What’s the similarity between economics and climatology?

Answer: both are complex disciplines. But because they deal with every-day events, amateurs regularly assume that they know enough to dismiss the entire field.

Suppose you wanted to know what was wrong with climatology: how far is it really understood, what can it usefully describe and what not, what can it usefully predict: who would you ask? Not, I hope, one of the many “climate skeptics” whose meaningless ranting echoes around the wub. If you really wanted to know, you need to ask a climatologist. Preferrably, I’d admit, one slightly outside the mainstream and prepared to be forthright. Do we know any of those?

Now suppose you want to know what’s wrong with economics: does it understand the discount rate fully, for example. Where would you get your information: from people who just didn’t like the consequences of having a discount rate, or from people who had actually studied economics? What about the people who don’t like the discount rate but have never studied economics: would you take their views seriously?

You know who you are. Anyone else who wants to know can look at the comments on The ETS is stupid, part n.

To push this further: there are any number of people out there who don’t believe in Relativity, Special or General (some of them might even know the difference, many not). What 99.9% of such people have in common is that they’re utterly clueless about the theory they don’t believe in. So they should be ignored; on that subject.

I’ve said all this before of course. Perhaps I’ll get into the habit of saying it once a year.

This isn’t, BTW, an attempt to end the discussion on the ETS post, merely to provide a more obvious forum to continue it. Because I want to win over the “economics skeptics”.

[Updated: to add the pic. Which is the important bit, not the post behind it.]


* Models versus radiosondes in the free atmosphere: A new detection and attribution analysis of temperature – Lott et al., JGR 28 MAR 2013, DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50255.
* Tol / Ackerman fun
* Is the Uncertainty about Climate Change Too Large for Expected Cost-Benefit Analysis? – Richard Tol. See more.

Death of a salesman, part 2

Continuing an occasional series on non-notable folk. Marcel Leroux stirred up the septics quite a bit. By contrast, who cares about Tim Ball? He was declared [[WP:NN]] some time ago but then someone recreated his page. And so we have [[Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Tim Ball]] (Tim, Timmy, Timothy, who cares about trivia?). Apart from the giggle-factor, there’s nothing very interesting in this; contrasting the first and second AFD’s is kinda fun; the level of give-a-toss is so much lower now.

Incidentally, its been pointed out to me, not for the first time, that all this stuff is just incomprehensible to anyone not soaked in the debate, not “in universe”. In which case, as a token gesture, I point you at the glossary, Kevin.

[Update 2013/11: the return of the death of…]


* Hockey stick spotted in BT

The ETS is stupid, part n

As regular readers will be aware, I think the ETS is stupid, and we should be imposing a carbon price via carbon taxes instead (Time for carbon taxes? and refs therein, if you’re interested in the history).

But David Hone isn’t, he likes the ETS, and nice person that he undoubtedly is, it cannot be mere coincidence that he has a strong financial interest in the trading scheme. Which is one of my objections to it – the inevitable parasitic class that grows up around it (and part of my despair – because carbon taxes are cleaner, they lack a similar parasitic class, and therefore semi-paradoxically they lack a constituency to argue for them. I wonder if there is a general name for this effect? [*]).

But that wasn’t what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about his Top ten reasons for voting “yes” to “backloading”. Which is a post full of the arcana of the dealing and arm-twisting and special pleading that are necessary to prop up the no-longer-really-even-bleeding corpse of the ETS for a bit longer. And what all this demonstrates rather clearly is that the pols aren’t capable of handing out carbon trading permits in a sane manner. You can argue about why – I’d say there is a huge element of national pols handing out permits to their chums / favourite national industry; or you could if you like say that the post-2007 crisis has upset their calculations; or you could invent something else. But whatever you invent, you’re faced with the reality that their decision making process has produced the wrong result (unless you opt for saying that the number of permits issued was correct, and that the collapse in price, reflecting the ease of buying enough permits, correctly reflects the fact the Europe is on track for CO2 reduction and doesn’t need to do more. DH himself clearly doesn’t believe that).

Which in turn makes the other way of solving this – carbon taxes – look better. To restate (and I owe the clear statement of this to Timmy) there are two fundamentally different ways of limiting carbon: (a) you (in your wisdom) decide how much you’re going to allow to be emitted, and issue permits to this limit. If you get it right, CO2 is limited to a “safe” level, or at least, its limited to the level you’ve decided on; or (b) you (in your wisdom) decide how much damage carbon does, and tax people this amount. If you get it right, you don’t know (or care) what level CO2 ends up at, because you’ve paid for the damage (say by adaption, or other means) up front. That one para hides a huge amount of complexity, of course [update: it also contains an error by me, which I’ve made elsewhere: Timmy’s view – the std.econ view, I believe – is not that the carbon taxes pay for the damage, but that they factor into the market price the cost of the externalities (i.e., the damage), and therefore allow the markets to price CO2 emissions correctly.].

(a), as the ETS is showing, is very difficult to get right, and prone to all sorts of interference. (b) is I think much easier to get right. Though as I’ve said before, I’d argue for starting below the price you think is right, and ramping it up. To compare and contrast, consider how you’d try to implement a similar strategy in the ETS world.

In other news

I found The Great Crash: The Bankers Weren’t Thieves Or Crooks, They Were Deluded interesting (disclaimer: I wouldn’t be surprised if you can quibble the strength of the conclusions or even the methodology, so don’t expect me to defend this to the death). Partly for the conclusion, which is about what I think, but also for the concept: rather than trying to ask them, or ask people who don’t like them, or investigate them, why not try to find an objective method that discovers what they were actually thinking?

I’ve been disagreeing with mt again, over In Support of Slack. I’m coming to realise that I agree almost invariably with mt over the science, and have since at least since the early nineties, and I agree with quite a number of his desires (fnarr) but I disagree with almost all the details of what he says about our political and economic system (see On getting out more. mt thinks the essay he’s praising is “brilliant”; I think its drivel, or perhaps not-even-wrong. But clearly I haven’t made my point well, since no-one there agrees with me.

[*] It might be Public choice theory.

[Update: there’s another aspect which I’ve just realised, and that’s long-term planning, for electricity generators and heavy industry and so on. You want to plan, which means you’d like to know your future costs. With a carbon tax, with an agreed-though-perhaps-not-in-full-detail long-term ramp-up, you have that. With ETS, we presently have massive volatility -W]

Postscript: the “backloading” plan failed to pass the vote; see for-example mt. I disagree with his “All of which reinforces the need for a global agreement and a strictly limited but suitably empowered global agency to enforce it”. We tried that – Kyoto etc – and it was a disastrous failure. Carbon taxes are the answer. There is no need for an agency, let alone a global one.

Controversy over Bradley and Jones 1993?

Apologies; another wiki post. Though since palaeo reconstructions are in all the news, nowadays (sidenote: is [[Shaun Marcott]] notable? Or is it just his paper that is notable? I think I’d argue the latter. Discuss) this is topical.

So: the wiki Hockey stick controversy page is long and thorough (too long for some) and includes a section on an aspect I couldn’t even remember, “Bradley and Jones 1993“. I argued on the talk page that it wasn’t really notable – obviously, if even I can’t remember it, with my notoriously fine memory, it can’t possibly be notable. But DS, who has put so much work into getting that page into decent shape, thinks its notable as controversy about something before MBH ’98.

Initially I believed that, but now I’m more inclined to notice the differences. Firstly, it begins with a United States House Committee on Science hearing which didn’t invite sci-fi authors or other bozos – ah, those were the days. Secondly… well, essentially nobody noticed. The world was different then, of course, but even so. Nobody noticed either side of the argument. Its not too surprising that nobody noticed Michaels, since he was writing in his World Climate Report. But I don’t think the other side was pushing their stuff either.

What do ID, Obama, GW, Catholic church and Race&Intelligence have in common?

The answer, obviously, is that they’re all controversial. And (as measured by talk page size) they’re the top-5 most controversial articles on wikipedia: see [[Wikipedia:Database reports/Talk pages by size]] (I’m discounting #1, “Main page”, for the obvious reason). The only surprising entry in the top 10 is #10, Prem Rawat, who I’ve never heard of outside wiki. But he’s some quasi-religious figure, so it makes sense. Chiropractic and Homeopathy make 11 and 12. And so on.

I found this page via the ever-popular arguing about the [[Monty Hall problem]] (if you’ve never seen the problem, do go and have a look but don’t come back here afterwards and talk about it because we did that stuff in first year maths at university). That’s followed by [[Climatic Research Unit email controversy]], so GW gets two in the top 20. But then its not till #43 that we reappear with [[List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming ]].

I think its nice that 0.999, and speed of light, are in the list too.


* Hutzler 571 banana slicer – reviews.

North Korea ‘may not be performance art’, say experts

python-spanish-inq A classic from the Daily Mash:

NORTH Korea is not an elaborate modern art installation, as previously suspected. As the tiny nation seemed to be genuinely threatening the United States with a nuclear strike, experts said it was now likely that Kim Jong Un and his late father are not ground-breaking surrealists in the mould of Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel and Anne Widdecombe.

Well, I liked it. Since I’m here: I haven’t written on the Lewandowsky stuff before (I just copied someone else, mainly because I liked the cartoon) but it seems to have been getting sillier. mt seems to have it about right.

Continuing with the misc: Tamino demonstrates almost convincingly that we would have seen a 20th-century-a-like spike, had their been such a spike, in the dim and distant past in the Marcott et al. proxy reconstruction. I don’t think its done quite right but its right enough to get the conclusion right. And, as usual, it exposes the idiots who assert the reverse based on no evidence at all.

And to end, I’ll slavishly copy mt by slavishly pointing to KK on nukes.


* Iran Kicks America In The Nuts
* (Black) cat’s entertainment
* History Licking Its Chops To Judge George W. Bush (h/t Eli)

RP Jr is a tosser

oglaf-dick I haven’t called anyone a tosser recently, indeed I think that RP Jr is the first 2013 winner of this most prestigious of awards. I believe that Sr was the last winner, almost a year ago. And I bestow this award sadly, because despite my naughty words I still have a deal of respect for RP (Jr and Sr). But in this instance, he’s worked himself up into a froth over nothing and is casting evil aspersions over blameless people. I’m not sure why; perhaps as ever Oscar Wilde had it right (and I don’t mean about the bat’s urine).

Before I go on, I should point out that this post is mostly just a ruder and less detailed version of DA’s post, so you could read him if you like.

Where to begin? Well, this is all about the Marcott et al. man smashing his head against the wall graph (what? You’ve heard it called something else?). The Dark Side don’t like it, of course, but even so its a bad sign that the first ref to RP’s post I found was WUWT gleefully quoting There are a few bad eggs, with the Real Climate mafia being among them, who are exploiting climate science for personal and political gain. Makes the whole effort look bad. Well, you can’t ask for much better than that, and that is why RP gets his “Tosser” award, instead of me just being bitter and sarcastic.

Continuing, this is all about the “uptick” in the Marcott plot. Why oh why this is of the least interest to anyone I don’t know, because its the one bit where the proxies (which is what Marcott are using) are of no interest [*]. We already have instrumental records for this period; and while that instrumental series is not perfect, its certainly much better than the proxy record. Somehow spinning this into However, here I document the gross misrepresentation of the findings of a recent scientific paper via press release which appears to skirt awfully close to crossing the line into research misconduct is just stupid and pointless. How can you write stuff like that and have any aspirations to be an “honest broker” or even offer unsolicited advice on how to do the same?

[*] Of no interest in reconstructing the temperature, I mean. It clearly is of interest to see how to mesh the proxies and the instrumental record, but that isn’t what M et al. is about, it isn’t what RP Jr is talking about, and it isn’t what all the voluminous denialosphere whinging is about.


* Smearing Climate Data – Tamino
* “Honest broker”? – at the old blog, 2005.