LaSi vs EcMd: round two

Mark Lynas, one of the EcoMod crowd, has noticed what I pointed out – that Da Fadder is not on their side, indeed opposed. Whether the Bishop of Rome has noticed that the EcoMods disagree with him is another matter.

ML roughly parallels what I said, but gets carried away with the goodness of his own side:

It is not the sin of greed but rather aspirations to a better life that led countries from England to the US to China and India to burn huge quantities of coal. All sought to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty

Well, not really. Lifting people out of poverty may have been the consequence, but apart from a few noble souls mostly the motives were Gain, which the BoR also dislikes. Nonetheless I’m more sympathetic to ML than the BoR, if you were wondering; this isn’t a major error of consequence, though I presume it mis-colours their analysis.

The Ecomodernist Myth?

But I came to this via The Ecomodernist Myth, by Thomas Smith; via a tweet from ATTP. That begins by picking up ML on the same point as I’ve just made (which he calls “myth 1”), so well done him, but really that’s just a nit picking detail; he’ll need rather more than that. I think he’s wrong, too, to call it an Ecomodernist Myth. Its an error in a piece that ML wrote, but that doesn’t make it one of the tenets of EcMd. Indeed it looks to me like all his myths come from ML’s piece which is, errm, “sleight of hand” on his part.

Next we have the intensification of poverty which… already is occurring, due to existing high-energy lifestyles in the west. WTF? No evidence is offered for this odd assertion. Poverty, overall, isn’t intensifying. Its reducing.

The piece continues downhill from there, so I wonder bother rip it up unless anyone cares.

[Update: Eli has a piece in the Graun: The Brave New World of Ecomodernism well done him. Reading it, I was lead to ML’s Ecomodernism launch was a screw-up of impressive proportions in which ML tries to laugh things off, substitutes mouthing “there has to be some way to depolarise this debate in the interests of moving forward” for though, and still by the end of it all still hasn’t realised that Ridley is a wacko. Call him naive? Yes. But he appears to be so fuckwitted he doesn’t realise that’s a bad thing.]

Refs

* Science comes out (somewhat unthinkingly, IMO) in favour of La Si and 2 oC.
* Pope Francis Reverses Position On Capitalism After Seeing Wide Variety Of American Oreos

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33 thoughts on “LaSi vs EcMd: round two”

  1. Mark should be careful what he wishes for.

    Dividing GDP by the price of coal, one finds the cost of raising a Brit out of poverty to be about 1,000 tonnes of carbon a year.

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  2. Well, the Ecomodernist Manifesto website did use a stock photo of Hong Kong:



    (more ‘cute’ links at RR)

    Nothing wrong with that, I suppose … oh wait … please explain again how Teh Butt Holed Humans make other people involuntary move from rural areas (like Montana) to urban areas (like any old, and I do mean old, very large city) again?

    -> Squirrel <-

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  3. “Poverty, overall, isn’t intensifying. Its reducing.”

    Hmm, err, …

    No evidence is offered for this odd assertion.

    Here I was thinking all along that poverty was a relative thing not an absolute thing. But I now see that I am wrong!

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Extreme_poverty_1981-2008.svg
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/World-Population-1800-2100.svg

    Hmm, err, …

    1981 ~ 70% (3.5 billion) living at $2/day
    1981 ~ 4.5 billion

    So 0.7 times 4.5 billion ~ 3.15 billion (but who’s counting?)

    2015 ~ 40% (2.1 billion SWAG)
    2015 ~ 7.3 billion people

    So 0.7 times 7.3 billion ~ 2.8 billion (but who’s counting?)

    Glad to see so much movement in people moving out of absolute poverty of $2/day. That’s a really fantastic improvement of people getting above the $2/ day level.

    200 cent! Go humanity!

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  4. Calling ML’s error a “nit picking detail” is rather too generous. His claim displays both appalling ignorance and a seriously biased perspective. If someone claimed that the K-T extinction was caused by dinosaurs committing mass suicide because they wanted to give mammals a chance, it would be awfully hard for me to lend much credence to anything they had to say about paleontology.

    [I have some sympathy for that view point. “nit picking” is too small. But leading with it as though it was the major flaw in the EcoMod manifesto is too large -W]

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  5. My family is from coal country. Believe me, “aspirations to a better life” for anyone but themselves was the last thing on the minds of the mine owners or the government that served them.

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  6. > Here I was thinking all along that poverty was … relative …

    Actual human beings, it turns out, do think it’s relative.
    http://www.nber.org/papers/w21174

    “… Most such arguments crucially assume that ordinary people know how high inequality is, how it has been changing, and where they fit in the income distribution. Using a variety of large, cross-national surveys, we show that, in recent years, ordinary people have had little idea about such things. What they think they know is often wrong. Widespread ignorance and misperceptions of inequality emerge robustly, regardless of the data source, operationalization, and method of measurement. Moreover, we show that the perceived level of inequality—and not the actual level—correlates strongly with demand for redistribution and reported conflict between rich and poor. We suggest that most theories about political effects of inequality need to be either abandoned or reframed as theories about the effects of perceived inequality.”

    Misperceiving Inequality
    Vladimir Gimpelson, Daniel Treisman
    NBER Working Paper No. 21174, Issued in May 2015

    A “rational economic actor” is a hypothetical entity — a grid size of one person — in a model of the economic climate. That scale would require far more calculation than possible for modeling — see tuning (aka parameterizing).

    And as the skeptics tell us, if you fiddle with the parameter until you get the answer politically acceptable, you have a chance at a brokerage position in the next administration.

    [Relative poverty is also reducing. Once upon a time, one hundred years ago, Bill Gates equivalent had access to vastly better means of transport and communication than the equivalent of you or I. Now his smartphone is hardly any better than ours -W]

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  7. Everett – “please explain again how Teh Butt Holed Humans make other people involuntary move from rural areas (like Montana) to urban areas (like any old, and I do mean old, very large city) again?”

    Starvation through legislation. It’s how the industrial revolution took off and the factories were supplied with labour.

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  8. [Relative poverty is also reducing. Once upon a time, one hundred years ago, Bill Gates equivalent had access to vastly better means of transport and communication than the equivalent of you or I. Now his smartphone is hardly any better than ours -W]

    His helicopter, yacht, and private jet are all quite a lot better though. (Rhetorical – I don’t know off-hand if Bill Gates specifically possesses said vehicles, but I’m sure you see the point.)

    [Of course they are. I’m not claiming you or I are as rich as him. I’m claiming that relatively – which is what we’re talking about now, yes? – we’re better off than our 100-year-ago equivalents would have been -W]

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  9. OECD Insights has an interesting article that extends measures for poverty beyond just median income: Rich Man, Poor Man: Poverty, then and now.

    “Between the mid-1980s and the late 2000s, relative poverty rose in 16 of 19 OECD countries for which data are available, and there has also been an uptick in child poverty. As a recent Unicef report said (and as we noted here on the blog), children living in relative poverty are “to some significant extent excluded from the advantages and opportunities which most children in that particular society would consider normal”.”

    [Interesting, thank you (although note that says nothing about 100-year trends). But see-also http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/the-problem-with-relative-poverty/ -W]

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  10. I am repeatedly taken aback by otherwise intelligent people who think that practically no one lived past 30, or some similar age, in the past.. I see that in the cartoon on the The Ecomodernist Myth page cartton, although it’s a tongue-in-cheek thing.

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  11. Re: relative poverty, and whether “we” are better off than our g-g-grandparents: do smartphones help people avoid the impacts of sudden manifestations of AGW? Did the victims of last month’s South Asian heat wave simply decide not to seek air-conditioned shelter? Do the people who were left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan just not realize how relatively unpoor they are?

    The ability to evade or absorb the impacts of AGW will be a practical distinction between the haves and the have-nots.

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  12. > we’re better off than our 100-year-ago
    > equivalents would have been

    Yes, but.
    1) that’s not what most people care about — it’s relative.
    http://www.nber.org/papers/w21174
    and
    2) the beyond-rich are MORE better off, than their own 100-year-old equivalents, and far more in our faces than would have been back then.

    Of course it’s relative. I recall back in the 1960s my dad had a graduate student advisee who was from a well off Indian (dot not arrow) family. He was over to dinner one evening and began to walk around the house and talk about how much richer we were with a refrigerator, and a dishwasher, and a television, and plumbing, and how much better Mrs. Roberts was living that his own mother.

    And eventually my dad asked him — how many servants does your mother have, to do her cooking and cleaning and laundry?

    About a dozen. But he still felt impoverished compared to us, who did all our own chores.

    Relativity. It ain’t just cosmology.

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  13. MalAdapted: “Re: relative poverty, and whether “we” are better off than our g-g-grandparents: do smartphones help people avoid the impacts of sudden manifestations of AGW? Did the victims of last month’s South Asian heat wave simply decide not to seek air-conditioned shelter? Do the people who were left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan just not realize how relatively unpoor they are?

    The ability to evade or absorb the impacts of AGW will be a practical distinction between the haves and the have-nots.”

    The reason fatalities from storms have plummeted even as population has risen dramatically is precisely because more people have access to technology, specifically radio, television and mobile communications, than previously.

    The availability of satellite based weather forecasting for public broadcast has arguably saved more lives than penicillin.

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  14. -… — –.. — –..– / -.– — ..- / .-. . .- .-.. .-.. -.– / -.. — / -. . . -.. / – — / –. . – / — ..- – / — ..-. / -.– — ..- .-. / –. …. . – – — / -… — -..- / — — .-. . .-.-.-

    How many lives do our Lifesavers save as our Lifesavers do save lives?
    http://www.scienceheroes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=258&Itemid=27

    Somehow, don’t ask me how, I don’t see Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or whomever invented the smartphone (Alexander Graham Bell?) on that list.

    Quite obviously and quite arguably, agriculture and medicine (penicillin, etceteras), have saved billions of lives.

    Satellite based weather forecasting? Quite obviously, several orders of magnitude less than agriculture and medicine. D’oh!

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  15. Hank, what if Abe Lincoln, of ‘What’s posterity ever done for us ?’ fame, had embraced the Precautionary Principle with a vengance after reading Tyndall’s 1859 account of CO2 forcing ?

    Is there an econometric model that can backcast the results of a procalmation emancipationg America from from coal by imiting its Industrial Revolution to wood -fired steam ?

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  16. Fuller:

    The reason fatalities from storms have plummeted even as population has risen dramatically is precisely because more people have access to technology, specifically radio, television and mobile communications, than previously.

    The availability of satellite based weather forecasting for public broadcast has arguably saved more lives than penicillin.

    I’ll concede your point about the impact of communications technology on the lives of the poor. It’s the other benefits of so-called progress, like air-conditioning, affordable and accessible transport ,and safe places to go that discriminate between rich and poor, leaving the “relatively” poor to bear the brunt of AGW.

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  17. MalAdapted, in the U.S. access to air conditioning started with large public spaces (movie theaters the famous example) and only gradually moved into the home. The developing world is following that adoption curve.

    Heck, people forget that in the 80s the creation of the variant species of Mall Rat was in large part due to teenagers realizing malls were air conditioned. Expect an Indian version in the near future–they are already common in China.

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  18. “Mall rats”. Ha!

    Brings back memories of one of those email lists – You know it’s summer in Adelaide when …

    … when you realise that shopping malls are not commercial enterprises, they’re temples dedicated to the worship of air conditioning.

    Other gems were … when you find yourself walking on the white paint markings at the car park.
    … when you learn how to drive with your hands as little as possible because the steering wheel leaves third-degree burns.

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  19. I used to wait until summer evenings to go jogging when the tarmac was still soft–but no longer sticky. Didn’t want to guess wrong on exactly when that transition took place.

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  20. Actual wealth has tremendously increased for many of us untermenschen. It is possible for a “greasy mechanic” (me) to work 30 or 40 hours a week and spend the rest of the time skiing, cycling, playing music, hanging out with friends, etc. (did I mention skiing? ) The problem is that this outrages the predator class and those who worship it. They think the glorious free market should work its magic. With the present surplus of labor this means a spiral towards the bottom, which appears to be 20 hours a day for a deck to sleep on, terrible food and the privilege of not getting thrown overboard.

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  21. Shellenberger on local (SF Bay Area) public radio right now

    http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201507100900

    frothing and ranting about how a handful of antinuclear activists keep trying to scare people by pointing out how the local electrical utility lied year after year about the existence and location of fault lines that they should have ignored because climate change endangered species greenwash splash splash splash

    Amazing how the guy veers into attack mode when the facts start to be discussed.

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  22. —-excerpt follows—-
    In the developed world, capitalism did transform almost everyone into a wage laborer, but it also lifted them out of poverty and made them more prosperous than Marx could have imagined.

    That was not the only thing Marx got wrong. More surprisingly, the capitalist reorganization of production petered out in the developing world, leaving the vast majority of the labor force outside its control. The numbers are astounding. While only one in nine people in the United States are self-employed, the proportion in India is 19 out of 20. Fewer than one-fifth of workers in Peru are employed by the kind of private businesses that Marx had in mind. In Mexico, about one in three are.

    Even within countries, measures of wellbeing are strongly related to the proportion of the labor force employed in capitalist production. In Mexico’s state of Nuevo León, two-thirds of workers are employed by private incorporated businesses, while in Chiapas only one in seven is. No wonder, then, that per capita income is more than nine times higher in Nuevo León than in Chiapas. In Colombia, per capita income in Bogota is four times higher than in Maicao. Unsurprisingly, the share of capitalist employment is six times higher in Bogota.

    In poverty-stricken Bolivia, Francis criticized “the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” along with “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

    But this explanation of capitalism’s failure is wide of the mark. The world’s most profitable companies are not exploiting Bolivia. They are simply not there, because they find the place unprofitable. The developing world’s fundamental problem is that capitalism has not reorganized production and employment in the poorest countries and regions, leaving the bulk of the labor force outside its scope of operation….
    —-end excerpt—-

    Found at: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/does-capitalism-cause-poverty-by-ricardo-hausmann-2015-08

    [Indeed; that sounds similar to Timmy’s views -W]

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  23. Is it true that one percent of the people own half the world?

    [By value, or area, or some other measure? -W]

    Somebodies who bought it, and broke it, and don’t feel any responsibility to fix it? That seems too simple.

    Where’s the money? Are the banks a ballooning aneurysm filling up with blood that isn’t circulating, isn’t doing anything useful, stagnating? Money that sits just ceasing to be useful. That’s what we call “rich”?

    [This seems to be a common illusion; people think that money put into banks stays there; bullion gleaming in the vaults. Of course it isn’t. Money put into banks is lean out again at interest for profit; that’s the bank’s business model -W]

    Print more money to make up for the money that’s not circulating? I dunno. Seems to me if the money quits moving it’s no longer money, it’s just that vault of coins Scrooge McDuck likes to swim in.

    [There is a whole set of different measure of money supply; see http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=m0,-m1,-m2,-m3,-m4 for example; AFAIK we’re not short of money in circulation -W]

    Nah.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34061091
    ” … lower prices or deflation is exported to the rich West.

    Now you may say yippee, that we can buy more petrol and food for our pounds, euros and dollars.

    But that is a short term windfall. In the long term, it creates less “balanced” growth – it encourages us to live beyond our means, because the weakness of demand in the rest of the world means we can’t sell enough abroad to match all the spending we want to do.

    And for those of you with short memories, it was those deficits of the consuming countries like ours, the corollary of giant surpluses of the producing ones like China and Germany, which was such a big contributor to the Crash of 2007-08.

    Which is one reason why the influential governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, said – in a BBC interview yesterday – that he feels governments are expecting too much of central banks when it comes to fixing the world’s economic problems.

    [That’s largely correct, I think: banks can not-fuck-it-up, but can’t fix the fundamentals -W]

    In a slowdown, central banks can give economies a temporary boost by making money cheaper and more plentiful, to encourage spending and investment. But if the fundamental flaws in economies are to do with industrial inefficiency or lack of competition, for example, well those are problems only governments and businesses can fix….”

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  24. “… it was those deficits of the consuming countries like ours, the corollary of giant surpluses of the producing ones like China and Germany, which was such a big contributor to the Crash of 2007-08…”

    I don’t believe there’s really any cogent thesis that can support this assertion.

    The bad debt that was engendered in the housing bubble really had little to do with *national* debt – it was individual debt (mortgages) agglomerated and sold by financial institutions without proper risk assessment.

    If you read Tanta’s posts at Calculated Risk leading up to the crisis you can see that this was not even an honest mistake. From agents to brokers to investment banks that packaged the loans, everyone was in on the scam.

    [I don’t think that’s true though. I’ve seen studies {{cn}} showing that many of the individuals at banks invested in the housing market for themselves; and (to point out what should be obvious) many of the banks were burnt by retaining mortgage debt (which is why they needed rescuing). If they’d been “in on the scam” they’d have sold it on -W]

    This is first a failure of ethics or morals on the part of thousands of individuals working in those industries, but because we *know* people will not always act ethically we usually put laws and/or regulations in place to harness their worst instincts. Unfortunately, as we learned, the shadow banking system was basically completely unregulated.

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  25. > those deficits

    Ah, interesting, thanks Kevin. The writer is in Britan, and I read “deficits” as referring to conditions in Britan after the housing bubble and the associated “derivatives” bubbles burst — not a trade deficit or national deficit — but a lack of money to support trade because the banks froze in the headlights and wouldn’t lend money for a long while since none of them knew which parties had what kind of contracts in the event of default — and “house of cards” was a fair description of things.

    (that’s my amateur reading, I’m hoping to become better informed).

    I did read Calculated Risk before and as that blew up. I was also reading Chu-Carroll:

    http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2009/02/16/financial-morons-and-quadratic/
    “… I’ve argued in the past on this blog that the root cause of the entire disaster is pure, simple stupidity on the part of people in the financial business. People gave out mortgages that any sane rational person would have considered ridiculous. And then they built huge, elaborate financial structures on top of those mortgages, pretending that by somehow piling layer upon layer, loan upon loan, that they were somehow creating something that could be considered real wealth.”

    He goes into that at some length there and later:

    http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2010/04/20/shocking-fraud-from-financial/

    What worries me is the haunting feeling that the “eco-modernists” see the financiers as just not having been clever enough, and some may think they can get rich while improving the world, tho more likely a few might get rich and tide-take-the-hindmost.

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