Scientific uncertainties and moral dilemmas

by Judith Curry

[P]utting adaptation and mitigation issues into the broader context of competing needs and limited resources raises moral problems that cannot be easily dismissed. – Hillerbrand and Ghil

On a recent thread, someone posted a link to this paper, which immediately caught my eye since co-author Michael Ghil is in IMO one of the most interesting scientists working on climate problems.   Rafaella Hillerbrand is a philosopher of science (with two Ph.D.s –  philosophy and physics).

Anthropogenic Climate Change:  Scientific Uncertainties and Moral Dilemmas

Rafaella Hillerbrand and Michael Ghil

Abstract.  This paper considers the role of scientific expertise and moral reasoning in the decision making process involved in climate-change issues. It points to an unresolved moral dilemma that lies at the heart of this decision making, namely how to balance duties towards future generations against duties towards our contemporaries. At present, the prevailing moral and political discourses shy away from addressing this dilemma and evade responsibility by falsely drawing normative conclusions from the predictions of climate models alone.

We argue that such moral dilemmas are best addressed in the framework of Expected Utility Theory. A crucial issue is to adequately incorporate into this framework the uncertainties associated with the predicted consequences of climate change on the well-being of future generations. The uncertainties that need to be considered include those usually associated with climate modeling and prediction, but also moral and general epistemic ones. This paper suggests a way to correctly incorporate all the relevant uncertainties into the decision making process.

Published in Physica D (2008) [link] to complete manuscript

Excerpts:

[W]e argue here that there are as yet unresolved ethical questions regarding our obligation to mitigate climate change, questions that precede the practical ones discussed in the current literature and media. If there is a moral obligation to preserve the climate in its present state, where does it stem from? Addressing this question seems inevitable in determining what our moral duties as regards climate may reasonably be.

In determining what it means to act rightly or wrongly, in moral terms, a cost-benefit analysis of one action always has to include an evaluation of alternative actions. Climate change and its mitigation cannot be treated as the only issue at hand: epidemics caused by other factors, industrial and agricultural pollution endangering air and water quality, educational opportunities, poverty, discrimination etc., are matters of legitimate concern as well. Existing cost-benefit analyses, even those few that try to avoid the above-mentioned shortcomings of economic models, fail to put the analysis of climate change into the requisite broader context.

Societies (or other subjects) are able to part only with a certain amount of money or other resources for predominantly altruistic goals, of which the mitigation of major changes in future climate is only one. Investing in the mitigation of climate-change effects means forgoing other investments, e.g. the reduction of world poverty, towards which we have a moral obligation. For example, on the one hand, the Stern report [12] famously mentions 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) as the sum needed to avoid major hazards that may arise from climate change. This amounts to an investment of US $ 450 billion per year, if we base the calculation on the current GDP value. On the other hand, current estimates of the money needed to provide 80% of rural populations in Africa with access to water and sanitation by 2015 amounts to only US $ 1.3 billion per annum.

The trade-off between investment into the mitigation of and adaption to climate-change effects and investment in safe water supply in developing countries, for example, is currently not included in the moral or political evaluation of climate change. Political reasoning seems to shy away from the trade-off. The moral discourse contents itself with an ex post justification of established public opinion. As a result, the discussion is cut short and moral obligations are derived already on the level of merely discussing climate-model predictions.

This preempting of the moral debate is not only at variance with sound decision making. Putting the cart before the horse, i.e. presupposing a moral obligation before all the steps of the cost-benefit analysis have been carried out, also seems to adversely affect the science itself. As Pielke notes: “In many instances science, particularly environmental science, has become little more than a mechanics of marketing competing political agendas, and scientists have become leading members of the advertising campaigns”.

Quite often, various moral duties cannot be honored simultaneously; thus there might arise a conflict between preventing future harm from climate change and fulfilling our duties to currently living humans. Philosophers refer to such situations as moral dilemmas. Such dilemmas are not restricted to climate-change issues, but they do become quite critical in this case. Should we invest in educating women in developing countries now or invest in some of the less promising sources of alternative energy? Shall our concerted actions aim at reducing the number of currently ongoing wars or at preventing future flood damages? Such questions are clearly bothersome but still cannot be dismissed easily: has alleviating current suffering priority over mitigating future losses about whose extent legitimate uncertainties might exist?

Excerpts from concluding remarks:

Non-quantified epistemic uncertainties – whether contingent or necessary – hamper the proper communication of the actual degree of reliability of predicting anthropogenic impacts on the climate system. These uncertainties are wedded to specific model outputs, whether climatic or impact models. 

A cost-benefit analysis depends sensitively on these uncertainties. This sensitivity implies, first, that performing such an analysis rests on the shoulders of the scientists. Second, it calls for more interdisciplinary work: It is the output of impact models that is needed for cost-benefit analysis; in this output, however, the uncertainties from the predicted concentration of greenhouse gases and from climate models, for instance, are compounded, linearly or nonlinearly.

[T]aking uncertainties seriously implies scrutinizing closely the scientific methodology. Shifting the actual performance of cost-benefit analysis to the sciences just acknowledges that neither political decision making nor moral evaluation are the place for a critical evaluation of scientific methodology. This is the task of the scientific community itself, together with an exterior watchdog consisting of, for example, the sociology and philosophy of science. Although currently this watchdog seems to lag behind the scientific progress, there already exist some interesting accounts on the “science of climate change,” seen from the outside. The practice of welfare-economic analysis, however, is still insufficiently elucidated.

[T]he decision to choose among several ways of reacting to or anticipating climate changes invokes genuine moral values that science can – and indeed should – be neutral about. As it presumes such a value judgement, the oft-used term “catastrophe” has no place within the scientific debate on climate change.

The decision for or against a reduction or mitigation of predicted climate-change impacts is always a decision for or against the promotion of other investments, e.g. in water supply or education for developing countries. In current political decision making, scientific prognoses, however, act as “fig leaves”  that hide the actual decision making process and the normative assumptions on which it rests. Scientific, i.e. climatological or economical, prognoses as regards climate change or any other topic, taken on their own, give no sufficient reasons for acting or not acting, this way or the other.

JC comments:  When discussing climate change and morality, the arguments that I have seen are typified by Donald Brown and the blog Ethics in Climate Change.  Further the IPCC has called in a moral philosopher, John Broome [link].  While I think the ethics/morality issue is an important consideration in deliberating about climate change, I am not a fan of the arguments being made by Brown and Broome.  IMO, the arguments of Hillerbrand Ghil provide a much better framework for deliberations on this issue.

389 responses to “Scientific uncertainties and moral dilemmas

  1. “the Stern report [12] famously mentions 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) as the sum needed to avoid major hazards that may arise from climate change. This amounts to an investment of US $ 450 billion per year”

    This Is nonsense.
    We already spend 360 billion $ a year and have achieved, so far, no mitigation at all, none, NULL.

    The moral dilemma isn’t spending on mitigation vs. spending on poverty alleviation. The moral dilemma is: is it right to waste horrendous amounts of money for nothing ?

    • Where do you get the figure of 360 Bn a year being spent on mitigation?

    • “The world invested almost a billion dollars a day in limiting global warming last year, but the total figure – $359 billion – was slightly down on last year, and barely half the $700 billion per year that the World Economic Forum has said is needed to tackle climate change.”

      http://www.euractiv.com/development-policy/global-climate-investment-flatli-news-531212

    • 65% spent on adaptation, not mitigation.

      You really should read the reports you cite.

    • 65% spent on adaptation, not mitigation.

      Adaptation to what? Warming that is not happening? Sea Level rise that is not happening? Adaptation to Alarmism? Unreasonable Alarmism is happening. We should prepare for that.

      How do you adapt to what does not occur?

    • Scott Scarborough

      bob droege,
      The comment was about the quote from the Stern report which recommends both mitigation and adaptation. The fact that we spend about 360 billion on both does not invalidate the comment. I count your comment as “snatching at gnats.”

    • Almost 400 GW total global electricity production from solar and wind is not Null. Recent global expenditures of 220 billion US in 2012 on solar and wind is money spent not burning coal.

      http://www.worldwatch.org/growth-global-solar-and-wind-energy-continues-outpace-other-technologies-0

      So Herman, you actually think sea level is not rising? Whether global temperature is rising or not depends on the time period you look at, but uncertainty is high for any time frames that show cooling.

    • “Almost 400 GW total global electricity production from solar and wind is not Null. ”

      It IS null as far as emission reduction is concerned. Mitigation does not mean using other sources of energy. It means reducing emissions. Emissions have not been reduced, or have been reduced by negligible amounts. Renewables are incapable of reducing emissions by significant amounts – so the money invested is a total loss.

    • Bob,

      Almost 400 GW total global electricity production from solar and wind is not Null. Recent global expenditures of 220 billion US in 2012 on solar and wind is money spent not burning coal.

      After all this time writing comments and being corrected you still don’t understand the difference between power and energy. 400 GW is not “total global electricity production”. It is no electricity production unless it is turned on and working. And then it depends how much it produces. Your comment is meaningless.

      Far better would have been to admit that solar generates about 0.3% of world electricity and wind about 2% http://www.iea.org/statistics/statisticssearch/report/?country=WORLD&product=electricityandheat&year=2011. And admit they are ineffective at reducing emissions. For example, wind power in the nearly ideal Irish grid is only 53% effective at reducing emissions per MWh of electricity generated by wind. What that means is that 1 MWh of wind replaces 1 MWh of electricity from other generators (by law), but replaces only 53% of the emissions from the 1 MWh displaced http://docs.wind-watch.org/Wheatley-Ireland-CO2.pdf

    • I would like to stress 3 points:
      1. The very small reduction in emissions (practically null) achieved by renewables had cost a horrendous amount of money.
      2. This reduction has a negligible, probably non-existent impact on climate, even if high sensitivity is assumed.
      3. A great amount of renewable “capacity” (wind and solar) has been installed already. The problem is that renewables are not capable of rendering significant emission reduction.

      Renewables are “token” actions, symbolic actions, a response to the urge to “do something”, an emotional response to global warming hysteria. You cannot achieve anything if you ignore the technological-engineering facts.

    • And… I haven’t even mentioned that other idiocy committed in the name of climate hysteria: the burning of our food, a.k.a ethanol mandates.
      This is immoral, on so many counts… (speaking of philosophers and moral dilemmas).

    • Jacobress, exactly right! What a waste and pity about nothing.

    • Peter Lang,
      Yeah, I know the difference between a watt and a watt-hour.

      “It is no electricity production unless it is turned on and working. And then it depends how much it produces. Your comment is meaningless.”

      So you claim it is not turned on and working? From the same cite as above, global solar consumption was 93 TWh and wind 521 TWh. Is consumption turned on and working?

      Just because wind primarily replaces natural gas as an energy source, doesn’t mean wind is bad, it means coal is worse.

    • Jacobress shows he doesn’t understand economics.

      “Renewables are incapable of reducing emissions by significant amounts – so the money invested is a total loss.”

      At least if you build a solar plant or a bunch of wind turbines, you produce something tangible to sell, so it’s not a total loss.

      If the investment was actually at the level that the Stern report for a decade, we could see some actual reductions in emissions.

      Or the US could be building as many modern nuclear plants as China.

      This has so many things wrong with it.

      “And… I haven’t even mentioned that other idiocy committed in the name of climate hysteria: the burning of our food, a.k.a ethanol mandates.
      This is immoral, on so many counts… (speaking of philosophers ”

      It’s not your food dude, it belongs to those who own the land and grow the crop.

      Ah the moral dilemma of number 2 field corn, what to do with all the corn we can grow?
      You want to eat it, you can buy it. If there was enough demand for it as a “foodstuff” it would not be turned into fuel.
      Ask any dietitian what percentage of your diet should come from #2 field corn. High fructose corn syrup and trans fats anyone? Eat more chikn?
      I would rather eat grass fed beef, so the more that is turned into fuel, rather than beef is a good thing.

    • Bob, if you know the difference between watts and watt-hours, then don’t you wonder why they conflate the two in your cited report?
      Is it perhaps to disguise the fact that PV installations generate an average of just 10% of installed capacity, and wind installations are not much better at 20% of installed capacity?

    • So Herman, you actually think sea level is not rising?

      Yes, Earth Spin rate would be slowing down if the oceans were rising and it is not.

      http://popesclimatetheory.com/page28.html

      http://www.nist.gov/pml/div688/grp50/leapsecond.cfm

      Ice volume is increasing and sea level is going down and causing ice mass to be placed closer to the spin axis and taking water out of the oceans further from the spin axis. Look at the data. Less and Less leap seconds have been added. That means sea level cannot be rising and must be dropping.

    • Phatboy,
      The only thing I can say is that you don’t understand that the wind doesn’t always blow and that the sun goes down at night.

    • Bob, Oh, I understand that perfectly.
      But the question was, why do you think they seem to be trying to hide those facts?

    • What seems is in the eye of the beholder.

    • Evidently

    • Bob,

      The company I work for has the second largest wind generation capacity in the US. We have been averaging about 21% of rated generation capacity from it. It works here for a couple of reasons. One is we can sell credits to California. Which is good for our ratepayers, but not for California’s. Two is we have lots of hydro and therefore do not have to build NG plants to pick up the 79% of capacity that wind can’t cover. We have no long term plans to build additional wind capacity and recently sold our rights to the remaining (undeveloped) portion of our newest facility to a neighboring utility to the south.

      Solar isn’t even worth talking about in terms of utility generation.

  2. From one of the link:

    However, Benny Peiser, the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which argues that the threat from climate change has been overstated, said that the inclusion of a philosopher would weaken the IPCC’s authority further.

    “They should be addressing basic questions of economic common sense, such as what’s the best way of spending money on climate change, not philosophical questions,” he said.

    “I don’t think philosophers are good advisers on these questions because they haven’t got a clue about hard economic issues and they are not experts in the field of policy-making.”

    http://www.thegwpf.org/ipcc-calls-moral-philosopher-people-cool-global-warming/

    By chance Hillerbrand has a PhD in physics.

    • So a degree in physics makes her an expert on hard economic issues and policy-making? Come on, Nev, you can do better than that. The physics PHD in no way invalidates Peiser’s point.

    • I’m amused at the wonder of these physicists as they first gaze upon ‘lost opportunity costs’, as from a peak in Darien.
      ================

    • Benny Peiser makes an excellent point. How could any objective, rational person disagree with it?

    • > The physics PHD in no way invalidates Peiser’s point.

      There’s no need to invalidate Peiser’s point, Faustino. It is already invalid. Just another cheap ad verecundiam.

      But please follow through your interpretation of Peiser’s point. What would Peiser say about Ghil & Hillerbrand’s framework?

    • > How could any objective, rational person disagree with it?

      Ask David Stove:

      [I]ntelligent people, left to themselves, will philosophise anyway, late or soon, whatever special field of intellectual work they are engaged in, or even if they are engaged in none. The impulse to philosophy is in fact so natural and so strong that nothing is known, short of totalitarian terror, which can absolutely repress it. In a non-totalitarian society, then, philosophy will be done, and the only remaining practical question is how, or by whom, this is likely to be done best.

      There are philosophers who have thought longer and better about the ethics of medicine than the professor of medicine ever had time to do. There are philosophers who have thought longer and better about the two-slit experiment than physicists have. There are philosophers who have thought longer and better about the foundations of mathematics than a mathematician is ever likely to do. And so on. I am conscious that a philosopher cannot say this of his profession without betraying a certain arrogance. Nevertheless it is literal truth. And it is a sufficient justification for the existence of a class of persons especially trained in philosophy. As a class, philosophers are never well- regarded by their university colleagues. The charge against us used to be , that we were lost in cloudy generalities. Nowadays it is usually the reverse: that we neglect “the great questions” in favour of minute and pointless technicalities. This charge is not true, but it is entirely understandable that it should be made. The standard of rigour in philosophy has risen very steeply in the present century, and this fact on its own is sufficient to account for the breaking-up of single big questions into many smaller ones, and the consequent slowing down of the whole process. To the outsider, who cannot see the wood for the trees, the business naturally looks as though it could never have the remotest connection with anything that matters, so a theoretical chemist, for example, is apt to look at you and think, “There goes another blasted philosopher: what do we feed those fellows for?” Well, such thoughts are not irrational; but they are wrong. At the same time as they despise us, our colleagues are also rather afraid of us. This too is not without a rational foundation! In argument of any kind, philosophers are hard men (some of whom are women), and most people do not care to tangle with us more than once or twice. In our company, as in another and more famous company of which the national poet sang, “The man that holds his own is good enough”.

      Source : http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/whyhave.html

      There was also Steve Postrel, not that long ago.

      ***

      [Insert your favorite epilogue here.]

    • There are philosophers who have thought longer and better about the ethics of medicine than the professor of medicine ever had time to do…

      How many diseases have they cured? How many of the great problems of mathematics and physics have they solved? How many bridges have they built?
      Philosophy has its place, but that place is not at the coal-face.

    • Who can judge that philosophers have thought not only longer but also better on two-slit experiment to pick the one I know something about.

      It’s all too common that philosophers have in their thinking been led to an outcome that contradicts physics, that’s hardly better. I have had some interest in philosophy of science and read in particular thoughts on quantum mechanics. So far I haven’t seen anything that I would call “better”.

      To think “better” on some field the first requirement is that the state of science in that field is known thoroughly in the areas that are directly related to the considerations. Without that the thoughts can hardly be “better”. They may be valuable additions, but not better.

    • Try this, Pekka:

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-copenhagen/

      A random book by Jan Faye, the author of that entry:

      http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9780754606604

      I have yet to find a scientist who can best good philosophers of science. Philosophers have all the time in the world to revisit old debates. They know how to read and how to construct an argument. Analyzing issues from the history of science is their bread and butter, not just an extra-curricular activity beyond their main area of research.

    • I’ve long enjoyed ‘The Universe in a Single Atom; the Convergence of Science and Spirituality’.

      H/t Tenzin Gyatso
      ==============

    • Williard,

      1) I didn’t say or even imply that scientists would better philosophers of science, only that I haven’t seen evidence that philosophers can better physicists. What I proposed more precisely is that an ordering cannot be presented for the relationship.

      2) That does not mean that a more recent philosopher could not better given earlier scientists. Later physicists can also often better earlier physicists.

      In general present science wins on some counts and present philosophy of science on some other counts. That seems to be quite generally true even in areas of interest to both.

  3. - The decision for or against a reduction or mitigation of predicted climate-change impacts is always a decision for or against the promotion of other investments

    This is the reason alarmists present the science as settled and the doom as imminent. To avoid this obvious “little” problem.

  4. This thread should carry a disclaimer – For Warmists and Lukewarmers Only.

    This whole post starts with the presumption that the only moral issue with respect to mitigation is whether the benefits of mitigation for future generations out weighs the costs for this generation. In fact, the first moral question is whether the massive inevitable costs of mitigation to this generation will benefit anyone, anywhere, ever. With the exception of course of the government apparatchicks, crony capitalists, NGOs and other members of the climate/government/industrial complex.

    • I wish this blog had a like button

    • Well, yeah, GaryM. It is default to assume net costs from warming, and it is badly mistaken, since warming is clearly net benefit as it sustains more total life and more diversity of life.

      The catastrophists bemoan their poor communication, but this default thinking of net costs from warming has penetrated every nook and cranny of the public consciousness. Too bad that default thinking is so wrong. This is the real flaw in communications.
      ==============

    • Serfs have had it up to hear with on high sooth-sayers
      noble causes.

    • For Warmists and Lukewarmers Only, no idiots allowed.

      fixed it for you

    • No idiots allowed is sounding like a projection. CO2 must warm, for sure sounds idiotic.

    • Calling skeptics idiots is idiotic. The shoe fits!

    • It’s really very simple, idiotically so: From any given time, cooling is future net costs and warming is future net benefits.
      ============

    • Yes, katastrophy kim, that was idiotically simple.

    • Yep, M, you can count on it.
      ===================

  5. “In determining what it means to act rightly or wrongly, in moral terms, a cost-benefit analysis of one action always has to include an evaluation of alternative actions. Climate change and its mitigation cannot be treated as the only issue at hand: epidemics caused by other factors, industrial and agricultural pollution endangering air and water quality, educational opportunities, poverty, discrimination etc., are matters of legitimate concern as well. Existing cost-benefit analyses, even those few that try to avoid the above-mentioned shortcomings of economic models, fail to put the analysis of climate change into the requisite broader context.”

    This of course is well stated, My question, the one that nags me over and over is why does it even have to be said?. Why this blinkered, near fetishistic panic over climate change given that we have so many terrible problems in the here and now.

    Isn’t poverty…that is the manifestly obvious fact that millions of people aren’t getting enough to eat, today, right now, or are getting by on a meager subsistence diet, and who suffer profoundly thereby on so many levels…an even bigger problem? The truth is, we don’t even know whether AGW is a problem at all. And yet we’re willing to turn our society upside down at an almost unimaginable cost, causing even more suffering to those least able to bear it.

    There’s a pathology at play here. It becomes more obvious to me by the day.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      pokerguy, you keep wanting to roll the dice on climate change, but you won’t be around to pay off the bet if you lose. You wouldn’t get away with that at a craps table.

    • Max_OK – Who is going to be around to pay up if the billions spent on mitigation turns out to be a losing bet?

    • Easy, Mike, it’s being extracted from the present generations in the form of ‘lost opportunity costs’. See H&G above. I hesitate to refer Max to the excerpt.
      ==================

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      Mike Jonas said on December 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm
      Max_OK – Who is going to be around to pay up if the billions spent on mitigation turns out to be a losing bet?
      _______

      If there’s no global warming problem , it would be because mitigation prevented the problem.

      If there’s a global warming problem, it would be because not enough mitigation was done.

      If there’s a global cooling problem, the money spent on mitigation would be a losing bet.

      So you’ve got mitigation benefiting two out of three there. That’s better odds than you get at a Black Jack tables where people spend billions.

    • k scott denison

      Max, because you are clearly a big believer/supporter of mitigation, please share with us the target you have in mind for the concentration of CO2?

    • Mitigation helps those who get richer because we do stupid stuff to fix problems that don’t need to be fixed.

    • There is in fact a deep contest among the problems in the policy process itself. The problems compete for attention, legislation and funding. That each cause’s advocates only advocate for their cause does not change this fact. The system works.

    • Junk bond bubble anachronism, but otherwise nice.
      =========

    • Dave W, writes: “The system works…”

      Good enough for government work, eh? Talk about a blinkered POV. “The system” is corrupt and broken.

  6. First catch your climate scientist: a person vastly informed of the workings of the deep oceans and inner earth, as well as most matters atmospheric and celestial.

    Until you have your climate scientist, don’t bother with dilemmas, decisions, communication and so on. No point whatsoever.

  7. I read the whole paper. I must say that I’m disappointed as I didn’t notice any single new idea or any sign of depth in considering the issues. I agree that the issues discussed in the paper are important but so much more has already been written on them by scientists like Partha Dasgupta to give just one example.

    My feeling is that the very limited comments that i wrote in 2011 to my own site cover essentially all that can be found in this paper and some more.

    • Pekka, the audience for this paper seems to be physical scientists (published in Physica D)

    • That may be, but I imagine that Physica D is a scientific journal for publishing original science and review articles on nonlinear phenomena.

    • The broader scientific community is sensing the trouble in climate science, but they are still having a lot of trouble putting a finger on it. H&G above grope.
      ==================

    • The intended audience is mathematical physicists.It was an invited paper for the 250 Euler commemoration.

      Both authors (with deep backgrounds in random evolutions) such as the use of stochastic equations for probability distributions.eg

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167278908000638

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167278908001139

    • I didn’t notice any single new idea or any sign of depth in considering the issues.

      Did you notice the publication date?

    • Pekka, I have immediate concerns about the paper as excerpted, which I hope to address on return from the Brisbane International tennis tournament (post-cricket therapy). I’d be interested in a link to your 2011 comments, in part because you have a broader experience and perspective than many of those whose papers Judith puts up for consideration.

    • Faustino,

      I included the words very limited in my above comment to avoid raising too high expectations. I think that the paper of Hillebrand and Ghil was nothing more than a list of well known moral dilemmas. For me such dilemmas are a very important point, but just listing them leads nowhere. That allows for all conclusions from confirming “alarmist” conclusions to concluding that we should give very little weight on climate change. To gain further insight we must dig deeper, we must search for a way of expressing the various factor in a coherent way that allows for comparisons at quantitative or semiquantitative level.

      My posts

      http://pirila.fi/energy/2011/02/14/uncertainties-climate-policy-choices-and-sustainable-development/

      http://pirila.fi/energy/2011/03/14/climate-policies-sustainable-development-and-real-options/

      and

      http://pirila.fi/energy/2011/04/23/how-to-decide-on-climate-policies/

      are written as a small step in that direction.

      I mentioned Partha Dasgupta in the earlier post of this thread and I mention him also in the posts I list above. He has been pondering similar questions much earlier, and he made an attempt to resolve them in the articles printed in Human Well.Being and the Natural Environment. In my view he didn’t get far enough in that, but building on his ideas might work. I haven’t spent enough time searching for other work directed specifically on this issue, but from writings of other development and environmental scientists we can see that many of them know about the issues and have given a thought on them, but in most cases choose a more limited approach to get quantitative results.

      One way of expressing the dilemma is:

      The more precise results we get the more uncertain should we be on whether they are relevant at all.

      I don’t propose that as an axiom, but as an observation valid for the present work. It’s just the curse of the drunk looking for his keys under the lamp pole.

    • The problem is that H&G have no moral authority. If they would restrict themselves to ethics, they might fare better.

  8. ‘ Should we invest in educating women in developing countries now or invest in some of the less promising sources of alternative energy?’

    This question, and a few others like it, presume some kind of process. I regard the education of women, everywhere, as worthwhile in its own right (all should be educated), but it is also a means whereby population sizes are reduced, infant mortality declines, and what I regard as a more civilised life is possible for more people.

    But there are societies for which such a goal is not only low on its own priorities, but offensive to some parts of such societies. Who is to do the educating? How is it to be
    done? With what values, and so on?

    You could argue that the same is true for funding alternative sources of energy, or providing poor countries with good water supplies, and there’s some truth in that. Governments have to agree, mechanisms have to be put in place, progress needs to be seen to be made, corruption with respect to the donated money needs to be checked, and so on.

    But education, as I see it, is altogether more tricky. These are not simple choices.

    • Why do you assume one precludes the other. Or perhaps more to the point, why not doing one will lead to doing the other? High Lomborgianism at its best.

    • Look at the chart and excellent post by Roger Pielke Jr. showing what China and India have been doing to lift people out of poverty:

      “Income Inequality in Global Perspective”

      http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com.au/

    • Eli,

      climate scientists are silent on the issue of educating poor women. Something Fuller and I have been advocating for a while.
      Their silence amounts to advocacy for the status quo.

      BTW, it was nice to finally meet you.

      Cheers
      Steve

    • Philanthropic organizations are already focusing on women.
      See http://www.gatesfoundation.org/search#q/k=women

      I think what the “progressives” are actually arguing over is how to spend tax payer money. How about the people who work for a living be enabled to keep more of the money they work for and have less of it taken away from them? Poverty is becoming a greater problem in the US due to the mishandling of the economy by “progressives.”

      From the article:

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      Photographer: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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      Rising income inequality is starting to hit home for many American households as they run short of places to reach for a few extra bucks.

      As the gap between the rich and poor widened over the last three decades, families at the bottom found ways to deal with the squeeze on earnings. Housewives joined the workforce. Husbands took second jobs and labored longer hours. Homeowners tapped into the rising value of their properties to borrow money to spend.

      Those strategies finally may have run their course as women’s participation in the labor force has peaked and the bursting of the house-price bubble has left many Americans underwater on their mortgages.

      “We’ve exhausted our coping mechanisms,” said Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University in New Jersey and former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “They weren’t sustainable.”

      The result has been a downsizing of expectations. By almost two to one — 64 percent to 33 percent — Americans say the U.S. no longer offers everyone an equal chance to get ahead, according to the latest Bloomberg National Poll. The lack of faith is especially pronounced among those making less than $50,000 a year, with close to three-quarters in the Dec. 6-9 survey saying the economy is unfair.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-30/americans-on-wrong-side-of-income-gap-run-out-of-means-to-cope.htmlhttp://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-30/americans-on-wrong-side-of-income-gap-run-out-of-means-to-cope.html

  9. I think it’s been months since ‘lost opportunity costs’ have been mentioned on this blog, and it’s not even explicit in the excerpt above. Folks, it’s a very simple concept.
    ================

  10. There should be no uncertainty with regard to the fact that combustion of fossil fuels contributes to 80% of anthropogenic global warming. (It is the heat, not the CO2 that can readily be identified as the real cause). We have the technologies to replace fossil and nuclear power with renewables which do not add to the heat imbalance. The cost will be high and the time long before it can be done but this should not prevent us from funding immediate needs such as clean water and good sanitation. Many of the world’s philanthropists are funding missions like these and should be joined with funds from governments even if the amounts are no more than ten percent of the amount being spent on renewable energy development and installation.

    • k scott denison

      @philohaddad: what is your target temperature for the world, below which you would say there is no global warming and above which you would say there is no global cooling?

    • Philohaddad,

      You might tell me that no one could possibly suffer from being supplied at no cost with clean water and good sanitation.

      You would be wrong. Even more so if you throw in education and a reduction in child mortality. The usual response when I give examples of people being far worse off after the efforts of the do-gooders, is usually “you have to break eggs to make an omelette'”, or something equally vapid.

      Eventually, the ultimate example of noble cause enthusiasm is something like “we had to destroy the village to save it”.

      I have spent enough time over the years in a Third World country to see the disastrous effects of democracy, progress, education, electrification, foreign aid, health services and all the rest. Were the benefits worth it? To many – no. Being able to speak, read and write the local language (a little, anyway), and being able to jump caste boundaries as a foreigner, I can assure you that in many cases the foreign help, and the foreigners, are cordially detested.

      But cultural mores mean that that you must appear thankful and grateful to the helper. It is not his fault he is appallingly ignorant. Bizarre, I know, but that’s how it is. Behind the generally Western back, the smile vanishes.

      What’s the answer? I don’t know, and I think those who claim to have answers know even less than me.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

  11. Also, I suspect there is something terribly wrong with the figure of 1.8 billion dollars to provide 80% of rural Africa with water and sanitation, by 2015, but am far too lazy to search for a real figure.
    ====================

    • Yeah, I know it’s per annum, but as written there is only one year left. I’m guessing they meant by 2050. Which brings up a marvelous solution, send all the melting Himalayan glacier water over there.
      ====================

  12. Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

    The trade-off between investment into the mitigation of and adaption to climate-change effects and investment in safe water supply in developing countries, for example, is currently not included in the moral or political evaluation of climate change.”
    _____

    If it’s my tax dollars being spent, I would like to know why it should be included in the evaluation?

  13. Sorry, Judith C, but you are increasingly frequently choosing posts on quibble-squabbles

    These always end with a thread full of snarky arguments over the number of angels that may fit on a pinhead – and that includes the sub-squabble over whose pin the head belongs to

    Absolutely nothing of hard value will be learnt with such topics, although I suspect the ensuing melee may amuse you

  14. Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

    It is comforting to imagine my personal taxes are spent only on projects I like. If Tea Party members could think of it that way, maybe they wouldn’t whine so much.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      Damn! I put my comment in the wrong place again. I give up.

    • Your taxes are in the wrong place, too. Do something.
      =========

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      kim, you aren’t listening to me. I imagine my federal income taxes go only to what I like, namely supporting national parks. You don’t know they don’t.

    • Heh, you’re not listening to yourself. Reread your first comment on this inane subject.
      ==========

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      kim, I can’t help it if you misinterpreted my words because you don’t know how people from Oklahoma talk.

      I will try to explain it this way. I imagine my 2014 federal income tax payment will be used to put up lots of new “Beware of the Bears” signs at Yellowstone National Park. You can’t prove it won’t be.

    • None of us can expect our taxes to be spent exactly as we would want, and it would be unrealistic to expect that. However it is realistic for us to demand that our taxes are not wasted.

      If your taxes are not spent as you would have chosen to spend them then that is a bit like your spouse dipping into the joint savings to buy a boat. You might grumble about it, but you will probably get some use out of the boat and you can always sell it later. Your taxes being wasted is more like your spouse ‘investing’ in a Nigerian scam.

    • Ian,

      Does the Fed’s Home Weatherization program, from the stimulus spending, count as a Nigerian scam?

      At least TARP money to the banks was repaid. With interest.

  15. While Rafaella Hillerbrand and Michael Ghil presernt some interesting ideas on addressing the sociological issues arising from climate, by accepting the language and culture implied by the greenhouse theories of the IPCC they are admitting bias. There are plenty of moral issues in the world, starting with the death and destruction in Syria, to which they have no answers. The death and destruction in Syria seems to be based on ancient religious differences and brings to mind the wars between Catholics and Protestants of western Europe centuries ago.

    To get back to climate, we have been led astray by the IPCC and that is the issue of most relevance to those who read or write these columns.

    • What’s kinda neat, AB, is that even with that bias they doubt the utility of extreme mitigation. Wait’ll the issue is seen with cool objective eyes, and the phantasm erected by the IPCC from fear and guilt fades.
      ================

  16. Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

    “The trade-off between investment into the mitigation of and adaption to climate-change effects and investment in safe water supply in developing countries, for example, is currently not included in the moral or political evaluation of climate change.”
    ______

    You could say the same about a lot of things.

    Should we spend some money for safe water supply in developing nations instead of spending it on national defense, homeland security, agricultural subsidies, or medicare … to name just a few ?

    Why does the trade-off need to be with mitigation and adaption?

    • k scott denison

      Perhaps because with the others we can see some tangible results.

      Please show me the expected results from all of the spending to date on mitigation. In degrees per $ spent. Thanks.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Please show me the expected results from all of the spending to date on mitigation. In degrees per $ spent. Thanks.”
      —–
      As GH gases are rising faster than ever, and 2013 is set to be the warmest non-El niño year on record, apparently whatever money has supposedly been spent on mitigation has been a complete waste.

    • k scott denison

      Thanks R Gates. So, if all the dollars spent to date have been wasted, then should we: a) accelerate our spending; b) slow our spending; c) keep our spending the same; or, d) other?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Thanks R Gates. So, if all the dollars spent to date have been wasted, then should we: a) accelerate our spending; b) slow our spending; c) keep our spending the same; or, d) other?”
      —-
      Some say it depends on what you think the future is and how fast you want it you want it to get here, but I think it really comes down to logic. Either the future is extremely bright, warmer is better, and all this worry over GH warming is a huge distraction, or we are likely already screwed. I don’t see a middle ground. So spending money on trying to prevent a “warmer is better” future is a waste, and spending money on preventing an inevitable NTE (near term extinction) is also a waste. So I would say the obvious choice is: d) stop all spending, as either future makes spending money on mitigating AGW or CAGW a waste. Better to use the money to prepare for a new “warmer is better” golden age, or party like its the opposite:

    • k scott denison

      Now that’s one of the more rational things I’ve heard you say R Gates.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Now that’s one of the more rational things I’ve heard you say R Gates.”

      Ah, if only comprehension of rational thought were only a matter of simply hearing or reading it, we’d all be geniuses.

    • I am a little more optimistic that something can be done than R. Gates. I did at one time think that the best place for all the money would be damage control, disaster relief (aka adaptation), and to just ride it out with survival of the fittest, but there is a big climate difference between 500 ppm (still possible and not too painful) and 700+ ppm, and that is worth an effort, and even though Copenhagen was not a big success, its targets are being at least attempted by some major emitters.

  17. Moral dilemmas, eh? How about this one reported on the from page of today’s ‘The Australian‘.

    Some local Councils on the coast of NSW are telling people, who apply to build or renovate a house they own near the coast, that they will approve the new house or renovations but that owners may be forced to remove the building and return the site to pre-white-invasion conditions.

    Councils defy advice to ignore IPCC sea-level forecasts

    … many local authorities may be undermining property values by imposing punitive planning conditions based on predictions contained in reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Great Lakes Council on the mid-north coast [of NSW] has told one home owner who wants to extend his house that, while it may be approved, he may have to demolish it in coming decades and restore the whole site to its natural state pre-settlement. The council is relying on the IPCC model that predicts sea-level rise at nearly 10 times the actual rate recorded in recent decades – 40cm by 2050 – compared with just more than 4cm, based on a projection of the recent historical record.

    • Who needs consistency?

      Also from the Australian:

      “The NSW government will order councils to study the scientific evidence for sea-level rise on a beach-by-beach basis, amid fears that many local authorities may be undermining property values by imposing punitive planning conditions based on predictions contained in reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

      What moral dilemma? Undermine house prices, buy cheap, wait for the delusion to pass, get rich at someone else’s expense.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      Interesting. I guess preserving the beach trumps development if the need occurs because of sea-level rise. Sounds like a good idea to me.

    • Mike Flynn,

      Wow! So you think what’s been going on with the local councils in NSW is OK, do you? or aren’t you aware?

      Perhaps you should change your silly line to one that reflects your integrity a bot better, like “Live well by zealotry, cheating and corruption”

    • So, the real estate agent/cheat (Max-OK), now claims to be a scientist, eh? The lack of ethics of this guy has been evident since he began commenting. And now trying to bring scientists down to his level of integrity – i.e. near zero.

    • Peter, you didn’t see his ‘sarc tag off’.
      ===========

    • uh, Mike’s sarc tag.
      ======

    • Peter Lang,

      Sorry. As Kim pointed out, I didn’t add /sarc on, /sarc off.

      No offence intended. Thanks for your suggestion about my silly line. I’ll ignore it if that’s fine with you.

      I like it. Maybe because I’m silly. What do you think?

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

      • Mike,

        I’ll take your question as serious and seeking a serious answer. I recall a few other denizens made comments about the line when you first started posting it. You replied and explained the background. I got the impression that most of the denzens didn’t think it added to your comments or quality of the comments you post. I think it is a bit of distraction, a bit annoying after a while and has a tendency to bring your comments down a bit – not as bad as FOMD but same sort of effect. That is my humble opinion. I’d suggest dropping it for 2014. Hope that is taken as a positive suggestion, because that is how it is intended.

    • Mike,

      Sorry for not realising you were being sarcastic. I should have realised. I withdraw my comment and apologise again.

      Kim, thanks for pointing it out so quickly.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      Peter Lang said December 29, 2013 at 6:57 pm
      “So, the real estate agent/cheat (Max-OK), now claims to be a scientist, eh?”
      _____

      “Citizen Scientist,” Peter. Yesterday, some people at Climate, Etc were talking about what a good thing citizen science is, so I decided to volunteer.

      Regarding that beach front property issue, I find it hard to sympathize with descendants of jail birds the British Empire sent to steal aboriginal land.
      I know the descendants didn’t steal the land themselves but they are benefiting from the sins of their forefathers.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      Peter, yes, if I were in the developers’ situation, I wouldn’t be whining.

  18. stevefitzpatrick

    The tradeoff between investments to improve the lives of living people and investments to reduce CO2 emissions is at least as contentious as anything in climate science. Those calling for immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions frame the issue as an existential threat to both the Earth’s ecosystems and all future generations, and insist that the need for immediate mitigation trumps all competing needs. I have seen no indication of a willingness of people on either side to compromise on these moral questions. The fundamental disagreement is not and has never been about ‘the science’, it is and has always been a disagreement about morals, priorities, obligations, and judgement. Or to sum it up, primarily a political question. Political questions only have political solutions. Efforts to use the very uncertain predictions of climate science to ‘demand’ specific policy priorities by offering scary scenarios and emphasizing worst case outcomes only invites people who are politically opposed to those policies to find weaknesses in ‘the science’ used to make the scary projections. It is a losing strategy.

  19. This is something like Lomborg’s approach. Everything is a problem in the future, so climate change is just one of the things we have to worry about. Fair enough, so should we mitigate emissions and leave fossil fuels in the ground or resign to letting CO2 approach levels that compound these other problems with food, water, disease with the effects on these from climate change itself. Since that paper, there was the Copenhagen accord that says at least we need to try to do something about restricting climate change by 2020, so it is thankfully taken as a little more urgent than these philosophers would want it to be.

    • stevefitzpatrick

      Jim D,
      “Everything is a problem in the future, so climate change is just one of the things we have to worry about.”

      Some things are problems right now… no projection or prediction is needed. Most people react to immediate and real problems before projected problems. It is a common and quite practical heuristic.

    • k scott denison

      Jim D, as a supporter of mitigation I will ask you the same question I’ve asked Max: what is the target you have in mind for the concentration of CO2?

    • Copenhagen still thought there was hope for 450 ppm, but realistically 500 ppm can be done with gradual reductions (~3 GtCO2 per decade) towards zero emissions through the next century. With nothing done, it will be 700+ and will become 2 degrees warmer to say nothing of future implications for sea levels. A difference can be made with a working policy.

    • k scott denison

      So 500 ppm it is then? So now please tell me this: assume we adopt policies and top out at 500 ppm. Then, we see the concentration stop to drop… what next? What is the lower bound you would target?

    • ksd, if somehow we held it to 500 ppm, the concentration would not drop for a while. I have the impression it would be at least a century before it even gets back to near 400 ppm, so I don’t think that is an issue as much as the rising sea level that will continue through that time. Anyway having kept significant fossil fuels buried, we are ready in case we need them again :-)

    • k scott denison

      Jim D: so when, in history (or pre-historical if you like) has the concentration remained between 400-500 ppm for a significant length of time, say 1000 years? Because if we’re shooting for a target, shouldn’t we be trying to keep it there for ALL future generations, not just the next few?

      Sounds like you are implying that if we simply start/stop/start/stop burning fossil fuels we can regulate the concentration to this narrow range forever. Do you really believe this?

      Me, I think it’s pure hubris to believe we can regulate CO2 or climate for that matter.

    • David L. Hagen

      Bjorn Lomborg launched the Copenhagen Consensus to seriously examine the full range of the top 30 major humanitarian projects, not just mitigating anthropogenic global warming (aka climate change”). See: Copenhagen Consensus 2012

      Providing facts on how to do the most good for the world. Cutting out special interest groups and lobbyists. Stimulating debate on solving the biggest problems. . . .If you had $75bn for worthwhile causes, where should you start?

      Copenhagen Consensus Outcome 2012
      Climate related results:
      6 R&D to increase yield enhancements $2 billion
      12 Geoengineering R&D $1 billion
      17 Increase funding for Green Energy R&D ~ $1 billion
      (No funding for energy subsidies)

      The expert panel examined the following solutions to this challenge: Geo-engineering R&D, Increased Funding for Green Energy R&D, Low Global Carbon Tax, High Global Carbon Tax, Adaptation Planning.
      The expert panel found that geo-engineering research and development, at low cost, was worthy of some funds, to explore the costs, benefits, and risks of this technology. The panel found the Green Energy R&D should be started at a lower level than that proposed, of $1 billion annually, which would likely imply a higher BCR.
      . . .The expert panel also recognizes that without significant technological breakthrough, significant CO2 reduction remains unlikely.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Me, I think it’s pure hubris to believe we can regulate CO2 or climate for that matter.”

      That perspective is common, especially among those with certain “fundamentalist” beliefs, if you get my drift. From a scientific perspective, there is no reason that we can’t modify this planet’s climate intentionally, as the odds are pretty good that we’ve been doing unintentionally, for better or worse.

    • ksd, no, I think if we cap it at 500 ppm we won’t have to worry about it again. It will not drop below 280 ppm and probably won’t even get there once the glaciers have melted. Sea level will be the ongoing concern even if we succeed with the cap. If there was a way to get CO2 down, I think 350 ppm would be a place to aim. That might have some hope of eventually restoring sea level too, but it is a little dubious if sea level is reversible given the albedo hysteresis.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “I think if we cap it at 500 ppm we won’t have to worry about it again.”
      —-
      Interesting conjecture, but seems to ignore the paleoclimate data as well as those pesky other GH gases that seem to want to rise right along with CO2, methane and N2O. This other gases have their own dynamics, and must of course be delt with in their own right– or not, if warmer is better, or we’re already screwed.

    • Jim D – How on earth can it cap at 500 ppm? There is no sign at all of slowing the growth in the use of fossil fuels. If an American switches to vehicle that gets 37 mpg instead of 20 mpg, new 100s in the 3rd world will suck that 17 mpg right off the table, and then want a lot more. I think we’re heading for 475 in fairly quick order, and from 475 to well over 500 is just looking impossible.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “I think we’re heading for 475 in fairly quick order, and from 475 to well over 500 is just looking impossible.”

      Based on the past decade and the acceleration in CO2 growth rate, 500 ppm seems pretty much assured by 2050-2055. We’d better hope warmer is better, because warmer it will be.

    • k scott denison

      Well, for those who are talking “capping”, manipulating, regulating you certainly don’t seem to have a good grasp of history.

    • JCH, OK, I figure to cap at 500 ppm, we can burn 1500 GtCO2. The current rate is in excess of 30 GtCO2, but let’s call it 30 to make the numbers easy. Continuous burning at that rate for 100 years gives us 3000 GtCO2. Linearly ramping down by 3 GtCO2 per decade to zero at 100 years (2113), gives us 1500 GtCO2. That’s where it comes from. A 3 GtCO2 reduction is in line with Copenhagen rates up to 2020, but they get more severe later than mine to reach 450 ppm. Whether we can get to 27 GtCO2 by 2020, I would agree is a question, and then 24 GtCO2 by 2030, etc., but it is doable with some will.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      Jim D.,

      Your assumption also seems to include the expectation that the oceans will continue to absorb a large part of the anthropogenic excess. This assumption might not be valid:

      http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Carbon+Uptake

    • Yes, it is based on 50% uptake by the oceans and biosphere. Results may vary. Reforestation may help.

    • I think we’re going straight to 2035 with no change. If this is a real mess, they’re going to have to fix it afterwards.

    • JCH, yes, continuation of the exponential emission growth rate (worst case scenario) has us at 450 ppm by 2030, and 500 ppm by 2045.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “If this is a real mess, they’re going to have to fix it afterwards.”
      —–
      Afterwards? That’s funny!

      Here grand kids…we really messed this up. Can you fix it?

    • R. Gates – I don’t mean to be flippant. It’s just likely to be the way it is going to be.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “R. Gates – I don’t mean to be flippant. It’s just likely to be the way it is going to be.”

      Sadly, I actually agree. Mine was a dark and ironic humor. Let’s hope they’re up to the task.

    • R Gates,

      From your link:

      For example, increasing CO2 modifies the climate which in turn impacts ocean circulation and therefore ocean CO2 uptake.

      Anyone on the realist side of the debate who tried to pass off such nebulous nonsense as a scientific argument would be (rightly) met with howls of derision.
      It seems your self-proclaimed scepticism is highly selective.

  20. GaryM said:

    In fact, the first moral question is whether the massive inevitable costs of mitigation to this generation will benefit anyone, anywhere, ever. With the exception of course of … [see the list]

    I agree. There seems to be little evidence that GHG emissions will cause more harm than good, on balance, over this century or ever.

    • Why should we believe the planet is at the optimum temperature for life just when we happen to be alive?

      What is the persuasive evidence that warmer would be net bad for flora and fauna?

      Warming has been greatly beneficial since the ice age and since the Little Ice Age, and for the past half century. So, why do we believe it wont continue to be beneficial. Where is the strongly persuasive evidence that warming will not continue to be beneficial?

      Could it be that we naturally fear the unknown and that is biasing the scientists research? Could it be that, just as it seems climate sensitivity has been overstated for the past 30 years or so, the damage function has also been overstated – the negative consequences have been overestimated and the benefits under researched and under estimated?

      We know life struggles in the ice ages. The are of deserts expanded. high winds blew the topsoil away and caused wide spread sand dunes and loess deposits. The Antarctic ice cores have high concentrations of dust during cold period and low during warm periods. And the coral reefs almost died out.

      Conversely, when the planet has been in much warmer times than now, life thrived. The area of deserts shrunk. Coral reefs expanded and thrived. Oil was deposited from thriving life in calm warm sees.

      In a new study, The Positive Externalities of Carbon Dioxide, Idso estimates that rising CO2 concentrations boosted global crop production by $3.2 trillion during 1961-2011, and will increase output by another $9.8 trillion between now and 2050.” Richard Tol says the Idso study is wrong, but I don’t understand why it is wrong or what is wrong with it or how wrong it is.

      My interpretation of Richard Tol’s Figure 3 here: http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/sites/default/files/climate_change.pdf is that, excluding energy costs, warming would be net beneficial to above 4 C from now. I believe low cost energy is plausable. If Richard Tol’s Figure 3 is roughly correct, if we cut the cost of energy, then GW may be net beneficial to beyond 4 C warming from now.
      Look at Figures 15.21 and 15.22, pp392-392 here and read the associated text: http://eprints.nuim.ie/1983/1/McCarron.pdf . It seems to me the flora and fauna thrived during the warming periods and struggled and died out during the cooling periods. Life loves warming.

      To repeat my initial question: why do we believe Earth happens to be at the optimum temperature just when we happen to be here?

    • Because we are here, and our food supply has been optimized for these conditions.

      • Unsupported assertions. Provide persuasive evidence that the planet is at the optimum temperature for food production.

    • I bet plants would love warmer, wetter, with more food – CO2.

    • There was an AGU presentation by Richard Alley in June that showed how rice and some other crops tailed off with warmer temperatures.

    • I’m sure they are capable of tailing back on again. If not by themselves, with a little inbreeding or genetic engineering. It’s not like we don’t have a lot of time, we do.

    • Max_OK, Citizen Scientist

      jim2, a warmer world extends the ranges of bugs and snakes and other creepy crawly things. Warmer also means more mold and mildew , and more bacteria. None of these are things a normal person likes.

      Could a warmer world also mean more viruses? I don’t know. I’ll have to do some research.

    • Hey Max, there is also the real danger that warming and CO2 could cause a population explosion of Unicorns, Mermaids, and Leprechauns.

    • Jim D

      $9.8 trillion benefit of increasing crop yields to 2050 caused by increasing CO2 concentrations and GW:

      “Social Cost of Carbon: Do the Monetary Benefits of CO2 Emissions Outweigh the Costs?”

      http://www.globalwarming.org/2013/10/22/social-cost-of-carbon-do-the-monetary-benefits-of-co2-emissions-outweigh-the-costs/

      Some winners and some losers but over all net winners. We need to look at the net costs and benefits overall, not cherry pick examples to support doomsdayers’ ideological beliefs.

    • Idso only looked at CO2, ignoring what temperatures will do. This is consistent with his belief that temperatures won’t change much, but won’t work in the real future.

      • Jim D,

        You haven’t addressed the question, and by continually cherry picking and avoiding the main issues you continually reinforce my impression that the CAGW doomsayers have no persuasive arguments or evidence to support their beliefs. They are simply ideological beliefs and nothing more. If I am misjudging you, then please address my central question. Show persuasive evidence that, on balance, GHG emissions will cause more harm than good over this century.

    • Jum D,

      ABSTRACT

      This report focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia. Building on the 2012 report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, this new scientific analysis examines the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, and coastal vulnerability for affected populations. It finds many significant climate and development impacts are already being felt in some regions, and in some cases multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea level rise, more severe storms, droughts and floods are expected to have further severe negative implications for the poorest. Climate related extreme events could push households below the poverty trap threshold. High temperature extremes appear likely to affect yields of rice, wheat, maize and other important crops, adversely affecting food security. Promoting economic growth and the eradication of poverty and inequality will thus be an increasingly challenging task under future climate change. Immediate steps are needed to help countries adapt to the risks already locked in at current levels of 0.8°C warming, but with ambitious global action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C.

      Plenty of ‘could’, ‘may’ and ‘some’. More exaggeration, misleading attributions and advocacy.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “…a warmer world extends the ranges of bugs and snakes and other creepy crawly things.”

      McDonalds may have some new menu items in a warmer world? McBoa Sandwich? Beetle McNuggets?

    • No opposing report yet exists with the view that things could be good, even one that includes may, could, would, etc. Given the report we have, not one you wish you had, how would you make a decision?

    • David L. Hagen

      Craig Idso provides numerous abstracts with source links to quantitative results on the response of plants to CO2 & temperature See CO2Science.org See also Climate Change Reconsidered: Terrestrial Plants and Soils
      Look at the actual evidence.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      Unfortunately Craig Idso is tainted by his association with Heartland. His advocacy role with them means he is not taken seriously by many in the scientific community. Such are the dangers of being a paid advocate.

      • R. Gates,

        Do you dismiss Hansen, Mann, the hockey team and IPCC on the basis of their advocacy, funding and their self interest? If not, why not?

    • Tol’s agriculture peaks at 1.5 C, and heads down after that. Imagine where it is by 3 or 4 C.

      • Can’t you read a simple chart? Agriculture peaks at 2 C above current temperature and is still nearly 1% of GDP positive at 3.75 C according to the chart; projecting the trend, it would be positive beyond 4 C. Have another look. You certainly are reinforcing my impression you have nothing persuasive to support your beliefs.

    • I’ll give you that it only goes below current at a surprisingly high 3.75, but other studies have most crops just not getting any better with any rise in temperature (check Alley’s talk, minutes 16-20). Maybe they get it improving by relocating crops (e.g. to Canada), but crops in place won’t seem to do well.

      • “I’ll give you that it only goes below current at a surprisingly high 3.75,”

        Wrong, can’t you read a chart? Agriculture is still way above current at 3.75 C above today’s temps, and probably still way above at beyond 4 C above today’s temps (according to that chart). Can’t you read a chart, or does belief adjust it in your mind?

        Alley is a geologist, not an agricultural specialist. Like so many climate doomsayers, he is applying motivated reasoning and preaching/advocating outside his area of expertise.

        As I said before, stop cherry picking and deal with the question about the newt costs and benefits over all.

    • In Tol’s paper, I take current as 2013 from where I see we have almost reached the agriculture maximum already and it dives below today’s value in 2090 at 3 C. I don’t know how this weights developing countries because it is looking at GDP. I am not sure what can be told about regional variations from this or whether rich countries would be required to donate to poorer ones to make it work this way. Is this what you are supporting? I think one of the problems that came out of Copenhagen was what the poor countries expect from the rich ones under climate change scenarios like this. Better if we didn’t commit to this level of climate change in the first place, I think.

      • You are correct that the vertical axis is relative to 1900, not 2000. However, muddying the waters by diverting to discuss regional affects and equity issues is a step too far before we’ve even agreed that this chart and paper, if correct, suggests that GW would be net beneficial, overall for the whole planet, for all this century and well beyond, especially if we allow the peoples of the world to have cheap energy, because the really big negative on that chart is the cost of energy. Leave out energy costs (or cut the cost of energy) and GW is net beneficial. Remember that, with cheap energy, many other problems – such as fresh water supply – can be solved.

        Excerpt from Abstract:

        . Energy demand, water resources,
        biodiversity and sea level rise are the main negative impacts; the impacts of climate change on
        human health and agriculture remain positive until 2100.

        But note that the negatives are small compared with the huge benefits of GW to agriculture and health. That is an important point to take from the chart. Also, please look back at my original comment regarding the points I made suggesting we don’t really have much evidence that warming will be bad on agriculture. Life thrived when warmer (better than now) and fauna and flora adapted well and very quickly to rapid warming in Greenland, Ireland and Iceland. I am not seeing persuasive arguments that warming is bad. I wonder if ideology and humans natural tendency to believe doomsday stories is not driving us to think if we don’t know it must be worse than we can find evidence to support … as we did with climate sensitivity

        Figure 3 caption:

        Figure 3 shows the global economic impact of climate change by sector (see Figure 2 for the total). The top panel shows the impact over time, the bottom panel shows the impact as a function of temperature (cf. Figure 1). The impact of climate change through tropical storms is small, in line with the statistical analyses referred to in the introduction. The impact of sea level rise is small too, because sea level rose by only 12 cm over the course of the 20th century. In the 21st century, sea level rise is 61 cm but coastal protection keeps the impacts in check.

        http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/sites/default/files/climate_change.pdf

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “R. Gates,

      Do you dismiss Hansen, Mann, the hockey team and IPCC on the basis of their advocacy, funding and their self interest? If not, why not?”
      ——
      The anti-science as practiced by Heartland is what taints those scientists who align themselves through paid advocacy “science” with that organization. If you want to end your scientific career (assuming you ever had one) go and be a paid science advocate for Heartland. This is a lesson in how not to be an advocate.

      • Your showing your bias. I haven’t a clue what “anti-science means’ It’s just an ideologues term for those they want to dismiss because they don’t like what they are saying. You demonstrate you have got no substantial or persuasive arguments to offer by writing such nonsense. You further demonstrate your beliefs have little substance, they are just beliefs

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “I haven’t a clue what “anti-science means’ ”
      —-
      I doubt you are that naive, nor that you really think Heartland’s goals include the true furthering of human knowledge. Their generous donors don’t expect results that don’t support their economic interests. This is how the game is played and everyone knows it. C’mon Peter Lang, this part of the game is well known, and now it’s just a shell game of where the donors can hide the money for their next “research” paper that supports their economic empires.

      http://www.drexel.edu/~/media/Files/now/pdfs/Institutionalizing%20Delay%20-%20Climatic%20Change.ashx

      • Sorry, Gates, your arguments are meaningless conspiratorial nonsense. I welcome the fact that others outside the publicly funded, policy and funding-driven public sector scientists are contributing. It is invaluable and they are doing massive good. Where would we be without true sceptics like Steve McIntyre and Nic Lewis. Your arguments are Fallacy # x (you can look back at the thread and find which one).

        So far, your comments have added zilch of value, but have reinforced what I had worked out long ago: your contributions are not worth reading.

    • RGates

      With respect, I think you wildly overestimate the importance and influence of Heartland. They are a tiny organisation receiving a fraction of the money received by climate activists.

      They do not influence me in the slightest and I take no notice whatsoever of what they say.

      I suspect that the vast majority of people do not consider them to be any sort of big player on the climate scene, especially those of us not from the US.

      I do agree however that activists have succeeded in demonising Heartland and as such it would be unwise for scientists to become associated with them

      tonyb

    • I was just getting ready to go to bed when I saw R. Gates cite the recent Robert Brulle paper in my RSS reader. I hadn’t seen anyone cite the paper on this site so far (though I may have missed it). The timing is interesting as if I had gone to bed twenty minutes earlier, there’s no telling if I’d have seen it at all.

      And that’d mean I might not have got to point out how silly the paper is. If we use the definition of the “denial campaign” Brulle used in his paper, we have to conclude that James Hansen is a denier. I kid you not.

      Of course, Brulle doesn’t actually use the definition he claimed to use. He used some arbitrary and unspecified classification scheme which basically amounts to defining “deniers” as “people I don’t like.”

      It’d have been a shame. I was so flabbergasted by the absurdity of this paper I wrote the two posts linked to above. It’d have been a shame not to get such a great chance to share them.

    • R Gates,

      Why is it that sceptics who express similar sentiments to yours are dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”?
      Or, what is it that makes a politician somehow purer than a businessman?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “They do not influence me in the slightest and I take no notice whatsoever of what they say.

      I suspect that the vast majority of people do not consider them to be any sort of big player on the climate scene, especially those of us not from the US.

      I do agree however that activists have succeeded in demonising Heartland and as such it would be unwise for scientists to become associated with them.”
      ——-
      Heartland is of course a joke from a science perspective, and it’s too bad because I fully support honest attempts to refute the null hypothesis. This is the point of honest skepticism, and so unfortunately potentially useful resources are wasted on politically motivated “research”. This is exactly why the Muller’s Best temperature project is excellent and useful, even though initially funded by Koch money. It probably did not pan out quite the way the Koch boys hoped and they were not too happy with Muller.

    • David L. Hagen

      R. Gates
      You dismissal of Idso is an anti-scientific ad hominem attack unworthy of professional discussion. Idso summarizes, tabulates and gives the links to the original scientific evidence. You have contributed nothing but yellow journalistic bashing. Grow up. Address the science by the scientific method. As Peter pointed out, earth has been far more biomass productive during warm periods with higher CO2. Farmers would love moving higher up into Canada with all crops migrating accordingly. “Optimized for current conditions” is meaningless. Today’s 1st world farmers easily adjust crops according to temperature and rainfall. Contrast Finland losing a third of its population from a cold wave. Neumann, J.; Lindgrén, S. (1979). “Great Historical Events That Were Significantly Affected by the Weather: 4, The Great Famines in Finland and Estonia”. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 60 (7): pp775–787. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1979)0602.0.CO;2. ISSN 1520-0477.
      The alarmists currently have no validated models to suggest we can keep temperatures from descending into the next glaciation. Contrast radiation increases by T^4 while CO2 warming increase only by log CO2. Willis is showing clouds rapidly form as thermostatic control. Wake up to the real problems and major benefits to the 3 billion living on less than $2.50/day.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “You dismissal of Idso is an anti-scientific ad hominem attack unworthy of professional discussion.”
      ____
      This issue is one of choosing carefully who you take money from. Taking money from a clear advocacy group like Heartland taints you for life (or at least the life of your career). Idso’s research may or may not have merit as far as it goes. Characterizing my comments as ad hominem on Idso is completely in error, but feel free to read them as an attack on Heartland and their economic/political advocacy efforts. Unfortunately for Idso, either knowingly or unknowingly, his research will be forever dismissed by a wide audience of scientists.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “As Peter pointed out, earth has been far more biomass productive during warm periods with higher CO2. Farmers would love moving higher up into Canada with all crops migrating accordingly.”
      ____

      I am absolutely certain that to a point– read carefully- to a point– warmer and more CO2 does favor some species of plants– and even some of the species we rely on for food. I am also certain that some species that we rely on for food can be modified to adapt to warmer conditions if they are not otherwise naturally adaptable. Overall, from a biosphere standpoint, my bigger concerns are not with what might happen on land, but what is already starting to happen in the oceans, for the oceans is getting the lions share of the effects of anthropogenic emissions of GH gases, both in the warming and in the affects on the biome of the ocean:

      http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001682

      It is foolish to think we can allow the oceans to change so massively without huge impacts on the land biome. This is far more urgent than whether we can modify corn to grow in northern Canada.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Why is it that sceptics who express similar sentiments to yours are dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”?
      Or, what is it that makes a politician somehow purer than a businessman?”
      ______
      There is no conspiracy when businessmen want to support “research” that protects their economic interests. This is part of the political process in the U.S., for better or worse. Calling a process a “conspiracy” is extreme. Scientists who get involved in this motivated research best be careful, as their careers will be tainted by such association– but some don’t care, as money is more important than being recognized for excellence by their peers. Of course, now that corporations are classified as people, they can even more freely pass money to the politicians who support their economic interests. Money is the grease that keeps the machinery in D.C. moving along– for better or worse.

    • RGates

      Whilst it has its shortcomings, in general I agree with BEST.

      It shows the earth has been warming since 1750. By using CET however we can see its been warming for around a century longer than this (surely way before man could have had an influence?)

      http://judithcurry.com/2011/12/01/the-long-slow-thaw/

      It is unfortunate (but understandable) that the BEST rise is rather exaggerated through the use of 1750 as a start date-it is a a known cold period following the increasing warmth of the first few decades of the 18th century. This culminated in the 1730 decade being the warmest in the record until the 1990’s (which was warmer by only 0.3C) according to Phil Jones.

      CET temperatures during the last decade are now below those of the 1730 decade.

      My main criticism of BEST is that according to my conversation with Muller several years ago, some one third of the global temperature stations are cooling, and I am still hoping for a paper on this from him or his team exploring this.
      tonyb.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “…some one third of the global temperature stations are cooling.”
      ____
      I would be curious to see this list as well. A geographic location for these supposedly cooling stations would be useful, and correlating the period they are showing a cooling with the ocean temperatures during that cooling. Considering that ocean temperatures drive around 80% of the variability in land temperatures, then cooling station temperatures should correlate with cooler ocean source temperatures (at least ocean SST temperatures).

    • R Gates, but it’s conspiracy when politicians and activists want to support “research” that protects their political agendas, is it?

    • “supposedly cooling stations”

      ergo

      “supposedly warming stations”

      Andrew

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “R Gates, but it’s conspiracy when politicians and activists want to support “research” that protects their political agendas, is it?”
      ___
      Not at all. It’s the way “bidness” is done in the good ol’ USA. No conspiracy required. Corporations are people my friend…or haven’t you heard?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      ““supposedly cooling stations”

      ergo

      “supposedly warming stations”
      ______
      Yep, both are supposedly. Got that right. At some point it comes down to how likely the data is correct or how much you trust those who gather it. I tend to trust the Best data as well as those who gather and compile it– but even though I am a Warmist, I always could add the word “supposedly” in front of “a warming planet” since I am a skeptic on everything first and foremost, but that would just get tedious. At some point you have to go with what you think is most likely true.

    • Rgates

      Myself and a colleague did some work on cooling stations some 3 years ago

      http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/in-search-of-cooling-trends/

      This pre-dated Muller’s study, but he subsequently confirmed our estimate of a third of stations to be cooling was roughly correct. Of course, he might have identified different stations to us and we must put a caveat as to how strongly his stations were cooling, and over what period.

      In our study we only took those that would fulfil the definition of ‘climate,’ that is to say a trend lasting at least 30 years.
      tonyb

    • “I always could add the word “supposedly” in front of “a warming planet”

      I think in terms of objectivity, one should apply terms consistently where they apply. But like you said, you are a Warmist and this really isn’t about science.

      Andrew

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      That’s interesting Tony. I would love to see the set of stations from the Best data that showed cooling over a meaningful period. I would plot those against ocean SST trends in their corresponding source regions. This might be interesting. This get’s back to the inaccurate notion that energy added to the oceans is evenly spread around the oceans. It’s not. Some areas will show much more warming than others, and some areas could even show net cooling. It is the net energy being stored that matters. Those areas that show cooling possibly could correlate on some level as source regions for weather over the cooling land areas. Just a conjecture.

    • Rgates

      As you know CET is one of those stations that are cooling, but not for a climatically meaningful period.

      http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/

      its an interesting subject which i’m surprised has not been explored further. Although its very difficult to be definitive I suspect that during the MWP not everywhere was warming and during the LIA not everywhere was cooling. Whether the contra trend was around one third of the world or not I don’t know.

      tonyb

    • R Gates, if some areas are warming more than others then surely that would have been measured? If so, why don’t you quote the actual figures instead of banging on about the relatively nebulous OHC?

    • tony

      “This pre-dated Muller’s study, but he subsequently confirmed our estimate of a third of stations to be cooling was roughly correct. Of course, he might have identified different stations to us and we must put a caveat as to how strongly his stations were cooling, and over what period.”

      Wrong.

      First you have to understand why and how the distribution of trends was constructed.

      “A straightforward way to gain insight into the temperature trends
      associated with the stations in very-rural locations is a station trend
      analysis. We apply a very simple procedure in which a straight line is
      fit (using least squares minimization) to the temperature record for
      each station; the slope of this line is called the temperature trend for
      that station. The distribution of these trends can then be examined.
      For the purposes of this simple analysis, we do not consider whether
      any individual trend is statistically significant. In fact, we expect
      many trends are driven primarily by statistical fluctuations and
      noise, but by looking at such trends in the aggregate we can yield
      some basic insights about the population of station time series from
      which they are derived. A primary limitation of the trend analysis is
      that it is an average over stations and time, not an average over the
      true land distribution of the Earth or the distribution of recording
      stations though time. Nevertheless, this technique has the advantage
      of simplicity, and it illustrates important features of the temperature
      record that are key to understanding the inherent difficulty in
      detecting a UHI bias signal: the UHI bias, while real, may be small
      relative to other variations in station data and thus difficult to
      distinguish from noise”

      Next

      “The dispersion is larger in the
      records of short duration, but even in the stations with records longer
      than 30 years 24% have negative trends.”

      We also looked at the US. In the US we looked at stations that had at least 70 years of data. That could be 1850 to 1920. 1920 to 1990, 1900 to 1970.

      Here we found a ratio of 2:1. or 1/3

      There are important caveats you continue to ignore.

      1. The data we used for this is un corrected. That is if you look at the cooling stations They are all located in the midwest. Further they are all stations that have changed location or changed time of observation.
      Changing location consists of moving the station from the city to the rural suburbs. The tobs changes introduced a cooling bias.

      2. When you select the stations that share a common time frame the 33% drops.

      3. When yourequire that stations have complete records ( no missing months) the number drops below 10%

      4. When you split station records after station moves and TOBS changes… you get what physics tells you should happen. no islands of cooling.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “Although its very difficult to be definitive I suspect that during the MWP not everywhere was warming and during the LIA not everywhere was cooling. ”
      ____
      I also suspect that could be the case. Ocean source regions for both sensible, but more importantly, latent heat are critical for land temperatures as you know. The oceans don’t all cool or all warm at once, and this unequal nature will impact the land areas unequally. I posted this just now related to the AMO and the LIA:

      http://judithcurry.com/2013/12/24/open-thread-3/#comment-430771

      Yep, it comes back to volcanoes and their effects on the AMO. Sorry….

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “When you split station records after station moves and TOBS changes… you get what physics tells you should happen. no islands of cooling.”
      ____
      Ah, so false alarm then. All areas are warming, but some are warming even faster. And the resultant strong case for long-term anthropogenic forcing.

    • Mosh

      So there are no islands of cooling including CET?

      If we find any will you reexamine your physics?
      Tonyb

    • Rgates

      Let’s get this right. The world is slightly warmer than during the little ice age. Is that the start date that mosh is setting?

      350 years of a generally warming climate? And within that there are no places that demonstrate cooling that is worthy of comment, whether for an intriguing period, say a dozen years, or a statistically meaningful time of 30 years?
      Tonyb

    • Quite. If you toss the cooling stations, you have fewer cooling stations. lol

      Andrew

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “350 years of a generally warming climate? And within that there are no places that demonstrate cooling that is worthy of comment, whether for an intriguing period, say a dozen years, or a statistically meaningful time of 30 years?”
      ___
      Don’t get me wrong…I wish there was. It is the exceptions that we honest skeptics look for, right? It helps to refute or alter the “truths” we hold as provisionally true.

    • This comment by Steven Mosher made me laugh:

      The data we used for this is un corrected. That is if you look at the cooling stations They are all located in the midwest. Further they are all stations that have changed location or changed time of observation.

      Remember folks, there are no cooling stations anywhere except the midwest. Not a one!

  21. Rigorous adherence to the basic principles of the scientific method protects scientists from many moral dilemmas.

    Unfortunately that is not the path to a well-funded research career.

    • Stop me if I’m telling you what to do but I think you need to step away from the Golden Age that never existed and engage in the debate with a wider set of arguments

    • We all tend to selectively discover what we are looking for. Thebasic principles of the scientific method shield us from self-deception, e.g., cherry-picking data.

  22. “[P]retending a single squiggly line adequately represents climate somewhere raises moral problems that cannot be easily dismissed.” -Bad Andrew

  23. The part of the post concerning an attempt to eliminate poverty around the world seems very presumptuous. So does preserving the current climate for that matter. Who do these people think they are? They seem to have an inflated ego if they think anyone, society, or group of countries can solve any of these complex problems. They carry on discussing the “morality” of this or that course of action as if they control the world.

    This is nothing but pure hubris.

    The only reason China, for example, is climbing out of poverty is due to the government there. It isn’t due to some high-minded group from the UN or from some university. It is because the government is trying to help citizens become prosperous because they are afraid of another revolution – but this time it will be their skins drying in the Sun. They are slowly giving their citizen freedom and introducing free markets.

    The progression from poverty has nothing to do with PhDs writing a high sounding paper. Pathetic.

  24. The dilemma here is for the information received by the ‘Policy Makers’.

    An ‘incomplete analysis’ can render a ‘policy decision’ down to the ‘toss of a coin’ for their ‘decision making mechanism’!

    However, ‘policy makers’ have a ‘primary duty’ to make policy that ‘protects the current electorate’ (future generations of ‘the electorate’ are of a ‘secondary priority’), thus, I don’t understand why/how policy makers can come to a decision that tries to ‘mitigate’ climate change (when anthropogenic influence is so ‘low’) when a process of ‘adaptation’ would be more easily/cheaply applicable for a population undergoing an ‘inexorable change’. :)

    Best regards, Ray Dart.

  25. The only reason this philospher sees a moral delimma is because of a fundamental misunderstanding(?) of what constitues a code of morality. She sees moraility as “duties” and if that were true then she indeed has identified a ‘moral delimma’. However, morality is a code of values directing ones life choices and by definition has to be voluntarily chosen. The concept duty does not appear anywhere in the definition of morality. Where there is no choice there can be no morality. Duties are not matters of choice – they are commandments (ignoring here who or what issued the commandments).
    Ayn Rand identified this as a stolen concept – meaning the author is using the concept (morality) to undermine or deny the actual concept – and it therefore must be rejected. Failing to identify the real nature of the concept of morality (turning it into a “fuzzy/ambigious” concept is why our society is in such a moral “mess” today.

    • David L. Hagen

      Ken Re “The concept duty does not appear anywhere in the definition of morality”
      There are multiple meanings of “duty”.

      noun
      noun: duty; plural noun: duties
      1. a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility.
      “it’s my duty to uphold the law”
      synonyms: responsibility, obligation, commitment; More
      allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, homage
      “she was free of any duty”
      (of a visit or other undertaking) done from a sense of moral obligation rather than for pleasure.
      modifier noun: duty
      “a fifteen-minute duty visit”
      2. a task or action that someone is required to perform.
      “the queen’s official duties”
      synonyms: job, task, assignment, mission, function, charge, place, role, responsibility, obligation; More

      See James 1:27

      Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

      Such moral duty to care for widows and orphans is foundational to the Judeo-Christian Civilization undergirding most of the West.
      The primary failure of the IPCC etc. is bypassing all discussion of the numerous global issues, and insisting the only option is to “mitigate climate change”. This demands that we place preservation of the current state of climate as absolute above all – with little regard for the numerous other important humanitarian issues, especially affecting the 3 billion poor living on less than $2.50/day.
      I join with the authors who object to”this preempting of the moral debate”.
      As such I hold the IPCC and those demanding “mitigation” to be acting immorally by short circuiting debate and demanding that everyone kow tow to their narrow religious/extreme environmental belief. The IPCC is acting directly contrary to the moral foundation of the West.
      Contrast the Copenhagen Consensus which addresses a much wider range of issues. Similarly the Cornwall Alliance seriously addresses the needs of the poor as well as taking a realistic look at the severe weaknesses and very poor skill of climate models in predicting temperature trends. e.g. > 95% wrong – too hot – over 34 years.

  26. John Robertson

    The problem of morally reacting to a belief?
    How about asking yourself;
    “But is it true?”
    After all the public treasure squandered on this CAGW belief, is it not time to put up some evidence.
    The correlation of imaginary global temperature to manmade emissions of CO2, is not looking too good.
    Over 20 years have been wasted chasing this illusion.
    Why should any taxpayer have any mercy on those involved?
    You were mistaken?Or you were profiteering?Neither matters when the bill comes due.

  27. I quote “A crucial issue is to adequately incorporate into this framework the uncertainties associated with the predicted consequences of climate change on the well-being of future generations.”

    There are no valid “predicted consequences of climate change”. By selecting this subject for discussion, once again our hostess is showing that her “uncertainty monster” only covers the uncertainty as to how much damage is done by the certainty that CAGW is real. It does not cover the near certainty that CAGW is a hoax.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      ” It does not cover the near certainty that CAGW is a hoax.”
      —-
      Caution: your belief system is showing. No skeptical retreat in that statement, or are you just 99.99% sure that CAGW is a hoax?

    • R. Gates you write ” or are you just 99.99% sure that CAGW is a hoax?”

      Yes.

  28. Two questions of fact:
    A) Has harm to civilization or Nature ever occurred due to excessive warming?
    B) Has harm to civilization or Nature ever occurred due to excessive cooling?

    If the answers are No and Yes respectively (they are), is it then moral or sane to spend much, much less all, of our available economic and scientific resources on fending off A?

    • does a forest fire or toasty volcano count?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      So these really aren’t “questions” as much as your attempt to illuminate us with your preordained opinion. Why don’t you go do a bit of research on the great extinction events on this planet and come back and tell us the real answers to those questions.

    • My gut tells me that all extreme conditions are going to stress a system that is tuned to the median conditions, that is going to ‘harm’ some features of that system/. But that the biome and human society have a certain plasticity or resilience or heterogeneity to cope with a lot. The fact that life has survived 2 billion years seems testimony to that. My gut feeling is that the stress imposed in the next century from climate change is far less than the great extinction events.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “My gut feeling is that the stress imposed in the next century from climate change is far less than the great extinction events.”

      Well, let’s hope your “gut” feeling is smarter than the hundreds of scientists who are telling us that our biggest biome, the ocean, is in huge trouble. Because as the oceans go, so goes the rest.

    • @HR

      “My gut feeling is that the stress imposed in the next century from climate change is far less than the great extinction events.”

      My gut feeling is that the stress imposed in the next century from climate change will pale into insignificance in comparison to the stress imposed by the political atrocities imposed upon us using climate change mitigation as an excuse.

    • HR;
      No. They happen independent of warming.
      RG;
      When was that harmful historical warming precedent, again? I missed the dates.

    • The harmful warming precedent was the Permian-Triassic extinction or the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Both had large increases in GHGs with some effect of that in the ocean too.

    • @ RGaSW

      ” ……….our biggest biome, the ocean, is in huge trouble.”

      That may well be true, but if it is, it is not because ACO2 has driven its average temperature up by a few hundredths of a degree.

    • Was it smart to go with all the new ‘plastic’ nets we made in the sixties?

    • Tom, I am shocked! The former USSR violating UNtopian treaties and attempting to blackmail Japan into financing the next violation? Next thing you know China will be blackmailing the ROW into financing cleaning up their coal power which already has scrubbers. Haven’t all nations signed up for the global Kumbya my Giai convention?

      On a more serious note, 10% of the global river outflow is into the Arctic Ocean and a lot of that flows through the former USSR and China who are a tad lax on EPA style regulation. Waste and the oceans is one of those “real” problems that deserves “real” solutions.

      http://www.waste-management-world.com/articles/2013/06/prototype-plasma-system-for-nuclear-waste-vitrification-wins-gov.html

      Then maybe we should work on solar powered solutions since they sound neat and forget about the ocean cesspit.

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “” ……….our biggest biome, the ocean, is in huge trouble.”

      That may well be true, but if it is, it is not because ACO2 has driven its average temperature up by a few hundredths of a degree.”
      _____
      Anyone who thinks this is how the additional stored energy in the ocean is being distributed is ignorant of basic ocean currents and processes. It would be wonderful if it was, but that’s not how it works, unfortunately.

    • R Gates, then why don’t you tell us how it works, exactly how that 10^22 joules manifests itself?
      Or don’t you know?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      “R Gates, then why don’t you tell us how it works, exactly how that 10^22 joules manifests itself?”

      —-
      That would be approximately 0.5 x 10^22 joules per year down to 2000m over the past 25 years at least. Seems the deeper oceans are retaining even more energy, which is in keeping with this being an outflow slowdown, not an inflow of energy increase. Exactly as we would expect as GH gases increase.

    • R Gates:

      That would be approximately 0.5 x 10^22 joules per year down to 2000m over the past 25 years at least.

      So, in other words, in the same order as the few hundredths of a degree which you derided so much.
      If you have data on the distribution of heat in the oceans then why not share it with us.

    • …and, if detailed data on ocean temperature distribution do not exist, then exactly where did the 0.5 x 10^22 joules per year down to 2000m over the past 25 years come from?

    • From the sun.

    • JCH, as you obviously missed it, the question was, how was it measured in the apparent absence of detailed data?

    • Beth, thanks for the Ridley link, one to cite as required.

  29. My gut tells me that all extreme conditions are going to stress a system that is tuned to the median conditions, that is going to ‘harm’ some features of that system/. But that the biome and human society have a certain plasticity or resilience or heterogeneity to cope with a lot. The fact that life has survived 2 billion years seems testimony to that. My gut feeling is that the stress imposed in the next century from climate change is far less than the great extinction events.

    • Extreme? Even 4° would barely get us back to the Minoan optimum, when civilization first boomed. We’re just coming off the “extreme” lower bounds of the whole Holocene.

    • 4 degrees? Try 0.4 degrees for the Holocene global average maximum.

    • Ya, sorry, I was thinking of the Pleistocene maximum, about 5 mya. Before the recent nasty glaciations.

  30. Judith I think its interesting if you put together the issue of being “silent” with the issue of pretending that climate change is the only issue we have to address.

    In other words, I havent see Hansen or Gavin say anything about the education of poor women and what that will do to curb population growth and future emissions. Is their silence on this matter advocacy for the status quo?

    Good post Im glad to see other folks raising moral dilemmas. In the past those of us who have have been called sociopaths for daring to suggest that obligations to living might outweigh obligations to the unborn or future generations.

    • Somebody spotted the open goal with no goalkeeper in it.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Steven Mosher: Judith I think its interesting if you put together the issue of being “silent” with the issue of pretending that climate change is the only issue we have to address.

      good linkage there, so to speak. Well said.

      I read most of your posts: agree or disagree, I find them worth reading.

    • The simple truth is that if you want to realise the potential in every human being then we probably gotta conrete over more area, clear more natural areas. spread further industrialization and provide peeps with more energy. Which misanthrope wants to put people first in this way. which caring progressive is going to stand up for consumption in an anti-consummerist world. At the heart they don’t want this stuff so why they going to campaign on it.

      Mosher just to be clear poor women get access to education just because they should not to curb brown baby production, right. What they do with their reproductive systems is their business. I;m wondering what to think if the principle of my daughters school said the prime aim of all this is to stop your daughter having babies,

    • Well stated, HR.

    • Ever wonder why back in the 1980s Oprah had so many women doctors from Afghanistan on her show?

    • “Ever wonder why back in the 1980s Oprah had so many women doctors from Afghanistan on her show?”

      Was it a fetish? Tell me more.

    • Well, it’s a poor country where men oppress women. They kill girls if they go to school. And Oprah kept having all these women doctors from Afghanistan on her show. Not just one or two, there was an entire organization of them. Before all our wisdom had arrived on the scene, they went to medical school. They had been driven out by the Taliban, who took over after we drove out the Russians. They were trying to get us to free their country from the Taliban.

      And they really do kill them. When my wife drilled for oil in Algeria there was a civil war going on between the men we trained in Afghanistan and the existing government. They set up a road block and stopped a bus full of what we would call junior high girls. They wired their hands behind their backs and slit their throats. Around 50 girls. Fortunately the French were covertly involved and they helped the Algerian government kill a large number of the men we trained in Afghanistan. The French are, sort of unknown to the world, nasty little sobs.

    • > In other words, I havent see Hansen or Gavin say anything about the education of poor women and what that will do to curb population growth and future emissions. Is their silence on this matter advocacy for the status quo?

      I thought the accepted opinion was that we should educate poor women. Do we have a counter-movement similar to climate contrarianism regarding third-world education? One does not simply reach Mordor by equivocating on “status quo”.

      Besides, would educating poor women amount to mitigation, adaptation, or geoengineering? If mitigates our dumping of CO2, Stocker might have been stealthily advocating for educating poor women. How dare he be a stealth advocate for anything good that could come out of mitigation!

      Perhaps all these considerations are academic until we get a full-blown cost-benefit analysis of educating poor women. Malaria is quite important to tackle, and that’s notwithstanding the food and water crises around the world. God knows we would not like to kill people to satisfy Hans Rosling’s desiderata.

      [Insert your favorite football metaphor.]

    • Hmm, yes,malaria.

      Haven’t seen Judith say anything about malaria, and what it is doing to curb population growth, so I guess Judith’s silence is advocating for the status quo. Is this mitigation too?

    • Generalizing I think the right see foriegn policy for what it is, naked self interest and like it that way. Thats true whether deciding to intervene or not. The left in recent times has undergone a shift, going from generally critical opposition to now often being at the forefront for the calls to intervene. Womens rights being high up there as one of the leading rally cries. While not liking the rights agenda you’ve got to acknowledge their honesty. The left seems to need new lesons in what self-determination really means.

    • My economics professor was an interesting dude. He grew up on a farm in the rural United States of America. The farm did not have electricity, and to get to town all they had was a little dirt road. They drank artesian water, which is awful chit. Back then men were doctors and women, the ones that didn’t have a real man at home, were nurses. They had these little one-room schools. Some Americans wanted to rectify this by building modern roads and stringing wires and pipes out to their farm. They wanted to bus the kids to big schools in the towns. But a lot of Americans opposed this. Leading the charge in opposition were the utility companies and the wise businessmen from the cities. Now those farms full of families are almost all gone. A lot of the schools are closed, and the districts consolidated. One guy with a bunch of million-dollar machines can do all that they did.

      So now these companies and business leaders want to string wires and roads and build schools for all the huts in Africa. Then those poor people will have these morons all up in their lives. It’s kind of funny. I wake up every morning and get to laugh at this cartoon, and, other than the 36% that goes to the IRS, its free entertainment.

    • “I thought the accepted opinion was that we should educate poor women. Do we have a counter-movement similar to climate contrarianism regarding third-world education? ”

      Accepted opinion? where by whom?

      You see the problem with saying that silence is advocating the status quo, is that there is no status quo. I’m silent about carbon tax. Does that mean I accept the status quo of British Columbia? China? The US.?

      You guys made this silence is assent argument, deal with it.

    • Richard

      ‘Somebody spotted the open goal with no goalkeeper in it.”

      They make arguments of expediency. They lack principles and integrity. And truth be told every system has either an open goal at its heart or a bald faced contradiction. just find the loose thread and pull it.

    • If I have seen fur, it is because I’m always picking it off my coat.
      ================

    • Better; …always picking it off my shoulders.
      =======

    • Mosher
      I havent see Hansen or Gavin say anything about the education of poor women and what that will do to curb population growth and future emissions. Is their silence on this matter advocacy for the status quo?

      No, since they aren’t known for their work in those other fields.

  31. how to balance duties towards future generations against duties towards our contemporaries

    Is this moral dilemma new? Offhand, I cannot think of any time something in the past has been done purely for the benefits of future generations. Some things were not done because they could not do them. Some things were saved for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Are there any example of one whole generation of society (bigger than a family scale) making huge sacrifices for future generations? (I don’t think wars count).

    • This was no doubt due to inadequate leaders like Winston Churchill (as quoted here):

      The duty of government is first and foremost to be practical. I am for makeshifts and expediency. I would like to make the people who live on this world at the same time as I do better fed and happier generally. If incidentally I benefit posterity – so much the better – but I would not sacrifice my own generation to a principle however high or a truth however great.

      The strange thing being, some of us in the UK would argue he achieved quite a lot for future generations. We might be having the argument in German otherwise and all that. Perhaps those who deal well with the challenges of the present are best placed to achieve this also? Sufficient to the day are the troubles thereof.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Diag: (I don’t think wars count).

      Why?

      Parents generally make considerable sacrifices for the futures of their children, and whole cohorts do this by funding churches, schools, infrastructure, medical research and (yes) armies. But why your adjective “purely”? Adults always have mixed motives about everything. Why insist on purity in this area of life?

    • This is the crux of why it is so hard to do mitigation of any effective kind. Nothing will be seen of the effects for a generation or two, and even then no bad effects of climate change is hardly a tangible reward when you say we protected them against what might have been. On the other hand, disastrous (or, can I say, catastrophic) climate effects will lead to cursing of this generation for not doing anything effective when they could have.

    • Altruism exists for individuals, families, and perhaps tribes. But are there any examples on a larger scale of one generation’s self-sacrifice for the benefit of future generations? I added ‘purely’ because if there is a pay-back in a shorter time frame then it is not clear whether the sacrifice would have been made if only the future generations benefited. If there is not a big immediate threat, sacrifice is a hard sell. Do it for the polar bears; do it for your grandchildren; do it for the poor women in Africa. Causes like this are seen as noble and get lots of support — up to the point where people have to start paying.

    • “Altruism exists for individuals, families, and perhaps tribes. But are there any examples on a larger scale of one generation’s self-sacrifice for the benefit of future generations? ”

      The Crusades.
      Defending homeland from invasion- wars in general.
      WWII and the Cold War.

    • Are wars the only examples? I discount them as more self-interest than for the interests of future generations, although third-party nations rescuing their friends (but not some others) is certainly heroic.

      The crusades. Good point, that was a noble cause at the time (Wikipedia points out now that it was very tarnished). Holy wars might be the best example of how to motivate a population to act against its own real interests.

  32. “The first thing a man will do for his ideal is lie” ― Joseph A. Schumpeter
    If a scientist sincerely believes that inaction would be disastrous, will he lie by exaggerating what he knows? Ought he to do so?

    • Not if his ideal is honesty and integrity. Schumpeter was presumably talking about those whose attachment to their ideal overrode other considerations. One of my own ideals is freedom from attachment, which resolves that.

  33. Matthew R Marler

    It looks like a good paper. Thanks for the link.

  34. > Putting the cart before the horse, i.e. presupposing a moral obligation before all the steps of the cost-benefit analysis have been carried out, also seems to adversely affect the science itself.

    Either we put the cart before the horse or resurrect the linear model.

    Which horn should we choose?

  35. Chief Hydrologist

    ‘Specifically, most donor countries have fallen below the target assistance rate of 0.7 percent of gross national income — the amount that UN analysis indicates is needed to fulfill all MDGs, and while some donors are surpassing their commitments, several that lagged behind are cutting back further. (The United States, for example, is the largest donor, but its contribution decreased 2.8 percent from 2011 to 2012.) As a whole, core donor countries allocated only 0.29 percent of their gross national income to assistance in 2012.’

    http://passblue.com/2013/09/25/money-sorely-lags-to-meet-millennium-development-goals-deadline/

    http://www.statisticbrain.com/countries-that-give-the-most-in-foreign-aid-statistics/

    As a whole the MDG are sound development principles – and if you think that they aren’t intimately related to climate and environmental objectives – think again.

    http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview/

    In my book – morality includes delivering on commitments that were freely entered into.

    • Chief “In my book – morality includes delivering on commitments that were freely entered into.”

      I guess that depends on what you mean by delivering. Direct US foreign aid as a percentage of GPD is about negligible because most US foreign non-military aid is through private organizations. Since private donations are tax deductible, it is US foreign aid just not in a neat tidy accounting column. One of the MDG goals was reducing the number of people making below $1 per day. By shooting our economy in the foot the dollar is worth about 60% of what it was, bingo! that goal got met. Of course trying to meet “other” UN inspired sustainability goals related to AGW kind of screwed grain prices, but had the UN set real goals instead of picking some arbitrary monetary goal linked to US dollars the results would be different.

      The number of AIDS/HIV patients in treatment goal was met, but had the goal had been reducing the number of people needing AIDS?HIV treatment the results would have been different. The number of mosquito nets delivered has been met, but had the goal been reduction areas needing mosquito nets been the goal, the results would have been different.

      If you judge morality on government outlay meeting poorly defined “international” guidelines instead actual results, I think you have hit on the problem with “UNtopian” governance.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      If we include private US philanthropy from all sources – and exclude remittances and private capital flows – the total is 0.45% of GDP. Private philanthropy is far from unique to the US – nor is tax deductibiltiy of donations.

      See Table 1 – http://www.hudson.org/files/documents/2013IndexofGlobalPhilanthropyandRemittances.pdf

      “To spread a vision of hope, the United States is determined to help
      nations that are struggling with poverty. We are committed to the
      millennium development goals. This is an ambitious agenda that
      includes cutting poverty and hunger in half, ensuring that every boy
      and girl in the world has access to primary education, and halting the
      spread of aids – all by 2015.” President George W. Bush,

      http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDACL239.pdf

      Donor country aid is of course not controlled by the UN but by individual countries. Your response – Capt – seems more a series of quibbles than a substantive argument that the US has done what it signed up to.

    • Chief, Net economic engagement amounts to ~1.8 % of GDP.

      http://www.forbes.com/2008/12/24/america-philanthropy-income-oped-cx_ee_1226eaves.html

      While charity isn’t a US only kind of thing, we do have plenty of guilt ridden over achieves and religious types to be pretty effective at it. So depending on how you do the accounting, the more “socialized” nations can the big givers or possibly not.

      I am all for changing the accounting methods myself.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      You are including remittances and private equity. This is not focused development aid – as important as it is to economies and individuals. My wife comes from Papua New Guinea – a beautiful little island way off the coast. She sends money home all the time does it all the time – sometimes it is even for school fees.

      Shall we include US agricultural subsides in the other column?

      The phases dead horses and flogging come to mind.

    • Chief, “You are including remittances and private equity. This is not focused development aid – as important as it is to economies and individuals.”

      No, but remittances to Mexico, Cuba and several central American countries are nothing to sneeze at. The largest portion is religious charities that have been involved in ending hunger for quite a few decades. That is actually the biggest accounting problem with the US foreign aid, they do what they have been doing and that is not included. There is also the African, Caribbean and South American Growth and Development Initiatives, that started prior to MDG. AIDS/HIV “treatment” was one thing not well funded prior to Bush, probably the reason that was highlighted. AIDS/HIV prevention was a priority fairly early though with Bush planning to focus foreign policy on Africa prior to his election. Lots of issues on how best to do that, but he did give it a shot.

      Then the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has targeted malaria elimination instead of control raising quite a bit of money besides their own. Keeping track of US charities is a bit like herding the climate science cats.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      You obviously didn’t bother looking at Table 1 – http://www.hudson.org/files/documents/2013IndexofGlobalPhilanthropyandRemittances.pdf

      Noble narratives about Bill Gates not withstanding.

    • Chief, the ~1.8% estimate I made is based on table one, Forbes came up with 1.85%. Though I did miss that table includes declared remittances where I was considering the undeclared remittances which are nothing to sneeze at.

      The MDG goal is 0.71 percent of GNI which is close to US GDP. So where again has the great Satan gipped the poor old ROW again?

    • Chief Hydrologist

      That table includes remittences and private capital capital flows. Don’t most remittances go via wire transfer and bank to bank transfers. This is monitored closely – mostly to combat money laundering and tax evasion.

      It is still a dog of an argument Capt.

    • Chief, “That table includes remittences and private capital capital flows. Don’t most remittances go via wire transfer and bank to bank transfers. This is monitored closely – mostly to combat money laundering and tax evasion.

      It is still a dog of an argument Capt.”

      Right, those would be traceable or declared remittances where I was referring to the untraceable or undeclared remittances like when Alphonso my MexiCAN buddy sends his $600 month home to the fam. Under $10,000 per transaction is under the radar.

      It is nice to know how worthless we are in the States though :(

    • Chief Hydrologist

      In Australia there is threshold reporting for amounts greater than $10,000 – part of the international cooperation on money laundering.

      http://www.austrac.gov.au/rg_9.html#ttr

      But smaller amounts are tracked – and data mined for suspicious patterns.

      In the US there seems an increase in formal as opposed to informal transfers. Quite a lot from Illinois it seems.

      http://elibrary.worldbank.org/doi/pdf/10.1596/0-8213-6087-6

      Getting defensive about the US not living up to it’s declarations? I can tell you that Australia is in the same boat.

    • Chief, Most of the data mining had been with “suspect” nations. Since the US postal service started offering Latin American wire service, Dinero seguro, there seems to have better estimates but I have seen ranges from 25 billion to 125 billion.

      As far as worried about the US not holding up its end, not really, results is what matters not what some pinhead UNoffical thinks. Besides, we have our own fat starving kids to worry about.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      There are many sources for dirty money – and the country focus you refer to is related to terrorist financing.

      You may not agree with the policy – immaterial – the moral shortfall arises from signing a cheque you have no intention of honouring.

      http://iif.un.org/content/un-target-oda-united-states

      Stand up and definitively reject the ODA (the definition of which does not include other sources) commitment – change it – reduce it – whatever.

      Draw your own conclusions.

      http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/USAid_zps6d484520.png.html

      http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/157097.pdf

      Have a look as well at the type of aid provided and for what purposes.

    • Chief, USAID is not the primary MDG funding source. It is tailored to security and disaster relief more than anything else. Here is an Obummer quote, “President Obama (Dec. 2): “Today, I’m proud to announce that we’ve not only reached our goal, we’ve exceeded our treatment target. So we’ve helped 6.7 million people receive lifesaving treatment.” Why would he say that?

      http://www.state.gov/s/gac/

      Aids is in the state department budget under PEPFAR. The US has the most screwed up tax and budget system in the world and we appear to be damn proud of it. Unfortunately, the UNintelligent pinheads think USAID is the MDG “budget. You can’t cure stupid.

      USAID came to be in 1961 under Kennedy and it mission to to provide technical support, disaster relief, poverty relief, some clandestine geopolitical assistance and “Socioeconomic development

      To help low-income nations achieve self-sustaining socioeconomic development, USAID assists them in improving management of their own resources. USAID’s assistance for socioeconomic development centers on providing technical advice, training, scholarships, commodities, and financial assistance. Through grants and contracts, USAID mobilizes the technical resources of the private sector, other USG agencies, universities, and NGOs to participate in this assistance.

      Programs of the various types above frequently reinforce one another. The Foreign Assistance Act requires USAID to use funds appropriated for geopolitical purposes (“Economic Support Funds”) to support socioeconomic development to the maximum extent possible.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Agency_for_International_Development

      It is a cold war era clearing house not the heart and soul of US foreign aid.

      In the MDG is the “improve economic conditions i.e. decrease the less than $1 a day ROW “poor”. The African, Caribbean and South American Growth and Opportunity Acts stimulated about 100 billion a year towards that goal. That is still not a part of USAID which is still the only thing the UNintelliegent pinheads list toward our 0.7% goal.

      Excluding remittances, the US was right at the 0.7% until investments in ROW started to decrease.

      I think this is a great example of why the US should never “sign” a UN agreement, just do as we have always done, give as we see a need. If the UN can’t figure out the net benefit they can kiss our rosy, white and blue arse or hire a new accountant.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ODA was chosen as the metric because of the difficulties and inconsistencies is tracing other flows.

      The numbers are quite clear – as in the numbers from your Congressional Research Office. Has it ever come anywhere near 0.7%? This nothing to do with the UN – budgets are determined annually in the Congress, administered independently by the US government and commitments freely made.

      http://s1114.photobucket.com/user/Chief_Hydrologist/media/USAid_zps6d484520.png.html

      ‘Development assistance, which comprises on average less than 1% of the annual federal budget of the United States, serves simultaneously as a component of national security strategy, a tool to promote U.S. commercial interests, and a
      global expression of American values. As with other
      aspects of foreign policy, U.S. development assistance programs and policies are implemented in a complex global environment. The United States is one of dozens of countries and multilateral financial institutions providing such aid, together with non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
      and foundations, and alongside private financial flows to developing countries from investors, international corporations, and diaspora communities. Donors and investors work in overlapping spheres in the developing world, each with their own practices and agenda. Improved
      coordination of these efforts, many experts argue, would result in greater efficiency and effectiveness in meeting global development objectives.’

      Keep your cash for God’s sake – God knows you need every cent – but be upfront. ‘Guys – we have a $17 trillion dollar debt and growing into the foreseeable future beause our spending exceeds our tax receipts by quite a lot. So you can see we are broke. Please send whatever you can.’ Make out the check (US spelling) to Jim2.

      Of course most of the world – heaven forbid that I would think such a thing – thinks the only heads up your red, white and blue arses are your own. .

    • Chief, “Keep your cash for God’s sake – God knows you need every cent – but be upfront.”

      LOL, you should get a job with the UN :)

      Ever heard of MMC? http://www.mcc.gov/

      How about the Center for Global Development?

      http://www.cgdev.org/blog/foreign-aid-congress-five-contradictions

      Then there is PEPFAR, http://www.avert.org/pepfar.htm

      That brings it up to the 0.41 % including NGO etc.

      Then there are trade initiatives, which would require another link inspiring moderation. Over 0.7%

      USAID was already taken for the prop up tyrants and look good for global PR campaigns. The OAD does not apply.

      The US invented the department of redundancy department but we can gladly stay out of things if it gets too confusing :)

    • Trade initiatives, http://www.ustr.gov/trade-topics/trade-development/preference-programs/african-growth-and-opportunity-act-agoa

      “At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), allow virtually all marketable goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.”

      That is the US equivalent of teaching the guy to fish. So far Africa has mainly gone the oil/commodities route but the “other” percentage is increasing.

      http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/economic_studies/whats_driving_africas_growth

      If y’all can do better, knock yerself out.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      1. Foreign aid must support national security, but don’t give it to anyone who doesn’t like us. Republicans and Democrats alike say foreign aid must support national security interests. But more often than not, someone will also say the United States should not give aid anywhere there is hostility to the United States (this came from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) yesterday, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard the sentiment, nor will it be the last). But how can the United States use aid to improve national security if it only gives it in places already wholly supportive of the United States?

      2. Cut foreign aid spending, but not on x. Reducing federal spending is the name of the game on Capitol Hill. Everyone wants to see cuts as long as it isn’t in their preferred sector or country or initiative. The debate between the administration and Congress on priorities is part of the process. But the attempt to please everyone results in a little bit of money in a lot of places and often not much to show in the way of results which, it turns out, isn’t in anyone’s interest.

      3.You are responsible, but who is in charge? Hearings are designed to conduct oversight; government witnesses are expected to defend their budgets, programs and results. But as Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) asked yesterday, “Who is in charge of development in the world?” Is it Defense? State? USAID? MCC? And if almost all of the aid budget is pre-allocated to presidential initiatives and congressional directives, how responsible is any agency head for overall spending choices or changes?

      4. Brand it, damn it. The last time I heard so much about branding US foreign assistance with the American flag, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) were in charge of the House International Relations Committee. It was back in full force last week. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) called for a “big flag on the bag” and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) echoed the call. There are benefits to well-marked aid (in response to humanitarian emergencies, for example). But there are times when brand competition (between US government agencies and multiple NGOs and/or contractors) is just silly and other times the flag is counter-productive or dangerous to the people running the programs and receiving the benefits (think democracy and human rights programs or food aid in Syria; see also contradiction number 1 above). My former colleague Ruth Levine says to rebrand America, unbrand aid.

      5. 85 percent of constituents want to cut foreign aid; 15 percent approve of Congress. Even when foreign aid budgets were growing and the United States was creating new agencies like the MCC and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, I’d sit in conversations with congressional staff who would say “you know I care about these issues, but they really don’t sell in my district”. Today, I hear it in starker terms, like “the only area Americans agree we should cut from the federal budget is foreign aid” (Americans also think foreign aid makes up 25 percent of the federal budget and think it should be more like 10 percent, but it’s really closer to one percent). Yesterday, it was Rep. Yoho who said 85 percent of the people in his district want to end foreign aid. Rep. Gerald Connelly (D-VA) said he hears this all the time at town hall meetings. I can’t help but think congressional approval is also 15 percent. Maybe we can set aside numbers that don’t really tell us very much and get on with things?

      http://www.ustr.gov/trade-topics/trade-development/preference-programs/african-growth-and-opportunity-act-agoa

      Free trade is always good. You should try it sometime.

      Much as I have learned form this – thank you – it is time to call it quits.

  36. Nothing quite like hearing about morality and science. But which “morality” is really the topic? Financial morality where your moral stature is based on the bucks you have? Humanitarian morality where you force people to conform to your view? Gaia morality where you where you sacrifice humanity to preserve mythology? Is legislating morality back in vogue? Who is the new Morality high priest(ess)?

  37. There is in fact a deep contest among the problems in the policy process itself. The problems compete for attention, legislation and funding. That each cause’s advocates only advocate for their cause does not change this fact.The multi-problem cost benefit analysis takes place in a highly distributed decision system, perhaps analogous to a neural network in its functioning. Thus the authors are wrong.

    Also the trans-generational debate is very alive in the econ lit, where it is focused on the proper use of the discount rate.

  38. “…a warmer world extends the ranges of bugs and snakes and other creepy crawly things.”

    What, are you against biodiversity?

    • R. Gates, a Skeptical Warmist

      Or new menu options for Fast Food chains? The McBoa Sandwich with BBQ sauce would be outstanding! Or how about some McBeetle Nuggets?

  39. The more predictable in advance the comments here become, the less worth reading they are.
    What is discouraging is how seemingly little all of Judith’s very good postings on new information, or perspectives on that information, seem to modify or moderate most commenters by now well know stance (s?).
    As the little girl says when Ig Noble prize recipients overrun their allotted acceptance speech time:
    Please stop. I’m bored.

  40. Based on everything we now know how was a vote for Al Gore for public office anything more than an immoral act?

  41. willard might want to answer what silence in the face of a moral dilemma advocates?

  42. Economics has its many faults and limitations, but it has progressed well beyond the ‘social planner’ maximizing a static utility function (as per paper under discussion). Intergenerational models please!

  43. Now I know that I am probably being a bit of a stinky leftist warmista when I say that many of the articles I have read regarding the moral dilemmas that come in the train of mitigation seem to be polysyllabically intense strategies to maintain the status quo and the privilege of those sustained by it.

    But that aside, I am curious as to why the argument is often framed in the binary opposition of beggaring ourselvs for the benefit of future generations…after all what has the future ever done for me?

    Tomorrow we have to replace a coal plant for it has come to the end of its economic life, yet if we were to replace it with a nuclear one our carbon footprint is reduced (mitigation) and yet there has been no net disadvantage regarding opportunity cost as the replacement was required and as such the benefit is immediate rather than deferred.

    I suspect that there are many examples in which immediate changes could be made that would have little effect on our immediate wealth but would mitigate further deterioration. To frame the debate as either or seems a little blunt particularly when it has to be allowed that arguments regarding uncertainty cut both ways.

  44. If you are concerned about future generations, you can help with your own money (not other peoples money). We in the US labor under the burden of 17 trillion in debt. To help out:

    How do you make a contribution to reduce the debt?

    There are two ways for you to make a contribution to reduce the debt:

    You can make a contribution online either by credit card, checking or savings account at Pay.gov

    You can write a check payable to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, and in the memo section, notate that it’s a Gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. Mail your check to:

    Attn Dept G
    Bureau of the Fiscal Service
    P. O. Box 2188
    Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

    • Come on Progressives!! Here is your chance to put your money where your mouth is!! Help support the welfare state!! Contribute now!!

    • Jim2

      You owe us in the UK some. 346 billion and we would be pleased for its return before you spend any more money on this climate stuff. For your convenience just make the cheque payable to me and I will ensure it gets to the right people…

      Tonyb

    • Hi Tony,

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but does that include the money spent by the US on rebuilding Europe?

      Just askin’.

    • Oh yeah, and the money we spent fighting Hitler and Japan? That too.

    • Jim2

      Repaid with much interest. It was a loan not a gift….now, make sure you spell my name right when you make out that cheque

      Tonyb

    • Hi Tony,

      The cost of WWII to the US is over 4 billion in current dollars. Sure you can’t cut us a break?

      :)

    • Jim2 – that number cannot possibly be right. In wartime dollars, the cost of WW2 was 296 billion. The B-29 was 3 billion, and the atomic bombs were 2 billion.

    • You’re right, he did. They say the cost in today’s dollar is over 4,000 billion, and still within Jim2’s range.

      tonyb should have sent a paid-in-full check for over 4 billion while he had the chance.

    • Hey Tony B. I hope you know I’m not serious about any of this war/bond/payment thing.

      However, for the “Progressives” who don’t want to saddle the next generation or two with the 17 trillion in debt, which you have to admit is onerous and unfair, please, for the sake of the children, take out your credit cards and be generous!! It’s for the children!!!

    • One of the problems for the UK in the 20th C was that they repaid their WWI and WW2 debts, but the nations to which they lent money did not repay them.

    • jim2

      of course I know we are joking but I notice that the losses incurred when you threw that tea into the harbour over 230 years ago have never been paid…
      tonyb

    • Tony, how can you have any respect for a country which began by adding tea-leaves to salt water? Meh!

    • Yeah, they could at least have added the milk first ;-)

    • Americans are rational. To avoid paying the tea tax, the colonials switched in very large numbers to being coffee drinkers.

      The coffee at the time being far more expensive than the tea plus the tax.

      Some might see that as irrational.

  45. All of the global warming alarmists are on the Left. They fear a free man more than global warming. It will never be the natural disposition of these AGW true believers to offer people hope of a life based on individual liberty, personal health, happiness, property and wealth; there is a disconnect: they see no value in overcoming fear and superstition with hard work, sacrifice and the power of knowledge. For the Left, humanity is the enemy.

    • Most of these people live on taxes from working people and corporations. They get their sustenance from others and like to think of more ways to spend other people’s money. It’s like their job or something.

    • “Most of these people live on taxes from working people and corporations.”

      Very few people don’t work. And those who do not are either homeless or barely getting by. And most people who don’t work are unemployed for short periods of time.

      I don’t see why wanting the government to help the poor is wrong. Poverty has always been with us and I think always will be.

      • You say, ‘wanting the government to help the poor?” That is how liberal fascism begins.

        ““Maybe all that we have to do is mouth a few platitudes, show a good, you know, expression of concern on our faces, buy a Prius, drive it around for a while and give it to the maid, attend a few fundraisers and you’re done.

        Because, actually, all anybody really wants to do is talk about it. They don’t actually do anything.” ~Michael Crichton

    • Joseph – I was referring to climate scientists and other academics who want to spend other peoples money – not the poor. Although there are much better ways to take care of the poor (in the US) than the multi-tentacled Welfare agencies we have now. It’s a maze and a mess and just piles more bureaucrats onto the tax payers coat tails.

    • Wag, I think we need to offer those lefty warmists a free man with every $100 of grocery spending. They’ll soon be swamped, and have to face up to their fears.

  46. Chief Hydrologist

    The decision for or against a reduction or mitigation of predicted climate-change impacts is always a decision for or against the promotion of other investments, e.g. in water supply or education for developing countries. In current political decision making, scientific prognoses, however, act as “fig leaves” [45] that hide the actual decision making process and the normative assumptions on which it rests. Scientific, i.e. climatological or economical, prognoses as regards climate change or any other topic, taken on their own, give no sufficient reasons for acting or not acting, this way or the other.

    So my head is sort of working again – alcohol even of the birthday sort really doesn’t like me – but I still cant read this paper. Skip to the end and we find that neither science or economics provides dependable answers to the ‘great moral challenge’ of our times. Well that seems pretty obvious.

    Just a quibble on the penultimate paragraph – catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom) is the core of climate as Michael Ghil undoubtedly understands. This is very, very different from CAGW however.

    But to get back to the topic – there is no moral dilemma – or dilemma of any kind if somehow the Gordian knot of the wicked problem of climate can somehow be sliced through. Sans an Alexander – a black swan that open new potentials such as a technological breakthrough – we will just need to muddle through. The Hartwell Group suggests approaching the problem tangentially – similar to the landscape design philosophy of Capability Brown. A path that opens up new vistas with every turn.

    It requires a broadening of the focus from a single objective of CO2 mitigation to multiple objectives of technological innovation and social and economic development. It encompasses the quest for much cheaper and much more abundant energy sources this century, much more productive agricultural systems, more open economic systems, more transparent government sectors, better health, education and development outcomes, much better environmental management.

    All of these things add to the quality of life of both current and future generations – and to the ability of societies to enhance the resilience of natural systems. All these reduce population pressures, increase sequestration of carbon through ecological and farmland conservation and restoration, reduce carbon intensity in manufacturing and reduce black carbon emissions. Modest investments in theses areas lead to big paybacks globally.

    For instance. ‘Chief executive of the Crawford Fund, Dr Denis Blight, says Australia contributes about $20 million a year to international ag research centres, and the Fund calculates Australia reaps benefits of about five times that, for farmers here.

    ‘We need to make sure we understand the purpose of the aid program is to support growth and the economic and social fabric of developing countries, but there is an enormous range of benefits for Australia,’ he said.

    ‘I think you’ve got to take a long term view of this – the stronger Australia is, the better placed we are to assist, and our purpose is to enhance the social fabric of neighbouring countries.’ http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bushtelegraph/ag-research-brings-benefits/5164248

    A $100 million benefit locally in a trillion dollar economy – is nice chump change. Add it up and very soon we are talking about real money.

  47. “It points to an unresolved moral dilemma that lies at the heart of this decision making, namely how to balance duties towards future generations against duties towards our contemporaries.”

    Isn’t this dilemma raised with each stident voice heard on a local, national or world stage?

    This is really about “opportunity lost cost.” The only social body having a legitimate say is the one paying the bills. This is a large social body issue, particularly with climate change. This is not for scientists. This is for the people who are effected by money tossed to the wind.

    • 1) Political bodies decide, not scientists.

      2) Before making decisions the consequences should be understood and that may require analysis. Scientists may have important input to the analysis, but there’s much more in the analysis than just scientific input.

    • This is not for scientists. This is for the people who are effected by money tossed to the wind.

      +1

    • Pekka,

      Some one posted a link yesterday showing the world is spending about $360 billion per year on climate mitigation and adaptation policies.

      Do the benefits exceed the cost? How do you know? Do you have a link to an authoritative the cost benefit analysis?

    • I don’t believe that a full cost benefit analysis is possible, but I hope that ways can be developed to use available knowledge as a guide in decision making. What I have in mind has some features similar with cost benefit analysis, but it has to take long term factors into account in some way that’s more meaningful over those periods.

      I don’t have any definitive answers on what a good policy would be.

    • “Some one posted a link yesterday showing the world is spending about $360 billion per year on climate mitigation and adaptation policies.”

      The US alone spends $670 billion a year on defense. I wonder how much of that goes towards propping up fossil fuels.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ‘‘Prediction of weather and climate are necessarily uncertain: our observations of weather and climate are uncertain, the models into which we assimilate this data and predict the future are uncertain, and external effects such as volcanoes and anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are also uncertain. Fundamentally, therefore, therefore we should think of weather and climate predictions in terms of equations whose basic prognostic variables are probability densities ρ(X,t) where X denotes some climatic variable and t denoted time. In this way, ρ(X,t)dV represents the probability that, at time t, the true value of X lies in some small volume dV of state space.’ (Predicting Weather and Climate – Palmer and Hagedorn eds – 2006)

      ‘Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation.’ http://www.pnas.org/content/104/21/8709.long

      We are far from being able to define the probabilities of future climate states – and this may indeed be theoretically impossible. To then determine theoretical local damages from unknown global probabilities seems a chimerical quest – as this paper suggests.

      Cost benefit analysis – of which I have done a bit including for the more nebulous aspects of environmental impacts – for climate impacts 100 years in the future seems an inherently worthless pursuit of angel counting.

    • Should cost-benefit analysis be used in evaluating and comparing climate policy options?

      Excerpts from William Nordhaus (2013) ‘The Climate Casino

      From p205:

      “Chapter 17 concluded that a sensible target for climate-change policy would require balancing abatement costs and climate damages. This approach is often used by economists in analyzing different options and is called cost-benefit analysis. The basic idea is quite intuitive. In a world of limited resources, we should make investments that produce the greatest net social benefits – that is, ones that have the greatest margin of social benefits over social costs.’ “

      From pp217-218:

      “CRITIQUES OF APPLYI NG COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS TO CLIMATE CHANGE

      Cost-benefit analysis is often criticized. Skeptics argue that it is inappropriate for weighing decisions on climate change. Some of its drawbacks in this context are technical: there are great uncertainties, and sometimes the probabilities of different events cannot even be determined; the costs and benefits may accrue to different people or generations; and there are difficulties in comparing costs today with benefits in the distant future.

      However, climate change also raises important philosophical issues. For example, in making choices about health impacts, are we ethically justified in putting a price on human health and life? Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that climate-change impacts involve natural systems such ecosystems and biodiversity, and our tools are currently inadequate for valuing these changes.

      How do economists respond to these questions? Most would agree that doing a sound cost-benefit analysis for climate-change policy is a daunting task. But it is necessary if people are to make reasoned choices about policies. We might not be able to make definitive estimates about the impacts of higher temperatures on different sectors, but by a process of careful study and analysis, we can get order-of -magnitude estimates and use them in our analyses. Care must be taken to include all impacts – market, nonmarket, environmental, and ecosystem impacts. Moreover, in those areas where the estimates are particularly sparse, such as ecosystem valuation, economists and natural scientists need to cooperate to produce better estimates. However, if we are to act responsibly with people’s money and not make foolish investments, we need to compare the price tag with the things we are buying.”

      From p219:

      “If large sums are involved, people want to get their money’s worth. And this means that people want to compare costs and benefits. The benefits need not be completely monetized, but it will not be sufficient to say “Ecosystems are priceless” or “We must pay any cost to save the polar bears .” That is why costs and benefits must be put on the balance when weighing the options on global warming . Depending upon how optimistic you are about participation and your view on discounting, you can probably use the four figures in this chapter as a guide for picking a target for climate-change policy.”

      Other sections in Chapter 17:

      • COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS WITH TIPPING POINTS

      • COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS IN THE CASINO

    • Chief @ 5.46 and Peter Lang @ 8.27: + 100 (the generosity of the season)

      And a bonus of + 10 each for being on the same page for once.

    • I agree fully on all excerpts from Nordhaus’ book that Peter included in his comment. I have also stated in a recent comment that the approach of Nordhaus is perhaps the best we have available right now. My agreement with Nordhaus includes also the conclusion that an initial carbon tax of about $25 per ton of CO2 would be my choice, if I had to decide what to do based on present understanding.

      My doubt’s on the validity of the results of a cost-benefit analysis are, however, stronger than I interpret Nordhaus to express. Future beyond next couple of decades has significant weight even with the discount rates considered best justified by Nordhaus and much more weight using by lower discount rates favored by some others. Errors in handling distant future may bias severely the conclusions in either direction.

      My personal understanding is that for most costs and benefits even the discount rate favored by Nordhaus may be too low as I don’t believe that it takes properly into account adaptive processes and the natural rate of change in economies. At the same time I cannot dismiss views presented by Thomas Sterner and Martin Persson in their provocatively titled paper An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate. They argue that some severely limiting factors may lack substitutes in the adaptive processes and that the relative prices of those limitations may grow fast enough to have the opposite effect to that I mention above as reducing the weight of future damages.

      This dilemma concerns issues that should be studied more in my view. Without a better understanding of various opposing factors that affect the proper way of including distant future in the consideration we may make severely wrong conclusions. Further research should help in getting wider agreement on the conclusions at least among environmental and development scientists, if not immediately among any wider group.

  48. Political Junkie

    A good case can be made for the removal of direct an indirect trade barriers as the most effective long-term “aid” program.

    Billions of people have been lifted from abject poverty by the impact of free trade. The “invisible hand” needs no bureaucracies to guide it – in due course sweatshops predictably get unionized, education improves, life expectancy increases, family size shrinks, etc.

    This miracle requires abundant energy at a reasonable cost.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      This is the sin qua non of progress this century.

      Although the ‘invisible hand’ does need the rule of law to constrain it – as well as effective and transparent prudential oversight and regulation of the money supply.

      A package deal – not one without the other.

  49. Wind in the UK has been producing about 10% of electricity in the last month. Not bad.

    • Yes, this month has been extremely windy here in the UK.
      But you’ll find the figure for the whole year is a lot less than 10%

    • …besides which, most people around here heat their homes with gas – otherwise electricity usage would be a lot higher this time of the year.

  50. Here’s one for those who advocate carbon pricking, renewable energy and using their beliefs to make policy decisions instead crunching the numbers – such as cost-benefit analysis:

    Climate policies helped kill manufacturing, says Maurice Newman

    THE unprecedented cost of energy driven by the renewable energy target and the carbon tax had destroyed the nation’s competitiveness, Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser has declared.

    Maurice Newman also says climate change policies driven by “scientific delusion” have been a major factor in the collapse of Australia’s manufacturing sector. “The Australian dollar and industrial relations policies are blamed,” Mr Newman said. “But, for some manufacturers, the strong dollar has been a benefit, while high relative wages have long been a feature of the Australian industrial landscape.”

    In an interview, Mr Newman said protection of climate change policies and the renewable energy industry by various state governments smacked of a “cover-up”.

    He said an upcoming review of the renewable energy target must include examination of claims made in federal parliament that millions of dollars were being paid to renewable energy projects that allegedly did not meet planning guidelines. Mr Newman’s comments follow those of Dow Chemicals chairman and chief executive Andrew Liveris, who said Australia was losing its natural advantage of abundant and cheap energy.

    “As far as new investments go, our primary energy sources of natural gas and electricity are now or will soon become negatives to any comparative calculation,” Mr Liveris said.

    “Average prices of electricity have doubled in most states in recent years and the unprecedented contraction in consumption threatens a ‘death spiral’ in which falling consumption pushes up prices even further, causing further falls in consumption,” he said.

    Mr Newman said Australia had become “hostage to climate-change madness”. “And for all the propaganda about ‘green employment’, Australia seems to be living the European experience, where, for every ‘green’ job created, two to three jobs are lost in the real economy,” he said.

    Read the full article here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/climate-policies-helped-kill-manufacturing-says-maurice-newman/story-e6frg6xf-1226792218812

  51. [Repost: Previously posted in the wrong place.]

    Should cost-benefit analysis be used in evaluating and comparing climate policy options?

    Excerpts from William Nordhaus (2013) ‘The Climate Casino

    From p205:

    “Chapter 17 concluded that a sensible target for climate-change policy would require balancing abatement costs and climate damages. This approach is often used by economists in analyzing different options and is called cost-benefit analysis. The basic idea is quite intuitive. In a world of limited resources, we should make investments that produce the greatest net social benefits – that is, ones that have the greatest margin of social benefits over social costs.’ “

    From pp217-218:

    “CRITIQUES OF APPLYI NG COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS TO CLIMATE CHANGE

    Cost-benefit analysis is often criticized. Skeptics argue that it is inappropriate for weighing decisions on climate change. Some of its drawbacks in this context are technical: there are great uncertainties, and sometimes the probabilities of different events cannot even be determined; the costs and benefits may accrue to different people or generations; and there are difficulties in comparing costs today with benefits in the distant future.

    However, climate change also raises important philosophical issues. For example, in making choices about health impacts, are we ethically justified in putting a price on human health and life? Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that climate-change impacts involve natural systems such ecosystems and biodiversity, and our tools are currently inadequate for valuing these changes.

    How do economists respond to these questions? Most would agree that doing a sound cost-benefit analysis for climate-change policy is a daunting task. But it is necessary if people are to make reasoned choices about policies. We might not be able to make definitive estimates about the impacts of higher temperatures on different sectors, but by a process of careful study and analysis, we can get order-of -magnitude estimates and use them in our analyses. Care must be taken to include all impacts – market, nonmarket, environmental, and ecosystem impacts. Moreover, in those areas where the estimates are particularly sparse, such as ecosystem valuation, economists and natural scientists need to cooperate to produce better estimates. However, if we are to act responsibly with people’s money and not make foolish investments, we need to compare the price tag with the things we are buying.”

    From p219:

    “If large sums are involved, people want to get their money’s worth. And this means that people want to compare costs and benefits. The benefits need not be completely monetized, but it will not be sufficient to say “Ecosystems are priceless” or “We must pay any cost to save the polar bears .” That is why costs and benefits must be put on the balance when weighing the options on global warming . Depending upon how optimistic you are about participation and your view on discounting, you can probably use the four figures in this chapter as a guide for picking a target for climate-change policy.”

    Other sections in Chapter 18:

    • COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS WITH TIPPING POINTS

    • COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS IN THE CASINO

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Traditional cost benefit analysis of climate states – let alone climate impacts – in 100 years is not merely daunting but impossible.

      The reality is that there are limited funds and priorities for expenditures – and climate change is a hell of a distraction from the main game.

      Biggest bang for the buck – maximum benefits right now neglecting any mooted benefits of greenhouse gas reduction but having ancillary benefits in carbon mitigation.

      http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/copenhagen_consensus_2012/2012/05/copenhagen_consensus_how_to_save_the_world_on_a_budget_of_75_billion_.html

      Lomberg of course also endorses strategic investments in energy innovation.

      There’s one joke those involved nuclear fusion always tell (I heard it four times in the course of reporting this article), and it’s not really funny. It’s something to the effect of “Oh yeah, fusion energy is just twenty years away…and it always will be.”

      http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-nuclear-fusion-arms-race-is-underway

      But by all means read the article.

      The advent of high-intensity pulsed laser technology enables the generation of extreme states of
      matter under conditions that are far from thermal equilibrium. This in turn could enable different approaches to generating energy from nuclear fusion. Relaxing the equilibrium requirement could widen the range of isotopes used in fusion fuels permitting cleaner and less hazardous reactions that do not produce high energy neutrons. Here we propose and implement a means to drive fusion reactions between protons and boron-11 nuclei, by colliding a laser-accelerated proton beam with a laser-generated boron plasma. We report proton-boron reaction rates that are orders of magnitude higher than those reported previously. Beyond fusion, our approach demonstrates a new means for exploring low-energy nuclear reactions such as those that occur in astrophysical plasmas and related
      environments.’ http://arxiv.org/pdf/1310.2002v1.pdf

      Technology is the key to the future – which is of course a different country.

      • “Oh yeah, [Gen IV nuclear] energy is just twenty years away…and it [...] will be [for a long time yet].”

    • Lomberg of course also endorses strategic investments in energy innovation.

      Yes, of course. And the basis for his argument is, of course, cost-benefit analysis.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      The first Gen IV supplying commercial quantities of power is scheduled to be up and running in China by 2017.

      http://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2013/01/07/china-begins-construction-of-first-generation-iv-htr-pm-unit

      Commercial units elsewhere are not far behind.

      Of course I linked to fusion and not fission – a totally different ballgame. The Lawenceville Plasma Physics idea discussed in the Motherboard article – http://www.lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68&Itemid=86 – would deliver ultra cheap electricity.

      The Motherboard article has a presentation from Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works – suggesting the possibility of a prototype in 5 years and a full scale plant in 10.

      The paper I linked to – originally published in Nature – is quite a breakthrough.

      The future is technological and it is impossible to predict the trajectory of accelerating innovation. Clever little technological monkeys that we are.

      Lomberg’s cost benefit analysis of his $75 billion scenario is of costs and benefits of specific limited actions right now. Not unknowables in 100 years. A different order of things entirely.

      It doesn’t include energy innovation. Lomberg has suggested a 1% of GDP investment in energy research. This seems a number pretty much plucked out of the aether – but is the right order of magnitude.

    • There are no commercially viable Gen IV plants anywhere and wont be for a very long time. Commercially viable means they win contracts in open tenders.

    • How long until Gen IV reactors are commercially viable?

      One of the most advanced fast neutron reactors is the Russian BN800. It has taken since 1958 to get to where it is now (scheduled to start operation in late 2014).

      This http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BN-800_reactor describes the BN-800. Note the major changes from the BN-600. This demonstrates that the designs are in a state of flux, immature still in development and demonstration phases and not close to being commercially viable.

      And are they safer than the current breed of nuclear power plants? A long way from being so yet. It will take a long time, as past progress demonstrates.

      The two gravest incidents at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant struck the two reactors which are now shut down. In 1977 half of the fuel rods melted down in the ABM-200 reactor. Operators were exposed to severe radiation doses, and the repair work took more than a year. In December 1978 the same reactor caught fire when parts of the roof fell on one of the turbines’ oil tanks. Cables were destroyed by the fire, and the reactor went out of control. Eight people who assisted in securing cooling of the reactor core were exposed to increased radiation doses.
      In recent years there have been problems with leakage of liquid metal from the BN-600 cooling system. In December 1992 there was a leakage of radioactive contaminated water at the reactor. In October 1993 increased concentrations of radioactivity in the power plant fan system were found. A leakage the following month led to a shutdown. In January and May 1994 there was a fire at the power plant. In July 1995 another leakage of liquid metal from the cooling elements caused a two-week shutdown of the reactor.
      There is an increasing concern about radioactive contamination around the power plant. Several hotspots were discovered in the region, as the radiation monitoring effort was extended in recent years.
      Unit Type El. Output (MW) Start of project First criticality Shut down
      1 AMB-100
      108 1958/06/01 1964/04/26 1983/01/01
      2 AMB-200
      160 1962/01/01 1967/12/29 1990/01/01
      3 BN-600
      600 1969/01/01 1980/04/08
      4 BN-800
      864 1987 exp. Q3 2014
      5 BN-1200
      1220 2015[1] est.
      2020 est.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beloyarsk_Nuclear_Power_Station

      This http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Fast-Neutron-Reactors/ shows the long, slow development time, most are small demonstration reactors, and the many technical problems. The time it has taken to get to where we are now, the fact that most have been shut down and only Russia (5), India (2) and Japan (1) have operating fast neutron reactors, suggests it will probably be decades before Gen IV are a mature, commercially proven and economically competitive technology.

      The FNR was originally conceived to burn uranium more efficiently and thus extend the world’s uranium resources – it could do this by a factor of about 60. From the outset, nuclear scientists understood that today’s reactors fuelled essentially with U-235 exploited less than one percent of the energy potentially available from uranium. Early perceptions that those uranium resources were scarce caused several countries to embark upon extensive FBR development programs. However significant technical and materials problems were encountered, and also geological exploration showed by the 1970s that uranium scarcity would not be a concern for some time. Due to both factors, by the 1980s it was clear that FNRs would not be commercially competitive with existing light water reactors for some time.

      Hence FNRs can utilise uranium about 60 times more efficiently than a normal reactor. They are however expensive to build and operate, including the reprocessing, and are only justified economically if uranium prices remain above 1990s low levels.

      The article reveals the diverse range of the technical issues that have been encountered and are still to be solved.

      The clear message from all this, as the wise heads in the industry know, is that there is a long way to go until Gen IV is commercially viable and economically attractive. It would be a grave mistake to sit around waiting and cause further delays.

      I am all for Gen IV being advanced as fast as is rationally feasible, but strongly against delaying what needs to be done to reduce the cost of nuclear power as quickly as possible and support the development of all types, in a fully competitive environment.

      Arguing that Gen IV is safer and will be economic soon is just an argument to delay progress.

    • [repost with corrected formatting, I hope]

      How long until Gen IV reactors are commercially viable?

      One of the most advanced fast neutron reactors is the Russian BN800. It has taken since 1958 to get to where it is now (scheduled to start operation in late 2014).

      This http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BN-800_reactor describes the BN-800. Note the major changes from the BN-600. This demonstrates that the designs are in a state of flux, immature still in development and demonstration phases and not close to being commercially viable.

      And are they safer than the current breed of nuclear power plants? A long way from being so yet. It will take a long time, as past progress demonstrates.

      The two gravest incidents at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant struck the two reactors which are now shut down. In 1977 half of the fuel rods melted down in the ABM-200 reactor. Operators were exposed to severe radiation doses, and the repair work took more than a year. In December 1978 the same reactor caught fire when parts of the roof fell on one of the turbines’ oil tanks. Cables were destroyed by the fire, and the reactor went out of control. Eight people who assisted in securing cooling of the reactor core were exposed to increased radiation doses.
      In recent years there have been problems with leakage of liquid metal from the BN-600 cooling system. In December 1992 there was a leakage of radioactive contaminated water at the reactor. In October 1993 increased concentrations of radioactivity in the power plant fan system were found. A leakage the following month led to a shutdown. In January and May 1994 there was a fire at the power plant. In July 1995 another leakage of liquid metal from the cooling elements caused a two-week shutdown of the reactor.
      There is an increasing concern about radioactive contamination around the power plant. Several hotspots were discovered in the region, as the radiation monitoring effort was extended in recent years.

      The above text and table below are from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beloyarsk_Nuclear_Power_Station

      If the table is mess, the take away message I am trying to convey is the very long development time that is required to develop a totally new breed of nuclear power plants.
      Unit Type El. Output (MW) Start of project First criticality Shut down
      1 AMB-100 108 1958/06/01 1964/04/26 1983/01/01
      2 AMB-200 160 1962/01/01 1967/12/29 1990/01/01
      3 BN-600 600 1969/01/01 1980/04/08
      4 BN-800 864 1987 exp. Q3 2014
      5 BN-1200 1220 2015[1] est. 2020 est.

      This http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Fast-Neutron-Reactors/ shows the long, slow development time, most are small demonstration reactors, and the many technical problems. The time it has taken to get to where we are now, the fact that most have been shut down and only Russia (5), India (2) and Japan (1) have operating fast neutron reactors, suggests it will probably be decades before Gen IV are a mature, commercially proven and economically competitive technology.

      The FNR was originally conceived to burn uranium more efficiently and thus extend the world’s uranium resources – it could do this by a factor of about 60. From the outset, nuclear scientists understood that today’s reactors fuelled essentially with U-235 exploited less than one percent of the energy potentially available from uranium. Early perceptions that those uranium resources were scarce caused several countries to embark upon extensive FBR development programs. However significant technical and materials problems were encountered, and also geological exploration showed by the 1970s that uranium scarcity would not be a concern for some time. Due to both factors, by the 1980s it was clear that FNRs would not be commercially competitive with existing light water reactors for some time.

      Hence FNRs can utilise uranium about 60 times more efficiently than a normal reactor. They are however expensive to build and operate, including the reprocessing, and are only justified economically if uranium prices remain above 1990s low levels.

      The article reveals the diverse range of the technical issues that have been encountered and are still to be solved.

      The clear message from all this, as the wise heads in the industry know, is that there is a long way to go until Gen IV is commercially viable and economically attractive. It would be a grave mistake to sit around waiting and cause further delays.

      I am all for Gen IV being advanced as fast as is rationally feasible, but strongly against delaying what needs to be done to reduce the cost of nuclear power as quickly as possible and support the development of all types, in a fully competitive environment.

      Arguing that Gen IV is safer and will be economic soon is just an argument to delay progress.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      My original comment was about fusion – an interesting technological path – and fission at all. Does he understand the difference? If not then he didn’t get the bad joke. It was Lang who went off tangentially about Gen IV fission reactors.

      But I like technology of all sorts.

      Here’s a take from Catalyst – a science program that runs on the government broadcaster.

      http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3608402.htm

      Most Gen IV reactor are fast neutron reactors – but not all.

      See – http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Fast-Neutron-Reactors/ – if you are at all interested.

      China has been running a prototype Gen IV since early in the millennium – and are building a full scale demonstration plant – schedules to commence in 2017.

      • Does he understand the difference?

        Of course I understand the difference. That’s why I put my changes in square brackets. Didn’t you understand what that meant?

    • Chief Hydrologist

      I split this up because of problems with linkys.

      There are a couple of start ups mentioned here – in a discussion of Hyperion’s plans to start building.- http://gigaom.com/2012/03/05/hyperion-to-build-nuclear-pod-at-doe-test-site/

      The giant in the mix – the hugely experienced General Atomics is investing $1.8 billion to have a commercial product by 2022.

      http://www.ga.com/energy-multiplier-module

      The Gen IV International Forum – has a slightly longer timeframe for multiple designs for multiple purposes.

      http://www.gen-4.org/Technology/evolution.htm

      Gen IV is a lot safer – in a number of ways. And seriously – the only thing delaying nuclear energy is present day costs. GA is projecting much lower costs for the new design.

      • Gen IV is a lot safer – in a number of ways.

        Not yet, they aren’t. You seem to have trouble with tense.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      They have now moved past the test bed and onto construction of a full scale demonstration plant.

      ‘These systems offer significant advances in sustainability, safety and reliability, economics, proliferation resistance and physical protection.’

      http://www.gen-4.org/Technology/systems/index.htm

      • Paper power plants are always excellent in all ways. It’s not until they’ve been running for considerable time, have operational history to back them up and are winning contracts in open tender that you can say they are economically viable. You’d realise this if you read the link I gave you.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Well Peter I assumed you imagined that I was talking Gen IV fission and not fusion – makes no sense at all otherwise.

      • My comment makes no sense, eh? Since you';v been bleating about Gen IV for ages and posting the same comments and same links repeatedly, I expected, apparently wrongly, you’d understand the square brackets contained the changes from what you posted I made the changes to highlight for you that the joke you quoted about fission energy is also applicable (although shorter time frame) for the Gen IV technologies becoming economically viable. You will recall repeatedly advocating for Gen IV, often as an implied or direct criticisms of comments I’ve made advocating getting on with reducing the cost of nuclear (whichever type is cheapest, no picking winners, just get on with correcting the distorted regulatory and licencing environment).

  52. Professor Curry,

    Despite all the powers united behind government deception in all of the federal research agencies (US National Academy of Sciences, UK’s Royal Society, UN’s IPCC, NASA, DOE, EPA, etc., etc., ad infinitum)

    The universe is unfolding exactly as it should in order to usher in an era of Hope for the New Year !

    http://junkscience.com/2013/12/27/aids-research-fraud-at-iowa-state/

    All is well,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  53. Humans, like many creatures, have a biological imperative to maintain their genetic lineage. This manifests in caring for children and grandchildren and helping to foster their well-being and procreation. That is, we inherently care for future generations, without thought of “moral imperatives.” This is one of our motivations whenever we make decisions in light of an always uncertain future. I do not accept that there is “an unresolved moral dilemma” that “lies at the heart of decision-making” about climate change issues. On the contrary, I think that those who posit such a dilemma do so as a political tactic to promote their own preferred policies. I therefore have no interest in how such alleged “moral dilemmas are best addressed.”

    As H&G say, “a cost-benefit analysis of one action always has to include an evaluation of alternative actions.” Of course, that is the whole point of CBA. The authors claim, however, that “Existing cost-benefit analyses … fail to put the analysis of climate change into the requisite broader context.” I would be surprised if that were broadly true. For example, Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus explicitly assesses proposed and actual measures to deal with CAGW against alternative problems that might be dealt with, such as the authors’ example of “investment in safe water supply in developing countries.“

    The authors’ contend that CBA should be done by the scientists, and say that “Shifting the actual performance of cost-benefit analysis to the sciences just acknowledges that neither political decision making nor moral evaluation are the place for a critical evaluation of scientific methodology.” This is nonsense. CBA should be done by those best placed to do it, which will generally be economists who make regular use of such analysis. Arguing that the uncertainties relating to climate change makes it difficult to evaluate alternative policy options does not mean handing such evaluations to climate scientists. It means that scientists need to do more to reduce uncertainties, if possible, and must be clear and accurate when conveying those uncertainties to policy-makers, cost-benefit analysts and the public.

    – I’ve been absent from the CE discussion for about 28 hours, so haven’t taken account of comments, or responded to Pekka as I had intended. Maybe later. Happy New Year to you all.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      The “casino” aspect of his book’s title refers to the difficult debate over how much we should spend to protect the planet from these low-probability but potentially catastrophic events. Unfortunately, as Professor Nordhaus acknowledges, dealing with global warming is but one of many worthy causes competing for tax dollars.

      Nordhaus suggests $25/ton carbon tax to start now. I suppose you agree with that too.

      We should take the Breakthrough Institute path of Climate Pragmatism regardless – and with cost-effectiveness analysis using present day cost rather CBA projected over an unknowable future.

      Abrupt change seems likely to happen several times this century – catastrophic only in the sense of Rene Thom. Similar to the 1910’s, mid 1945, late 1970’s and the 1998/2001 climate shifts.

      e.g. http://www.geomar.de/en/news/article/klimavorhersagen-ueber-mehrere-jahre-moeglich/

      According to Latif the potential for prediction of climate shifts is about as accurate as tossing a coin. The prediction of future climate is impossible – so how the hell are you going to estimate impacts?

      It is a fools quest.

    • Nordhaus suggests $25/ton carbon tax to start now. I suppose you agree with that too.

      You suppose wrong. If you’d bother to read my comments, with an intention to understand, you’d know that is not what I’v e been arguing all along. Here’s a link to what I’ve been arguing (if you are interested).

      http://jennifermarohasy.com/2013/08/why-the-ets-will-not-succeed-peter-lang/

      And, you haven’t even read Nordhaus, so you wouldn’t have a clue what it is about – as your previous comments reveal.

    • Chief, I think we’ve had this dance before, and I took your points then. Briefly, when I had carriage of, e.g., advising the Queensland Government on whether or not to support the Kyoto Protocol, I worked extensively and intensively with a wide range of relevant experts, inside and outside government; I’m not suggesting that economists go off with their black box to the exclusion of non-economist inputs.

      As for “Nordhaus suggests $25/ton carbon tax to start now. I suppose you agree with that too.” – I have never supported a carbon tax.

      As for “The prediction of future climate is impossible – so how the hell are you going to estimate impacts?” – I’ve used that as an argument for policies which improve our capacity to deal with whatever befalls, and argued against policies based on projections of a highly uncertain future. Some policies which you occasionally espouse seem to to fall into the former category.

  54. Chief Hydrologist

    Here’s a Lomberg video from a few years ago.

    Here’s a very recent video.

    While the general thrust of the discussion from Lomberg is always terrific – he fails always to understand the dynamics of climate change. To imagine that we can distinguish natural variability from induced change to the three digit precision that he pretends to is far from credible. Our methods for doing so invoke ENSO, PDO, AMO, the orbits of the outer planets, the length of the day, etc to try to tease out a residual warming signal – which should of course be there all other things being equal.

    All other things are not equal, never were and never will be.

    The climate system has jumped from one mode of operation to another in the past. We are trying to understand how the earth’s climate system is engineered, so we can understand what it takes to trigger mode switches. Until we do, we cannot make good predictions about future climate change… Over the last several hundred thousand years, climate change has come mainly in discrete jumps that appear to be related to changes in the mode of thermohaline circulation. Wally Broecker

    The AMOC is declining and modelled to decline 25 to 50% over the century.

    Thus, we have now been able to test the ocean’s response to freshwater forcing. While the 8.2 kyr event is not an analog for what may happen in the future, a slowdown in the MOC is predicted by our model (and others) for a future world, partly as a function of ocean warming and partly as a function of increased freshening from ice melt and increased rainfall. As more models perform these kinds of experiments, it may be possible to narrow the uncertainties in the future projections based on how well they simulate the 8.2 kyr event. http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/legrande_01/

    Should we keep in mind the potential for abrupt change? Probably.

    There are 2 essential problems – the inability to tease out natural variability and the high probability of another – unpredictable – climate shift within decades.

    Engineers use CBA all the time – it pays to understand the Dept. of Finance guideline.

    Traditionally, cost-benefit analysis was used to evaluate ‘projects’ or individual activities rather than ‘programmes’ or larger groupings of such activities or indeed of policies. Moreover, it was
    used mainly in evaluations of a particular project type – economic infrastructure investments such as dams, roads and power stations. However, cost-benefit analysis in now applied much
    more widely. It is often applied to programmes as well as to projects, to activities outside the economic infrastructure sector, and to public policies. The labour market, education, the environment and scientific research are examples of areas where the method has been usefully applied. However, it should be noted that cost-benefit analysis is only one method of evaluation.
    The main constraints in using the approach are the feasibility and appropriateness of assigning money values to the costs and benefits generated by the activity. Where determining the money equivalent value of outcome is not feasible, cost-effectiveness
    analysis is frequently a viable alternative approach.
    http://www.finance.gov.au/sites/default/files/Handbook_of_CB_analysis.pdf

    Lomberg mostly invokes cost-effectiveness analysis rather than CBA. And really I would be wary about entrusting economists to understand the terms of the equation in analysing for dams, roads and power stations. Much less so the environment or climate change. Horses for courses as they say.

    • Should we keep in mind the potential for abrupt change?

      Of course we should. That’s what its all about. Read Nordhaus, ‘The Climate Casino’. To dream that CBA is not required for policy decisions that will incur huge costs to the economy demonstrates an ignorance of policy analysis.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Wrong place – it is a definite sign that this discussion with Lang has gone off track as usual

      http://judithcurry.com/2013/12/29/scientific-uncertainties-and-moral-dilemmas/#comment-430916

    • That’s typical. You posted in the wrong place (now removed), I replied to your comment and you blame me for your mistake. I’ve never seen you admit your mistakes. What an egotistical prat.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      This was the other earlier video – you have probably seen it. .

    • Chief, I made extensive use of former editions of the Dept of Finance manual, which were excellent. (Or the former edition, I think that Peter Walsh, an excellent finance minister, instituted the original, it might still have been current when I retired.) I don’t know if you ever met Walsh, who from memory was a WA wheat farmer, I think you’d get on well.

  55. For activists, there is no moral dilemma. They have God on their side. Anybody who disagrees is just plain stupid, obviously. We all know that to make omelettes, you have to break eggs. Whether the eggs or the chickens are happy about this is beside the point. They should be glad of the chance to be sacrificed for the cause.

    Wiser heads may look at the past, and take notice of the results of activism and advocacy over the centuries.

    Fools can become wise, the wise can become foolish. Life goes on, for a while at least!

    Here’s a real dilemma. Would you kill one innocent, in order that a thousand not be killed? It doesn’t seem all that easy to say in advance.

    It would be nice to be able to see into the future. A cost benefit analysis based on future costs and future benefits gives whatever answer suits you.

    Good luck with that. I wish you well.

    And on a lighter note :

    Now, Mike Flynn you really must stop!
    Your brain spins around like a top!
    You’re too fond of yarnin’,
    You ain’t got no larnin’,
    We don’t think you’ll come out on top!

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

    • “Freedom of speech,” eh? Here’s my letter to The Australian today, in response to an ongoing debate:

      “Human rights are not innate: they are a human construction and, as we understand them, largely a British construction, including their codification by Britons in the US Constitution. The package of justice, freedom and representative justice in which the rights we cherish arose and are manifested flourish predominantly in nation states, going back to the unification of England. Our rights did not originate with the UN, nor are they dependent on it, they are an intrinsic part of our British heritage.

      “Nor are they the gift of the state: the system we know developed as a compact between the governing body, whether king or parliament, and the people on whom their legitimacy depended. That is still the case. There has been a tendency in Australia for so-called rights to be determined, extended and varied by a largely left-wing intelligentsia rather than through this essential compact with the people.

      “I would have abolished the Human Rights Commission as something which detracts from this compact rather than strengthens it. Failing that, the appointment of Tim Wilson and the attitude of George Brandis are a healthy corrective to an unhealthy trend.”

      For info, Wilson – from a right-wing think tank – and Brandis were leading players in successfully opposing anti-freedom of speech efforts by the ALP government. Wilson’s recent appointment to the HRC was met by a stream of vitriol by those “left-wing intelligentsia” who seek (with some success) to impose their view of human rights on Australia. They were behind hate-speech legislation which severely curtailed FoS, but piled hate on Wilson and Brandis. I hope that they prosecute themselves.

    • Oops, should have been in the following thread.

  56. Chief Hydrologist

    We are evolving a diverse but unified global culture – a melting pot in which individuals may choose for themselves their own path knowing they are not alone but part of the global community. One that must be be founded in freedom, democracy, peace and trade.

    It is almost time to put on my new blue suede shoes and hit the town. God help us – we are all American.

    Happy New Year.

    • I have no wish to precipitate an apoplectic fit, but might I ask what possesses you to believe that a global community must be founded in freedom, democracy, peace and trade?

      Each of those terms means different things, depending on where one stands. If you wish to propose a definitive meaning, go ahead. I don’t think you will be able to come up with a definition that you can defend, but try if you wish. Obviously, anybody that disagrees with you is a fool and mentally retarded. That should make it easier.

      For a start, does freedom include the right to free speech? Can you name a community in the world that tolerates free speech? I’m sure there must be some, but I can’t think of any in the Western world, offhand.

      Have fun.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ‘The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom.’
      John Locke

      It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now–independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one’s neighbors–are essentially those on which the of an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed then it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and the compulsion of the individual to what is collectively decided to be good.
      Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

      Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, and responsibility for the arrangement of our own life according to our own conscience, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily recreated in the free decision of the individual. Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one’s own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one’s own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.
      Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

      Few people ever have an abundance of choice of occupation. But what matters is that we have some choice, that we are not absolutely tied to a job which has been chosen for us, and that if one position becomes intolerable, or if we set our heart on another, there is always a way for the able, at some sacrifice, to achieve his goal. Nothing makes conditions more unbearable than the knowledge that no effort of ours can change them; and even if we should never have the strength of mind to make the necessary sacrifice, the knowledge that we could escape if we only strove hard enough makes many otherwise intolerable positions bearable.”
      ― Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

      The state should confine itself to establishing rules applying to general types of situations and should allow the individuals freedom in everything which depends on the circumstances of time and place, because only the individuals concerned in each instance can fully know these circumstances and adapt their actions to them. If the individuals are able to use their knowledge effectively in making plans, they must be able to predict actions of the state which may affect these plans. But if the actions of the state are to be predictable, they must be determined by rules fixed independently of the concrete circumstances which can be neither foreseen nor taken into account beforehand; and the particular effects of such actions will be unpredictable. If, on the other hand, the state were to direct the individual’s actions so as the achieve particular ends, its actions would have to be decided on the basis of the full circumstances of the moment and would therefore be unpredictable. Hence the familiar fact that the more the state “plans”, the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”
      Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

      Our hopes of avoiding the fate which threatens must…[be to make]adjustments that will be needed if we are to recover and surpass our former standards…and only if every one of us is ready to individually obey the necessities of readjustment shall we be able to get through a difficult period as free men who can choose their own way of life. Let a uniform minimum be secured to everybody by all means; but let us admit at the same time that with this assurance of a basic minimum all claims for a privileged security for particular classes must lapse….”
      ― Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

      It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place… it’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.
      David Hume

      Pick one you find appealing.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Oh – and arguably the most significant document in human history.

      ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’

    • I’m with Locke and Hayek on this. See my post wrongly put on the previous thread. I suspect that Mike Flynn is too.

  57. Chief Hydrologist,

    Surely you can answer a simple question. Actually, I understand your confusion. I did ask two, relating to what you thought about freedom of speech, and where it is practised. Obviously, I should ask one question at a time, if this allows you to concentrate your mind more adequately.

    So I ask again, does your definition of freedom include the right to free speech? Your collection of cut and pastes doesn’t seem to contain an answer.

    Your quote relating to “We hold these truths to be self evident . . . ” was uttered by an activist. Making an unsupported assertion, and presenting it as fact, is a favourite tactic of activists. I point out that all men are not created equal, either physically or mentally. To state they are sounds wonderful, but is simply not true.

    This is the sort of thing put about by Warmists, and promoted by activists, hoping that opponents will be cowed into submission. Not even a good try. Quote bits of the Magna Carta next time – or just answer a simple question.

    Here you go:

    As a young man, our own Chief Hydrologist,
    decided to be a proctologist,
    His mentor said “Chief,
    it’s my firm belief,
    that you’d make a grand Warming apologist.”

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

    • Yes, Mike, there are no self-evident truths; as stated above, I do not believe that there are any innate or god-given rights, they are human constructs. What many (at least in the Anglosphere and a few other countries) tend to see as rights now developed in England as a compact between ruler and people – at a very early stage, English kings were asked to rule, and had to agree to the terms of a body of the people. The concept of common law rather than despotism goes back to Anglo-Saxon times.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

      Which is the First Amendment of the US Constitution of course.

      Free speech – freedom of the press – freedom to associate are all fundamental precepts of the scientific enlightenment from almost the first days of the printing press through the reformation to the early days at least of the French revolution, to the Scottish Enlightenment – of John Locke, Adam Smith and David Hume as philosophers of freedom. This then took root in the new world – prominently the US and later by a happy unforeseen consequence of oppression in Australia.

      Voltaire famously said. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” These are indeed rights to be defended at all costs and wherever they come under threat.

      This extends to bizarre beliefs. Such as that the earth doesn’t warm from the Sun – but has been cooling continuously for 4.5 billion year and will continue to do so slowly. Or that CFC’s don’t destroy ozone leaving a gap in the UV frequency spectrum. Or that the greening of the Sahel by the people themselves is bad because it only encourages them to have babies. The latter is almost evil but perhaps just morally contemptible. Do I defend the right to say utterly insane things? Perhaps – but I will point out that they are insane if I want to. .

      Hayek considered that there were not innate rights – but that rights evolved as a changing social contract in the cut and thrust of democracy. In a democracy all are equal – one vote for each. There is no more fundamental proof of equality than the workings of democracy and equality before the law. If votes are bought with bread and circuses – if law is for some and not others – then democracy will fail as it has many times. Democracy is to be defended – especially from the barbarians inside the gates with sophistic, self serving arguments and little understanding of this rich and fragile heritage.

      And a priori – individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seem gifts of God that we should not hold in too little regard – that the removal of these rights without just cause is an abomination.

      It is sadness itself that a privileged westerner does not understand and treasure these things.

    • Chief-
      And my pursuit of happiness just involved enjoying the fireworks from Sydney, fantastic. You do know how to put on a display.

    • Chief, I’m not sure whether your comment that “It is sadness itself that a privileged westerner does not understand and treasure these things” is aimed at me or Mike Flynn (or neither), but I don’t think that it applies to either of us.

      This follows your statement that “And a priori – individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seem gifts of God that we should not hold in too little regard – that the removal of these rights without just cause is an abomination.” I cherish individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and do what I can to promote them. But I don’t think that they are “gifts of God” or intrinsic, a priori, elements of existence. I think that they are concepts that humans have developed in efforts to make a life that was “nasty, brutish and short” more palatable, harmonious and fulfilling. And I think that the concept of “innate rights” has been abused by those who seek to control people and limit their freedom rather than to enhance it, by defining and imposing so-called rights for some which impinge on the freedom of many. This is where the debate is at in Australia.

    • Chief Hydrologist

      Michael- It was aimed at Flynn with his seeming low regard for these fundamental values of western civilisation – not to mention the juvenile doggerel and the astonishingly mad ‘science’.

      Rights – as I said in relation to Hayek are a human construct evolving as a social contract in the democratic process one for which it is not to obtain a consensus.

      When I say that the conservative lacks principles, I do not mean to suggest that he lacks moral conviction. The typical conservative is indeed usually a man of very strong moral convictions. What I mean is that he has no political principles which enable him to work with people whose moral values differ from his own for a political order in which both can obey their convictions. It is the recognition of such principles that permits
      the coexistence of different sets of values that makes it possible to build a peaceful society with a minimum of force. The acceptance of such principles means that we agree to tolerate much that we dislike. There are many values of the conservative which appeal to me more than those of the socialists; yet for a liberal the importance he personally attaches to specific goals is no sufficient justification for forcing others to serve them. I have little doubt that some of my conservative friends will be shocked by what they will regard as “concessions” to modern views that I have made in Part III of this book. But, though I may dislike some of the measures concerned as much as they do and might vote against them, I know of no general principles to which I could appeal to persuade those of a different view that those measures are not permissible in the general kind of society which we both desire. To live and work successfully with others requires more than faithfulness to one’s concrete aims. It requires an intellectual commitment to a type of order in which, even on issues which to one are fundamental, others are allowed to pursue different ends.

      http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/articles/hayek-why-i-am-not-conservative.pdf

      But in my world out lives derive from God and return to God – and liberty is the state in which we develop a true moral sense. Something fundamental to the reformation. “Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, and responsibility for the arrangement of our own life according to our own conscience, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily recreated in the free decision of the individual. Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one’s own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one’s own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.”
      ― Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

      Which I did quote above. Moral responsibility is the sine qua non of the pursuit of happiness.

  58. Pekka Pirila @ December 31, 2013 at 4:03 am

    My doubt’s on the validity of the results of a cost-benefit analysis are, however, stronger than I interpret Nordhaus to express.

    I agree. But for a different reason (I think). I believe there is a very low probability that carbon pricing will succeed and survive, let alone deliver the claimed benefits. I explain why here (with reference to Nordhaus, Tol and Australian Treasury’s cost-benefit projections to 2050: http://jennifermarohasy.com/2013/08/why-the-ets-will-not-succeed-peter-lang/

    My agreement with Nordhaus includes also the conclusion that an initial carbon tax of about $25 per ton of CO2 would be my choice, if I had to decide what to do based on present understanding.

    I disagree. I do not believe carbon pricing will succeed for reasons explained in the post linked above. And I am not persuaded by Nordhaus’s conviction that carbon pricing is the right solution. Nordhaus says in “The Climate Change Casino”, (Chapter 20, p233):

    “There is no genuine “free-market solution” to global warming. We need new national and international institutions to coordinate and guide decisions about global warming policies. These mechanisms can use the market, but they must be legislated and enforced by governments.”

    The first sentence is an unsupported assertion. I am far from convinced it is correct. Until economists, like William Nordhaus and Richard Tol, can explain, persuasively, that the “free-market solution” I have been proposing is not valid and achievable, I will probably remain unconvinced by such assertions.

    • I started to check again what kind of papers I can find on the basic economics of mitigation. Based on what I have found so far there are many papers on valuing and discounting distant damages, but much less on the significance of the uncertainty of the consequences of mitigation actions, including both the success in reaching the goals and unintended consequences. This is a serious failure as in many cases the most important case against policy proposals is exactly this uncertainty.

      In many cases this uncertainty is one-sided, but there are also cases where the whole rationale is based on the large value of the potential but highly uncertain positive outcome. That applies to most of the utilitarian support for scientific research.

      Nordhaus has published recently also a paper on the learning models of endogenous technological change where he is critical on the use of those models. I agree strongly on that criticism, as I have for long considered many integrated assessment models to be far too optimistic on that. That has led in my view to highly too low estimates for the cost of mitigation.

      These recent activities have added pressure for returning to post on my own site, and also given ideas for the content of those posts. We’ll see, whether that results in actual progress in that.

      • Pekka and Faustino,

        Have you read Nordhaus’s “The Climate Casino”. $22.50 hard copy or $16.50, Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?keywords=9780300189773&index=books&linkCode=qs .

        It addresses (in a simple explanation) some of what Pekka disc uses in his comment. It addresses tipping points and rapid warming, discount rates, and the main uncertainties.

        I appreciate Nordhaus’ and Tol’s analyses and accept their figures given the assumptions they use. Of course, they have to use the ‘concensus’ IPCC figures for inputs, at least as a starting position.

        However, I suspect the discount rates are too low (because of ours and natures ability to adapt and adapt rapidly), I expect emissions this century will probably be much lower than assumed, I suspect climate sensitivity (2xCO2) is lower than the assimed 3C, I expect the damage function is greatly overstated. Importantly, I think there is negligible probability of implementing a global carbon pricing system that is economically efficient with greater than 80% participation. Full participation means all countries, all sectors of all economies and all emissions sources of all greenhouse gases.

    • Thanks, Pekka, I’ve passed that link on to someone with a large network on economic and AGW policy.

    • “There is no genuine “free-market solution” to global warming”

      Which is of course exactly why governments pours billions into CAGW pretend-science, and why they and and left/totalitarian groups try and push it so hard – it presents as a free pass to an even more statist / coercive society.

  59. @ Gail

    “Which is of course exactly why governments pours billions into CAGW pretend-science, and why they and and left/totalitarian groups try and push it so hard – it presents as a free pass to an even more statist / coercive society.”

    Exactly! When there is a ‘PROBLEM’, and the only solution is vast increase in government power, with a concomitant increase in its staff and funds to support it, you don’t have a problem, you have an excuse. And CAGW is the mother of all excuses, as EVERY activity that we engage in has a ‘carbon signature’ and therefore MUST be controlled/taxed to Save the Planet.

    Other common characteristics of ‘PROBLEMS’ is that they are NEVER solved (War on Pollution, War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Terrorism, War on Sexism, War on Racism, Education Crisis, Health Care Crisis, etc) but the power, staff, and budget of the government departments in charge of solving them increase monotonically with time, with the power, funding, and staff trend lines concave upward. Most importantly, no matter the political persuasion of the original proponents of the ‘SOLUTION’, progressives (liberals, socialists, communists, Marxists/euphemistic name du jour) ALWAYS wind up in charge of the government entity charged with ‘fighting the war’.

    In the case of CAGW the ploy is especially blatant because while the cries escalate for carbon taxes and control of carbon signatures, there are NO claims as to the efficacy of the solution–just that it is critical that the ‘solution’ be implemented immediately–and enforced rigorously.

  60. I quote:

    “…[W]e argue here that there are as yet unresolved ethical questions regarding our obligation to mitigate climate change, questions that precede the practical ones discussed in the current literature and media. If there is a moral obligation to preserve the climate in its present state, where does it stem from? Addressing this question seems inevitable in determining what our moral duties as regards climate may reasonably be.”

    He speaks of an “…obligation to mitigate climate change” when there is no climate change. He goes on to ask if there is “…a moral obligation to preserve the climate in its present state” when there is no way to do that. First, he is too lazy to teach himself the fundamentals of climate science and is content to accept the global warming propaganda as fact. Second, he does not understand that attempts to change the climate, such as limiting the burning of fossil fuels, are hugely expensive pseudo-scientific enterprises. Their cost is already in hundreds of billions and will soon reach one billion dollars a day. For that we get absolutely no benefits but the world economy suffers and poor people especially who are forbidden to build coal-powered or any fossil-fueled power stations are made to suffer for this asinine ideological superstition. It should not be too hard to understand that if the global warming theory is built upon the expectation that carbon dioxide causes greenhouse warming and there is no greenhouse warming the theory is plain wrong. Right now there is more carbon dioxide in the air than ever before but there is no warming and there has been none for 17 years by the latest count. In addition there was a similar period of 18 years in the eighties and nineties without any greenhouse warming. It was covered up by a fake warming in official temperature records. I exposed it in my book in 2010 and two years later the climate organizations involved withdrew it.By now that is 35 years without greenhouse warming that is verifiable by global temperature records. IPCC was established in 1988, right in the middle of this period. That was also the same year that Hansen gave a talk to the Senate about greenhouse warming.The high temperature he spoke of was in 1988. He said it was the highest temperature within the previous 100 years.He calculated that such a high temperature had only a one percent probability of happening by chance. Hence, there was 99 percent probability that it was caused by greenhouse warming. As it happens, that year by chance was a peak year of the 1987/88 El Nino warming. That El Nino peak was the middle one of five such El Nino peaks, all part of an ENSO oscillation in the eighties and nineties. It had nothing whatsoever to do with global warming but such is the strength of the global warming propaganda that no one dared question it. Based on this misidentification the IPCC was established and has been issuing “assessment” reports ever since. The science in these reports is basically technician-level work by people told to find any kind of warming to prove that AGW exists. They are up to their fifth report, AR5, and so far they have not found any proof. This is not cheap but they have scientifically illiterate politicians feeding them tax money, by the trillions by now. It will not be long before the costs of global warming will reach one billion dollars a day.

  61. Bob Droege, on the food/ethanol issue, you might not be aware of the mechanism in play. It’s not that corn that would be sold as human food was instead converted to ethanol. Rather, the artificial demand for ethanol crops (corn 2, and maybe others) artificially increased production of those crops. When that happens, other crops see reduced supplies as farmers devote more land to the lucrative ethanol crops. The reduction in supply of various food crops translated into higher prices.

    (Beer was a notable victim — there was a shortage of hops, and beer prices all over America increased. I’m surprised this alone did not cost the responsible politicians their jobs.)

  62. I see this as one of many examples of folks cherry-picking scientific arguments to support their particular moral position. We will often see it in matters of faith; when one’s convictions are not strong enough to give a priori support, one hunts around for justification. (By the way, this is often also true of those who argue against particular religious–in my case, Christian–teachings. Folks like Richard Dawkins are just as guilty of scientific and philosophical cherry-picking as are his religious targets.)

    Several years ago, I found myself having a pleasant dinner with a group of physics faculty at another University, and the subject wandered toward climate change and the carbon-scare. I was the only one at the table putting forward a (gently) skeptical position. My young colleague, at one point, put down her fork in frustration and declared that ‘burning fossil fuels is just . . . wrong!’. My reply was that she was espousing an ethical/moral position, not putting forward a scientific argument. That there was nothing wrong with expressing such an opinion, but that it was based on ethical and moral reasoning, not on science per se.

    The unfortunate truth is that much of the scientific community has no common basis for moral and ethical reasoning. We label the possibility of a particular outcome as ‘wrong’ even while equivocating over whether there is an objective definition of right and wrong. We reduce big ideas such as love to biochemistry and evolutionary psychology while ignoring the insights offered by thinkers, writers, and philosophers of the past. We happily accept Euclidean axioms (even while acknowledging their limitations) but make a show of scorning moral axioms even while smuggling in our own, completely unjustified, ethical and moral arguments.

    The bankruptcy of this approach came clear to me a few years ago, while listening to a colleague — an expert on ethics — boast how he had over the years created an atmosphere of ‘ethical anarchy’ in his classes. He was proud of the fact that any student could put forward any ethical position without censure. I left the talk mulling over the hypocrisy of a teacher who claimed such a position but had the temerity to outlaw plagiarism in his class or even to assign grades at all.

    This is simply to say that academics–especially experts in moral reasoning–should have no particular place of authority in matters of ethics and morality. A place at the table, perhaps. But not the distorted voice of moral authority that has been so prominent in the world of climate/carbon policy.

  63. TGB;
    +1
    Moral philosophers assume that they must pose as “above” their subject matter, and therefore prohibited from having any personal morals or ethics. I suspect 100% of them are psychopaths.