Sunday, September 10, 2006

Editorial in the Economist

Check out this excellent editorial in the Economist. I have a few nits here and there with it, but overall it is what I would have written if I were a much better writer. I think it makes the essential points with great precision.

34 comments:

Dr. J said...

Do you also agree with the Economist in their support of the Copenhagen Consensus as well Dr. D? I don't see the rankings or priorities changing in the most recent session a few weeks ago from the original assessment as to the relative importance of AGW as a world issue (bottom of the list).

Mark UK said...

I think the Economist article is pretty good. Especially the point that taking action would not destroy the economy as so many skeptics and deniers want us to believe.

personally I would place climate change higher on the ranking, but I have not yet read the analysis behind the 2006 ranking.

Mark UK said...

By the way, here is a link to "The Environmental Wars" organized earlier this summer by the Skeptical Society.

http://www.environmentalwars.org/

The link at the bottom of that page to the Commons blog has a good review of all of the talks...

Andrew Dessler said...

Dr. J-

Decisions about WHAT TO DO are not scientific. However, as a citizen, I feel that climate change needs to be addressed. Period. I do not accept the idea that it's an either/or type of choice --- e.g., you either address climate change or AIDS. We need to be working on all of these important problems.

Regards

Dr. J said...

It's good you have an "abundance" mentality Dr. D, certainly all problems are big and need to be solved. But as with my personal problems, I need to focus on the ones that really make a difference that I actually have a chance to solve to work on. Resources, time and money are limited and we can't do everything at once. Most governments are stretched way too thin now and doing a mediocre job of solving even the limited set of problems we have. Prioritization is a very important human undertaking. Remember the old saying, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. AGW takes some wisdom to know how much or little can and should be done by humans. The Copenhagen Consensus is an excellent example of wisdom at work in a broad, multi-diciplined fashion, very much the way governments should approach things without special interests and people's "pet rocks", we need to identify the big rocks.

Andrew Dessler said...

Dr. J-

If we have an honest public policy debate and it is decided that we'd rather address other problems, then so be it ... we do live in a democracy after all.

Such an honest debate would start from the point of view that "climate change is real, as described in the IPCC report." If people accept that but would still rather address other issues, then we'll address other issues.

The problem is that we're not having an honest public policy debate right now. Instead of debating competing priorities, people are still arguing the science. We need to move past the debate over science and move onto the value debate/competing priority debate.

Regards

Dr. J said...

Dr. D, I agree that a full public policy debate needs to be had. It has been had several times in the Senate I can recall, once when the Senate voted their "Sense of the Senate" resolution on Kyoto in 1997, Mr. Wirth, Gore and Clinton were heavily involved. And twice more when McCain-Lieberman bills were introduced, debated, and studied with economics of proposed policy actions. So I am curious what form of public policy debate you want now.

All of these included the probabilities you and others have mentioned that GW is caused partially by humans, and thus had some qualitative (and quantitative in some areas) conclusions as to effectiveness of proposed policy actions. When you say "climate change is real, as described in the IPCC report." , it tends to sound like a 100% sure deal, and any actions would have a 100% sure result, obviously you don't mean that, but look at your words. Thus, without those careful caveats you so eloquently espouse, your meaning is lost in a public policy debate. The public (including the dummies who run our government)needs to know and fully understand those caveats before accepting policy actions, in my opinion.

Dano said...

Dr J is right: we shouldn't renew policy debates after we have already made a decision, regardless of whether or not we have more information.

Best,

D

Dr. J said...

Now, now Dano, that's not what I meant. I was just saying this topic has been up in Congress many times over the last decade, and the "new" info doesn't seem to make much difference in the policy debate, frankly because it's not new and not believed in many quarters, since the original uncertainties and probabilities still exist to a large degree. I was just curious how Dr. D sees the public policy debate going in the future. Is DC bypassed altogether, as with the Arnie-Blair deal, or do the Democrats plan a big push to convince everyone as soon as they take over Congress?

Dano said...

not believed in certain quarters is the truest thing I've seen Dr J say here.

And it is clear: the states are taking action for themselves and bypassing the Fed'rul Gummint on this issue.

Best,

D

Bill F said...

Dr. D,

I am not trying a Dano-esque troll by asking this question, but since you expressed your approval for the article, I was wondering what your thoughts were on the quote below:

"Nobody knows which is likelier, for the climate is a system of almost infinite complexity. Predicting how much hotter a particular level of carbon dioxide will make the world is impossible."

I think "impossible" is a strong word to use there, but "problematic" is at least as adequate. My problem with any response to "prevent" global warming based on GHGs apart from the prediction uncertainty is that just as you have said, the solutions are "political". If the world can't see eye to eye and agree that Iran with nukes is a bad idea, how are we going to all come together and setup a carbon trading system (with enforcement)that will actually be effective at reducing emissions instead of just spreading them around to the country with the weakest environmental enforcement? I know that is a political question, but I guess as a scientist, I am always uncomfortable in leaving politicians to solve a problem without being able to give them solid guidance on how to proceed. I think if the worlds's scientists and economists sat in a room together for a couple of weeks, we could work something out...but with the politicians leading the show, I can't see the end product being worth much. Perhaps I am simply cynical from watching the UN fail in most of their missions decade after decade.

Dano said...

I am not trying a Dano-esque troll by asking this question

'trOl v. : a newsgroup post that is deliberately incorrect, intended to provoke readers; or a person who makes such a post.

You "confuse" my pointing out your errors in analysis/understanding with trolling.

Fortunately, your using such tactics tells folk you have nothing.

HTH,

D

Dr. J said...

Dano, is it possible for you to actually contribute soemthing, ideas, constructive criticisms, even opinions on the thread, rather than just drive-by attacks and one liners? It gets annoying after a while, since no discussion or conversation or communication is possible. Do you believe those who disagree with you are unqualified to even comment here?

Dano said...

Dr J,

Something constructive, for example, is my asking you for evidence for your assertions, in which almost every case you are unable to comply [the one time was a NewsMax source].

That's pretty constructive, you have to agree.

But to your 'golly we shouldn't do anything point', The CC simply advocates redistribution of wealth.

As the Capitalist powers that be won't do anything but redistribute weath upwards, what's the point besides the 'golly we should do something about things that no one wants to do' sounds oh-so noble.

Best,

D

Bill F said...

Don't feed the troll J. His posts meet the definition he posted...his postings make it clear that he has no interest in understanding what anybody is saying if they disagree with him. He just wants to post inane and misdirected statements to try to get people riled up. When confronted with published papers and actual science, all he can do is refuse to actually read the papers in question and deliberately misunderstand their content so that he can maintain his mistaken stereotypes about posters who disagree with him. He reminds me of a little kid hiding under his bed with his eyes closed and his fingers in his ears, desperate for somebody to turn on the light and tap him on the shoulder to tell him the monsters are gone.

The only monster here is a troll Dano, and you are it. Try adding to the discussion of science for once instead of constantly making meaningless attacks on the character of those who disagree with you.

Dano said...

...instead of constantly making meaningless attacks on the character of those who disagree with you

Evidence plz of such character attacks upon an e-person.

Thank you in advance.

(BTW, my argumentation is based upon current scientific knowledge, not my position on an issue)

Best,

D

Mark UK said...

it i snot the UN you should be looking out for. The World Trade Organization is more likely to introduce general measures to be implemented by each country. The WTO already has powers surpassing that of national governments, and it i snot an elected body... As more and more of the States within the US start doing what California has done, the Federal Government might want to step in...

Also the Economist makes the point of the small cost of taking some action as some kind of insurance policy. Which is funny because if there is one industry that has embraced global warming it is the insurance industry. Unless you expect (or want) your government to provide all insurance you will find insurance increasingly expensive or hard to get...

Bill F said...

I agree re: the UN vs. the WTO. As for what California is doing, I fully support any state or nation that wants to unilaterally take steps consistent with their own best interests to limit pollution (GHG or otherwise). If the federal government steps in to unify disparate state level programs and goals, it will likely be a positive thing, but will probably also become a political hot potato as the CAA and others have become. Each administration will bow to the political winds of their time and twist and shape the agreement to meet their own desires. The tough part will be trying to coordinate and subsequently enforce any global agreement.

Your point about the insurance companies is a good one. I think insurance coverage is just one of the many powerful market forces that will come to bear on homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to force them to plan further ahead, and it is one of the reasons why any future reconstruction in NO is likely to be fraught with difficulty. We may be able to rebuild levees and rebuild homes, but getting insurance companies to agree to insure them so that banks will write loans on them will be problematic at best. We may end up with the federal government not only paying to rebuild most of NO, but agreeing to reinsure them as well (which would be a disaster in my mind).

Dano said...

Say, Bill F, any evidence yet for the matter I asked you about, or is the above simply another tactic?

Thank you in advance,

D

Bill F said...

I don't feed trolls Dano, if you want to talk science, feel free.

Dr. J said...

I'm not an advocate of wealth redistribution Dano, down to up or vice versa. Usually governments (including our own under certain regimes) want to redistribute from the rich to the poor directly or indirectly. Capitalism is a wealth building process that should rise most all boats, it can be uneven and leave winners and losers, but government intervention into free markets is usually a bad idea, unless gross corruption and manipulation are present.

I don't trust government to handle something like GW without their usual cockups. I know some people trust government types and love government to do it all, I'm not one, just because my experience and education tends to invalidate that approach. I'm sure other people have different experiences and education. It is possible to disagree here without being disagreeable.

As for the other attack Dano, I will not respond, but you do know it was the truth no matter who reported it, don't you.

Dano said...

Thanks Bill F, we can see you made up your assertion that I [make] meaningless attacks on the character of those who disagree with you.

Making things up in these comments, it seems to me, is a way of diverting attention away from the fact that the arguments made here by some can't stand scrutiny.

Just a thought.

Best,

D

Dano said...

I'm not an advocate of wealth redistribution Dano, down to up or vice versa.

Then you disparage the Copenhagen Consensus dodge. We can agree on something! Yay!

As for the other attack [most would say observation - D] Dano, I will not respond, but you do know it was the truth no matter who reported it, don't you.

Nah.

Most folk on this planet would say something asserted by two liars** and not found elsewhere is BS.

Best,

D

**(one forced to resign from his job and the other is having problems keeping his).

Dr. J said...

Whatever Dano, at least I tried, silly me, shows what an optimist I am I guess.

Chris C. said...

Professor Dessler,

Forgive my ignorance, as I'm not a scientist. Though, I have been reading many articles recently saying that the primary greenhouse gas causing warming is water vapor and that carbon dioxide has a relatively minor impact on global warming compared to water vapor. Can you comment on that?

Haydenrea said...

Global Warming is real and it is happening fast. Just look at the satellite pictures of the poles and glaciers. Anyone who denies it, has their head in the sand. Making meaningful change that will stem this tide before we get to the tipping point is crucial. The biggest obstacle to change is political. Politicians follow the money. (see former Senator Earnest Hollings letter published in the Washington Post on February 19,2006 -"Stop the Money Chase")In blunt terms, our politician's energy and influence is bought. The lobbyist on K street in Washington are the ones driving public policy. The coal and oil industries have deep pockets and a vital interest in protecting their turf. (even at the expense of radically changing the world.)Lobbyist representing these industries influence politicians, through their political contributions, to keep this global warming stuff on the back burner. One way to fix this is to have public funding of federal political campaigns.(see "just $6")

Another way is to have a grass roots uprising of concerned citizens demanding action.
1. Put a tax on regular light bulbs so that they are twice as expensive a the florescent lights. Encourage conservation by building green. (insulation, windows, roofs, energy efficient appliances and AC)
2. Make a law that every car sold in America after 2008 is a flex fuel car.
3. Give meaningful tax incentives to all independant gas stations who install an E85 or Biodiesel pump.
4. Make public service ad campaigns extolling the virtures of E85, biodiesel and the importance of energy independence.
5. Give tax incentives to energy companies that use alternative energy sources, such as wind, nuclear, or solar.
6. Have a "Manhatten Project" focus to develope and perfect carbon capture and sequestration, so that we can export this technology to developing contries, particulary India and China, as well as transforming our own coal burning energy plants.
7. Every concerned citizen should write his or her congressman and senator and let them know your concerns and demand action.

We cannot afford to continue business as usual. Time is short and urgent action is needed to make the changes required to avert Global catastrophies.

This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It is a world issue and needs the cooperation of all of our leaders to work together to get theses needed changes made

Andrew Dessler said...

Chris-

You are correct. Water vapor is indeed the most important greenhouse gas. Take a look at this link for an explanation of how water vapor affects the climate.

Regards

Chris C. said...

Thanks for the link.

I don't think I completely understand the force vs. feedback discussion. If water vapor is producing warming, won't it create it's own feedback and continue warming? What will reducing the amount of CO2 actually do?

Andrew Dessler said...

Chris-

Yeah, that discussion was a bit confusing to me, too --- and I already understand it!

The answer to your question is yes. Just like when you put money in the bank, and it earns interest, that interest then earns interest. Thus, the warming from the water vapor feedback creates a bit more warming. If the water vapor feedback were a lot stronger, the climate might become unstable and we would suffer a "runaway" greenhouse effect ... but it doesn't appear that the feedback is that strong (or there are some other feedbacks that keep the warming from running away).

As far as your question about CO2 goes, you have to realize that just because water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas does not mean that increasing CO2 is unimportant. In fact, doubling CO2 might lead to quite significant temperature increases (some of which comes from water vapor feedback). Thus, reducing CO2 emissions will head off this significant warming.

Regards

Bill F said...

Dano,

There is one person on the comments in this blog who repeatedly calls people "liars", "shills", "denialists", etc. You consistently make comments about people's reading comprehension, their motives in asking questions or holding a given viewpoint, and in my case even made a comment that suggested my opinion about the situation in New Orleans was based on racism (your statement said something to the effect of "get some brown paypul and send them to Bill's neighborhood"). Nobody else here besides you is actively attacking the intelligence, honesty, or motivation of other posters on multiple threads. If you would stop with the sarcasm, name-calling, and questioning of people's honesty and motivations, and stick to discussing the science of the various discussions involved, it would greatly improve the tone of the comments section of this blog. I went back through the posts from August and September and can see that I am not the only one who has expressed the opinion that your tone and attitude are not adding to your discussion of scientific viewpoints. When you make your comments acidic and sarcastic and question people's integrity, you drive the discussion away from science and into personal attacks. I will of course defer to Dr. Dessler's judgement on the issue, but to me I think the comments section of this blog would be much better off without those particular kinds of comments. I went back into those archived comments preparing a list of comments you have made that met my original statement above, but decided not to post them, because it would simply be carrying on the back and forth of discussing personal attacks instead of science.

Anonymous said...

I also generally concur with the editorial with one major exception. The Kyoto accord is a fatally flawed attempt at clothing a massive wealth redistribution in the form of a climate change accord. Lets abandon this terrible starting point and focus on real reductions in emissions, not the transfer of wealth from the developed world to the emerging world.

Dano said...

Bill F:

Context is very important in argumentation, and yours lacks context, certainly unintentionally, I'm sure. F'r instance, some context here is that I never got from you, above, evidence about that attack stuff that I asked for. Anyway,

F'r quick instance, 'liars' is entirely appropriate, as Deutsch lied about his degree on his resume and resigned as a result of being caught; BTW, I mentioned nothing about other posters being liars (you mentioned something about reading comprehension, I believe).

'Shills' is appropriate as is extensively documented. 'Denialists' needs no explanation. Reread the context on the NOLA thing you don't like and think about the population that will be displaced and needing new mud huts (and where).

And so on.

Context.

But I agree with your inherent difficulty: all the hand-waving and mis/malattribution arguments that are made here makes it tough to focus on the science.

Lord knows how many times I've had to clarify or provide definitions, just on this thread.

But we should get back OT. The Economist finally has developed an appreciation for the precautionary principle, and is arguing for what others have long said: mitigating anthro climate change has other benefits as well, including better environmental health and increased efficiencies. Yay Economist!

Thanks!

D

Peter K. Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark UK said...

Does Peter K anderson exist or is it a bit of software? I know we all use the same arguments and as much fun as it is, reading the same post ten times gets a bit dull...