JC interview on EconTalk

by Judith Curry

My interview with Russ Roberts of EconTalk is now online.

I rarely give recorded interviews (almost never live interviews), for the simple reason that I think I am a much more effective communicator in writing than as a speaker, particularly in an interview environment.  I decided to make an exception to invite from Russ Roberts of EconTalk, and I’m glad I did.

For those not familiar with EconTalk and Russ Roberts:  EconTalk is a weekly podcast hosted by the Library of Economics and Liberty.  Russ Roberts is a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute.   Prior to the interview I had not previously come across Russ Roberts, although it turns out that we were both graduate students at the University of Chicago at the same time.

The 1 hr interview can be found at Judith Curry on Climate Change, which includes audio as well as written transcript.  This is the first interview that I can remember where I actually learned something from the interviewer, and where the interviewer asked some questions that were better (from my perspective) than questions that I would have asked myself.  Here are a few excerpts.

On why Roberts chose to interview me:

A listener recommended you, so I checked out your web page and I found something very surprising. There wasn’t any yelling there–at least apparent yelling. There were thoughtful comments by you and your readers. And I read your rules for posting comments; they are a fantastic guide to civility. They seem to be working, and I was struck by how rare that environment is, especially in the area of climate change, which is so contentious.

He must have checked the blog on a good day.  I hope this reinforces the Denizen’s current (relatively) good behavior.  :)

We discussed CO2 as a control knob for climate, and Roberts put forth some very interesting analogies with economics:

Russ: I want to ask a general question, because again, a lot of what you are saying reminds me of the way I feel about macroeconomics. So, when I think about macro-economics, I want to like to call a ‘late Hayekian’–the early work of F. A. Hayek, who was trying to create a general, global, micro-based model of business cycles and how the economy varied. And he gave up on that for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is just that it was too hard. And in his later years–certainly in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. He’s much more agnostic–’skeptical’ would be a better word–about our ability to model the macro economy in any precise way. We understand general trends, certain forces that are at work. But to suggest that we can steer it or manipulate it is a fantasy. And when I say things like that, people say–or when I say things very similar to what you just said–I want to say the economy is complex, we don’t understand all the causal forces, we can’t control it–they say, ‘Well, that’s just an excuse. You don’t want to do anything. You are just saying that it’s all complicated.’ I’m going to throw that back at you. I have my own response on the economics, which is my own response, which is: First, do no harm. And I see a lot of evidence that when we think we can control things and we can’t, we actually do a lot of harm. But in the climate area, a lot of people say, ‘It’s better safe than sorry.’ So, okay, we’re not sure; you say we’re not sure about the sea level, what causes it. We’re not sure if Greenland and glaciers are melting or not shrinking; there’s snowfall. The polar bears are shrinking and expanding in some places. We’re not sure of the role of volcanoes and the sun and the ocean effects. But isn’t it better safe than sorry? Wouldn’t it be better to–okay, so it’s not a tight knob, it’s not a great control knob, carbon dioxide. But since we know it has some effect, uncertain perhaps in terms of the magnitudes, wouldn’t it be better just to, as an application of precaution, let’s dial it down? Better safe than sorry. And this is, by the way, the position that Robert Pindyck, the economist on this program earlier this year. He said, ‘Yeah, we don’t know; there’s a lot of uncertainty; the models are mediocre. But better safe than sorry. We know it’s some effect, and so we may not know the perfect way to cope with it, but we know we should do something. What’s your reaction to that?

Like I said, my first interview where the questions from the interviewer are at least as interesting as my answers.  My response shows up around 34:16.

Another good question from Russ:

Russ: You’ve been out of graduate school for about 25 years or so. That’s how long I’ve been out. When you come out of graduate school, I think inevitably you have some romance about the enterprise you are involved in. There are many, many nonmonetary aspects of being an academic that are inspiring and exciting. But I wonder how you feel about how your particular field has changed as you’ve grown up in it and been out for 25 years. Do you think that the academic world as it’s currently constituted, the returns to publishing and the way that academics are successful–are they conducive to truth-seeking? Do you feel that we are making progress in the scientific world on this particular topic? Or are we in trouble?

Check out my response at 43:17.  Short answer – we are in trouble.

JC summary:  very interesting experience for me, although it is somewhat painful to read the written transcript and see my verbal tics and speaking idiosyncrasies.

Another interesting feature of EconTalk is that Roberts provides relevant links to thinks I have written, other things that he thinks are relevant, and also links to previous relevant interviews, you might want to check out

170 responses to “JC interview on EconTalk

  1. - He must have checked the blog on a good day.

    That’s a good one. :) But you are doing better than you (apparently) think.

    • Oh to achieve the balance between justified pride and complacency :)

      But this I too would take great encouragement from Judy. First impressions of an expert in another area can tell you a lot, he says riffing off Gladwell’s Blink.

    • David Springer

      “He must have checked the blog on a good day. I hope this reinforces the Denizen’s current (relatively) good behavior. :)”

      You misunderestimate the level of civility given the lack of moderation, high comment volume, controversial subject matter, and predominantly male patronage. Contary to urban legend no blood is shed in the making of these comments regardless of how it may appear to the uber civilized metrosexual.

    • I spent some of my Christmas Eve listening to the podcast and didn’t begrudge the time, for it seemed a really important meeting of minds – the best kind, where the two people concerned are experts in different areas but empathetic ones. A privilege to sit in on the resulting chat, courtesy of the properties of silicon and a whole lot of other expertise on top.

      The meeting of minds aspect was illustrated by a nice piece of unintentional irony at the end:

      Russ: It’s good general advice that we should be aware of our biases. I think one way to do that is just don’t read the ones you already agree with. Guest: Agreed.

      Boom boom! Irony aside, a vital place to end, with the climate blogosphere, warts and all, rightly being seen as the force for good it should be.

      As I clipped this instance of EconTalk into my wiki I saw that I’d first made note of the site when Paul Collier was interviewed by Russ, in January 2008, about his new book, The Bottom Billion, and spoke (among other things) about the utter folly of biofuel subsidies because of their effect on the very poor. I’d already been struck by how Judy had reached for this example as an instance of the unintended consequences of trying to tackle the wicked problem of climate through simplistic policy making. This instance of the same thought from a development economist almost six years earlier made this listener wonder once more how unintended the consequences really are. How much is driven by greed that cannot bring itself to care about the millions tipped over the edge by higher food prices – or indeed even worse impulses?

      The breadth and importance of the discussion gave me further food for thought on Russ Roberts’ very positive evaluation of Climate Etc. at the beginning. I don’t want to say it was wishful thinking on the interviewer’s part because that would sound too negative. But what he described is so obviously and desperately needed that it is surely better taken as aspiration, not achievement, at this point. It’s what a good-hearted person would see on arriving here. But it’s up to the regular denizens (and hard-working moderators) to make it so.

  2. Chief Hydrologist

    I will make a point of listening – especially if it is available as a podcast.

    Hayek eventually embraced a few simple rules aimed at stabilising economies rather than controlling. Interest rate management and fiscal restraint that are standard techniques of management of modern economic management. Minimising the rate of change – keeping inflation within a target range for instance – is the key to managing the chaotic system that is real world economics. There are clues for climate management in this.

    Merry Christmas – and all the best for the new year Judith.

    • Roberts, an economist, says: “I have my own response on the economics, which is … First, do no harm. And I see a lot of evidence that when we think we can control things and we can’t, we actually do a lot of harm.” That accords with my own (longer) experience. Interventionist economic policies, which (wrongly) assume superior knowledge and capacity on the part of the interveners, constantly cause harm. The parallels with CAGW advocacy are clear, except that where many (hopefully most) economists are aware of the dangers of intervention, CAGW advocates aren’t.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Michael,

      Our own reserve bank system of managing interest rates to keep inflation in a 2 to 3% range (over a business cycle) is an example of a strategy that works in stabilising an economy. http://www.rba.gov.au/inflation/ The idea in a chaotic system – climate or finance – is to minimise the rate of change of control variables.

      This is the science of the 21st century – and dragon-kings rule. The principle applies to climate.

      The sort of spending interventions under discussion – hugely deficit spending and immense overhangs from ‘quantitative easing’ – are examples of how to destabilise economies. Once the bubble bursts positive feedbacks ensue and the crash is inevitable. As Hayek quite clearly saw way back when. Hayek of course warned as well about the dangers of incomplete knowledge and centralised planning.

  3. R. Gates, Skeptical Warmist

    Russ said:

    “So, okay, we’re not sure; you say we’re not sure about the sea level, what causes it. We’re not sure if Greenland and glaciers are melting or not shrinking; there’s snowfall. The polar bears are shrinking and expanding in some places. We’re not sure of the role of volcanoes and the sun and the ocean effects.”
    _____
    1. We are sure about ‘what causes” sea level (changes). We do know that overall mass is being lost from both Greenland and Antarctica and that the oceans are rising from both gaining more water and from expansion due to warming. There is very litttle uncertainty on these facts.
    2. We are sure of the role of volcanoes, and can see their results both in recent history and the paleoclimate record is pretty good for at least the past 10,000 years.
    3. The solar effects on the climate are an area of uncertainty, but there are a great many things that we do know as well.
    4. “Ocean effects” are an area of great interest. Hopefully Judith made it clear how extremely important the oceans are to the climate on this water planet and how the flow of sensible and latent heat from the ocean drives much of the tropospheric weather patterns, and this is exactly why ENSO is such a big deal.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      What the limited data suggests is that the oceans are becoming marginally more salty – less freshwater content in panel C of -

      http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/vonSchuckmannampLTroan2011-fig5PG_zpsee63b772.jpg.html?sort=3&o=72

      In the limited length of the record there is a modest sea level rise that is far from consistent with satellite altimetry – there is minor warming consistent with changes in shortwave forcing in the CERES record. None of this is a simple demonstration of global warming. In both the past and the future there be dragon-kings.

      A characteristic feature of global warming is the land–sea contrast, with stronger warming over land than over oceans. Recent studies find that this land–sea contrast also exists in equilibrium global change scenarios, and it is caused by differences in the availability of surface moisture over land and oceans. In this study it is illustrated that this land–sea contrast exists also on interannual time scales and that the ocean–land interaction is strongly asymmetric. The land surface temperature is more sensitive to the oceans than the oceans are to the land surface temperature, which is related to the processes causing the land–sea contrast in global warming scenarios. It suggests that the ocean’s natural variability and change is leading to variability and change with enhanced magnitudes over the continents, causing much of the longer-time-scale (decadal) global-scale continental climate variability. Model simulations illustrate that continental warming due to anthropogenic forcing (e.g., the warming at the end of the last century or future climate change scenarios) is mostly (80%–90%) indirectly forced by the contemporaneous ocean warming, not directly by local radiative forcing. http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/2009JCLI2778.1

      http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/DIETMARDOMMENGET_zps939fe12e.png.html?sort=3&o=43

      Let’s take that as read and move onto something interesting – like the details of decadal variability.

      I am listening to the podcast as I type on my ipod nano – Judith ‘… we have oversimplified the climate problem…’ The ‘ocean effects’ Judith explicitly refers to are fundamental to the problem.

  4. R gates

    Reference your Point two regarding volcanoes. I regard this as an area of great uncertainty. We have discussed this in some depth and the problem I have is that actual observations do not support the notion of a climate almost permanently influenced by volcanic eruptions for much of the little ice age and other periods.

    that is not to say that large volcanoes dId not have a short term effect-we can follow these for example in the giving of alms during severe winter weather. However That is a very different thing to your saying ‘ We are sure of the role of volcanoes.’

    How about getting someone to post an article on this subject Judith?
    Tonyb

    • R. Gates, Skeptical Warmist

      Tony,

      Just as we are dicussing this, this new research came to my attention:

      http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2040.html

      Over the past few years, I’ve been leaning toward more of role for volcanic activity as a major cause for the LIA in particular. The increased statospheric optical depth over the period of 1200-1900 is pretty clear in the ice core data, and more interesting to me is that is was a period of generally higher volcanic activity globally. The really big events of course get all the attention, but these really big ones were just part of a general increase that included many smaller and more moderate sized volcanoes going off between 1200 and 1900– all of which reduced total solar insolation at the surface. Now, a “sleepy sun” during the period of 1200-1900, especially noted by the Maunder and Dalton minimums, may have have a minor role (as the research above indicates) in adding to the reduced insolation at the surface, but more and more it seems that volcanic activity was the primary driver of the cooling.

    • R Gates – Referencing that Schurer paper was not a smart move. It is dreadful. It uses selective blindness to reach its conclusions.

    • The Little Ice Age was caused by massive snowfall that occurred during the Medieval Warm Period when the oceans were warm and the Polar Sea Ice was melted and gone. Snow falls and then ice advances.
      Cold follows warm, every time, look at the data.
      Warm follows cold, every time, look at the data.

    • while, volcanic eruptions and changes in greenhouse gas concentrations seem to be the most important influence over this period.

      From the MCA to the LIA ,northern peatland became a source of Carbon and not a sink,(due to reduced PAR and lower T) at a rate greater then the diffusion rate of ocean exchange.

    • Agree with Mike Jonas 100%.

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      My point about volcanoes is that their effects on climate don’t represent huge unknowns– not compared to other things like clouds for example. We may not know exactly when they might erupt, but based on their size, location, and total aerosol emissions, etc. we can model pretty well what they’ll do to the climate, both cooling AND warming, as they can.

    • R Gates,
      Speaking of volcanoes, thought you may be interested in this:

      http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread988888/pg1

      2013 breaks record for number of volcanic eruptions
      In the article above it says that some scientists believe that many eruptions can actually result in a global temperature drop of two degrees. Many of these eruptions occur on the ring of fire, which is west of North America, and exactly where the jet stream would carry the ash plume. Volcanologists believe that the plumes only rise as high as the jet stream and that get caught up. So, the ash then gets carried by the jet stream. IMO, this may also be what’s causing the jet stream to be so out of whack lately. The normal jet stream should be more of a straight line across the northern part of the United States and across to Europe. But, the last couple of years, that’s not the case. It looks more like a roller coaster ride dipping all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and rising way up into Greenland, as it did this last spring. Well, you get the point.

    • RG,

      Due to the length of time that has passed, most of what I remember from the “volcano problem” we had to work in Atmo Phys was that it was a bear.

      Is it possible that you are equating the ability to model a volcanic eruption with the ability to clearly understand how it impacts climate?

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      “Is it possible that you are equating the ability to model a volcanic eruption with the ability to clearly understand how it impacts climate?”
      _____
      The causes of volcanoes versus the effects of aerosols on blocking SW solar from reaching the surface are obviously two different issues. With the last big volcanic eruption we had (Pinatubo in 1991) we had a very good chance to directly observe the effects of those aerosols on the climate system. They matched models very well and the cooling was quite obvious across all parts of the system. The effects of volcanic aerosols is really not difficult physics to understand, but more difficult is to understand how the location, timing, size, and precondition of the atmosphere can modulate the overall impact of volcanic eruptions.

  5. R Hayes

    Thanks for the link. This is currently being carried at wuwt and I hope you have noticed my two corrections to some misleading comments.

    I seem to remember you posted an interesting link to a site whereby the optical depth of the atmosphere could be traced. I posed the question as to what the depth needed to be in order to dramatically affect the climate, as in general the volcanic aerosols drop out of the climate system quickly.

    I also mentioned that in some instances, such as 1258 , the climate had already changed some years before the massive eruption and quickly returned to normal after the event.
    As I say, there are very many questions and it is by no means part of any settled science
    Tonyb

    • R gates

      Oops sorry, I have no idea why my ipad wanted to call you r Hayes but its a good name that you might like to adopt in future…
      Tonyb

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      Tony,

      We did talk about the 1257 event in great detail, and it’s been quite exciting that they recently found the source of this mega-eruption. I also remember posting this graphic:

      http://tinypic.com/r/rjqfwh/5

      That shows quite clearly the temperature trend that really started with the 1257 event. Keep in mind, that the 1257 event was just the largest eruption in an overall increase in volcanic activity that occurred between 1200-1900. Generally, because of this background increase in volcanic activity (punctuated by a few large events), there was generally less solar insolation reaching the surface. Ocean heat content decreased, the troposphere cooled, and glaciers in many regions of the planet grew. The sun also went through the “big sleep” of the Maunder Minimum and the less impactful Dalton Minimum. These periods may have seen less total energy from the sun reaching Earth’s surface, and added some negative forcing to the climate, but overall, it seems volcanoes played a bigger role in reducing insolation more than the sleepy solar cycles did.

    • R gates

      I have posted you my glacier graph before drawn from hundreds of observations. The glaciers grew for up to a century then retreated again during a further very warm period in the 1300 and 1400′s.

      The observations do not agree with the supposed influence of the volcanoes other than during a few well known periods such as that in. 1257/8 but that was a short lived event that had already been precipitated a decade earlier.

      As I say it would be interesting if Judith could post an observationally based paper on the effects of volcanoes.

      Tonyb

  6. “…if you don’t imagine there will be a change in technology in the next hundred years you’re a very unusual person… we have actually been starting to do exactly the kind of thing that we ought to do, which is to decarbonize. Jesse Ausubel at Rockefeller University points out, for example, that starting about a hundred and fifty years ago, in the time of Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria, we began to move from wood to coal, from coal to oil, from oil to natural gas and so on. Decreasing our carbon, increasing our hydrogen makes perfect sense, makes environmental sense, makes political sense, makes geopolitical sense. And we’ll continue to do it without any legislation, without any, anything forcing us to do it, as nothing forced us to get off horses.” ~Michael Crichton

    • We moved from wood to coal, coal to oil, etc, when it was economically beneficial to do so. We didn’t destroy our economy in order to force the moves. The move from fossil fuels to whatever will take place in due course when the time is right, ie. when it is economically beneficial. When that happens, I suspect that some of the new energy will be used to remove wind farms.

    • From Russ Roberts Interview with Freeman Dyson:

      Q: Have your views changed since you wrote that?**

      FD: No. I would stick with that.

      Q: How would you respond to the people who say: There’s a threat and the natural, healthy thing to do is to reduce our risk and respond to it as best we can, even if we don’t understand it perfectly; if we wait till then, it will be too late?

      FD: No, that’s not the choice you have. Everything you do is risky. You don’t, just by trying to reduce burning fossil fuels–doesn’t mean you’ve got rid of the risk. Merely means you are taking different kinds of risk. They could be worse. It could very well be that the welfare of the planet would be damaged by reducing carbon dioxide. We just don’t know.

      _________

      ** Quote of Dyson’s from a few years ago, about climate change: “When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories. Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured. We need to observe and measure what is going on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer models.” ~Freeman Dyson

    • When that happens, I suspect that some of the new energy will be used to remove wind farms.

      And the Bats and the birds also hope so, and the people who look our over their landscapes and see the “things” but who do not reap the huge profits from tax credits and subsidies and who pay more for electricity because of these “things” hope so.

    • And, as we moved from wood to coal to oil, etc, we also experienced an increase in life span as well as an increase in overall health. Even with all that particulate matter from coal, which can be and is substantially reduced with improved technology, we are living longer and healthier lives. Why? Because we can do things like control our own little environments via HVAC systems. We also have these other wonderful things called Sewage Treatment and water purification plants that improve that keep our water supplies healthy. Without fossif fuels (and in particular coal), these plants would not be able to operate – at least not on a scale reuquired to support our ever growing popluations.

    • True, true, imagining peasant girls dancing on grapes with bare feet to make wine probably conjures up fanciful notions about idyllic rural happiness among urban climate alarmists who have never even grown a tomato plant, let alone stopped to consider the life of toil involved in the manual threshing of fields.

    • Wag, my post up-page supports your and FD’s posts. I wrote:

      Roberts, an economist, says: “I have my own response on the economics, which is … First, do no harm. And I see a lot of evidence that when we think we can control things and we can’t, we actually do a lot of harm.” That accords with my own (longer) experience. Interventionist economic policies, which (wrongly) assume superior knowledge and capacity on the part of the interveners, constantly cause harm. The parallels with CAGW advocacy are clear, except that where many (hopefully most) economists are aware of the dangers of intervention, CAGW advocates aren’t.

    • True– he seems to have some interesting things to say about Keynes but does not appear to be a Keynesian.

  7. We are sure about ‘what causes” sea level (changes). We do know that overall mass is being lost from both Greenland and Antarctica and that the oceans are rising from both gaining more water and from expansion due to warming. There is very litttle uncertainty on these facts.

    We also know that when the oceans get warm and the polar sea ice melts, it snows and turns the whole thing around and cools to earth and lowers the oceans for another cycle.

  8. Thank you, Judith. I spent a very enjoyable hour listening to the interview. My criticism is that both the interviewer and interviewee assumed that adding CO2 to the atmosphere from current levels has a significant effect on climate. As long as both sides start with this assumption, the result is bound to be somewhat different from what I perceive to be the truth.

    • I thought the main theme was that both of us acknowledged substantial uncertainty?

    • R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist

      Jim,

      You just seem to be opposed to any acknowledgment that CO2 is a GH gas and can impact the climate. Is this accurate?

    • Actually, I would say that the implied assumption is that adding Co2 is net negative, when we really do not know if that is the case. Adding Co2 may very well be net positive for the reasons that have been cited on this blog many times.

    • R. Gates you write “You just seem to be opposed to any acknowledgment that CO2 is a GH gas and can impact the climate. Is this accurate?”

      Emphatically NO!!!!!! CO2 is a green house gas. I am sure at low concentrations in the atmosphere, it has significant effects. But I doubt the response with increased concentrations is logrithmatic. Saturation can and does occur. The effects of more CO2 once one has passed some threshold, maybe 100 ppmv, become negligible. I am also sure that as we add more CO2 to the atmosphere from current levels, it has an effect on temperature. The empirical data just gives a strong indication that this effect is negligible.

    • Judith, you write “I thought the main theme was that both of us acknowledged substantial uncertainty?”

      I agree.. You both acknowledge that there is uncertainty about how much CO2 affects climate. But you both agree that CO2 has some, appreciable, affect on climate. You are just uncertain how much.

      I am convinced that adding CO2 to the atmosphere from current levels has a negligible effect on climate, so there is no uncertainty. The climate sensitivity of CO2 added to the atmosphere from current levels, however defined, is 0.0 C to one place of decimals, or two significant figures.

    • Jim

      I agree it is difficult to see the effects of co2 at its current levels and it seems probable that saturation has occurred well below 300 ppm

      I wrote about it here

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/05/08/the-curious-case-of-rising-co2-and-falling-temperatures/

      Tonyb

  9. “JC summary: very interesting experience for me, although it is somewhat painful to read the written transcript and see my verbal tics and speaking idiosyncrasies.”
    _______

    I listened to the interview rather than read the written transcript. I got through the entire thing without falling asleep. You have a pleasant voice.

    • +1. I agree. An excellent interview, by both interviewer and Judith. And O agree Judith has a peaceful, pleasant voice.

  10. Brava! Judith.

    Enjoy your holidays!

  11. The first comment on Econtalk after Judith Curry’s interview, “Comment removed for crude language.”

  12. Excellent and informative interview. In my opinion, the best takeway from the interview is:

    “So blaming everything on greenhouse gases and thinking that by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases we are going to solve all our problems, that to me is a naive fantasy, in terms of not really understanding the full nature of our problems. And also it’s naive about thinking we have this fine control knob on our climate with CO2, which we don’t.

    Another important takeaway:

    “the recognition is skewed towards number of publications, citations; and people who are doing something that catches the attention of the media. And again, climate model taxonomy is a very easy path to fame and fortune in climate science. But it’s not getting us where we need to go, ultimately in terms of increasing our fundamental understanding and really giving decision makers something that they can use”.

    This creates a dangerouse environment that has been manifesting for the last few years and I believe the manifestation in the US is accelerating under the current administration, e.g., defining Co2 as a pollutant that needs to be regulated, and the “damn the torpedos, full steam ahead” attitude towards draconian legislation that will lead to the “cure is worse than the disease” results.

    And lastly, from Russ”

    “The problem of course is that those of us out here in the hinterland, just as it is in economics as well–we don’t know very much. So we look for experts. And my general rule is that all experts are biased. It may not be monetary. It may be intellectual; it may be ideological. Everybody’s got baggage. And the way we assess truth isn’t by saying, ‘Well, who has got the least baggage, because they must be telling the truth.’ The way we assess truth is by asking whose evidence stands up, whose evidence proves correct, whose theories are confirmed, whose are challenged, etc.

    One way to assess individual integrity is to look for those who have openly and publicly acknolwedged errors – like Lindzen with his Iris theory, compared to say Mann, or any of the Team and their acolytes. And to look to those who invite debate instead of shutting it down via ad hominen attacks, character assassination, snark, etc. Mega Kudos to Dr. Curry on this one. And, lastly, distrust those who claim they understand all the complexities of the climate system and the externalities well enough to produce a model that “proves” Co2 is THE control knob.

  13. You know there’s a problem when Al Gore speaks for science when he compares Earth’s future to planets like Mars and Venus — as climate alarmists remain mute — despite the facts that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 of these planets is 95-97% respectively (compared to Earth’s <0.04%), with very thin and very thick atmospheres compared to Earth (100X thinner and 90X thicker respectively), and when wholly unlike these planets, Earth is a water world.

  14. Congratulaions Judith. Good questions too. Once again thx fer
    upholding open discussion.
    bts.

  15. My technical background is in energy engineering and agriculture, not climate science. What struck me in Dr. Curry’s interview was how she emphasized the need to recognize the complexities of Climate Science (which I agree with) but then turns around and gives extremely simplistic opinions (as if she was reading GOP talking points) on energy (an area outside her area of expertise). Climate and energy are both complex topics.

  16. Huh. What a coincidence.

    http://www.rtcc.org/2013/12/23/climate-change-denial-funded-by-dark-money-report/ just came out, and it too mentioned the Hoover Institution.

    Small world.

    • Luke, (harsh breath) I am your father. (harsh breath) the dark force of capitalism that allows you to jet around the globe in search of Starbucks. (harsh breath).

    • Bart R,

      Glad to read you. I was thinking of you yesterday when Tokyo Tom resurfaced over Twitter:

      Thought you might like that post linked there. He insists on establishing property rights for our atmospheric commons. You seem to have promoted related ideas.

      Enjoy,

      w

    • Those poor liberal warmist groups just don’t get any money, do they Bart? If the numbers could be assembled, I bet “climate change” groups that lobby for “green” regulations get 10 times more than the numbers bandied about in that article.

      From the Guardian article:
      “David Kreutzer, an energy and climate change fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Brulle was unfairly conflating climate denial with opposition to policies that would require industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

      “We do believe that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that man-made emissions will lead to some warming,” said David Kreutzer, an energy and climate-change fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “We are opposed to mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cuts.”

      He said many conservatives saw a carbon tax, cap-and-trade and other climate policies as a government takeover by stealth.

      “What we are not interested in doing is a huge shift of power to the government under the guise of preventing some climate problem,” he said.”

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/20/conservative-groups-1bn-against-climate-change

    • And from the Jeremy Carl article:

      The late science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick once observed, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” It’s a statement that many liberals need to take to heart on energy and climate issues.

      Such a result should not be entirely surprising. The Democratic party’s electoral majority is currently sustained by low-information voters and people who are unlikely to be persuaded by data that contradicts their own political narrative. In the Golden State Poll, which had both internal and external question reviewers to minimize bias, several interesting results emerged that reinforced the idea of a liberal information gap.

      Respondents were concerned about climate change — and that concern crossed party and ideological lines. But not a single liberal in our survey dismissed climate change as a “not at all serious” problem,” and a scant 4 percent were open to the idea that global climate change might be a “not very serious” problem.

      Conservatives were far more open-minded about climate change, with 39 percent considering it a somewhat or very serious problem and only 31 percent saying it was not at all serious. This view was far closer to the view of political independents, who presumably have no partisan axe to grind in the climate wars. Fifty-one percent of them thought climate change was a very or somewhat serious problem, while 41 percent felt that it was not very or not at all serious. One can draw two plausible conclusions from this: Either liberals alone have the intellectual acuity to definitively determine the magnitude of the problem presented by climate change, or, alternatively, unlike conservatives and independents, liberals are engaged in climate groupthink from which no dissent is brooked.

      Perhaps this apocalyptic tendency is a result of the liberal knowledge gap. This became apparent when we asked our respondents about hydraulic fracturing. A just-released Environmental Defense Fund study, led by researchers at the University of Texas, showed that leakage of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) is likely to be an even smaller problem than the EPA’s modest estimates. Dispatching the other most common liberal complaint on fracking, current energy secretary Ernie Moniz recently said he has still “not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” a finding supported by three separate EPA investigations.

      Yet 53 percent of California Democrats surveyed wanted to ban fracking in the state, and just 5 percent “definitely” wanted to avoid such a ban. Support for a ban comes despite the existence of little if any credible scientific evidence of fracking’s feared harms and overwhelming scientific evidence of its environmental benefits, including substantial reductions in both local and global pollutants. Republicans and independents both supported fracking, Republicans by a three-to-one margin.

      http://www.nationalreview.com/article/361929/liberal-denial-climate-change-and-energy-jeremy-carl

    • I can see why liberals dislike Hoover.

    • > I can see why liberals dislike Hoover.

      If only Bart R was a liberal.

      ***

      Tom Nelson arguably goes three wise monkeys:

    • Sorry, folks.

      Paraphrasing the great John Wayne in Chisum, no matter where Judith Curry goes, sooner or later there’s the data proving her wrong. And sooner or later they find Koch money has already been there.

    • I am far to the left of both Karl and Groucho. I grew up idealizing the Fabian Society. I think Barack Obama is an extremely good leader of the country I left in May.

      Trying to discredit Judith Curry for airing her beliefs and opinions in a conservative forum is stupid, wrong and symptomatic of everything alarmist trolls have come to represent in preventing civilized discussion.

      Shame.

    • stupid, wrong and symptomatic of everything alarmist trolls have come to represent in preventing civilized discussion.

      Your civilized discussion is greatly appreciated here.

    • Which conservative forum?

  17. I dislike the “first do no harm” argument AKA the precautionary principle for several reasons, one of which is that it ignores magnitude. it pretends that we have a binary decision: do something about greenhouse gases or do nothing about them. In reality, there’s a range of actions we could take. And, as I understand it, virtually all of the realistic actions are too small to save us, if the catastrophic theories turn out to be correct.

    • “First do no harm” does not preclude or prevent action.

    • In reality, there’s a range of actions we could take. And, as I understand it, virtually all of the realistic actions are too small to save us, if the catastrophic theories turn out to be correct.

      David: Likewise. Though I count myself as a skeptic, there’s no ruling out the possibility it’s already too late for carbon reduction and our only effective response, as James Lovelock said some years ago, is to write off 90% of the human race and focus on saving the remaining 10% in the uppermost northern latitudes.

      A charming activist group calling itself onehundredmonths.org started up in August 2008 with a scary ticking clock website and the claim that “We have 100 months to save our climate.” The Episcopal Archbishop of California dropped that tidbit in a sermon at the church I used to attend.

      Well, nothing much has been done since then and we now only have 36 months left by that reckoning.

      If one were to take the alarmists seriously, at some point they must switch to advocating Lovelock’s triage strategy. Or just admit that they don’t know but they want to impose their energy demands upon the rest of us regardless.

    • > Though I count myself as a skeptic, there’s no ruling out the possibility it’s already too late for carbon reduction and our only effective response, [...]

      We’re not heading towards a cliff and anyway this car has no brakes.

      http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/6354412105

    • We still have a choice between being nearer 500 ppm or somewhere in excess of 700 ppm. This is a big difference that can be made only with early action that gets tougher the longer you wait.

    • David Springer

      Sure Jim. We also have a choice about allowing world hunger, corrupt governments, criminal activity, and so forth. How’s that working out?

    • Reducing emissions 20% in 20 years, 50% in 50 years, is a path that is realistic if the major emitting countries can agree to it, and it is effective. If this rate of reduction can be continued linearly to zero emissions in 100 years, we end up with just over 500 ppm in the atmosphere, maybe worth 2-2.5 C of eventual warming over pre-industrial temperatures, and maybe OK to save Antarctica from melting in the long term (just), perhaps not so for Greenland. Longer delays make this required ‘glide path’ steeper and more difficult.

  18. Dr. Curry is already getting grief for walking near anything affiliated with the Hoover. I wager she can expect much more. In the universe of center-right institutions, it probably isn’t the Death Star, but it’s certainly one of the Imperial fleet’s grandest cruisers.

  19. I haven’t listened to the interview yet, but if the gist is questioning whether CO2 is a control knob for climate, I would vehemently disagree to the extent of saying that kind of thinking is denialism. Just from the forcing, which everyone agrees with, doubling CO2 has the same forcing effect as adding 1% to the solar forcing. Do people question that raising the solar input by 1% and keeping it there would have a significant warming effect? It is the same thing as going from 280 ppm to 560 ppm of CO2. Equating forcings is a useful way of seeing what we are talking about in terms that people understand. The sun is a control knob, and so is CO2 when altered by this much.

    • Yes. Jim D, but wicked uncertainty.

    • In nonlinear dynamics a 1% change in input need have no effect whatever and may well have an effect that is opposite that expected. You are thinking linearly about a nonlinear feedback system. This is the basic fallacy of AGW.

    • The Maunder Minimum was much less than a 1% forcing variation and most people say that had an effect on climate. Volcanoes also inject changes of this order for short periods, and those effects are measurable too. When “skeptics” try to muddy the effects of a 1% forcing change, they show something verging on denialism.

    • We do not now what the mechanisms of solar forcing are so your MM number is just made up. You use the word “denialism” like it meant something other than that people disagree with you. It does not. Your combination of name calling and argument by assertion does not work.

    • I was going to take a shot at using Modtran (Chicago) to see what the net effect of a cumulus cloud is WRT total emissions to outer space, but every time I use Modtran I just have more (unanswered) questions about it. The idea was to consider the cloud as a component in the climate system, much like a transistor is a component in a electronic circuit, taking into account both the IR and SWR at night vs day, and ocean vs land. Maybe someone has a reference to a paper or post where that has been done.

    • Denialism is just denying known science. Even “skeptics” have not questioned values assigned to the Maunder Minimum forcing because there is too much work on this to deny or replace with their own study. Instead they just say it can’t be right because it doesn’t fit with their world view, not based on any science of their own. This is the way they operate and I call them “skeptics” as opposed to skeptics because they are doubtful for no scientific reason and no amount of evidence will sway them. Similar things are found with paleoclimate. Bottom line, one percent is a heck of a forcing change to deny has any measurable effect. We see it with volcanoes, for example.

    • Just from the forcing, which everyone agrees with, doubling CO2 has the same forcing effect as adding 1% to the solar forcing.

      No, it doesn’t, and anybody saying it does is either ignorant or in denial.

    • jim2, MODTRAN is only going to tell you the IR effect, while clouds also have a big solar effect. For high clouds these mostly cancel, but for low clouds the cooling effect of increasing cloud cover exceeds the greenhouse IR effect. This is why the global extent of low clouds is an important factor in climate.

    • AK, forcing is the most basic concept in climate, but some already get lost at this step, even before we get to feedbacks.

    • @Jim D | December 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
      “jim2, MODTRAN is only going to tell you the IR effect, while clouds also have a big solar effect. For high clouds these mostly cancel, but for low clouds the cooling effect of increasing cloud cover exceeds the greenhouse IR effect. This is why the global extent of low clouds is an important factor in climate.”

      I realize Modtran only deals with IR, but if you know the albedo of something, you can get a good estimate of the effect on SWR. I was looking for kind of a gross estimate, so that would be close enough.

    • Jimd

      Here is a paper by Gavin and Michael Mann on the subject. Do you agree with their analysis?

      http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holocene/public_html/shared/articles/Shindelletal01.pdf

      Tonyb

    • @Jim…

      AK, forcing is the most basic concept in climate, but some already get lost at this step, even before we get to feedbacks.

      There’s no such thing as “basic concept” in climate. Concepts arise in our extremely simplistic mental models of climate. And the “basic concept” of “forcing” is a myth, as is the “basic concept” of ” feedbacks”. All of them are parts of a simplistic system of models based on unwarranted, linear, assumptions.

    • jim2, clouds are quite opaque to IR, so from the surface they have a major effect on increasing IR over that from clear sky. From space they reduce the IR radiated compared to the background surface. Either way, the IR cloud effect is one of warming the climate. It is an added greenhouse or insulator effect to that of the GHGs.

    • tonyb, they used a MM forcing of -0.32 W/m2 which is in the range I think is correct. Not surprisingly global temperatures don’t change uniformly in their simple GCM, as we are also finding now.

    • AK, the basic concept is the energy balance: 340 W/m2 in and 340 W/m2 out. Distort that (this is forcing) and you get climate change.

    • @ Jim D | December 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
      “jim2, clouds are quite opaque to IR, so from the surface they have a major effect on increasing IR over that from clear sky. ”

      Hi Jim D,
      To focus solely on IR is wrong-headed. If the albedo of a cumulus cloud is 90%, then 1233 W/m2 out of the 1370 W/m2 of SWR will be reflected back to space, never to be transformed to IR, or heat the ocean, and never to return again. Since the Sun is the source of energy of the climate, this is a major cooling effect, at least if one is viewing a cumulus cloud as an isolated component.

    • @Jim D…

      AK, the basic concept is the energy balance: 340 W/m2 in and 340 W/m2 out. Distort that (this is forcing) and you get climate change.

      That “basic concept” is part of a model that’s too simplistic to be used to predict anything. The “basic concept” of “global warming” involves a “distortion” created by changing the balance of energy flows between components within the land/ocean/atmosphere/ice system.

      Increasing the atmospheric pCo2 does not change the amount of solar energy arriving at TOA. Increasing the Solar Constant does. Treating these “forcings” as identical is nonsense. The effects of increased pCO2 and increased incoming solar (primarily) shortwave are very different in terms of how they affect the energy flows within the system.

      For them to “the same forcing effect” it would be necessary for the models being “forced” to make no distinction e.g. between absorption within the first few hundred microns of the ocean surface, and absorption over a distance of cm’s to meters. As far as I can tell, any model in which they have “the same forcing effect” is one that confuses the actual liquid/solid surface with TOA. Such confusion renders the model invalid.

    • The two most important differences between forcing from more CO2 and forcing from higher solar irradiance are probably:
      - the dependence on latitude is different, solar irradiance has its largest effect at low latitudes and in summer, while CO2 has the strongest influence at high latitudes and in winter
      - the overall energy flow is increased by the increase in solar iradiance but decreased by increase in CO2.

      Changes in the penetration depth in oceans are not likely have significant influence on anything, because almost all radiation is absorbed in a rather thin and mixed layer near surface.

    • I think Pekka is right. There is a demonstrated 31C limit on SST in the tropics. So, that leaves the poles, the cold side of the heat engine, to determine the temperature differential between the poles and the tropics. That is what drives the large-scale movement of atmosphere, along with the rotation of the planet. The oceans are probably a bit more complex, but the role of tropical clouds will limit the heat uptake of the oceans also.

      I’m not seeing why climate models can’t incorporate clouds even if they can’t “create” cloud behavior from first principles.

    • Jim2,

      Climate models do incorporate clouds, that’s an essential feature of all full climate models.

    • Hi Pekka,

      I realize that climate models do incorporate clouds, it’s just that from what I’ve read, they aren’t modelled very well. Admittedly, I’m not on solid ground on the topic.

    • @Pekka Pirilä…

      The two most important differences between forcing from more CO2 and forcing from higher solar irradiance are probably:

      - the dependence on latitude is different, solar irradiance has its largest effect at low latitudes and in summer, while CO2 has the strongest influence at high latitudes and in winter

      - the overall energy flow is increased by the increase in solar iradiance but decreased by increase in CO2.

      But those opinions are tantamount to agreeing with me that “it doesn’t [have the same effect], and anybody saying it does…” Fine to debate about the importance of various differences, but to claim they’re identical is highly (self-)deceptive.

      Changes in the penetration depth in oceans are not likely have significant influence on anything, because almost all radiation is absorbed in a rather thin and mixed layer near surface.

      There are important differences between absorption in the skin layer, and in the first few cm or below. Their effect may range from trivial to critical, AFAIK the necessary studies haven’t been done to provide any idea. IMO the difference is probably important, although much further study would be necessary to determine whether I’m right.

    • Clouds cannot be modeled well, because:
      - the scientific understanding of factors that control cloud formation is lacking,
      - the cell size of climate models is too coarse to allow good modeling of clouds would limit the accuracy of modeling even if the mechanisms of cloud formation would be known better.

      What’s possible, and what’s done is to parametrize the dependence of variables that describe statistical cloud properties of each cell on other model variables. I’m not an expert, but I think that both empirical data and more detailed (weather) models are used heavily in search for parametrizations to use.

    • AK,

      The differences I mentioned are certainly important, but the overall forcing remains the most important single parameter.

      What makes you think that the depth of absorption has a significant effect?

      What makes me think otherwise is the nature of heat flows in the ocean. A part of the energy penetrates well below the skin. Most of that energy must come to the skin and then out of the ocean. The skin looses always more energy to the atmosphere (and space) than it absorbs. The balance comes from below. Small changes in the distribution of absorption depth are not likely have much effect on anything.

    • @Pekka Pirilä…

      Let’s move this discussion here. My point in this thread was the existence of differences, and open questions regarding their importance.

      If my comment in Chief Hydrologist’s thread doesn’t answer you question, I can elaborate there.

    • jim2, first I mentioned the solar effect and you said you were interested in IR. Then I mention IR and now you say it is solar anyway. Good, now read my first answer again. Low cloud cover is important for that reason.

    • OK, JimD, you are forgiven. Here is what I said originally:

      jim2 | December 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

      “I was going to take a shot at using Modtran (Chicago) to see what the net effect of a cumulus cloud is WRT total emissions to outer space, ”

      I said I realize Modtran was only for IR, but what I didn’t put into the original post was that I intended to use albedo for the SWR. My main beef was with (the Chicago U. online version) Modtran. It is worse than useless.

    • AK, I realize it is inconvenient to your meme that solar and CO2 variation forcing are both measurably important, and both require surface temperature changes to balance them. It’s just the facts.

    • jim2, MODTRAN or any radiation program is much better for clear-sky gases than clouds because those properties are well defined from just their amount. Cloud effects would depend exactly where the base and top are, and whether they are water or ice, and what size droplets or ice crystals. This is not what MODTRAN is useful for because those many parameters cannot be input.

    • Jim D, your claim to speak for “known science” is ridiculous. You repeatedly make claims that are either unknown or controversial as though they were established facts.

    • stay tuned for my next post, Pretense of Knowledge

    • DW, sure you can deny that doubling CO2 is 3.7 W/m2 forcing and adding 1% to solar radiation is 3.4 W/m2 forcing, but what does that make you? That’s all I am saying.

    • Jim D | December 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm |

      AK, I realize it is inconvenient to your meme that solar and CO2 variation forcing are both measurably important, and both require surface temperature changes to balance them. It’s just the facts.

      No, what’s inconvenient to your meme is to recognize the difference between an arguably high probability that something is true, and certainty. For the moment it’s a probability, with an unquantified, and perhaps unquantifiable, uncertainty. It’s NOT “just the facts.”

      More importantly, my point here was that the “forcings” are not identical in their effect. It’s quite possible (although I don’t suppose the smart money would bet that way) that one of them does require surface temperature changes to balance, while the other doesn’t. Or neither. Or, for either or both, the level of surface temperature changes required is different for different phases of the PDO, AMO, or other aspects of the “Stadium Wave” or other long-term drivers of variability.

      There’s so much we don’t know. Certainty is totally unwarranted.

    • you can deny that doubling CO2 is 3.7 W/m2 forcing and adding 1% to solar radiation is 3.4 W/m2 forcing,

      Your assumption is wrong.The solar input is an external forcing,the co2 doubling is a reduction in the rate of dissipation, different beasts.

    • AK, it is going to be surface temperature or albedo or some combination that responds. So far, with warming, albedo has tended to decrease due to ice loss, but perhaps the skeptics want this trend to reverse for the special case of CO2, even with the Arctic going the way it is. Hold out hope, because there is no science pointing that way. A positive albedo feedback is more likely just like with the Ice Ages.

    • @ Jim D | December 25, 2013 at 5:33 pm |

      AK, it is going to be surface temperature or albedo or some combination that responds.

      Even that is just a probability. There may be other factors not thought of. (Although I’d agree the probability of that is very, very small.)

      But that seems like backtracking to me, and I think you’ve retreated to a much more defensible position. AFAIK the uncertainty in various measurements can’t rule out a response entirely in terms of albedo changes due to clouds, although increased global average temperature is probably a likely response (notice the double uncertainty). But there’s a great deal of uncertainty around the whole thing.

    • I really thought this was the one thing the true skeptics mostly agreed with. The scientists among them do (Lindzen, Spencer). Even the close followers of these scientists, like Monckton and Watts, do. Beyond that we have the non-expert arguers who just say no to anything that implies more CO2 warms the climate. CO2 forcing works by restricting the TOA IR emission by that many W/m2. The only way to overcome that is for the upward IR radiation from below to be stronger, and that is from warming, mostly at the surface. The warming itself produces more GHGs from H2O mostly, but also a little extra CO2, which means it has to be even greater to overcome this (positive feedback). It doesn’t help that the ice/snow area reduces either.

    • AK, the skeptics who understand the energy balance have backed the ‘higher albedo’ horse rather than the ‘warming’ horse. They are on a loser, because the Ice Ages and recent history demonstrate that horse goes backwards.

    • Clouds are a feedback and they wag the tail. Bark up some other tree.

    • “Feedback” applied to climate modeling is a myth. So is the “equilibrium” it refers to.

  20. Russ Roberts stated: “First, do no harm. And I see a lot of evidence that when we think we can control things and we can’t, we actually do a lot of harm.. . . wouldn’t it be better just to, as an application of precaution, let’s dial it down? Better safe than sorry. . . .
    Robert Pindyck, the economist . . .’but we know we should do something.’”

    Russ’ most important statement is “First, do no harm.”
    Second is his recognition that “when we think we can control things and we can’t, we actually do a lot of harm”
    That principle and recognition negate the rest of Russ’ logically incoherent comments.
    “We know we should do something” is a logical fallacy that presumes “doing something” is beneficial. Contrast Timothy Terrell The cost of good intentions.

    Lord Monckton summarizes the issue with:

    Since the premium greatly exceeds the cost of the risk, don’t insure.

    Any mitigation actions that are not immediately economically cost effective are seriously in danger of causing harm.
    In Monetary Benefits of Rising CO2 on Global Food Production, Craig Idso observes:

    The results indicate that the annual total monetary value of this benefit grew from $18.5 billion in 1961 to over $140 billion by 2011, amounting to a total sum of $3.2 trillion over the 50-year period 1961-2011. Projecting the monetary value of this positive externality forward in time reveals it will likely bestow an additional $9.8 trillion on crop production between now and 2050.

    Conversely, Obama stopping the World Bank from making loans for coal fired power plants in developing countries directly harms the poor in those countries by denying them the electricity needed to develop, or severely increasing the costs of generating that electricity, making it unaffordable. This further reduces the agricultural benefits of CO2 fertilization so desperately needed by developing world farmers.

    At the other extreme, when 95% of climate models over predict the warming, what evidence is there that the projected anthropogenic global warming will be able to stop the expected decline from this interglacial Holocene period into the next glaciation – which would do far greater harm.

    We need coordinated strategies that clearly recognize the urgent needs of 3 billion people living on less than $2.50/day. See articles by the Cornwall Alliance.

    • “That principle and recognition negate the rest of Russ’ logically incoherent comments.”

      David, I strongly suspect that Roberts was playing devil’s advocate with those “logically incoherent comments.” A good interviewer does that to draw out the interviewee. At other times the interviewer expresses their own opinion. This is simply switching roles.

    • David L. Hagen

      Judith
      After reading the transcript, my compliments on an excellent summary over the wide range of issues discussed. Thanks especially for raising the emptiness of climate taxonomy models in contrast to the importance but little appreciated work to discover fundamental new understandings with real value.

      NW Maybe I should clarify that Russ was quoting others’ incoherent arguments. Few realize how bad the advocated “mitigation” policies really are, or how severely they harm the 3 billion very poor.

    • It looks the poorest nations are excluded from the policy. From the article:

      “For example, as part of Obama’s climate action plan released on June 25, the U.S. pledged to end support of foreign coal-fired power plants, unless they are in the poorest nations or have expensive carbon-capture technology. “

    • David L. Hagen

      Joseph
      Obama’s anti-coal policy still raises electricity costs, and thus reduces economic productivity with consequent impacts on the poor. Indur M. Golkany, PhD. shows the impact of “green” ethanol policy Could Biofuel Policies Increase Death and Disease in Developing Countries? Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 16 Number 1 Spring 2011,9-13
      Mandating more ethanol required more corn be converted to fuel. This raised the price of corn, and consequently the price of food – both cereals and meets. In turn, this raised the costs of food in many corn importing countries, which in turn impacted the poorest. Golkany observes:

      Combining these estimates with estimates of the increase in poverty owing to growth in biofuels production over 2004 levels leads to the conclusion that additional biofuel production may have resulted in at least 192,000 excess deaths and 6.7 million additional lost DALYs in 2010. These exceed WHO’s estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs attributable to global warming. Thus, policies intended to mitigate global warming may actually have increased death and disease in developing countries.

      All this for negligible greenhouse benefit.
      Furthermore, the Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI) for grain ethanol is barely above one, if that. It is less than half of the EROEI = 3 need by society for minimal sustainability.

      New perspectives on the energy return on (energy) investment (EROI) of corn ethanol David J. Murphy, Charles A. S. Hall, Bobby Powers, Environ Dev Sustain (2011) 13:179–202, DOI 10.1007/s10668-010-9255-7

      Our results (1,287 from counties) show that the average EROI calculated from the meta-error analysis was 1.07 ±0.2, meaning that we are unable to assert whether the EROI of corn ethanol is greater than one. The average EROI calculated across 1,287 counties in our spatial analysis was 1.01, indicating that the literature tended to use optimal values for energy inputs and outputs compared to the average conditions across the Unites States. . . .Recent work indicates that only energy sources extracted at EROIs of 3:1 or greater have the requisite net energy to sustain the infra-structure of the transportation system of the United States. In light of this work, we conclude that production of corn ethanol within the United States is unsustainable and requires energy subsidies from the larger oil economy.

      Such are the perverse consequences of radical environmentalists pressuring politicians to “green” policies, rather than what is most cost effective for the global community.

  21. Judith, I read the transcript or your interview by Russ Roberts. Must have been a surprise when you found you had graduated together. You had both had illustrious careers and that is good to know . They also revealed some of your responsibilities of the Chair you occupy. I have faced problems in my career where the choice of a particular fork would lead to wider responsibilities (and more money) or losing leadership of a group of scientists working at the then boundaries of knowledge.I guess my priorities did not sync. with my Institution’s

    I suspect this is a common problem that scientists face. Can you give any advice on it?

    • Good question. The choices are a function of age and financial security; once you pass a certain threshold in both, you can start to focus on your own priorities rather than those of your institution. Personally, I am trying to position myself so that I can focus more on my own priorities.

    • How does being department chair fit in with that? Is it a tax, or are you seriously interested in continuing to build your department?

      While listening to the interview, I particularly noticed the things you said about the concentration of young talent in (what you think are) unproductive areas, but it’s also possible that a time like this is a good time to build a program… If the kind of people you want to hire are ‘out of fashion’ these days.

    • At this point, my department is built out in terms of faculty hiring. I have frankly found much more talent in planetary science and geobiology in recent years, rather than climate science, and have focused hiring in areas other than climate. I am working on an exit strategy; 12 yrs in the same position is long enough.

    • Dr. Curry, that was a very interesting and thoughtful interview. When you wrote “I have frankly found much more talent in planetary science and geobiology in recent years, rather than climate science, and have focused hiring in areas other than climate,” it reminded me of a pro team choosing the best athlete available rather than focusing on specific positions.

  22. Funds for “climate change” and this is just a partial list!

    From the article …
    …International assistance for environmental protection from the United States government has grown significantly over the recent decade, from 182 million in 2003 to 1.03 billion USD in 2011.

    Meanwhile, the McKnight Foundation issued a grant of $5 million to the Rockefeller Family Fund for their work on global warming policies.

    More recent anecdotal evidence has shown that this trend has continued. US foundations provided nearly $900 million to environment and wildlife activities through in 2011.

    Germany is one of the largest European supporters of international environment-related projects. International assistance from German governmental agencies for environmental protection has grown from $197 million in 2007 to over $787 million in 2011.

    The Volkswagen Foundation alone has about Euro 100 million available annually, with many international grants for environment and development projects. The German Federal Foundation for the Environment has financed over 8,000 projects with expenditures of over Euro 1.4 billion since 1991.

    The European Union administers environmental funds through the LIFE progamme. Since its inception in 1992, LIFE has funded over 3,000 projects, investing about Euro 2.2 billion in environmental protection across the EU.

    Between 2008 and 2013, Norway’s international giving on environment and energy-related projects grew from about $337 million to about $2.7 billion.

    UNFCC (follow the links)
    In September 2010 the AFB approved the first programme for Senegal, through its National Implementing Entity (NIE), the Centre de Suivi E
    cologique (CSE) . Since then, 11 projects /programmes have been approved, for a total funding of US$ 69.7 million

    UNDP
    The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) finances community-based projects on environmental protection, climate change and pollution through their Small Grants Program (SGP). SGP grantees receive an average of $25,000 and up to $50,000 for their environmental projects.

    UNDP also provides grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to NGOs through the Equator Initiative

    UNEP
    The United Nations Environment Program offers small grants of $5,000 and technical assistance to small social and environmental entrepreneurs from developing countries

    Since its inception in 2002, LIFE has contributed over Euro 2.2 billion to over 3,000 projects across the EU.

    EuropAid funding for projects addressing climate change and environment is channeled through several programs:

    European Development Fund (EDF): EDF supports development activities, including those that involve natural resources and agriculture. The 10th EDF has an overall budget of around Euro 23 billion and is available for members of African, Caribbean and Pacific states as well as those within member states of the EU.
    Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI): DCI’s budget from 2007-2013 is approximately Euro 17 billion. The instrument provides aid through thematic and geographic programs, both of which support some form of work in environment and sustainable development. The thematic program benefits all developing countries, whereas the geographic program is for 47 developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Central Asia, the Gulf region.
    European Neighbourhood & Partnership Instrument (ENPI): ENPI has a budget of Euro 11 billion for 2007-2013, 95% of which goes to national and multi-country programs, whereas 5% goes to cross border cooperation programs. ENPI lists sustainable development as one of their strategic objectives, as well as energy. The funding is available for 10 Mediterranean countries, six Eastern European countries, and Russia.

    The Hewlett Foundation has consistently remained one of the largest US foundation supporters of climate change and environmental issues. Most notably, the foundation gave a multi-year grant of $461 million to Climate Works Foundation in 2008. In 2011 alone, the Hewlett Foundation issued $203 million in grants through 591 grants, averaging about $345,000 per grant. From 2003-2011, the foundation contributed $818 million to environmental projects.

    The Energy Foundation as a Climate Program that focuses on climate education and awareness, as well as policy implementation and advocacy. Since 2009, the foundation has issued a total of around $46 million through 345 grants on the issue of climate. You can browse of a database of previously funded projects at this link.

    The Rockefeller Foundation
    …, African agriculture and US policy. The foundation has committed $60 million towards their Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCRN).

    Grants range from $25,000 to around $1 million. The foundation website features a grants and grantee database where you can browse previously funded projects.

    In 2012, the Packard Foundation awarded $252 million in grants. The foundation supports conservation and climate change projects, primarily in California and the West Coast of the United States.

    In 2012, the Oak Foundation issued about $33 million in grants for environmental projects.

    http://www.fundsforngos.org/free-resources-for-ngos/funding-resources-climate-change-environment/

    • I am sure the Heartland Institute would be greatly appreciative of even 1% of the $26 million the Sierra Club received from Cheaspeake Energy.

      How people can believe the myth of “deniers” being heavily funded in secret by a cabal of dark forces is beyond me. Perhaps they have seen too many Lord of the Rings movies.

  23. Judith? University of Chicago? crap I missed that

    damn those guys
    wore tweed jackets with elbow patches and smoked pipes?

    do you remember the winter of 1979?

    • don’t remember winter of 79 particularly?

    • I remember that because at the same time there was severe ice storms in Portland OR, where I was living at the time. I had never before experienced anything like that.

    • Ordvic, I remember that Portland ice storm.

    • I didn’t get to Oregon until 1988. Was the 79 storm worse than the one about 6 years ago? That one came out of the Gorge and pretty much shut down the city. Planes were literally frozen to the ground.

      I’ll have to ask around. Electric utilities tend to have a good corporate memory of big winter storms. The last one up here was 2012, where I spent 9 days in the field on storm restoration. And that was small compared to the 2006 Hannukka storm.

    • Ordvic, were you in Portland in the winter of 1978 too? There were ice storms near the solstice in both 78 and 79. I think that, as the amount of ice went, the 1978 storm was the worse of the two. That storm caused lots of damage and it took months to clean up. But the 1979 storm was even worse in terms of damage, though not quite as powerful, because so many trees and man-made stuff had been severely weakened by the previous storm. It was dramatic. I remember sitting on top of someone’s house at the top of a hill in SE Portland, looking out over the city, watching transformers explode with a greenish flash. About every minute. Can’t remember how many nights into the storm that was.

  24. @ willard (@nevaudit) | December 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    If only Bart R was a liberal.

    That’s right. I forgot that Bart is a free market capitalist who advocates carbon taxes, and other “free market” carbon punishments. How could I forget that? Silly me.

    • Don’t be too harsh on yourself, jim2. Just think how much walls of text you’d have had to copy-paste if Bart R paid #DueDiligence to Russ Roberts instead:

      The past nine years at George Mason have been, I think, my most productive time as an economist. I have learned much from my colleagues, particularly my co-host here at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux. George Mason is an unusual place–it is proud and unafraid to go its own way and I have benefited greatly from its embrace of economic education writ large. I have been lucky to have colleagues who respected what I did even though it was outside the standard mainstream practices of academic economists. And I have been inspired by that respect and educated by their insights to do, what I hope, is some of my best work as an educator and educational entrepreneur.

      At the Mercatus Center, I have held the Smith chair and I owe a great debt to the Smith family for that support and their inspiration. The Mercatus Center pushed me to write a lengthy essay on the financial crisis and provided useful assistance with the Keynes-Hayek rap videos. I’m very grateful for that help. I’ve also very much enjoyed being part of the Center’s devotion to partisan-free policy work and education.

      http://cafehayek.com/2012/09/joining-hoover-full-time.html

      Café Hayek. George Mason. Mercatus Center. Smith chair. Hoover full time.

      Small world.

      And that’s notwithstanding the hints he kept saying in the interview, “as an economist who [&c]“.

    • I guess I’m missing the point Willard. I don’t see Hoover as the Demon you seem to see. Oh well …

    • Out, Out, Damned Progress.
      =======

    • > I don’t see Hoover as the Demon you seem to see.

      That word “seem” is quite handy, don’t you think, jim2?

      Just imagine if you forgot to add it.

  25. Steve Fitzpatrick

    Judith,
    ” it is somewhat painful to read the written transcript and see my verbal tics and speaking idiosyncrasies.”

    Don’t worry about it. I was horribly uncomfortable and awkward making verbal presentations for much of my life. What matters is not the polish of your presentation, but instead the ‘content of your character’, as a famous person one said. If your message is honest, clear, straightforward, and most of all, offered in good faith, then nothing else really matters.

    Happy holidays.

  26. ordvic: See the first figure on my website climate paper (underlined above ) from the Australian BOM, which shows the volcanic Krakatoa explosion had little effect on world average temperature, except for a one year excursion to a 1940 like temperature, although no longer term effect can be discerned, probably because natural fluctuations in temperature were at a peak at that time so temperature could only fall for a few years after.

    Dynamically the Krakatoa eruption is interesting because one would expect it to act as an impulse function on the system and expose the response as the characteristic equation of the atmosphere,

    • Thanks Alexander,
      I was at your web several times before but I have to change computers to download pdfs so I finally downloaded it this time. I found this about the 1883 Krakatoa:
      http://www.livescience.com/28186-krakatoa.html
      “The explosions hurled an estimated 11 cubic miles (45 cubic km) of debris into the atmosphere darkening skies up to 275 miles (442 km) from the volcano. In the immediate vicinity, the dawn did not return for three days. Barographs around the globe documented that the shock waves in the atmosphere circled the planet at least seven times. Within 13 days, a layer of sulfur dioxide and other gases began to filter the amount of sunlight able to reach Earth. The atmospheric effects made for spectacular sunsets all over Europe and the United States. Average global temperatures were up to 1.2 degrees cooler for the next five years.”

      Then there is this:
      535 AD event

      “David Keys, Ken Wohletz, and others have postulated that a violent volcanic eruption, possibly of Krakatoa, in 535 may have been responsible for the global climate changes of 535–536.[15] Keys explores what he believes to be the radical and far-ranging global effects of just such a putative 6th-century eruption in his book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World. Additionally, in recent times, it has been argued that it was this eruption which created the islands of Verlaten, Lang, and the beginnings of Rakata —all indicators of early Krakatoa’s caldera’s size. To date, however, little datable charcoal from that eruption has been found.

      Thornton mentions that Krakatoa was known as “The Fire Mountain” during Java’s Sailendra dynasty, with records of seven eruptive events between the 9th and 16th centuries.[16] These have been tentatively dated as 850 AD, 950 AD, 1050 AD, 1150 AD, 1320 AD, and 1530 AD.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krakatoa

      Both indicating, like you said, short term effects but quite dramatic. I remember reading that a lot depends on the nature of the volcano as to how much and what enters the atmosphere as far as effect.

      I quickly glanced at your paper and will read it more later. Thanks

  27. A very merry Christmas to all.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  28. Hey Jude
    Merry Christmas
    S

  29. @Bart R | December 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    “Sorry, folks.
    Paraphrasing the great John Wayne in Chisum, no matter where Judith Curry goes, sooner or later there’s the data proving her wrong. And sooner or later they find Koch money has already been there.”

    Poor Bart R. You believe if you post the words Koch (or Hoover Institute) that you have made some point. You don’t have a point here, Bart, and the Denizens here aren’t as stupid and ignorant as you seem to believe. This is just spin, pure and simple, no less and certainly no more.

  30. This is my first visit to this website, but I have been listening to Econtalk for many years. Among the many benefits of listening, it’s just fun to listen to intelligent people talk. Judith has a strong voice and a careful, thoughtful tone. She was a pleasure to listen to, and she and Russ worked very well together.

    Russ Roberts will survey listeners later, asking for listener’s favorites for the year. This will easily place in the top five.

  31. I listened to most of it attentively. Was distracted while responding to a text message or two and didn’t rewind.

    The transcript is tedious but the talk was excellent. Little non-anecdotal came up that I didn’t already know and nothing I would argue against.

  32. First, do no harm. And I see a lot of evidence that when we think we can control things and we can’t, we actually do a lot of harm.

    Man made global warming that we can control the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is the greatest blunder in the history of science. It is the global mean temperature that changes the ocean temperature that changes the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

  33. My takeaway on this is that CO2 is an important but not ONLY variable in climate science and that the AGW-ists have destroyed fundamental climate research fields over the last 20 years.

  34. Also anyone who challenges the orthodoxy of CO2=AGW is labeled a heretic/denier on par with Hitler or something. It’s created a totally toxic environment where no real arguments or debates can be had.

    • On the contrary there are plenty of real arguments and debates right here, and on many other blogs as well, with relatively little name calling. It is a new world of scientific debate. We are making history.

  35. I enjoyed the interview.

  36. I found Dr. Curry’s discussion of the self-described “climate scientist” and the social and monetary benefits that accrue due to that appellation one of the more interesting parts.. The science is the most important aspect of climate studies. And as she pointed out, until recently the scientists involved hailed from more specific areas of science. The “climate scientist” phenomenon gets to the heart of the bastardization of “climate science.”

    • There is quite a difference between Dr. Curry’s private branching out and these “climate scientists” in how they get money.

      Dr. Curry gets contracts with energy companies to do short-term weather forecasting. Fully based on science for a targeted goal.

      These AGW “scientists” are strictly trained to pore over the results of flawed climate models and rake it in the AGW money pot. Thanks Al Gore they all say.

  37. Edit: “links to thinks I have written”. Much better than the reverse sequence!

  38. JC misspeaks, in the transcript at least: “it would be about 2-3 degrees Centigrade per decade of warming”. Century. Really still an order of magnitude too high. Water damps rises and falls, not strengthens as the models require.

  39. Judith,

    Superb ‘broadcast’ from a heroine of science.

  40. IMO Russ R will be shocked at the attacks he will receive for dare interviewing someone not promoting the party line.

  41. Pingback: Pretense of knowledge | Climate Etc.

  42. Judith,

    I apologize for commenting on this thread late. I was away when you posted, and just found it upon my return. I thought that you did very well in the interview. I also agree that Russ asked some good questions.

    From my perspective as an energy economist, the most important question was his second one:

    “So, a lot of economists say it’s an easy problem to solve: all we need to do is put on a carbon tax. We may struggle to figure out what the right amount is. But that seems like a fairly narrow solution. It will have some consequences that are negative. There may be some unintended ones. But what’s your take on that approach of, ‘Well, we just need to reduce the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide), and we know how to do that; we’ll make it more expensive artificially through a tax.’”

    You gave an implicit answer to this question throughout the interview, but I think the question could have been addressed more directly and forcefully. The basic point is that even if we assume that the expected benefits of reducing CO2 emissions in terms of mitigating future climate change are likely to outweigh the expected costs, that is not sufficient to justify it as a policy. Some other policy, or set of policies, could achieve the same expected climate change mitigation benefits at lower expected cost, or higher expected benefits for the same cost as reducing CO2 emissions. If such an alternative policy, or set of policies, existed, reducing CO2 emissions would still be an inferior policy and represent a waste of resources.

    As I argued in a previous post on your site some time ago, I think that policies that directly address the harmful consequences of climate change while retaining the beneficial ones constitute such a superior alternative.

    We can make this more concrete by examining two of the issues you discussed in the interview — namely water supply constraints in the SE US, and the effects of sea level rise on the NY and NJ shore. In both cases, you convincingly argued later in the interview that various local policies could more effectively address both issues in terms of expected benefits delivered per unit of expected cost.

    In part this is because reducing CO2 emissions is just so expensive. It cannot be effective unless it involves the large population developing countries, but denying them access to cheap energy effectively makes economic development much less likely for them, if it would be possible at all. Yet, since their populations are so large, their economic development through fossil fuel use will so increase total CO2 emissions that any reduction in the developed world would have only a trivial marginal effect on future climate change.

    More to the point, however, reducing CO2 emissions is at best a very indirect and roundabout way of addressing water shortages in the SE US or reducing the damages from hurricanes crossing the NY or NJ shorelines. Other more direct and effective policies are available and they also have lower expected cost.

    When you add to this the fact that climate changes from natural causes anyway, the CO2 emission reduction policy looks even worse. The world might incur huge costs to cut fossil fuel use only to find that natural climate change makes the effort redundant, or possibly even harmful. If, instead, we institute policies to address the issue of reducing the harm from extreme weather events, no matter why their likelihood of occurrence may have increased, society would likely obtain a much higher expected return for the resources it has invested.

    Policies to directly counter the harm from weather events have another potentially large advantage over CO2 reduction. Again, drought in the SE US may be a good example. As I understand the water supply situation you face there, landfalling major hurricanes are an important source of regional water supply. If CO2 reduction is implemented on the grounds that it might reduce the number of landfalling major hurricanes in the SE US (just assume that is so even if the science on that is doubtful in fact), an offsetting cost of the policy might be that the water supply situation in the SE US worse than it otherwise would be. An alternative policy that directly addresses the potential costs from hurricanes — for example, through changes to building codes, population redistribution in Florida, better evacuation procedures, building of seawalls etc — might enable the costs of more hurricanes to be addressed while retaining the benefits of better rainfall for the SE US. This much more nuanced set of policies could be far more effective in terms of overall expected benefits per unit of expected cost than CO2 emission control.

    In this regard, one of the key “ancillary” benefits of CO2 emissions is their role as a “natural fertilizer”. Loss of those expected benefits must be counted on the negative side of the ledger for CO2 emission reduction.

    This perspective also sheds a slightly different light on two of the recent controversies in climate science. The issue of the explanation for “the pause” and the issue of “climate sensitivity” both have direct implications for policy regardless of what they might ultimately say about the validity of the climate models. If we have a pause because natural climate change is greater than previously thought, and can easily overwhelm the net (after feedback) greenhouse effect of CO2, that by itself reduces the expected benefits of CO2 emission control as a policy. Similarly, if climate sensitivity is lower than previously thought, the expected benefit/expected cost ratio of CO2 control declines.

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