Econstudentlog

Quote of the day

“I got a paper to review (submitted to the Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Sciences), written by a Korean guy and someone from Berkeley, that claims that the method of reconstruction that we use in dendroclimatology (reverse regression) is wrong, biased, lousy, horrible, etc. They use your Tornetrask recon as the main whipping boy. I have a file that you gave me in 1993 that comes from your 1992 paper. Below is part of that file. Is this the right one? Also, is it possible to resurrect the column headings? I would like to play with it in an effort to refute their claims.
If published as is, this paper could really do some damage. It is also an ugly paper to review because it is rather mathematical, with a lot of Box-Jenkins stuff in it. It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically, but it suffers from the classic problem of pointing out theoretical deficiencies, without showing that their improved inverse regression method is actually better in a practical sense. So they do lots of monte carlo stuff that shows the superiority of their method and the deficiencies of our way of doing things, but NEVER actually show how their method would change the Tornetrask reconstruction from what you produced.”

Edward Cook, in one of the hacked CRU mails, via CountingCats, the italics are mine. The links have more. This part: It won’t be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct… just pisses me off, bigtime.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | global warming, quotes | Leave a comment

Occam’s razor

hammer-graph-3-us-temps

hammer-graph-4-us-temps

Here’s the link. At least when it comes to the second half of the century, the two variables track each other quite closely. Follow the link for more.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | climate, global warming | Leave a comment

Gore’s zero carbon idea

In a speech yesterday here in Washington, Al Gore challenged the United States to “produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun, and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable, and transformative.” (Well, the goal is at least one of those things.) Gore compared the zero-carbon effort to the Apollo program. And the comparison would be economically apt if, rather than putting a man on the moon—which costs about $100 billion in today’s dollars—President Kennedy’s goal had been to build a massive lunar colony, complete with a casino where the Rat Pack could perform.

Link, via CafeHayek.

I also really like Arnold Kling’s take on Gore’s idea: for the same folks that can give us a risk-free financial system, affordable housing, universal health care, and everyone getting a college degree, it should be a piece of cake.

July 19, 2008 Posted by | global warming | Leave a comment

Government Failure?

Biofuels are expected to eat up about a third of America’s grain harvest in 2007.

More here.

HT: Arnold Kling

January 5, 2008 Posted by | global warming, regulation, stupidity | Leave a comment

One more argument why global warming doesn’t concern me all that much…

This post is primarily to those people who think global warming is a really big problem, by far the biggest one out there. To those people who think that “something must be done, now!” Others are of course allowed to read along as well…

In 1945 only one country possessed nuclear warheads. Today the number is 9.

A lot of people like to think that nuclear weapons are never to be used again in warfare. We’ve seen the consequences and we didn’t like what we saw. I see a lot of problems with this approach:

i) Warfare has an ugly tendency to become asymmetric as it proceeds. In the short run asymmetries are allowed but not in the long run. If warfare is asymmetric over the long run, the war is over, so in most wars, the ends tend to justify all means. To state this another way, once the first bomb has exploded, the costs of using the nuclear arsenal as a retaliatory measure decrease rapidly.

This reasoning of course not only increases the risk that (multiple) nuclear warheads will be used in future wars, it also increases the likelihood that states would want nuclear warheads in the first place.

ii) Human memory is short. Quite a few people said “never again Hiroshima” after the War. How many actually concern themselves with this issue today? Has the risk decreased?

I think not. If we assume that

a) d[P(war involving nuclear weapons)]/d(#countries possessing nuclear weapons) > 0 and
b) d(#countries possessing nuclear weapons)/dt > 0
then it follows that
c) d[P(war involving nuclear weapons)]/dt > 0

Are these assumptions valid? What about MAD?
I think they are valid in general. An analogy might be in place: The “real world” is more likely to look like the perfect competition model when, all else equal, we increase the number of firms. Because collusion basically gets harder when you add more firms; it’s a lot easier to come to terms with one competitor than it is to make an “implicit” deal with ten (MAD is from this point of view basically just an implicit collusive agreement between states intended to decrease the risk of nuclear war).

iii) All analyses made today will be biased by, in retrospect, stupid ceteris-paribus considerations and status-quo bias. Imagine a situation where the Red Khmers had had access to a lot of nuclear weapons. Hitler. Or Mao. Mao especially deserves mentioning because we know a little about what he thought about this issue. The 17th of May 1957 he said in a speech at the Chinese Communist Party Congress:

There’s no reason to be concerned about a World War. The most that can happen is that people die [...] Half the population is exterminated – that has happened not a few times before in China’s history.”(*1)

Mao worked very hard to get those warheads, but fortunately without much success. It deserves mentioning that “half the population”, as he put it, at that time was 300 million people.

300 million people.

If assumptions a and b are correct, the likelihood that a madman like Mao will obtain nuclear weapons increases over time, and sometimes it only takes one madman to start a very bad series of events – just ask Gavrilo Princip.

iv) Scale will always be an “issue” when considering proliferation, and we will not see mass-production that will drive down the costs of nuclear warheads to that of conventional arms anytime soon. But as more and more governments obtain nuclear weapons, the likelihood that private agents get their hands on one of these weapons increase. Also, I doubt this effect is linear.

It seems fair to assume that as the #of governments possessing nuclear weapons increase, the likelihood that non-state agents obtain a warhead increases likewise. Not only because of corrupt regimes that sell off nuclear material to third-parties. But also because of i). The very strategic elements involved considering governmental use of these weapons give governments that want to use these weapons without paying for it an incentive to use private agents to do their own bidding. By using private agents, the diplomatic costs of using nuclear weapons decrease. Which means that governments wishing to use their arsenal will have a problematic incentive to spread the weapons as much as possibly to private agents (/terrorists) in which they trust.

v) A related problem to that of non-state agents is that of retaliation under this scenario, which is of some importance. If in 50 years a Hindi terrorist bombs up Islamabad, will the Pakistani government wait a long time to figure out where the weapon came from? Maybe, but I’m sure no matter what the government would decide, it could be deemed rational. That’s the problem with game theory’s explanatory power – the same initial conditions can easily result in multiple equilibria. The point is – even if governments are behaving rationally, and we throw away the idea that persons, not states, are important here, it’s very difficult to know what a government will do if it is attacked. Rationality is not in itself an argument in favor of non-application of nuclear devices, it surely needn’t be, primarily because of i). Bounded rationality sometimes looks woefully irrational to the outsider.

(*1): The quote is from “Mao, the unknown story”. I own the Danish translation of this book and the English version of the quote given above is thus my own translation of the Danish version.

An interesting post related to the subject treated above btw. is this one.

All the above said, I rate the risk of nuclear war in a WW-III scenario quite low, even if perhaps not as low as most people. This is not the point though. The point is that I could have written a post like this about perhaps a dozen subjects. Why is global warming on the top of your list of priorities? Have you thought about how the earth would look after a global nuclear war? Do you have a very good reason for making global warming your “cause” – or have you just picked “global warming” as your great concern, and not “nuclear proliferation”, because it’s a popular thing to do? Is your concern just a signal that you care, or have you really thought long and hard about what “cause” you thought it was most important to support? How many alternatives have you considered?

In short: Have you thought this through?

509px-nagasakibomb.jpg

hiroshima_aftermath.jpg

August 25, 2007 Posted by | global warming, nuclear weapons | 3 Comments

James Waterton on Global Warming

The samizdatist James Waterton:

Like most who contribute and comment here, l classify myself as a “global warming skeptic”, due to the evangelical, anti-science and frequently absurd rhetoric that typifies global warming activists of all stripes. I am not a complete denialist – I have not written off the theory of anthropogenic global warming entirely. I simply believe there is an awful lot we do not yet know, and it is rash to be making grand predictions about impending weather-related catastrophes, and demanding action based on such flawed predictions. If, however, I was to reconsider my position and embrace the concept of AGW, I would still not champion the Kyoto Protocol or any other effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The fact is that if AGW is a genuine phenomenon, it is inevitable. There is absolutely no point in the rich world winding back its CO2 output, because China, India and the rest of the developing world will replace any first world CO2 reductions several times over. Despite the occasionally placatory noises about limiting CO2 emissions heard from the likes of the Chinese central government, the fact is that the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Brazilians, nor anyone else from the developing world will ever stymy their nations’ opportunity to develop by hobbling their industrial output via significant CO2 emissions controls. Nor are the leaders of these countries likely to do anything to incur the wrath of their citizens by curtailing their perfectly reasonable aspirations to own motorcars, motorcycles, air conditioners and enjoy the convenience of air travel – all enormous direct or indirect sources of CO2 emissions. If significant CO2 reduction could be achieved with minimal economic and social cost, then perhaps the developing world would cooperate. However, large-scale CO2 reduction is an extremely expensive and socially disruptive exercise, and this reality will persist for several decades.

And it is too late to roll back the clock – too many people in the developing world have tasted the fruits of development, and quite legitimately demand more. Those governing the aspirational billions are far more likely to be influenced by them than An Inconvenient Truth. Global CO2 emissions are going to continue to grow for many years, there is no doubt about it. The “global warmenists”, as the mighty Tim Blair calls them, need to re-evaluate their positions, because what they propose at present is simply an exercise in developed-world wealth destruction on an epic scale.

Basically, I agree with all of the above.

July 29, 2007 Posted by | global warming | Leave a comment

An interesting observation

This had not crossed my mind.

David Friedman notes:

A recent post on FuturePundit cites some interesting calculations by CalTech professor Dave Rutledge. Using the estimation approach on which current, widespread concerns about running out of petroleum are based, he finds that the IPCC global warming calculations overestimate future hydrocarbon burning by a factor of at least three or four–because the hydrocarbons are not there to be burned.

We have here two different arguments leading to the same conclusion and believed, on the whole, by the same people. One argument is that we are running out of hydrocarbons and should therefore reduce our use of hydrocarbons, reduce energy consumption and switch to alternative energy sources. The other argument is that we are, by burning hydrocarbons, increasing the amount of CO2 in the air and warming the planet, and we should therefore reduce our use of hydrocarbons, reduce energy consumption, and switch to alternative energy sources.

Both arguments claim, with some justification, to be based on scientific calculations. Both are, on the whole, believed by the same people. But, if Rutledge is right, the two sets of calculations are inconsistent with each other. Nobody who believes one ought to believe the other.

Which may reflect the fact that, once you know what conclusion you want to reach, there is always some way of getting there.

June 27, 2007 Posted by | global warming | Leave a comment

Quote of the day

Can we reasonably infer that experts who do not reveal their disagreements have an unappealing track record, know less than they pretend, or treat the public like children?”

That is from Robin Hanson’s latest post. I wonder if he had any particular subject in mind when he wrote this?

March 23, 2007 Posted by | global warming, overcomingbias | Leave a comment

   

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