ClientEarth loses high court fight with Shell over climate strategy

tempt Sez the Graun, having previously drooled over the directors being personally sued. The ostensible reason for the lawsuit was that the directors were not acting in the best interests of the company, and that the claimants ClientEarth were therefore damaged. But this was obvious wank, and the ManInAWig seems to have spotted that. "the management of a business of the size and complexity of that of Shell will require the directors to take into account a range of competing considerations" is the right answer; and so just as in the much-heralded Alsup, the court isn't the right venue for solving these issues. In a way, it is great that our society is so rich that we can afford to pour money down the drain in this way; just as well there's no backlog of real judicial cases needing attention.


Are temperatures this summer hotter than scientists expected? - answer: no, not really, unless you cherry-pick your region carefully; but statistically, that's cheating.


Abuse of non-linear

358610673_817599326392037_7869233237770661970_n People are prone to saying things like "But impacts of climate change are different — they are non-linear" by which they mean scary, dangerous, worrying, problem-causing. But this is an abuse of terminology. A damage function that is, say, zero up to 2 oC and zillions above that is non linear; a damage function that is lots below 2 oC and zero above is also non-linear. But we only care about the first sort.

In the real world, pretty well everything is non-linear. So saying that the impacts of GW are non-linear is trivial and uninteresting, in and of itself. People segue far too casually from "non-linear" (trivial) to "thresholds exist" (largely undemonstrated) to "we're passing those thresholds and terrible things are happening" (using insurance in the US as an example is a terrible idea because the markey is so heavily distorted by regulation and govt intervention that market prices often don't apply).

Thresholds are lovely things in simple theoretical models but I think less applicable to the real world. Everything is fuzzy, distributed: there are rarely absolute thresholds.

Other confusions

Is GW accelerating? Just recently Hansen asserts "We did not say that the global temperature record to date shows an acceleration of the global warming rate". And yet Hansen-2020 says "Record global temperature in 2020, despite a strong La NiƱa in recent months, reaffirms a global warming acceleration that is too large to be unforced noise". Perhaps the addition data after 2020 to 2023 shows a slow-down?


* Are the impacts of climate change non-linear?

DICE damage functions.

Neoclassical tipping points of no return.

Economists greatly underestimate the price tag on harsher weather and higher seas. Why is that?

* ATTP's Abandoning the idea of an “optimal pathway” for climate policy makes me think of On getting out more. This is Jonathan Koomey's stuff; it is all so badly broken that it is hard to know where to start; see my comments chez ATTP.

* American universities have an incentive to seem extortionate. They are much cheaper than the “crisis of college affordability” suggests.

* Tipping points: AH likes good ones but doesn't like bad ones. Arf.



UK installations of heat pumps 10 times lower than in France, report finds

PXL_20230709_095959527~2 From the GraunThe UK is lagging far behind France and other EU countries in installing heat pumps, research has shown, with less than a tenth of the number of installations despite having similar markets. Only 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK last year, compared with more than 620,000 in France. Twenty other European countries also had higher installation rates than the UK.

The report continued: "We should try to understand why this difference is occurring". Ha ha, only joking, of course it didn't. Instead we get the familiar: "The MCS report, titled Heat Pump Rollout in France and the UK 2023, called on the government to make heat pumps mandatory for all new homes...". Why this insistence on force over understanding always?

On a similar topic, we have Michael Mann saying "Good doesn't defeat evil by trying to reason with it, normalize its underlying vices, or understand its ill-founded sense of grievance.  Good defeats evil by defeating it. That was true of the American civil war. And that is true going into the 2024 U.S. election." Confusing war and elections is a bad idea. And convincing yourself that you don't need to understand "the other side" is a really bad idea. What does "defeating" your "opponent" mean? Even in a war, fighting to the death is the worst option; in an election, the metaphor just confuses you, because "winning" means to persuade your opponents supporters to support you instead. And you persuade them by, ideally, reasonning with them; and you do that most effectively by understanding them.


* Heat pumps: more than 80% of households in Great Britain ‘satisfied with system’?

Book review: The Anome / The Brave Free Men / The Asutra.

* How Much Do Intellectuals Matter? Review of America's Cultural Revolution, by Chris Rufo.


On Personal Responsibility.

Warming: increases in variability as well as mean?

hansen Global warming makes the globe get warmer on average, with - naturally enough - year to year variabililty. If you're interested in detecting GW then looking at the average is best, because its a nice stable statistic amenable to analysis. But it is also a pretty boring statistic, since it's gone up by ~1 oC in the last century, leaving people prone to respond "is that it? Temperature changed by 10 oC during the course of today", or whatever. So people tend to prefer to find something more exciting to talk about.

One obvious thought is that perhaps, as well as the mean climate shifting, the distribution might too. For example, the left hand plot in my pic above, where we see that, for 2001-2011, not only is the mean higher but the curve has broadened, thereby strongly increasing the number of hot events (this is Hansen's stuff1; there's an animation here). However an obvious counter to that is: is that really what you expect? Why would it be so? IPCC AR6 sez "B.3 Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events" but doesn't obviously say anything similar about temperature. But I've only skimmed it, and might have missed it.

We further notice that if you use a 1981-2010 reference period, you get strikingly different results: with that, the most recent period has less variablity. The paper notes this, and waves its hands, saying "Use of a recent base period alters the appearance of the distribution. Climate variability increased in recent decades, and thus the standard deviation increased. Therefore, if we use the most recent decades as base period, we “divide out” the increased variability. Thus the distribution function using 1981–2010 as the base period (Fig. 9, Right) does not expose the change that has occurred toward increased climate variability". But that doesn't explain it for me.

I finally got round to writing this post because of a tweet from SR, which says "This increase in extreme heat basically results from the same random weather fluctuations around the mean climate, just shifted by warming of the mean climate" which appears to directly contradict H. I'd be interested in other opinions.


1. Hansen is still pushing his stuff, but still relying on the 2012 results, and doesn't ref anything from the IPCC.


Morality is custom

PXL_20230711_064239131 Since Law is custom, and morality is a sort of localised short-range-interaction law, it follows that morality ought to be custom too. Having thought and written that, it seems uncontroversial; people are used to the idea that morality is customary.

This is not the same as morality-is-arbitrary, which people sometimes assert. There is a not-clearly-defined ground of morality necessary for a society to be stable enough to last long enough to develope customs1, 2. If you decided to assert that "theft is morally acceptable" you wouldn't last long, even if your law prohibited theft.


* On morailty, 2008. Not really satisfactory, because I'm not distinguishing L from M, but the direction is correct.

Monty Python, RAF Banter.

The Case for Libertarian Friendliness.

Human Deaths from Hot and Cold Temperatures and Implications for Climate Change (Patrick Brown, Breakthrough Institute) via RP.

Natural Variability, Attribution and Climate Models #6 - Science of Doom.


1. Hence the fairly common assertion that "without religion, you have no morality" is wrong.

2. See-also my Book Review: The Righteous Mind.


Law is custom

IMG_20230620_105541_769 I have frequent need to say "law is custom" and yet the post I use to link those words to - Hayek vs Hobbes and the theory of law - isn't the right one, even if it is in the right direction. What I want is a more explicit reference to James Coolidge Carter's "Law: Its Origin Growth and Function". I recommend that you read it.

In summary: law as opposed to legislation is primarily custom not command; and exists so that the reasonable expectations of reasonable people might be upheld, and violence be prevented; not to deliver Great Justice.

To pad this out, I'll quote some Hayek from my previous post: Law in the sense of enforced rules of conduct is undoubtedly coeval with society; only the observance of common rules makes the peaceful existence of individuals in society possible. Long before man had developed language to the point where it enabled him to issue general commands, an individual would be accepted as a member of a group only so long as he conformed to its rules. Such rules might in a sense not be known and still have to be discovered, because from ‘knowing how’ to act, or from being able to recognize that the acts of another did or did not conform to accepted practices, it is still a long way to being able to state such rules in words… all the famous early ‘law-givers’, from Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi to Solon, Lykurgus and the authors of the Roman Twelve Tables, did not intend to create new law but merely to state what law was and had always been... To modern man, on the other hand, the belief that all law governing human action is the product of legislation appears so obvious that the contention that law is older than law-making has almost the character of a paradox... the chief or ruler will use his authority for two quite different purposes: he will do so to teach or enforce rules of conduct which he regards as established, though he may have little idea why they are important or what depends on their observance; he will also give commands for actions which seem to him necessary for the achievement of particular purposes... The freedom of the British which in the eighteenth century the rest of Europe came so much to admire was thus not, as the British themselves ,vere among the first to believe and as Montesquieu later taught the world, originally a product of the separation of powers between legislature and executive, but rather a result of the fact that the law that governed the decisions of the courts was the common law, a law existing independently of anyone’s will and at the same time binding upon and developed by the independent courts; a law with which parliament only rarely interfered and, when it did, mainly only to clear up doubtful points within a given body of law.

Hayek doesn't say where he got his ideas from; perhaps he regarded it as a commonplace; but likely it came from Carter.

Downdate: what I wrote in 2018

I knew I'd written this stuff before, and indeed I did; here's a draft from 2018:

Law: its origin, growth and function is a "course of lectures prepared for delivery before the Law School of Harvard university" by James Coolidge Carter, 1827-1905. Unless you are a powerful legal scholar - in which case, welcome - you will benefit from refreshing your memory of Hayek vs Hobbes and the theory of law for context before reading here further. My interest here is largely in where Hayek's ideas came from, and my answer will be Carter. For those who didn't follow my refreshing advice, I will remind you of Hayek's To modern man, on the other hand, the belief that all law governing human action is the product of legislation appears so obvious that the contention that law is older than law-making has almost the character of a paradox.

I know what happened: I got that far, and intended to actually review the book, having finished reading it, but alas the re-read required never happened.



Gay cakes part two: Gay websites

curse But not Grindr or any of that stuff. No, this is the Supremes weighing in on whether people can be forced to make things they don't want to make. And the answer is no, which is the correct answer, and I think for the correct reasons, too. Read a more sober analysis at Supreme Court rules website designer can decline to create same-sex wedding websites.

First, a quibble: the standing of the litigants looks somewhat dubious to me and I think that in other circumstances the court might have ruled the case unripe, or whatever the correct legal terminology is: no-one had actually been sued. But let's ignore that quibble, since the court did.

This is yet another clash-of-rights question: how to balance people's "right" not to be discriminated against, against other people's rights not to do things they don't want to. At the top level, when one of the parties is Leviathan, then the answer is clear: the state may not discriminate and must treat all citizens on an equal basis. At the other end of the spectrum, on the individual level, citizens in their private lives are free to discriminate as they please in who they take for their friends and similar, without having to account for their choices.

But somewhere in the middle is the level of businesses, open to the public, providing services. One way to "solve" this might be to say that giant impersonal business may not discriminate, but small personal businesses may. That would be an unappealling solution, and lead to nasty fuzzy boundaries and have no clear principle. Happily, the Supremes managed something better: they made it turn on Freedom of Speech, which naturally implies no Compelled Speech; and so you can discriminate, if what you're selling amounts to "speech" defined broadly. This has the nice effect that supermarkets and other giant impersonal bizniz can't discriminate, because they aren't speaking. And unlike the original Gay Cakes, religious liberty doesn't come into it, which is correct: the court has no business elevating religious motives above others.

I won't bother analyse the reactions, because everyone said exactly what you'd expect them to.

Affirmative action

The other biggie was Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action programs in college admissions; this unkind Babylon Bee article may amuse. There is some (unreported, as far as I can see) tension with the previous, because having explicitly allowed discrimination there, they are explicitly forbidding it here. But then Harvard didn't claim any free speech defense, only a dubious "compelling" need to secure (racial) diversity. All of that seems like stale pies left over from our ancestors feasts, so I think it had to go.

On the other hand, all this Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution stuff binds the govt, not private entities; I am unsure why Harvard is bound. Probably, there are laws on top of the constitution.

I should add: I'm somewhat baffled why Harvard et al. are so determined to do this stuff. Probably, because they've been captured by the bureaucracy. This should be a signal that starting something better is possible.

Update: law-is-custom and deference: I like to shoehorn all rulings into my law-is-custom framework. This one fits fairly well: while it does overturn older rulings, and it does go against current university practice and desires, it also fits with the "tenor of the times". Affirmative Action's Demise and Higher Education argues that academia has left itself open to being overridden by Law, by losing (or throwing away) its prestige. There is something to this claim; indeed, the verdict does explicitly reject the "just trust us" that the universities were offering.

Economic perspective

One Clifford Winston attempts to put all this into an economic perpective. I think he fails. The judgements are about balance-of-rights, not economic impact. The reality is that the overall economic impacts (in terms of, say, effect on GDP) are small-to-negligible-to-impossible-to-forecast. Were the economic impacts foreseeably large-to-huge (e.g., were the Supremes to consider forbidding fossil fuel use) you would see them considered, though possibly in a disguised fashion.