Who were those masked men?

16681845_600857643441127_5155605245120935009_n Or, as John Abraham puts it in the Graun, Just who are these 300 ‘scientists’ telling Trump to burn the climate? It appears that long-term union man Lindzen has been organising again, buoyed perhaps by the prospect of some kind of reward from the Trump admistration. It seems rather notable to me, however, that none of those who might have hoped for some baubles to be tossed their way have got anything; but it’s still early.

This has shades of the 2007 official nutter’s list. That was “100 prominent scientists”many of whom were neither prominent nor scientists. This bumps the number up to 300, and prominent has been promoted to “eminent”. But – yes, you guessed, it wasn’t hard – it is really just the usual suspects padded out with a variety of non-entities. Well, read JA in the Graun if you like.

So, who is “Serge Wasterlain”? No other identifying marks are provided. Who is “Claes Sundin”? Could he be the well-known author of “Luftwaffe Fighter Aircraft in Profile “. Lyndon E. Taylor at least has a PhD, but no other identifying marks. Do not confuse Nelson, Brand with Nelson, Darren. Soon, Willie is there as well as Morner. Lubos is there, as former Harvard; in 2007 he was former Harvard but at Prague; Prague has now vanished. Odd. But not interesting. Humlum is there, Idso, Happer, Gerlach, Dyson. More nordics that I might expect. Who *isn’t* there? Spencer, Christie, Michaels. Morgenstern is there but alas not Rosencratz.

As to the pic: I nicked that off someone and don’t know the original source. Do tell if you know.

[Update: Bollox! I forgot to include a link to the actual petition text and link and now (as JA points out) it is incredibly hard to find it. I think the link is https://cloudup.com/iHcBpTDmCNu, but it is currently broken for me (the entire site is broken). It was in some shitty hard-to-copy format so I didn’t; there’s an archive of it at http://archive.is/z2kDz but it doesn’t archive properly.]


* Catastrophe, hoax, or just “Lukewarm”? – Tim Palmer talk seen at ATTP.

Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible?

16722672_10155039047532350_3001172229307794142_o Today’s lesson is from Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible? (h/t mt), by James D. Ward , Paul C. Sutton, Adrian D. Werner, Robert Costanza, Steve H. Mohr, Craig T. Simmons; October 14, 2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0164733. And here is their abstract.

The argument that human society can decouple economic growth—defined as growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—from growth in environmental impacts is appealing. If such decoupling is possible, it means that GDP growth is a sustainable societal goal. Here we show that the decoupling concept can be interpreted using an easily understood model of economic growth and environmental impact. The simple model is compared to historical data and modelled projections to demonstrate that growth in GDP ultimately cannot be decoupled from growth in material and energy use. It is therefore misleading to develop growth-oriented policy around the expectation that decoupling is possible. We also note that GDP is increasingly seen as a poor proxy for societal wellbeing. GDP growth is therefore a questionable societal goal. Society can sustainably improve wellbeing, including the wellbeing of its natural assets, but only by discarding GDP growth as the goal in favor of more comprehensive measures of societal wellbeing.

Focus, dammit!

Oh, but before we focus, notice the picture, which is a Sign of Spring: a crocus. Not only that, it is one that I didn’t even plant and has just grown up. How lovely. We now return you to your focus.

The first irritation about this is that they are mixing up two things. The first – GDP growth decoupled from environmental impact – may or may not be sensible. The second – is GDP a good measure of societal wellbeing – is a totally different question. Arguably, if their answer to the second – that GDP is a poor measure – then all their arguments over the first point are irrelevant. The second is also a commonplace that all right-thinking people agree on, and then proceed to totally ignore in the absence of better idea.

The Limits to Growth

The introduction thoughtfully includes:

The Limits to Growth was a seminal work that warned of the consequences of exponential growth with finite resources. The World3 models underpinning the Limits to Growth analysis were validated using actual data after twenty and thirty years. A further independent evaluation of the projections of the World3 models showed that our actual trajectory since 1972 has closely matched the ‘Business as Usual’ scenario. Increasing recognition of the causes and consequences of climate change have generated a great deal of doubt regarding the feasibility of simultaneously pursing economic growth and preventing and/or mitigating climate change. Contemporary work in this broad area of assessing anthropogenic impact on the planet suggests that several ‘Planetary Boundaries’ have been crossed.

I say “thoughtful” of them because by introducing LTG, and making it clear they’re on the pro-LTG side, they immeadiately enable all the people who have made up their minds about LTG to predispose to either like or ignore the current paper. My own view is that LTG’s assumption of exponentially increasing consumption and lower-order increasing resources essentially assumes the conclusions but wraps this assumption up in enough modelling and maths that those who can’t see though it will miss the assumption.

And… by the time we hit the current paper’s equation 5 we’re at a similar point. Impacts are (exponentially increasing) * (technology), and technology is written as (floor + other_bit * exponentially decreasing). Oh well. There’s more after that but I don’t think it matters.


They say

The decoupling debate itself is polarized with a preponderance of neo-classical economists on one side (decoupling is viable) and ecological economists on the other (decoupling is not viable).

That sounds about right, but when talking about actual economics I’m not sure that “ecological economists” are to be trusted. To evaluate and project impacts of GW, or human activity, then yes we need ecologists.


Similar evidence to that in Fig 1, showing apparent decoupling of GDP from specific resources, has been shown throughout much of the OECD [28]. However, there are several limitations to the inference of decoupling from national or regional data. There are three distinct mechanisms by which the illusion of decoupling may be presented as a reality when in fact it is not actually taking place at all: 1) substitution of one resource for another; 2) the financialization of one or more components of GDP that involves increasing monetary flows without a concomitant rise in material and/or energy throughput…

It isn’t clear to me why substitution of a (presumably less impactful) resource is “illusion”. And point 2 reads suspiciously like the idea that GDP growth that is “only in financial terms” isn’t “real” GDP growth, which I think is meaningless. They don’t justify what they say themselves, devolving that on a “colleague”; I’m unconvinced.


* Economics and Climatology?
* On getting out more
* Politics is not rational – VV
* 2018: ATTP has a go in “Limits to growth?” but really it’s the same old stuff danced around.

The conservative case for carbon dividends

By the Climate “Leadership” Council: a who’s who of conservative elder statesmen, this statement is the first time leading Republicans put forth a concrete, market-based climate solution. The idea is essentially Hansen’s fee-and-dividend, though naturally they don’t mention H; and thankfully they’re prepared to say “tax” instead of H’s weaselly “fee”. Although they do lead with the idea of “dividends”; the inevitable tax component is only visible if you read on. The initial rate is $40 per tonne, which is fair enough. The Carbon Tax Center seem happy enough. As they say, there’s a political “swap” in the Council’s proposal to rescind the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan which will make some people sad, but if it gets this passed I’d be happy enough.

Various obvious suspects are against it, so that’s good. Vox, I think nominally leftish, can’t bring themselves to say anything good about it, because their main aim is to snipe at the Republicans; dull1. Salon is generally happy, as is the FT. Which, after noting the difficulties of border adjustments, comments the overall thrust of the plan is right. Human-caused climate change is real, and imposing some kind of price on carbon emissions is the best way to address it.

The plan itself is here. It has four pillars:

1. A gradually increasing tax on carbon dioxide emissions, to be implemented at the refinery or the first point where fossil fuels enter the economy, meaning the mine, well or port. Economists are nearly unanimous in their belief that a carbon tax is the most efficient and effective way to reduce carbon emissions. A sensible carbon tax might begin at $40 a ton and increase steadily over time… Fine.

2. Proceeds from this carbon tax would be returned to the American people on an equal and quarterly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts… This amount would grow over time as the carbon tax rate increases, creating a positive feedback loop: the more the climate is protected, the greater the individual dividend payments to all Americans. The Social Security Administration should administer this program, with eligibility for dividends based on a valid social security number… Fine. Is the “you need a social soc number” a sop to the anti-illegals? Well, never mind. I think if you’re a pure economist you might prefer it to go into general taxation, but as a way of selling it to people it’s sensible.

3. Border adjustments for the carbon content of both imports and exports would protect American competitiveness and punish free-riding by other nations, encouraging them to adopt carbon pricing of their own… Probably going to turn out to be really finickity (or would be, if ever implemented).

4. Significant regulatory rollback: the elimination of regulations that are no longer necessary upon the enactment of a rising carbon tax whose longevity is secured by the popularity of dividends. Much of the EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions would be phased out, including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan… Bound to wind some people up, but again: probably worth it for the benefits.


1. As several commentators – one the piece’s author – point out, this isn’t fair. It is more an expression of my view of what I perceive as the overall negative tone of the piece. There are certainly some positive things said within it.


* Brian at Eli’s likes it.
* Yellen Touts Carbon Tax as ‘Textbook Solution’ to Climate Change: Yellen joins former Walmart Inc. Chairman Rob Walton, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and former Secretary of State George Shultz in delivering a pitch for the carbon tax-and-dividend plan, released Monday along with an analysis of its potential emissions reductions..

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur

cern I have a said a number of times1 – to no great applause it must be said – that those who are “fooled” by the denialists and faux news and so on are mostly fooled because they are entirely happy to be fooled.

But now it turns out that I was definitely right, because there is a latin tag, Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur to express the same thing. Or more pithily, simply Mundus vult decipi.

I don’t think I’ve had a post as short as this for ages. Refreshing, isn’t it?


1. Although as it happens I can’t find many examples. Here is one.


* ‘When I Consider Life’ by John Dryden: When I consider Life, ’tis all a cheat; Yet, fool’d with hope, men favour the deceit.

Self refs

* The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time
* Article 50 ruling: Courts should never have got involved in Brexit, says dissenting judge
* Obama’s achievements
* Theatre review: An Inspector Calls
* Book review: All Hell Let Loose

Prior discovery

DSC_3878 Timmy has been for a while my prime – and possibly only – example of a sane libertarian, climate-wise. In that he has frequently advanced economic arguments on the basis of accepting the IPCC WGI science. And, it has to be said, in the face of opposition from his commentariat, who are stupid, almost to a man. However, it has never been clear that he actually does believe it, and on various occasions he has been fairly Lomborgish: accept, nominally, but then downplay. Now, with This is the point at which we rise up and hang them all it finally becomes clear that he does believe the Daily Fail rather than science. This is over the latest Rose nonsense: data faked for the paper that insisted there was no pause and all that. Before we go on you want a few refs to the truth rather than the lies, so pick one or more of RC or RC or ‘Whistleblower’ says protocol was breached but no data fraud E&E news, or Boiling Bates down or the speed of entropy by Eli or Expose: David Rose does not understand baselines by ATTP or David Rose’s alternative reality in the Daily Mail by VV.

This, in a sense, continues the theme begun in Scott Adams is a tosser: how do you find out where the truth lies? But I find there’s one major omission from that, which is to recognise your own biases. Or, put another way, that no-one discovers facts story by story or paper by paper in some objective idealised-science way. Instead, people update their view of reality layer by layer; they update their priors, to use new and fashionable language; or, as Brian Gardiner used to tell us then-bright-eyed-young-folk, though we were relucatant to believe it being young, everyone has pre-placed filters to sieve reality before it gets too close.

And so, when someone reports to you something that they’re read in the Fail, you learn nothing about what they report, but you do learn about their prior beliefs.


* Anthony Watts Does a Steve Bannon by QS
* the Giant Weasel of Sikkim by RS
* Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source – see also direct
* In his efforts to promote fake #climate news, Anthony Watts censors Nick Stokes – Sou
* How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study – Science
* Discussion: JC’s ‘role’ – alas, no surprise and no discovery; JC is now a shithead.
* Snopes
Breakdown of an anti-science hit piece in National Review
* Der Bates – more from Eli.

Has Nordhaus changed his mind?

William (good name!) Nordhaus has a new study out. The purveyors of snake oil seek to convey to the impressionable youth that he has changed his mind. However, it is a touch unclear in what manner his mind has change. Let’s try reading the abstract:

Climate change remains one of the major international environmental challenges facing nations. Yet nations have to date taken minimal policies to slow climate change. Moreover, there has been no major improvement in emissions trends as of the latest data. The current study uses the updated DICE model to present new projections and the impacts of alternative climate policies. It also presents a new set of estimates of the uncertainties about future climate change and compares the results will those of other integrated assessment models. The study confirms past estimates of likely rapid climate change over the next century if there are not major climate-change policies. It suggests that it will be extremely difficult to achieve the 2°C target of international agreements even if ambitious policies are introduced in the near term. The required carbon price needed to achieve current targets has risen over time as policies have been delayed.

(my bold). The highlighted phrase doesn’t suggest change; but it is a new paper so there must be something new in it. We can also read the breathless write-up although that may not be good for us:

Nordhaus has mostly argued for a small carbon tax, aimed at achieving a modest reduction in emissions, followed by sharper reductions in the medium and long term. Too much mitigation now, he has suggested, would damage economic growth, making us less capable of doing more in the future. This view has helped fossil fuel companies and climate change skeptics oppose any serious policy response.

In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords.

I find that baffling. The sentence …comes to a very different conclusion is then followed by nothing different from what went before. That our current response is inadequate is nothing new; we don’t (globally) have even a modest carbon tax. That you have to ramp up the response in the future if you do nothing now is also not new. Since N has been saying this for decades, we’re now in the medium term.

Enough, what of the actual study?

OK OK. Let’s start with the revised DICE model shows more rapid growth of output and a higher temperature trajectory in the baseline path compared to earlier DICE versions and most other models. This is also reflected in a major upward revision in the social cost of carbon (SCC) and the optimal carbon tax in the current period because that sounds interesting.

Before that, a brief diversion into uncertainty:

the social cost of carbon (SCC) is higher (by about 15%) under uncertainty than in the certainty-equivalent case because of asymmetry in the impacts of uncertainty on the damages from climate change.

This will be music to mt’s ears, although he may be “disappointed” by the mere 15% weighting on uncertainty. Since I can immeadiately understand roughly where they’re getting this kind of number from, I didn’t bother actually read that bit. Oh, and there’s also the rather-nice-to-see-explicitly-written:

relative uncertainty is much higher for economic variables than for geophysical variables… primarily because of the large uncertainty about economic growth.

Back to the main strand. We come to Damage function: core estimates which is also interesting. In fact, lots of this paper is interesting; why am I reading it for you? You should read it for yourself. We find:

The damage function was revised in the 2016 DICE version to reflect new findings. The 2013 version relied on estimates of monetized damages from the Tol (2009) survey. It turns out that that survey contained several numerical errors (see the Editorial Note 2015). The current version continues to rely on existing damage studies, but these were collected by Andrew Moffat and the author and independently verified. We examined different damage estimates and used these as underlying data points and then fitted a regression to the data points. We also added an adjustment of 25 percent of the damage estimate for omitted sectors and non-market and catastrophic damages, as explained inNordhaus and Sztorc (2014). Including all factors, the final estimate is that the damages are 2.1% of global income at 3 °C warming and 8.5% of income at 6 °C warming1.

(my bold). His “optimum” (in the cost-benefit economic sense) trajectory comes in at about 3.5 oC by 2100, for a point of reference. We also see A major surprise and difference from earlier versions of the DICE model is that the “optimal” trajectory is now closer to the “base” that to the ambitious scenarios. This is due to a combination of factors such as climate-system inertia and high costs of the limiting scenarios. What I take that to mean is that the economically-optimal trajectory is now further from ambitious than before (which was not the point the snake-oil salesmen wished us to receive), because they’re too expensive.

Having now fought my way to the SCC part, I’m having a hard time understanding his major upward revision in the social cost of carbon. Because there are so many numbers to read. His preferred number, $37, seems to have increased to around about the currently-preferred for US regulatory purposes” value of $45.

So, there you go. the paper is worth reading, or at least skimming, but hardly amounts to a revolution. Quite the reverse: just an incremental tweaking of the model and a write-up of the same.

Head to head, leg 2. We’re only at about 32 I’m afraid.


1. I won’t harp on about this, but you see immeadiately from this that, for example, reducing GHG’s in such a way as to halve economic growth from now to then would not be economically efficient, if it merely saves us 2.1% damage.


* Two Parts Of Dodd Frank That Trump’s Executive Orders Really Should Repeal
* Assam’s Missing Subsidised Rice – The Importance Of Aadhaar And Direct Benefit Transfer – Timmy; I include it just for the immortal That India is going to have a welfare system of some sort is obvious – everywhere else does and the Randian fantasies of no government redistribution ever are simply not going to happen to wind up the usual wackos.
* Elon Musk: At my request, the agenda for yesterday’s White House meeting went from not mentioning the travel ban to having it be first and foremostIn addition, I again raised climate. I believe this is doing good, so will remain on council & keep at it. Doing otherwise would be wrong.