Black and Latinx, will prevent many more deaths than vaccinating young people. And it's kinda fair. But the problem is firstly that he has vastly over-egged it; and secondly that if you spend too much time being equitable, you've got less to spend on general coverage; if we're talking about vaccination; more generally, obsessing over income or wealth inequality makes less sense than worrying about absolute poverty. Thirdly, in relation to his In other words, a single well-targeted vaccination could save 10 times more lives, and prevent 100 times more cases, than vaccinating a low-risk person in a low-risk community, there's the problem of actually executing his strategy, which requires much knowledge and planning resources.

The more general point is one I've made before: per Smith, what is required is tolerable justice.

Pictured: the Claw of the Conciliator.


* An Ageless Hypothetical by Bryan Caplan

* How people get rich now - Paul Graham

* Prospectus On Próspera - A look at Próspera, the charter city taking shape in Honduras; SSC / ACT

Democrats plan to unveil legislation to expand the US supreme court by four seats - although, since it's doomed, it is just posturing.

* Twit: Bezos trying to quantify how much value Amazon produced for different groups in 2020. Back of napkin math: $301 Billion of value created, of which shareholders see $21B. Amazon newsletter to shareholders.

* How I Became a Libertarian by Meir Kohn

No, Really, Why Are So Many Christians In Colombia Converting To Orthodox Judaism? - SSC / ACT


More weird shit from Mann

61587538_1166425846887067_41158319410249728_o My earlier post refers. Today's outrage is Tech's 'Inactivism' on Climate Policy is a Big Problem. The arguement - they take a fair while to get to it - is As a counter-balance [to Evil Fossil Fuel Companies], we need influential tech companies that support climate-friendly policies to act like they're really in this fight.

To which I say: fuck off. Instead of arguing for pouring yet more lobbying money down pols - and perhaps some associated persons - throats, how about arguing for a less corrupt politics that doesn't require so much lubrication by dollars? Or - my preferred solution - just less politics, so there's less point lobbying it.

Hallelujah!  Biden plan eliminates billions in fossil fuel subsidies?

Speaking of weird shit... comes this Twit from Naomi Oreskes, pointing to an Arse article Biden plan eliminates billions in fossil fuel subsidies. Now NO is a busy person and probably didn't have time to read past the headline, always a fatal error as any fule kno. Because as the article makes clear, they haven't got even the tiniest clue as to which "subsidies" will be cut: The Biden administration hasn’t specified which tax credits or subsidies it would eliminate, and certain subsidies probably will be subject to horse trading in Congress.

Update: AMO and stadium wave

This is perhaps a good point to note that the recent de-invention of the AMO is... amusing. Curry isn't too amused, perhaps in a rug-pulled-out-from-under-feet sort of way. But what certainly does amuse further is to see her still plugging the long-dead stadium wave.


* Why are economists losing prestige? by Scott Sumner - makes, somewhat more politely, the point I made on Twatter.


City of New York v Chevron Corp, again

tempt Big win for common sense: New York City Loses Appeal Seeking to Hold Oil Firms Liable “Global Warming” say the Watties (but don't worry, that's a safe archive.is link) and despite the poisson-d'Avril date, it appears to be true: Reuters have the same, or you can just read the judgement: 
The City of New York has sued five multinational oil companies under New York tort law seeking to recover damages for the harms caused by global warming. The district court (Keenan, J.) dismissed the complaint. We affirm for substantially the same reasons as those articulated in the district court’s opinion. First, global warming is a uniquely international concern that touches upon issues of federalism and foreign policy. As a result, it calls for the application of federal common law, not state law. Second, the Clean Air Act grants the Environmental Protection Agency – not federal courts – the authority to regulate domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Federal common law actions concerning such emissions are therefore displaced. Lastly, while the Clean Air Act has nothing to say about regulating foreign emissions, judicial caution and foreign policy concerns counsel against permitting such claims to proceed under federal common law absent congressional direction. And since no such permission exists, each of the City’s claims is barred and its complaint must be dismissed.
The case was, IMO stupid and rightly dismissed: grandstanding pols wasting taxpayers money in order to burnish their own credentials. That the appeal meets the same fate is hardly a surprise; and hopefully it will be obvious even to them that trying the Supremes is dumb-as-rocks.

The meninwigs note that Even though every single person who uses gas and electricity – whether in travelling by bus, cab, Uber, or jitney, or in receiving home deliveries via FedEx, Amazon, or UPS – contributes to global warming, the City asserts that its taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of financing the City’s preparations to mitigate the effects of global warming; and this I think is why NYC's - and similar - cases are morally bankrupt even laying aside the legal aspects. But I've said that many times before. They miss a trick, though: they write As the City sees it, the Producers have known for decades that their fossil fuel products pose a severe risk to the planet’s climate but they fail to point out that the City also knew this just as well, as did any moderately well-informed citizen.

And we have the Alsupian To permit this suit to proceed under state law would further risk upsetting the careful balance that has been struck between the prevention of global warming, a project that necessarily requires national standards and global participation, on the one hand, and energy production, economic growth, foreign policy, and national security, on the other.

The vague attempted novelty of this claim was to attempt to side-step the obvious problems by using the law of nuisance. But this gets short shrift: That Congress chose to preempt the federal common law of nuisance with a well-defined and robust statutory and regulatory scheme of environmental law is by no means surprising. Numerous courts have bemoaned the “often . . . ‘vague’ and ‘indeterminate’” standards attached to nuisance law. And so on.


Climate change and state evolution - Giacomo Benati and Carmine Guerriero, PNAS


Reflecting Sunlight

tt AKA Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and the new NAS report. I think Michael Mann has a typical response: don't touch it with a bargepole, but I think his reasoning as well as his answer is wrong. His reasoning is mostly "geoengineering is hardly cheap—it comes with great potential harm". This is strictly invalid; the actual-cost as measured by how-much-it-costs-to-do-it is, I think, generally agreed to be "small", or at least likely-to-be-small; no-one has actually done it yet, so there aren't any good numbers. But the worry is that it might be cheap. And the cost ascribed to the harm is not really known; in the usual way, one should probably weight that potential harm by the unknown probability of it occurring. And yes I know that SRM doesn't deal with, e.g. ocean acidification

A useful presentation of the "two tribes" comes via ATTP's twit; the "where is the NAS report on nationalizing and rapidly shutting down the fossil fuel industry?" side (which I think is fuckwitted, obvs) is by Kevin Surprise; you can sense him salivating at the idea of "a massive, punitive-level wealth tax". By contrast, Matthias Honegger who - apart from talking to idiots - appears quite sane, represents the "we won't be able to meaningfully engage on questions of desirability unless there is meaningful research" side.

My own view is that while SRM has dangers, running screaming from it with drivel about "SG at best bolsters status-quo, at worst would further concentrate power" is wrongthink. In trying to "solve" GW we're trying to, errm, solve global warming; we're not trying For Great Justice and to use it as leverage for the revolt of the proles and a return to earthly paradise; though that is what some people (hello, Kevin!) are trying to use it for.

And the reply to "it comes with great potential harm" is "well, then it would be a good idea to do some research on it then". The reply to "but that might come with 'moral hazard' - people might stop trying to reduce CO2" is "calm down". A tiny (by comparison with other things) bit o' research isn't going to do harm.

This has shades of "experts will lie to you sometimes" (notice the ATTP, badly IMO, twits that without indicating any opinion); but the underlying piece by Noah Smith is bad. And it seems to me it's the way that some "expert" opinion is headed on SRM: you poor proles can't cope with complexity so let's just run away from it".

I should perhaps point out that I haven't actually read the NAs report. But here's the summary: Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance Climate change is creating impacts that are widespread and severe for individuals, communities, economies, and ecosystems around the world. While efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts are the first line of defense, researchers are exploring other options to reduce warming. Solar geoengineering strategies are designed to cool Earth either by adding small reflective particles to the upper atmosphere, by increasing reflective cloud cover in the lower atmosphere, or by thinning high-altitude clouds that can absorb heat. While such strategies have the potential to reduce global temperatures, they could also introduce an array of unknown or negative consequences. This report concludes that a strategic investment in research is needed to enhance policymakers' understanding of climate response options. The United States should develop a transdisciplinary research program, in collaboration with other nations, to advance understanding of solar geoengineering's technical feasibility and effectiveness, possible impacts on society and the environment, and social dimensions such as public perceptions, political and economic dynamics, and ethical and equity considerations. The program should operate under robust research governance that includes such elements as a research code of conduct, a public registry for research, permitting systems for outdoor experiments, guidance on intellectual property, and inclusive public and stakeholder engagement processes.

Update: 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea?

By Alan Robock via Aaron Thierry. TL;DR: not convincing; more of a hand-waving "there are issues" than any attempt to address them in any depth; and I'm doubtful he is being honest (or, if you prefer, impartial); see #8.

Let's look: 1. Effects on regional climate: true but GQ will also have effects on regional climate. 2. Continued ocean acidification: probably the best one. 3. Ozone depletion: potentially an issue; he provides zero detail, which is odd; if there is no detail, crying out for more research; 4. Effects on plants: again, research; 5. More acid deposition: doubtful, I think, as the effects would be small; he makes zero attempt to quantify it. 8. Less sun for solar power. Scientists estimate that as little as a 1.8 percent reduction in incoming solar radiation would compensate for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Errm, but we're not suggesting nearly so much compensation. So, less than 1% effect on solar power in exchange for ~50% compensation? That would be a pretty good deal, not that you'd guess it from his words. 9. Environmental impacts of implementation. Any system that could inject aerosols into the stratosphere... would cause enormous environmental damage. Silly, I think. 10. Rapid warming if deployment stops: true, as I noted. 11. There’s no going back: untrue, I think. 13. Undermining emissions mitigation: not I think a valid argument against doing the research. 15. Commercial control of technology: meh. 16. Military use of the technology: ditto. And so on, to the usual hand-wringing.

Note I've skipped a couple that were dull, IMO. His #13: Undermining emissions mitigation. If humans perceive an easy technological fix to global warming that allows for “business as usual,” gathering
the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and energy infrastructure will be even more difficult.18 This is the oldest and most persistent argument against geoengineering is what I'm criticising: he doesn't want SRM to work, because he wants emissions reduction for its own sake - for changing lifestyles - and something else that would solve GW would be bad, for him, because his primary aim isn't solving GW. That, obviously, is a permissible idea, as long as you're open about it: but he isn't.


* US urged to invest in sun-dimming studies as climate warms: National academies report is most explicit call yet for a government research programme to explore the controversial field of solar geoengineering - Nurture.
Possibly an unpopular opinion here, but I'm uneasy about some of the proposed research. Given the issues are far more related to the (im)possibility of sustainable governance, accelerated research into the physical science could lead to over-confidence about deployment says Big Gav.
* Some not-very-interesting speculation from the Economist: Reaching for the sunshade: July 2030


Warren vows to fight against being heckled by snotty tweets

PXL_20210325_090608797Elizabeth Warren vows to "fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets". Seriously. I didn't make that up. She really said it. What gratuitous abuse of power. And of course she is lying: she isn't being "heckled"; the tweet from Amazon was entirely reasonable.

I think this is part of a generic rule-of-law failure on the part of populist pols like Warren: she genuinely but incorrectly believes that the law should be whatever she wants it to be, not what is written. In this particular case, the Yanqui tax code is unquestionably bad law, because it is so enormous that it is inevitably full of loopholes. And why is it enormous? Because of people like Warren. And how will Warren try to fix this? Partly, as we see, by intimidation. But also no doubt by making the tax law even bigger. Idiot.

Another in-the-news example is the EU, where the pols are trying to direct private business for their own political ends. Again, it's a mix of gangster-like intimidation and threatened extra "rules", which aren't really rules, being so opaque and value-ridden that they would amount to arbitrary rule.

Meanwhile, in the garden: fasciation (sure 'nuff) on my Forsythia. More pix. Don't miss the rhubarb emerging.



A Bankruptcy Judge Lets Blackjewel Shed Coal Mine Responsibilities in a Case With National Implications

From InsideClimateNews:

The Blackjewel coal mining company can walk away from cleaning up and reclaiming coal mines covered by more than 30 permits in Kentucky under a liquidation agreement that was reached Friday in federal bankruptcy court in Charleston, West Virginia, attorneys participating in the case said. About 170 other Blackjewel permits in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia will be placed into legal limbo for six months while Blackjewel attempts to sell them to other coal mining companies, the attorneys said. Any permits that are unable to be transferred can then also be abandoned by the company, once the nation’s sixth-largest coal producer. 

Interesting, though I think not a new concept; I can't recall commenting earlier so I will now.

Looking at Top twenty-three coal-mining companies in the United States, 2018 on wiki, bankruptcy is hardly a surprise; and more can be expected; coal production in the US in the not-particularly-long term is doomed. The emotive language about "walk away from" doesn't add very much; they're bankrupt, so however much you might like the CEO to go out there with a shovel and tidy things up, not much will come of it. There are, it would seem, supposed to be bonds to cover remediation, but, surprise! Both the state and the companies that issued bonds guaranteeing clean-up and reclamation of the dynamite-blasted landscapes had warned in court proceedings that there might not be enough money to do all the required work. So, over-friendly regulation by the state, I suspect, which didn't want to force the miners to post large enough bonds since that would probably just have bankrupted them earlier.

How do I fit this into my Great Political Scheme? After all, this is a clear example of the State needing to step in to regulate the industry better, or clean up afterwards. But I think not. the state routinely screws up regulation, as it would appear to have done in this case, and trying to fix that is hard work. Instead, I think I'd just recognise that dying industries tend to leave junk behind them; not all problems have neat solutions. By their very nature, dying industries tend to be financially small, so I think there is easily enough money floating around the US to fix things up, if anyone wants to: in other words, sell off the carcass to the highest bidder.


Review by Brad DeLong of James Scott (1998), Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed.

* Fairness > equality by Tyler Cowen


Doughnut Economics

doughnut Tom asked about "Doughnut Economics"; I'm very tempted to just reach for the W-word, but since he was also kind enough to ask for more posts, I'll post on it. 

We need to begin by working out what this stuff is. They offer The Doughnut offers a vision of what it means for humanity to thrive in the 21st century - and Doughnut Economics explores the mindset and ways of thinking needed to get us there and the economic thinking needed. So I deduce it is a way of thinking; a way of thinking about economics. However The Doughnut's holistic scope and visual simplicity, coupled with its scientific grounding, has turned it into a convening space for big conversations about reimagining and remaking the future is really very off-putting and I feel the W-word looming. You have been warned.

The idea is to change the goal from endless GDP growth to thriving. Well, I've heard that one before, of course. So first of all her terminology is wrong: the present-day aim of GDP growth is a political, not economic goal. This indicates muddled thinking on her part, but may not be fatal. As any fule kno, Economics is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Complaining that when she says econ she really means pol would be mere semantics; but the unanswered question at this point is whether a new goal, which we will choose and use econ thinking to work out how to achieve - this would require no new econ, merely pol; or whether she has some substantive criticism of existing economics, not politics, - errors in existing anaylsis, important previously-ignored components - that will force us to revise our economic analysis. That she is unable to state the question clearly isn't encouraging.

Initially, it looks very much like pol: her very first idea it to change the goal, from increasing GDP, to "the Doughnut". An immediate objection is that GDP is at least clear, whereas her alternative is vague. Another objection is that "increasing GDP" isn't many people's goal. It isn't mine, and it isn't yours. It is the sort of thing that govts tend to claim to do, because people tend to like increasing prosperity. But I think she is somewhat confusing emergent properties with goals; like those funny denialists who insist that climate models have set sensitivities. Items 2-7 are so wanky (damn! I finally said it out loud) that I can't comment without looking deeper.

But there doesn't seem to be much depth. Take, for example "peace and justice" (sadly, there's isn't a "motherhood and apple pie" element). So, I'm sure we'd all agree that Peace and Justice are excellent things, though quite likely we'd disagree on exactly what Justice means. How will DE get us there? I've no idea.

So as far as I can tell DE reduces to "(a) it would be nice if no-one were poor or sad; and (b) using more resources than we actually have isn't sustainable in the long term; and (c) I have no real idea how to get there". Is there anything new in this, other than an infographic? You can tell, I'm pretty sure, that I'm unconvinced; if  missed the depth of analysis, do please point me to it. I tried the original 2012 report, which says thing things like  Income: Ending income poverty for the 21 per cent of the global population who live on less than $1.25 a day would require just 0.2 per cent of global income. And this it true... or at least it was then; since global poverty has fallen in the past 9 years and global income risen, it would now require even less. But to write it in those term completely misses the point. Most dreadfully poor people are so because their govt is crap, not because of any inherent limitations.



Global 'elite' will need to slash high-carbon lifestyles?

PXL_20210320_105614975 Climate change: Global 'elite' will need to slash high-carbon lifestyles sayeth Aunty; or World's richest 1% cause double CO2 emissions of poorest 50%, says Oxfam from the Graun; and my excuse for re-hashing 2020's olde newes was that this was back on Twatter recently. 

The underlying idea is that rich people have more money and so emit-or-cause-to-be-emitted more CO2 than poor people (brilliant work, Carruthers, I'd never have thought of that for myself). And we also know - have known for quite some time - that the "average" for a sustainable level is well below the current rich-country level.

Being idiots, neither the Beeb nor the Graun link to the report in question. There's a UN Emissions Gap Report 2020, but that's fuck all use because whilst it contains the said numbers, it contains no source for said numbers. Ah, but that's just the Exec Summary; Execs, clearly, are not to be bothered with sources. The Full Report (fig 6.1) points me to "Oxfam and SEI (2020)" which gets me to the SEI report.

Before I go on to quibble the figures, of which I am dubious, let's draw out another point, by quoting some fuller numbers. For the moment, let us take these as at least ballpark:

* The richest 10% of humanity (c.630 million people) accounted for 52% of the cumulative emissions, depleting the global carbon budget for 1.5C by nearly a third (31%);
* The richest 1% (c.63 million people) alone accounted for over 15% of the cumulative emissions, using up 9% of the carbon budget: more than twice the poorest 50% (c.3.1 billion people), or more than the entire cumulative emissions of citizens in the EU;
* The 40% of humanity in the global middle class (c.2.5 billion people) accounted for 41% of the cumulative emissions, and 25% of the carbon budget, while the poorest 50% accounted for just 7% of cumulative emissions, and a mere 4% of the budget.

So we notice that both Aunty and the darling Graun have tailored their messages to their audiences: the evil demons who must slash their emissions are the top 1%, from which I - and, I assume, most of my readers - are safely absent. But the very rich, being very few - well, being 1% - , "only" emit 15%; whereas the darling 10%, being many - about 630 million - account for 52%. You and I, dear reader, are in that 10%. We need to slash our emissions. See-also XR.

Having said that, let's move on to the emissions estimates. These are based on income data, which are available, not emission data, which aren't. How do they do it? Oxfam and SEI's approach to estimating how global carbon emissions can be attributed to individuals based on their consumption... start with national consumption emissions data for 117 countries from 1990 to 2015 period... allocate national consumption emissions to individuals within each country based on a functional relationship between income and emissions, drawing on new income distribution datasets. We assume, based on numerous studies at national, regional and global levels, that emissions rise in proportion to income, above a minimum emissions floor and to a maximum emissions ceiling. What does that functional relationship look like? We assume that between the upper and lower bounds discussed above, emissions rise monotonically with income, and that the relationship can be expressed as an elasticity of emissions with respect to income. Depending on income-dependent consumption behaviour in a given country, emissions may grow faster than income (elasticity >1), in proportion to income (e=1), or more slowly than income (elasticity <1). It also turns out (fig 4) that "elasticity" varies per country, from about 0.7 (UK) to around 1.5 (Finland) with no discernable sorting by income... at which point they kinda give up and use elasticity=1. Maybe; I got tired of wading through the fine print.

But the end result, is that I'm dubious that emissions go up linearly with income at the 1% end of things. Not having waded through all their papers, I can't really justify that or claim to have convincingly demonstrated it; I'd be curious if anyone else has seen any analysis of these results.



Coronavirus days: Happy Anniversary

PXL_20210316_160527815~2 My first wildly exciting Coronavirus post wasn't; and don't expect this special anniversary edition to be any more exciting. But it is now a full year since March 17th 2020... how are things going?

Personally, they are fine. I'm working from home; so is my wife; so, now, is my son (for Darktrace, since you ask). The slightly eccentric several-small-rooms design of our house has facilitated this. My daughter is off at university, but since terms are short she is now back at home. Work is remarkably unchanged; being at home makes little difference. Some things are a bit annoying - swapping kit around for example - but that happens rarely. Talking to others, casually, is hard; so collaboration is down a bit. But we have regular meetings, so we all stay in touch. Overall I think that in terms of the work I get done, it's a net positive; and in terms of my work-life definitely better. I save an hour commuting each day, so gain that time, though I also lose that exercise. And since I'm at home I get to do useful things, or nice things like sit in the garden, in the odd 10-minute breaks; instead of just moodily slouching around the work kitchen wishing there was somewhere nice to go. And no-one cares if I wear shoes or not (spoiler: I don't).

On a more personal level I miss the coffee shops, and I miss rowing4, but not much else has gone. I missed going to Scotland this New Year, too. Hopefully the idiot EU will sort themselves out by summer time.

Just yesterday I got vaccinated, with AZ3. This being NHS-mediated, I wasn't given a choice, but then again, I didn't want one. The idiot EU folk, not content with having badly fucked up their vaccine roll-out, are doing their best to stuff it up even further and flailing around; and now out of an excess of caution are killing their own citizens2. Meanwhile the selfish Yankees are holding on to 10M doses of AZ that they won't use but won't give away; so much for Biden being the good guy1. I get my Daily Dose of Death via JA on Twatter - inlined - and the steady decline is good to see; deaths are now ~below 100/day.

David Spiegelhalter says There's no proof the Oxford vaccine causes blood clots. So why are people worried? The answer, of course, as far as ordinary people are concerned, is because their idiot authorities have paused vaccinations; and since, we're constantly told to "trust the experts" these experts must have some good reason for doing so? Of course the answer is that they don't; they are idiots; but DS isn't brave enough to say so.

You're only as good as your last crisis, so our glorious govt's comparative failure a year ago compared to the EU will effectively be forgotten; meanwhile history is being rewritten under our feet, but people have memories like goldfish so that will probably work. The loud voices that told us a year ago that the UK and USA were doomed because capitalists can't cope with plagues have gone rather quiet now that France, Spain, Germany, Italy all have higher death rates than the UK does5. Take that, lefties.


1. Spoiler: he isn't: he's a pol. Update: and to be fair, the Yanquis are starting to get their act in order: U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada, though they haven't actually done it yet, and only 4M out of "tens of millions". I await further updates.

2. To be fair, the EMA appears to be sane. Update: and has now told the EUdiots once again that it's all fine, and it seems they might listen this time. But, gloriously, the Frogs have stuffed it up again.

Flailing continues: AstraZeneca plant inspected by Italian police at EU's request. I'm doubtful that the EU really believes in the rule of law at all.

3. And this morning I felt distinctly sub-par. But I think I'm back now.

4. Lents didn't happen but hopefully Mays will; and we're hoping to run the Head of the Cam in late April.

5. As long as you remember to look at present rates, rather than cumulative. See previous comments re goldfish.


a liberal democracy is characterized not by “popular rule” but by various devices providing for “an intermittent, sometimes random, even perverse, popular veto” which “has at least the potential of preventing tyranny and rendering officials responsive.”
The EU's AstraZeneca vaccine stance will cost lives, here in Spain and all over Europe by A. Spaniard.
* Covid: Arrests during anti-lockdown protests in London
* Thank You AstraZeneca says JA (no, not that JA).
* How the beach 'super-spreader' myth can inform UK's future Covid response via PW.
* Science in the Time of COVID-19 - ATTP.

* Boris Johnson's two cheers for capitalism by Alberto Mingardi.

* AZ vaccine: we, too, are fuckwits.

Suicide trends in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic: an interrupted time-series analysis of preliminary data from 21 countriesno evidence of a significant increase in risk of suicide since the pandemic began in any country or area (which when you think about it is surprising, given the number of series they had...) from the Lancet.


More wank about science as a social construct

PXL_20210304_225020349.PORTRAIT Every now and again there is a minor flare-up in the "science is a social construct" war1. Real Scientists, of course, ignore this stuff and get on with doing science, because that is what scientists do. I don't think I've got anything new to say, so this post is mostly for my own benefit. I wrote about Science in 20142.

And then Carl T. Bergstrom offers Here’s a short explanation of why the socially constructed nature of science matters. But does he deliver? I think not. He asserts Yet science is not the inevitable One True Path to knowledge about the material world. Rather, science operates via a set of norms and institutions jury-rigged to operate atop the evolved psychology of one particular species of ape. If bees did science, I suspect it would look altogether different but that is but an assertion, and his personal opinion. Whilst it is true - and indeed little better than the bleedin' obvious - that science in everyday use and practice is part of human culture, and hence contingent and shaped by our biases, it isn't at all clear that the output of science in terms of understanding of the world is so shaped. By science, of course, I'm excluding all the wiffly social-science stuff, whose output is inevitably part of and shaped by human culture.

Indeed, arguably - and I do so argue - Science is all the bits that aren't contingent and human-shaped; Science works, bitches; things that don't work aren't; and things that do work get absorbed into it.

I suppose I should make it clear that I'm not arguing that all writing about science is worthless; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions isn't, for example.


* Is Bruno Latour a useless ponce?
* THE ACCIDENTAL CLIMATOLOGIST Of OLD ALGIERS (the first title was the best).
* The social construction of science - ATTP gets it wrong
* [the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau] displayed just the right mixture of noble sentiment, lofty rhetoric, muddled thinking, and disregard for reality to attract those intellectuals who, like him, refused to “tolerate the world as it is - Richard Pipes, Property and Freedom.
Trapped Priors As A Basic Problem Of Rationality - SSC/AST - not quite correct I think (it assumes everyone remembers everything; instead, we have filters which reject stuff we don't like, so no updating occurs) but interesting.


1. For example, that naughty Dawkins says "Science is not a social construct. Science’s truths were true before there were societies; will still be true after all philosophers are dead"; some idiot pops up to say "what's "objective reality""; and someone else will say "science is able to uncover information about whatever is being studied that can allow us to develop an understanding that could converge towards something that we accept as being essentially true (even if absolute truth isn't possible)".

2. Note the quote at the end of that. Another defn of Science - I say because I'm fond of linking to this post - might be "the thing that advances one funeral at a time".


Shamima Begum cannot return to UK, Supreme Court rules

PXL_20210226_102316064 Not the real supreme court, of course, just the UK one. From the Beeb:

It did not give the home secretary's assessment the respect which it should have received, given that it is the home secretary who has been charged by Parliament with responsibility for making such assessments, and who is democratically accountable to Parliament for the discharge of that responsibility... The Court of Appeal mistakenly believed that, when an individual's right to have a fair hearing... came into conflict with <something else>, her right to a fair hearing must prevail.

I find stripping someone of their citizenship dubious, and the home secretary's rational for refusing entry ditto, but those aren't the issues I'm interested in here, rather it is... primarily, just how much money-aka-resources should we fling at men-in-wigs?

And this is in regard to Adam Smith's acute

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. All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.

Searching around for that quote, I find Timmy saying roughly what I want to say, and indeed what I've said before: that we should take "tolerable" seriously; that flinging too many resources at abstract justice isn't a good idea. Sadly that wasn't any basis for today's ruling - well, it's not the kind of thing you expect meninwigs to say.

Secondarily, there's an issue of the balance between executive and judicial branches. Which I personally feel has tilted too far in the direction of excessive judicial review recently, so I think did not give the home secretary's assessment the respect which it should have received is good.

You might say, where is my sympathy for SB? I have little-to-none. Functionally, none. If I was going to be sympathetic to poor folks abroad, I'd put the poor sods in Yemen, Somalia, Syria all suffering through no fault of their own waaay above SB. And I'd rather use all these judicial resources more fruitfully in the UK, where any number of cases are disgracefully delayed.


When can governments revoke citizenship? - The Economist

Losing the sky - ATTP

Ilhan Omar's fascist behavior - Timmy

* The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism Book Club: Final Thoughts by Bryan Caplan

* From page 208 of Lord Acton’s late-1890s lecture “The Influence of America,” as this lecture appears in Essays in the History of Liberty: Selected Essays of Lord Acton, Vol. 1.



_Starman__emblem_(Rush__2112__album)Another one bites the dust: Rush Limbaugh, from lung cancer, which is surely how he'd have wanted to go. Not everyone is sad; Emily "who?" Atkin isn't; and nor it would seem are the Watties, who have ignored this world-shaking event.

I only know RL as a right-wing-shock-jock-global-warming-denying-nutter; if you doubt the latter, RS provides a delightful example of his crass ignorance and willingness to fall for anything that leant his way. But "environmental issues" is only a small part of his Wiki article, so clearly I've seen only one facet.

However we can tell he's not really famous, because I never troubled with him here on this blog; I think in GW terms he has long been a has-been; he got more mentions in sci.env days, perhaps.

The best defence I can find from vaguely reliable sources is he was the quintessential American entertainer by Dominc Pino. That article doesn't really even attempt to defend what he said in any serious terms, and just regards it as entertainment. Which is probably correct: as the RS example shows, he was lamentably ignorant of science, and I've no particular reason to think he was any better informed on anything else; but that didn't matter to his large audience, because people want to be entertained. In the end, if forced to defend him - which I'm not, so I won't - I'd blame Dumb America. You get the right-wing-global-warming-denying-nutters you pay for.


* What do prime-age ‘NILF’ men do all day? A cautionary on universal basic income
Rush Limbaugh galvanised and embodied the modern American right - The Economist doesn't mention GW either.
* What I worked on - Paul Graham


The Tyranny of Merit?

PXL_20210208_174839188 The Tyranny of Merit or What’s Become of the Common Good? is a book by Michael J. Sandel. You will without doubt find people speaking kindly of it, for example here. For my part, I think it a poor book badly written.

By coincidence I'm (re-)reading Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies, and I find the conflict between rationalism and irrationalism has become the most important intellectual, and perhaps even moral, issue of our time. This book stands on the wrong side of that division: it is polemic, rhetoric, populist, careless of contradiction and fact.

Of course, it is not entirely without merit (fnarrr). It correctly notices that those who have risen through their own merit may well come to believe that they have risen through their own merit, and disdain those who have not so risen; whilst those who have failed to so rise may come to despair. Unfortunately, that's pretty well it for the good bits. And when his editor said "that's an excellent start Michael but I'm afraid you'll have to pad it out a bit" he duly did so.

His central problem is his failure to understand meritocracy4. For him, meritocracy is where the the "best" people rise to the top and/or are in charge, and get the rewards they "deserve". By using the word deserve, he tangles it all up in morality: if I am born clever, do I really "deserve" the rewards that come with that? But this is wrongthink; the word "deserve" is confused. Instead, the world pays people well who are able to do useful things; note that we're talking at this point about an idealised meritocracy; the issue of are we a fake one can come later; at this point we're interested - or he is - by whether a meritocracy is just1. There's no requirement or even meaning to asking if those people "deserve" those rewards. Instead, they are paid them for a reason: so they will do that job, instead of a different one. It is as stupid as asking what the "true" dollar-value of a product is; the answer is always "what people will pay for it".

Eventually (p 125) he comes to consider two other systems: free-market liberalism (a-la Hayek) and welfare state liberalism (a-la Rawls). He presents Hayek giving exactly my argument. He presents Rawls saying... something, but I didn't pay much attention; I already know I disagree with Rawls. So how does he get rid of Hayek's view? He doesn't. He just says "morally and psychologically, the distinction between merit and value becomes vanishingly thin". But this is no answer to a defence of "true" meritocracy. It only leaves him the rather thin "disdain" idea.

The assertion (p 136) that Hayek doesn't understand that things other than market value, have value, is drivel. So what we get is a fatal problem for his theory: market value isn't moral worth. His answer (again, p 136) is to take market value as a proxy for social contribution, which is lying worthy of Plato6.

In his version, free-market liberalism differs from meritocracy. In mine, it doesn't5.

There's some discussion of social mobility, and of credentialism. This discussion is somewhat confused because whilst vaguely related to meritocracy the connection is weak, and he isn't ever clear whether he means true, false, or well-that's-what-you-see-in-the-world meritocracy.

His solution

By p 155, we begin to come to his solution. Should we go back to hiring based on prejudice? Fortunately, he doesn't suggest that, though his "does not mean that merit should play no role in the allocation of jobs" is rather weak. Presumably, he does think that something other than merit should play a (substantial?) role - but he doesn't say what that thing or things should be. But his main suggestions are about education, and work.

Because he is a Harvard professor, he disdains to think about anything as plebian as early education, and instead thinks only about college. He asks (p 169), should higher education retain its role as arbiter of opportunity? As soon as you ask this question you - but not, alas, our author - realise that the answer is that "should" is again wrongthink. No-one has designed or legislated the system that way; it has simply grown up, as a result of many many choices, and so there is no "should". To change it... where would you even start? He doesn't know, so instead proposes making entrance into Harvard more of a lottery.

As to "work", his idea appears to be recognising the dignity of labour3. Unfortunately, he then decides that the most important role we play in the economy is as producers, not consumers2. There may be points of view (his is "civic conception") from which this makes sense; but it is also the all-too-common view that leads to protectionism and other such stupidity; so it is a dangerous idea to push. It gets worse; he realises that our wages don't represent our true "value" - see above - but instead says that our true value is (p 209) the "moral and civic importance" of our work, As though that can in any meaningful way be evaluated. Instead it just leads to the politics of envy: "my morality says you are not worth your wages", an all-too-common view... which he proceeds to display, in discussing finance, lower down: did you know, some of those dirty financiers get more than Harvard professors do?

Anyway, back to dignity of labour. He's for it. It is important to our self-esteem, and so on. But - ironically, he too has confused meanings of value - he means people getting decent-paying jobs. His ideas for achieving this, though, are thin and vague: "some restrictions on trade, outsourcing, and immigration" - i.e., protectionism; more of Trump. No thank you.

But he has another idea about work. First he begins by making an all-too-common mistake: that the finance industry is non-productive. His solution? A financial transactions tax. Which is fuckwitted, albeit all-too-often popular. The EU is in favour of it: need I say more? But... as a solution to societies problems, it is weak to the point of confessing that you don't really have any solutions.

P 210: cites Hegel as a reference for his ideas. FFS. Has he no shame; has he not read Popper? That seems a good point to end this review.

What would you do instead?

Once you, unlike our author, realise that meritocracy is just free-market liberalism, the answer becomes obvious: don't do something else. Don't read this book; read Hayek instead.

Update: practical politics

Reading the Graun (a crap article that upholds the usual journalistic practice of beginning with several paragraphs of irrelevance) I find The Tyranny of Merit is Sandel’s response to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In this review I've largely ignored the practical politics side, because I was more interested in the idealised, theoretical view. the book doesn't really distinguish the two; we swap from one to another and back as we go along. So, a better book would have much more sharply distinguished the two.

The idea that the "metropolitan elites" look down upon the "proles" is a commonplace, though. Our author gets no points for that. He would get points if he could clearly tie that attitude into his theorised meritocratic disdain. But other than hand-waving, he doesn't do that. Did the Lords of say 16th century England despise the peasants of their day? In my image of the times, yes; on our author's theory, they shouldn't have; or at least, less than the ME do today. Do you believe that? I'm doubtful.

As to the "disdain effect", I think he remains confused, as to whether it means meritocracy is overall a bad thing, or whether it is merely a defect in meritocracy. For example, from the Graun: Even a perfect meritocracy, he says, would be a bad thing. “The book tries to show that there is a dark side, a demoralising side to that,” he says. Notice the contrast of the Graun's "a bad thing" and his "dark side". So if it is merely a defect, then how much of a defect is it? It could just be a minor one - I think it is - hardly worth much worrying about. How would you know? Simply repeatedly emphasising that the defect exists gets you nowhere.

Update: Book Review: The Cult Of Smart by Fredrik DeBoer by SSC/AST

This review touches much of the same ground, ending with a plea against formal educattion.


1. He doesn't do a good job of defining just (rather as Plato fails) and the word is susceptible to intuitions. Fortunately his discussion around p 124 is sufficiently muddy that an exact definition would not help. For myself, I prefer Hobbes' defn: that which is not unjust. And what is unjust? Breaking covenants. Therefore, a meritocracy is just. As is a dictatorship. Which just shows you that it isn't a good question.

2. He then compounds his error by asserting that  consumption-is-primary is "today so familiar that it is hard to think our way beyond it", quoting the Sainted Smith. Again, his thinking is muddled: this is the primary view of std.economics, but not of the public, and not of pols.

3. Dignity of labour is a good idea. But the trouble is that is what it is: an idea; a state of mind; an opinion. Anyone can have it. Anyone flipping burgers at MacDonalds can have it. But our author is not brave enough to argue that people should think like that. Because he has fallen into his own traps: he has confused value with dollar-value. The idea of burger-flipping fills him with horror, and he cannot really conceive of anyone doing that having any dignity in their labour; he is, in the end, a snob.

4. Of course, he could solve this problem by clearly defining meritocracy, in his favour. If it means "rewarding good work / good deeds (merit) because people of merit deserve (in a moral sense) those rewards", then he'd be OK. But in his characteristically mushy way - in stark contrast to Popper - he never does define meritocracy, as HarvardMag notes. They suggest defining it as Amartya Sen suggested: a system for “rewarding good (or right) deeds for their incentive effects, but that's my defn, because of the use of "incentive" rather than "deserve".

5. If your prejudices lead you to think that think implies that "that the only gauge of merit is what it can be sold for" then you really need to work on your prejudices. Or, you can try reading the comments.

6. Since it comes my way, I offer you "Were she to encounter Françoise at the moment (which Françoise called “the noon") when, wearing her fine cap and surrounded with every mark of respect, she was coming down stairs to "feed with the service," Mme Villeparisis would stop her to ask after us. And Françoise, when transmitting to us the Marquise's message: "She said to me, 'You'll be sure and bid them good day,' she said," would counterfeit the voice of Mme de Villeparisis, whose exact words she imagined herself to be quoting textually, whereas in fact she was distorting them no less than Plato distorts the words of Socrates or St John the words of Jesus. Françoise was naturally deeply touched by these attentions. Only she did not believe my grandmother, but supposed that she must be lying in the inter ests of class (the rich always supporting one another) when she assured us that Mme de Villeparisis had been lovely as a young woman. It was true that of this loveliness only the faintest trace remained, from which no one-unless he happened to be a great deal more of an artist than Françoise would have been able to reconstitute her ruined beauty. For in order to understand how beautiful an elderly woman may once have been one must not only study but translate every line of her face". From Place-Names: The Place.


* Growth, Not Equality: American history shows that expanding the economy benefits everyone by Amity Shlaes.


EU carbon price soars to record highs

1612193175008-e213e0a7-48cc-41e5-849d-1f4468e92c4e_~2 The price of carbon in Europe has soared to a fresh record high near €38 a tonne, with prices adding more than 13 per cent over the past two sessions as traders rushed to secure supplies of EU emissions allowances says the FT. That the price is rising towards something plausible is good; that this is happening for trading reasons is not so great. This illustrates the problem with permit trading as against a nice simple carbon tax: the system is a boondoggle for traders and speculators. Which is one of the reasons that the EU prefers it.

As a good free marketeer I am of course happy with speculative trading in general; but I think I disapprove of govts deliberately creating such markets, where the price - as the FT makes clear - depends less on real world fundamentals than the political whims of the EU.



The dim and distant history of global warming: sea ice betting

paladin People routinely spout nonsense, but are somewhat more reluctant to dribble actual money away. So offering to bet against people spouting nonsense - aka put-up-or-shut-up - has some plausibility. It isn't perfect - I might have a lot of money and very poor judgement; but then again, people with very poor judgement do tend to lose their money fairly quickly. Or, some words from 2006.

And so when the Arctic sea ice was low in 2007 and the usual doom-mongers said the usual things, I offered to bet that there wouldn't be a new record in 2008. Inevitably, the actual doom-mongers wouldn't pony up but some brave souls did. I won. And offered to bet that there will be more ice in 2009 than in 2007 (this may all have been inspired by James Annan's earlier bet in 2005; don't miss Lindzen wimping out. But then there was my post from early 2005).

[And by complete co-incidence, Big Gav writes Don’t climate bet against the house at RC.]

I got some takers for the 2008-9 season, and won that too (with, technically, a marginal loss to RMG on a slightly different bet, but that wasn't for cold hard cash so didn't count).

For 2009-10, it looks like people had got tired of being prepared to bet on a new minimum, so I decided that my "default" prediction was a linear trend, with a "buffer" around it. And the result was... no-one won, since the result was inside the buffer, i.e. on-trend.

By this point it was kinda painfully obvious that neither the gloom-mongers nor the denialists were prepared to bet on ridiculously high or low ice levels, and the negotiations on terms were becoming ever more intricate. Which revealed something, if you knew how to think, so could be considered a success.

At this point it starts to get blurred and I cannot be bothered to tie all the pieces together. In 2011 there were multiple bets going, covering multiple years; after all, just one year is a casino.  2012 was a new record low, so I lost a couple of bets. But in 2014 a couple if the multi-year bets with Crandles came in my favour; and another in 2015.

But more excitingly, also in 2011, I bet Rob Dekker $10k on seaice-to-2016; that being a five-year trend which might be more meaningful; five years was a compromise: climatologically quite short, but within the span of human interest. In order for us both to preserve our... sanity?... we agreed on a wide-ish dead zone: If both NSIDC and IARC-JAXA September 2016 monthly average sea ice extent report are above 4.80 million km^2, RD pays WMC US$ 10,000. If both are below 3.10 million km^2, WMC pays RD US$ 10,000. In all other cases the bet is null and void. Alas, in the end the result was a draw.

I think things mostly petered out then. In later 2007, Joe Romm was prepared to bet on "an essentially ice free Arctic by 2020". He ended up losing that one, obvs, but 13 years is a long time and his email address no longer works. If you know him, let him know he owes me $333.

Caveat: all this was a long time ago. Links have rotted, as has my memory, so very likely I have missed stuff.


1. In the middle of the first sea-ice bet, in May 2008, there was some nonsense about predicting cooling, but I don't think anything came of it.


* Arch of the IInternetArchive of the Romm post.
* More Wadhams.
* Who is the farting three-legged dog in this scenario, you ask?
* Probably not betting on climate with Lubos Motl

If the aspiration is, as leaders of all stripes have said, to “lower the temperature,” we do not need simply calmer politics or different politics. We need less politics.


Coronavirus days: how's my vaccinating?

1610023068469-16cf3c99-8fe2-4404-bc75-a2d3df9758f4 Vaccine rollout begins, but I notice a curious lack of numeracy, or so it seems. Sometimes numbers are reported, sometimes vague deadlines like "spring" or "autumn". I wonder, how does it stack up?

The UK govt plan says we have already vaccinated over 2 million people, and are on track to deliver on our commitment to offer a first vaccine to everyone in the most vulnerable groups by the middle of February. Later, "mid" becomes clearly "15th"1, and the four groups are those in care homes; 80+ and frontline health and social; 75+; 70+ and clinically extremely vulnerable1.

Update: (thx AS): note that "offer", above, is weaselly. If they offer appointments for three days in advance, then on the 15th they can claim to have "offered" everyone an appointment. Furthermore, are they factoring in the proportion who will decline, when offered?

And the numbers are then 0.3 + 0.5 + 3.3 + 2.4 + 1.4 + 2.3 + 3.2 + 1.2 = 14.6 million, unless I've miscounted (ah, but they says that total priority cohorts 1-4 is ~15 million). Since we're currently on ~2.4 million vaccinated (we claim 2.4 million, OurWorldInData says 4.2% which I make about 2.8 million; and I'm accepting first-dose-only as good enough for now), that's an additional 12.2 million in 34 days, or  375 k / day. Our current best rate looks to be a shade under 200 k / day, so... we're not going to make it. The plan says By late January we aim to have the capacity to vaccinate at least 2 million people each week, but that is somewhat under 300 k / day, so even if we hit that target, it won't be enough. And that's assuming working seven days a week, which I think we currently aren't.

So even on their own terms, they won't hit their target, and yet they claim to be "on track". And, here I return to my point about numeracy, they carefully avoid calculating the rates they need and seeing if they are indeed on track.

Did I get my numbers right? I find this (sorry, it's the Sun) which talks about 13 million by mid-Feb, so I think my 14.6 is about right. This, from Sky, says 14 million in six weeks, and agrees with my calculation of ~400 k / day (although the "conclusions" section seems rather muddled to me).

FWIW I think that, in retrospect, we were far too slow at approving the vaccine, and should have accepted greater risk.; and wasted our opportunities when the infection rates were low However, I didn't say that at the time so can't really complain at other's lack of prescience; and doubtless there would have been endless hand-wringing from the usual suspects if the vaccine had been "rushed".

My picture shows a French snail-collector, somewhere near Verdun, who I met one misty morning in 1989, on my way to Nis.


Vaccination rates do seem to be going reasonably well: 324k on the 15th, and just under 300k on the 16th, a Sunday 277k on the 16th, a Saturday. I say reasonably well, but they aren't good enough to hit the targets, so hopefully they will improve (update: they didn't: down to only just above 200k on the 18th). There seems to be some nonsense about doses being wasted - see, e.g. this, where the bureaucracy discovers that it needs to give permission not to waste them - but I suspect this is a minor effect.
2020/02/05. Still going well, the 7-day average is over 400k.

Triumphal conclusion

It would appear - quite to my surprise - that we have indeed met our target. Unlike those useless furriners in the EU, who have resorted to lying about it; happily for them the Graun is happy to publish their lies.

But as of this morning we're claiming 15,062,189 and I see no particular reason to doubt those numbers. Everyone is sounding happy, the govt is rolling in credit, and pressure for ending lockdown is starting to grow. Could people - gasp - be allowed to go on self-catering holidays?

Incidentally, there's a strong weekly pattern in the vaccination rates; I haven't seen anyone explain them.


1. There is some possible scope for ambiguity in these groups. I believe that by "four groups" they mean everyone in one of the first four (numbered 1-4) priority cohorts, of which there are eight different groups (for example, care home residents and residential care staff are two separate groups in cohort 1).


* Reflections on the President’s Conduct by Robert A. Levy - Cato: In short, President Trump’s conduct has been unacceptable. To be sure, the nation needs time to heal. So, the decision – urged by some observers – to impeach the President a second time, or remove him from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, may well hinge on prudential rather than legal assessments. Still, at a minimum, a congressional censure – joined in particular by Trump’s Republican enablers – would be both welcome and warranted.
* They were good questions then and they remain good ones today. From The rediscovery of character: private virtue and public policy by James Q. Wilson in the Fall of 1985 - TF.
* Walter Williams; The State Against Blacks: on the racial effect of the minimum wage laws.
Fidelity to the Rule of Law demands not only that a government abide by its verbalized and publicized rules, but also that it respect the justified expectations created by its treatment of situations not controlled by explicitly announced rules - Lon Fuller.
* And by bizarre co-incidence from that last quote, the EU's mask slips; see-also Marina Hyde taking the piss.
* In Praise of CVS by David Henderson
* The COVID confidence man by Scott Sumner - one shot or two? Not everyone is happy with that nice Dr Fauci.
* Covid-19: UK rejects 'false' vaccine export ban claim by EU - those funny furriners are still flailing around for someone other than themselves to blame for their incompetence.