My previous post Policy? trailed off in the comments in a variety of odd directions, as long comment threads are wont to. So I’ll offer you this quote:

For there are some people on the left who keep insisting that economic growth is incompatible with reduced emissions, and that therefore we have to turn our backs on growth. Such people have no power, and therefore don’t do any real harm. Still, it’s worth pointing out that they have a much too narrow notion of what it means to have a growing economy. It doesn’t necessarily mean more stuff! It could be better stuff, or more services — and there are also choices to be made in how we produce and distribute stuff. There is absolutely no reason to believe in a one-for-one link between real GDP and greenhouse gases.

I could try to play guess-the-quotee, but of course with google that’s no longer an amusing game so I may as well tell you it Krugman, via Covered in Bees, who says “Well, no, there’s not a one-to-one link. Really, no-one ever said there was”. Really? According to DA, Curry has been writing on a similar vein. But I haven’t read that.

Eli and mt (and more Eli, and of course there’s even more) have stuff on the “Recursive Fury” / Frontiers affair; all the words are available elsewhere so I won’t re-say them; Frontiers is in a mess and in the wrong. Mind you, Bardi allows people to post utter drivel on his blog, so can’t be an entirely sensible person. Perhaps surprisingly, AW hates L so much he was prepared to quote Frontiers editor saying “It is most unfortunate that this particular incident was around climate change, because climate change is a very serious threat for human civilization.”

There was a nice example of AW’s inability to parse things related to science, again – he was tricked by the Slayers. RS has fun

I can’t remember if I mentioned HoRR. Anyway, it was cancelled after some of the leading boats sank. Oh dear.


70 thoughts on “Meesc”

  1. @ izen


    I know, I was just using simple numbers to illustrate the point.


    I appreciate that the thrust of this thread concerns CO2 emissions but my comment was connected to the Tom Murphy post which I linked to and which you should read. He’s not talking about GHG-induced climate change but about the question of what happens to the uavoidable waste heat that comes from energy consumption. If GDP continues to grow indefinitely then energy consumption will do so also in the long term. It may drop off initially as we improve the efficiency of our economy but ultimately it will resume its upward path once those efficiencies have been achieved. In an infinite growth scenario we end up having more waste heat from our energy processes than we can deal with and we cook ourselves.

    It’s important to note that Murphy does not believe that this will happen; it is not a forecast. He is merely pointing out that this is the inevitable conclusion of infinite GDP growth on a closed system (earth) and that having the potential for infinite growth as a tenet of your belief system is wrong.

    So I still side with Murphy and contend that infinite growth is impossible and that other limits will prevent it. The “because qualitative growth” argument which Timmy employs allows for a lot of growth but it doesn’t allow for infinite growth.

    That’s all I wanted to say. It wasn’t particularly relevant to the thread but was to a particular comment and I think it’s more generally noteworthy.

    I’ll stop now.


  2. Bah sorry. Forgot about html tags.

    The first quote from Izen in arrows was:

    **That is not a behaviour seen historically in real economies. Much more often a linear increase in energy use results in an exponential increase in the ‘wealth’ of the economy**

    The second was:

    **No, not mad, but starting with unstated prior assumptions that result in an unrealistic conclusion. CO2 emissions are the issue, not energy use. The two are NOT inextricably linked by an unchangeable constant.**


  3. > increase … decrease … consequences
    I think you’re just saying that if we don’t know about the consequences, then increasing CO2 isn’t bad. But think as an ecologist; the rate of change far outside natural variation may not yet have had obvious consequences — the signal may not have emerged from the noise — but do we have to wait until the damage is done to say that increasing CO2 isn’t bad behavior? Or, worse, wait for a proven mechanism establishing without doubt that certain consequences follow?

    [No, not at all. But that’s not what I’m trying to say; I’m just trying to draw a distinction between the bet as agreed – on the price of copper, or whatever, where all this stuff about “noise” was not considered, because no-one thought it necessary – as against what would have been necessary, had the bet been on “consequences of CO2 rise”. For example, on global temperature. Or storminess. Or storm damage -W]

    In other news:

    Those too young to remember what happened after Castro siezed Cuba and the casinos there, forcing the ahem cough ahem to build a new world for themselves in Nevada.

    In the US, the political response was to forbid purchases of sugar from Cuba, giving a huge boost to producing corn sweetener in the US (which had to be subsidized to be affordable).

    That created a new industry that could afford many lawyers and lobbyists dedicated to extracting money from politics. Kind of an early form of bitcoin mining, in a way.

    ‘Can we get politics out of money?’ — TW

    Sure: use your money, buy all the politics you’d like.

    [The ethanol-from-corn in the US has been deeply stupid for a long time; this simply isn’t news. Timmy doesn’t like pols, so he’s using it as a convenient reason to write pol-bashing stuff. But that doesn’t make ethanol-from-corn any less stupid. – W]


  4. > I’m just trying to draw a distinction
    > between the bet as agreed

    Ah, and I’m thinking of the discussion of how to live on the planet, not the precise language — those offers to bet were inadequate stand-ins for the actual changes happening.

    So, have you offered to bet with any political scientists on the consequences of storm damage from climate change 😕

    > doesn’t make ethanol-from-corn any less stupid
    Nor ethanol from switchgrass (as ethanol from corn looks foolish; they search for other inputs to feed the new refineries)

    Ethanol supposedly would reduce air pollution when added to gasoline

    Earlier, the gov’t with industry, er, help mandated adding <a href=";)MTBE, a toxic waste, making that briefly a profitable gasoline additive; it's now again a toxic waste.

    (Unless, hey, could it be a profitable fracking additive? Those are secret; must be some way to sell this shit at a profit.)

    Yeah, it would have been easier in hindsight to reduce air pollution some other way, but each error increases GDP.

    In other news:
    "… infrasound sensors listening for the sound of nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere….detected many multi-kiloton explosions!" The video shows the locations and sizes of asteroid impacts on Earth since 2000.
    "… most of these asteroid impacts were not dangerous …."


  5. “I’ve always believed, and even said on occasion, that there is no intrinsic reason why economic growth should be linked inextricably to increased (resource) consumption. However, I’ve never come across anyone making this case convincingly, describing what this would actually *look* like. Do you know of anyone writing meaningfully about this?” [OPatrick]

    take a look at figure 2 in this blogpost:


  6. elmer fudd – I’ve taken a look – I can’t see anything of relevance.

    I do also note that Euan Mearns says, for instance:
    “On CO2 emissions I am highly sceptical about the veracity of climate science, in particular the IPCC and UK MET office. ”

    I’m highly sceptical of Mearns’ veracity as a source.


  7. Would Olmstead thank us for the decaying albedo of Central Park’s reservoir ,from 1,140,000 square meters of bright water to a black hole in the middle of Manhattan ?


  8. OPatrtick

    so evidence that the GDP growth of the UK since 1970 has been achieved without growth in energy consumption is not important to you despite you claiming to be interested in that concept. Of course energy consumption is not quite the same as resource consumption but it might be a reasonable proxy. Doubting the conculsions that someone reaches does not necessarily imply doubting the data he uses, does it? Is it the fact that the energy figures are supplied by BP – aka Big Oil – that bothers you?


  9. elmer fudd, no, without data about trends in manufacturing there is not reason to think that the information about total energy consumption in the UK is a good proxy for resource consumption. As, as I understand it, we have outsourced a lot of our primary manufacturing it is not surprising that our energy consumption has dropped.

    It is evident that Mearns is willing to believe what it suits him to believe about the impact of CO2 emissions, so I am sceptical of him as a neutral source. As you are no doubt aware it is easy to persuade someone who is not an expert in your field of whatever you want to persuade them of so I use Mearns’ trustworthiness on climate as a proxy for his trustworthiness on other topics.


  10. [I think that’s cheating. Apart from anything else, they weren’t thinking far ahead – the park was for their (then) present-day needs -W]

    OK, instead of Central Park, let me substitute the London sewer system. During the design phase, Joseph Bazalgette “took the densest population, gave every person the most generous allowance of sewage production and came up with a diameter of pipe needed. He then … doubled the diameter to be used.” [] And that’s why London’s original sewers didn’t overflow in the ’60s, and are still in use today.

    It’s a rare example, I’ll grant – but that’s because it’s extremely rare for anybody to even try to exhibit that level of foresight.

    Do you have any counter-examples, where people have tried to think ahead and we’ve ended up with something worse than what they would have done otherwise?

    [That’s a good example, though as you say, rare. The traditional one for please-don’t-think is “London will be 10 feet deep in horse manure if traffic increases at the present rate” -W]


  11. > they weren’t thinking far ahead

    “Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. … wrote the key language that established the National Park Service ….”

    Truly near-term shortsighted greedy selfishness, at its best.
    Imagine the hubris, preserving so much landscape

    > for their (then) present-day needs

    Those of us living on their leftovers are lucky they did that.

    [Yes, but that’s not the point. The point is not, “are we benefiting from their own self-interest?” but would it have been better for them to lay their own self-interest aside an attempt to guide themselves by predicting our interests? -W]

    And if you’ll look beyond real estate to education see my favorite two quotes about planning ahead: scroll down at


  12. OPatrick, both the UK and the US are manufacturing considerably more than they did in the 1950s. I believe about double. It doesn’t look like that when people talk about employment or percentage of GDP is all.

    And the west has always ‘outsourced’ what they didn’t want to do to developing countries. Not new, not massively increased as a percentage of the total.

    Advanced economies grew without concomitant increases in energy consumption.


  13. > would it have been better for them to lay their
    > own self-interest aside an[d] attempt … predicting
    > our interests?

    Well, it appears they hid their short-sighted selfishness well behind a pretense of doing that very thing:

    “historian Robin Winks, “… in the midst of a devastating civil war: Yosemite was a monument to union, democracy, and long-term goals for the nation, the product of a great national need.”

    … Olmsted …. made the case that it is a “political duty” of republican government to set aside “great public grounds for the free enjoyment of the people,” …. Access to parks and recreation would be a fundamental entitlement of all Americans.

    Remember, there were none in the world at the time. This is where they started. The old model, I suppose, would have been to make them estates for the nobility or equivalent.


  14. (The other Russell – oh, I should have just used my regular nom-de-net, but so be it.)
    I was looking for the phrase “population growth” here, and was surprised when it did not arise early on. I suppose the remainder of my thoughts write themselves.

    I do object to various well-meaning examples using regional or national boundaries to attempt to prove points (France, New England) in isolation. It might be better to think of the world economy. Or even the economy of all Chordata.


  15. Another mention of the US civil war and self-interest, at

    GDP – What’s the value of $10 trillion?

    Chris Hayes has a fascinating piece in The Nation this week drawing a historical parallel between the money oil companies would have to leave on the table if they stopped extracting fossil fuels – approximately $10 trillion – and the money left on the table by slave owners after the Civil War. According to Hayes, “The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865


  16. OPatrick

    Why have you suddenly introduced an interest in trends in maufacturing? I did not see this mania in any of your previous posts. Why is “manufacturing”, whatever that is – so important and if it does matter to you then please supply a rigorous definition, given that manufacturing output in the UK has risen over the last 30 years, along with the UK flat energy trends described by BP (Big Oil) and the increasing GDP trends described by the Government (Big Employment).


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