Possible Insight

Posts Tagged ‘Climate

Why You Should Be A Skeptic

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As you may have heard, an unknown hacker breached the Hadley Climatic Research Centre and disclosed a large volume of email and documents, thus giving us a peek inside the sausage factory. First, let me say that the breach itself rather concerns me. We’re talking about a government sponsored research facility. Somebody virtually waltzed right in and and took everything but the kitchen sink. Heads should roll in the information security department.

Second, the email correspondence is pretty damning. It won’t affect my position much because I was already fairly sure these types of shenanigans were going on. But if you put your faith in the “consensus”, you should consider updating your position. There are numerous instances of three types of egregious behavior from senior scientists:

  • Coordinated efforts to portray all results as supporting the conclusion that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a serious threat. Such efforts included the spinning of results, application of statistical “tricks”, and selective use of data.
  • Coordinated efforts to suppress professional dissent. Such efforts included going after editors of journals that published articles supporting a skeptical view and lobbying university administrations to pressure researches who didn’t toe the line.
  • Coordinated efforts to evade Freedom of Information Act requests and destroy data that might support the skeptical position if disclosed.

By themselves, these actions should be alarming because they obfuscate the real answer to the question of how serious a threat AGW presents .

But the real take home point is the tone of many emails. These are leading scientists in the field. Yet they clearly hold bitter contempt for colleagues who don’t agree with them. This isn’t business.  This is personal.  To paraphrase, Robin Hanson, climate science isn’t about the science of climate. It’s about social status. The AGW proponents see themselves as an “in group” and AGW skeptics as an “out group”. They are more concerned about destroying the out group than actually figuring out what’s going on with the climate.

Given this attitude, it’s hard to have any confidence that we’ll get a rational, scientific answer any time in the near future.

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Written by Kevin

November 23, 2009 at 1:16 am

Posted in Climate, Government, Science

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The Climate or the Uninsured?

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Declan McCullagh of CBSNews reports that a Department of Treasury analysis released under the Freedom of Information Act estimates that a cap and trade program would raise $100B to $200B a year in taxes. Those taxes come from us one way or another. Recall that my estimate of the cost to cover the uninsured is about 2/3rds of that amount ($63B to $126B).

So we have a fortuitous illustration of the tradeoffs we have to make.  There are two issues, priorities and effectiveness. It’s not that I don’t think there is some merit to reducing CO2 emissions.  Rather, I think there are other problems that are higher priority with solutions that are more likely to be effective.  Health care for the poor is one of those.  I’m willing to pay an extra $1000/year to solve health care for the poor.  I’m not willing to pay an extra $1500/year on top of that to address global warming.

Written by Kevin

September 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Save the Madagascar Rain Forest

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Last night, I was lucky enough to get a personal tour of the California Academy of Sciences from Dr. Brian Fisher, a taxonomist specializing in ants.  He’s doing some amazing work trying to help Madagascar prioritize and save the 10% of native rainforest they have left.  It’s reminiscent of Willie Smits‘ work in Borneo, though focused on preservation rather than revitalization.  But it has the same feel of getting the local people committed to managing their own ecological resources.

You can donate here (I gave them $500), but make sure to write “For the Fisher Madagascar Project” in the “Comments” field.  Otherwise, you’ll be paying for the building lights.  Go ahead and leave the “Allocation” field at the default, “Campaign for a New Academy”. Update: Forgot to mention that if you donate $2,000 they’ll name a new species after you or whomever you designate.

It’s hard to do justice to what I saw last night in a blog post, but here goes…

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Written by Kevin

June 26, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Specifying a Climate Bet

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As I mentioned in the comments on this post, I am currently in the process of negotiating a bet on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) with another blogger. The challenges are interesting, so I thought I’d give you a peek inside the sausage factory.

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Written by Kevin

June 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Climate, Markets

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Will The Real AGW Skeptic Please Stand Up?

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Normally, I don’t debate random bloggers on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).  However, I made an exception for Robin Hanson.  For those who don’t already know of him, he was both an early proponent of decision markets and has a reasonably well known journal article on why two Bayesian rationalists can’t agree to disagree. I’m a fan of his work and have been reading his blog for years.

Yesterday, he put up a post titled CO2 Warming Looks Real.  He’s not an expert. Like me, he has an economics background and did some detailed research.  Yet from the title and body of the post, I though he must have reached a very different conclusion than I did. So I thought I’d try to engage him to find out where we differ. The results were interesting.

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Written by Kevin

May 31, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Climate, Economics, Science

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Even Assuming Global Warming, We Shouldn't Worry?

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In order for you to believe we should do something about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) such as impose a carbon tax, you really need to believe all of these things:

  1. CO2 causes a direct temperature increase
  2. Positive feedbacks amplify the direct temperature increase several fold
  3. The effects on humans of the total temperature increase are significantly bad
  4. The cost of reducing CO2 emissions is less than the bad effects we can avoid

Nearly all scientifically literate skeptics agree with (1). Most typically argue against points (2) and (4). Indur M. Golakny has a nice series of posts over at Watts Up With That that looks at (3).

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Written by Kevin

May 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Climate

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Willie Smits Is a Genius

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Rafe posted this TED talk by Willie Smits without much commentary. I would like to add some.  When I first started watching, I thought, “Wow, you can make a lot of hay out of simply applying Econ 101.”  This was in response to the fact that they bought the former rainforest land in question, making it private property.  This is one of the classic solutions to a Tragedy of the Commons problem.  But then my appreciation made an exponential run upward.

Somehow, he managed to perfectly balance the economic and ecological package into a rapidly growing and self-sustaining system.  You see, he had to figure out how much economic benefit the land could generate at each point in time and never have more than the corresponding number of people working the land.  He had to figure out how to mesh psychological factors with incentive structures to get the locals to adopt the land both socially and economically. He also had to plot the path for an ecosystem in time and space.

Each of these three prongs represents an effort to control a dynamic system and he had to mesh all of them at once.  He makes it sound obvious in retrospect, but make no mistake, this is a feat of sheer brilliance.  I think there are some good general lessons to learn from this, but the real ongoing value is in the human capital he has built for managing this process.  He should cycle through groups of apprentices that then go forth and attempt to replicate this miracle.  I really hope this lasts and expands in the long term.

Written by Kevin

March 21, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Climate, Economics

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