Monday, August 07, 2006

The one-percent doctrine

Take a look at this interesting article on action and uncertainty. Here is an interesting quote:
A companion to the Cheney 1 percent action doctrine (if the probability is at least 1 percent, act) is the administration's non-action doctrine (if the probability is less than 99 percent, then don't act). This latter doctrine is generally invoked in discussions of global warming, where it seems absolute certainty is required to justify any significant action. Ideology determines which of these two inconsistent doctrines to invoke.
As I've said here before, the threshold for action is a matter of values. We could pick any threshold we want for any problem. For climate change, my judgment is that, while we don't have certainty, we have enough evidence that a serious risk exists that we should take prudent action now.

10 comments:

Dr. J said...

My judgement is that we don't, but we are both entitled to these judgements (opinions really) based on our educational, political, and internal biases and intrepretations of vague words. But then again, it matters what you mean by "prudent action", if I knew what that means I might agree, or not. For instance, I would not need certainty to send a person to probabtion for a petty crime, but I would need it for the death sentence. How much pain and economic hardship does "prudent action" involve and to whom? Orwell once said sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking, let's be more precise, it makes for a better debate.

ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

Dr. Dessler, while I understand the point you have been making in your posts concerning subjective factors in risk aversion, this particular article (and I take it, as well, the Suskind book on which it draws) contains a number of very obvious and very glaring distortions as well as a series of straw man arguments and does not really help your case.

You yourself can do far more to help your case by simply stating and re-stating to the public that in your professional opinion "a serious risk exists and we should take prudent action now" and succintly outlining your reasons for saying so as well as the recommended actions.

You are a professional climate scientist at one of our greatest Universities.

People will listen to you! :^D

Andrew Dessler said...

Dr. J-

I think we agree. Owing to the uncertainty, I don't think I could support any program that significantly affected our standard of living. That said, my sense is that there is plenty we could do that would not change (significantly) the way we live. I would support those actions.

Regards

Dr. J said...

Qualitatively, it sounds like we may agree Dr. Dessler. My advice on this issue has been to aggressively and consistently enforce existing laws on true, scientifically verified air pollution (SOx, NOx, O3, Hg, etc.), as well as find new ways to improve efficiency in fossil fuels consumption through research and development and provide incentives for conservation, all through policy actions. For instance, when I was in high school, a 400 HP muscle car got 6 mpg, today it gets over 20 mpg. That is amazing progress, brought about by intelligent government regulations, a gas crisis, but married to free enterprise and free markets operating in America.

I also believe that increased research around alternate energy sources is needed, and here economics dictate this push, since the era of cheap fossil fuels is over, the transisition is already started, but we need to accelerate the pace with policy actions, as the costs and efficiency of most alternate energy is still uncompetitive.

None of these is revolutionary, and most "political" scientists I know who are pro-AGW would laugh and say it will not do anything for the climate. Most I know want massive taxes ($2-3 per gallon on gas and the same on nat gas) and forced, drastic fuel economy standards that will greatly limit choices for transport. They also want mandatory alternate fuel standards and other heavy handed government controls on power generation and industry. I just don't think these drastic things are politically feasible and are not scientifically justified.

Regards, and we do have some things in common Dr. Dessler. My graduate degrees are from Rice and MIT, but when I was building my mass specs at Rice, you were in grade school. And tyler5, actually Texas A&M is a second tier school, rated #64 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. Not bad for a public school, but the academic standards are not like first tier universities, which I would call our greatest, but Texas A&M is a good school.

ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

Dr. j, I much prefer National Review's guide to America's best colleges and universities :^D

Dr. J said...

That's OK too tyler5, where do they rank A&M?

I normally do not recommend the popular press as a source of anything on this topic, but my webcrawler has turned up this article in USA Today which is one of the best layman's guides to this subject I have ever seen, from a distinguished Penn State prof.
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/aprilholladay/2006-08-07-global-warming-truth_x.htm?csp=34

ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

Dr j, the complete link is not showing, what is the last part after aprilholladay .....

Dr. J said...

tyler5, try this:
http://tinyurl.com/nlktw

It is so extremely well said.

George Landis said...

OMG Dr. J., this story is sure to upset the true AGW believers and climate computer jocks and modelers on this site. How dare this prof speak such heresy, we were told only Dr. Lindzen was like this, what is science coming to? Objectivity and honesty?

Dano said...

OMG Dr. J., this story is sure to upset the true AGW believers and climate computer jocks and modelers on this site.

I like it that this argumentation has to be characterized as 'religion' and 'heresy'.

That means one can't discuss the science and one must demonize and marginalize instead.

Telling, no?

But as to the USAT arty, the opinions of this one person are couched in demonization and marginalization terms: 'alarmist', 'scare science', money-chasing scientists, hypocrite enviros [ex-hippie urban greens] aren't frugal, conflation with religion, more urgent demands (that we've ignored up to this point, but by golly now we're going to do something!) than AGW, massive economic losses if we actually do something, etcetcetc., and thus we have a clue as to the purpose of the words.

It's like someone took all the denialist talking points and piled them into one place, making a mishmash of the usual boilerplate hooey. It's not even cogent. It's comedy.

Why do some folk fall for this simplistic set of talking points, I wonder? Does it sound real purty, thus appealing to a particular worldview?

Best,

D