Decision theory and the doom scenario of climate catastrophe

by Lucas Bergkamp

Can decision theory help a rational person decide whether to believe in climate catastrophe?

slide1Frost (1920)[1]

Fire or Ice?

In many Western countries, climate policy has become one of the most expensive policy areas, and the Paris Agreement suggests that the amounts of money spent on fighting climate change will increase dramatically. There are widely diverging views on the right measures to address climate change, however. Virtually everybody believes that the climate changes over time, and that humanity has some influence on the climate. Despite massive climate alarmism and a constant stream of doom scenarios, fewer of us believe that we heading towards climate catastrophe. How citizens will see this issue, will likely have an important influence on future climate policy-making. And how ambitious climate policies will be, is, in part, a function of citizens’ belief in climate catastrophe.

Pascal’s Wager

So, people have to decide whether to believe in climate catastrophe. Assuming they want to make a rational decision, can decision theory help them decide whether to support ambitious climate policy to avert catastrophe? The decision model developed by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) would appear to offer an interesting approach. The model is known as Pascal’s Wager, and intends to answer the question whether a rational human being should believe in God. In Pascal’s view, this is a question nobody can avoid.[2] Pascal arrives at the conclusion that, in their own self-interest, people should believe in God.

His reasoning proceed as follows:

  • There are two possibilities: either God exists or He does not exist. Under each of these two scenarios, a person can decide to believe in God or not believe in God.
  • Once the outcomes for each are compared, a rational person should believe in God. This is so because, if God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss while on Earth (the loss of the enjoyment of some pleasures, luxuries, etc.), but, if God does exist, he will receive infinite benefits in Heaven (the benefits of Heaven are enjoyed for an infinite period of time), and will avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).

Decision Matrix

In Pascal’s Wager, the decision matrix looks like this:[3]

 

slide2Thus, we can now see that a rational person would choose to believe in God, because, if God exists, belief in God produces infinite gain (and disbelief produces infinite loss), and, if he does not exist, belief produces only a finite loss (and disbelief a finite gain). Note that Pascal assumes complete uncertainty about God’s existence. He, of course, also assumes that God’s existence implies the existence of Heaven and Hell, and that belief or disbelief has consequences in terms of where a person will spend his time in eternity (Heaven or Hell) and what that implies.

The Dismal Theorem

Atheists would reject Pascal’s assumptions about the possible existence of God, Heaven and Hell, and about the consequences of belief versus disbelief. Remarkably, however, Pascal’s logic has been applied by scholars to the issue of climate change. In 2009, a professor of economics at Harvard University published a mathematical version of Pascal’s Wager to argue that rational people should belief in climate catastrophe.[4] He posited a ‘very strong form of a “generalized precautionary principle” for situations of potentially unlimited downside exposure’ such as climate change in which cost-benefit analysis cannot be applied.

On the basis of this principle, also known as the ‘Dismal Theorem,’[5] a rational agent should be willing to spend an theoretically infinite amount now to avert climate catastrophe in the future. At a more pragmatic level, the Harvard professor has suggested that people should be “a lot more open to at least considering undertaking serious mitigation measures (including, perhaps, geoengineering in the case of climate change).”[6] Anybody who disagrees would bear the burden of proof and persuasion.

Criticism of the Dismal Theorem

In line with the expectations of rational people, the Dismal Theorem was severely criticized. One of the critics was, surprise, a Yale economics professor.[7] The first critics, however, were two climate economists, one of whom first articulated a more limited version of a dismal theorem. They argued that the Dismal Theorem renders the attempts to reach consensus on the social cost and central tendencies of climate change obsolete, as all estimates are infinitely too small.[8]

They also point out that the Dismal Theorem assumes that policy makers are risk averse, rather than risk-neutral. Rather than spend huge amounts on preventing climate catastrophe, they suggest that we could invest in developing the scientific understanding of the fundamental processes that might produce catastrophic impacts. More generally, they posit a potential for policy learning and mid-course corrections in the management of climate change. Further, they argue that there is no reason not to apply the generalized precautionary principle inherent in the Dismal Theorem to all social issues for which there is potential for catastrophe (in other words, virtually all big policy issues), but, if we do that, we will be unable to set priorities for distributing the planet’s finite resources in the social interest. ‘The economic tradeoffs would simply be undefined.’[9]

The criticism of the Yale economist builds on this analysis. Recognizing that uncertainty is ubiquitous, he observes that the Dismal Theorem would hold not only in climate change but also in the areas of ‘biotechnology, strangelets, runaway computer systems, nuclear proliferation, rogue weeds and bugs, nanotechnology, emerging tropical diseases, alien invaders, asteroids, enslavement by advanced robots, and so on.’ Consequently, the Dismal Theorem would cause us to ‘dissolve in a sea of anxiety at the prospect of the infinity of infinitely bad outcomes.’ Emphasizing the step-wise, iterative policy-making process, he concludes confidently that ‘[a]s long as policy is not shut down, the world economy can avoid catastrophic outcomes.’[10]

Pascal’s Wager Compared To the Dismal Theorem

Pascal’s decision theory involves the same assumption as the Dismal Theorem: the loss resulting from an uncertain event in the future is infinite. In Pascal’s theory, the infinite loss is living in Hell, in the Dismal Theorem, it is climate catastrophe. But there are important differences between the two models.

In Pascal’s Wager, the decision to be made (‘believe in God’) is a decentralized, private matter that is costless to the collectivity, except, possibly, for the time a person needs to spend to think the problem through. Each individual person needs to make the decision whether to believe or not believe, and each person’s decision is independent of the decisions of others. In the Dismal Theorem, however, the decision (‘prevent climate catastrophe’) by necessity is collective and requires enormous spending by society. Thus, unlike Pascal’s Wager, the Dismal Theorem involves a decision about the allocation of scare resources, which raises all of the issues typically associated with collective decision-making influenced by special interests.

Further, in Pascal’s Wager, no evidence can be obtained about the existence or non-existence of God; although Pascal allows ‘the faces of the cards’ to be seen through the ‘scripture and the rest,’ this would not provide information about the probability of God’s existence. In the Dismal Theorem, to the contrary, there are all sorts of actions one could take that provide information on the probability of climate catastrophe. Promoting unbiased, disinterested climate science would be good start. Stimulating innovation in energy technology would be another useful action. Neither of these actions currently seem to have priority in policy-making, however.

Proponents of the Dismal Theorem could insist that, no matter how good the science is and how fantastic innovation might be, there always is some residual uncertainty, however small, of an infinite loss. That is not a fact, it is a belief. It is the power of imagination; or, its rationalized version, ‘possibilistic’ (as opposed to probabilistic) risk assessment.[11]

So, is there risk of climate catastrophe at some point in time? Pascal answered for the advocates of the Dismal Theorem: ‘by faith we know [its] existence.’

What Should A Disbeliever Do?

Proponents of the Dismal Theorem invoke the possibility of infinite losses due to climate catastrophe to persuade opponents of ambitious climate policies, even if they may not suffer these losses during their life time. Apparently, this threat is deemed a sufficient ground for collective decisions to allocate massive resources to the fight against climate change. Logically, this fight should then be extended to combat also the natural causes of climate change that might result in catastrophe. Disbelievers can be conveniently disregarded as long as they do not prevent the adoption of the necessary policies.

Pascal has other advice to disbelievers: ‘[L]earn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions (…), which are your stumbling-blocks.’ Similarly, in the area of climate policy, moralists and philosophers have argued that mankind in the West should temper its consumption, and give up amenities, such as traveling by airplane and eating beef, all in an effort to save the planet. Indirectly, proponents of the Dismal Theorem do the same by drawing resources away from all these other endeavors.

The Centrality of Belief

Proponents of the Dismal Theorem do not need to persuade everybody; they just need to persuade those in power who can make the relevant policy decisions. Of course, this still is a tall order. Any effective climate policy would need to be global in nature. In the absence of an effective world government, it is unlikely that countries around the world will adopt the far-reaching measures that would be necessary to eliminate or even substantially reduce the risk of climate catastrophe. Given the size of the investments involved and the interdependence of the policy measures adopted by nation states, ‘free riding’ and taking the lead in a ‘race to the bottom’ (or, maybe, lagging behind in some sort of ‘race to the top’) will likely be the dominant strategies.

Is climate change then the ultimate instantiation of the ‘tragedy of the commons’? No, not quite. The folly of the Dismal Theorem is that, by necessity, it has to claim that it is a uniform theory of knowledge governing all human affairs. An erroneous decision by the whole world to spend all or most of its resources on fighting climate change, to the detriment of other worthwhile causes (including other risk management programs), would be the ultimate ‘tragedy of science-based collectivism:’ in its quest for supreme rationality, it destroys rationality and with it humanity.

A comparison of Pascal’s Wager and the Dismal Theorem teaches us that in both cases the key is belief. While Pascal attempted to demonstrate the rationality of belief, not of the existence of God, the Dismal Theorem tries to establish the rationality of the belief in the possibility of climate catastrophe, not of climate change. To those who insist that we need evidence of the existence of God or of climate change before we believe in either, both theories are unsatisfactory.

Can Decision Theory Help?

This essay posed the question whether decision theory can help a rational person to decide whether to believe in climate catastrophe? The Dismal Theorem, of course, is only one decision theory, and it a simplistic one for that. There are much richer models of cost-benefit analysis that are more helpful to decision-making in the real world. Even these models, however, merely help to organize and generate relevant information; as all areas of science, they can inform, but should not prescribe policy decisions. The folly of the Dismal Theorem is not only that it attempts to do exactly that. It also, by necessity, has to claim that it is a uniform theory of knowledge governing all human affairs. Obviously, it fails in this regard.

Both Pascal’s Wager and the Dismal Theorem appeal to faith, not doubt. Only those who believe in the necessity of forming a belief will buy these theories. Pascal believed that belief in God is good for human beings. Proponents of ambitious climate policies believe that a collective belief in climate catastrophe is necessary for the survival of humanity.

Rational people may have very different views about the likelihood of climate catastrophe or the existence of God. Some might find it convenient to refer to Pascal’s Wager or the Dismal Theorem. In the final analysis, however, both theories cannot avoid the question Sagan posed in his parable of the Dragon: ‘what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?’[12]

In the case of Pascal’s Wager, it is not a problem that the answer to Sagan’s question is faith, because religious belief is a personal matter. In the case of the Dismal Theorem, however, it would be irresponsible to spend huge amounts of society’s resources on the basis of faith in the doom scenario of climate catastrophe.

*****

[1] Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice”, in: A Group of Poems by Robert Frost, Harper’s Magazine , December 1920, p. 67.

[2] PASCAL’S PENSÉES, Part III, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18269/18269-h/18269-h.htm

[3] Cf. Pascal’s Wager About God, http://www.iep.utm.edu/pasc-wag/ . Pascal’ Wager, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager Alan Hájek, Pascal’s Wager, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (November 6, 2012), http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/index.html

[4] Martin L. Weitzman, On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change, Review of Economics and Statistics, February 2009, 91(1), pp. 1–19.

[5] The Dismal Theorem holds that if a non-zero probability of catastrophic climate change exists and marginal utility goes to infinity as consumption goes to zero, in the absence of prior information that rules out the upper tail of climate risks, rational agents would be willing to spent an infinite amount of resources to ensure a positive consumption level in the future. See Ross McKitrick, CHEERING UP THE DISMAL THEOREM, University of Guelph, Working Paper 1205, 2009, http://www.rossmckitrick.com/uploads/4/8/0/8/4808045/dismal.pdf

[6] Martin L. Weitzman, On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change, Review of Economics and Statistics, February 2009, 91(1), p. 18.

[7] William D. Nordhaus, The economics of tail events with an application to climate change. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 2011: 5(2):240–57. William D. Nordhaus, An Analysis of the Dismal Theorem (January 16, 2009).

[8] Gary Yohe & Richard S.J. Tol, Precaution and a Dismal Theorem: Implications for Climate Policy and Climate Research, September 2007, DOI: 10.1002/9781118467381.ch7

[9] Gary Yohe & Richard S.J. Tol, Precaution and a Dismal Theorem: Implications for Climate Policy and Climate Research, September 2007, DOI: 10.1002/9781118467381.ch7

[10] William D. Nordhaus, An Analysis of the Dismal Theorem (January 16, 2009). For a rebuttal, see Martin L. Weitzman, Fat-Tailed Uncertainty in the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, volume 5, issue 2, summer 2011, pp. 275–292.

[11] Frank Furedi, PRECAUTIONARY CULTURE AND THE RISE OF POSSIBILISTIC RISK ASSESSMENT, Erasmus Law Review, 2009, pp. 197-220.

[12] Carl Sagan, The Dragon In My Garage, http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

Moderation note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.

 

203 responses to “Decision theory and the doom scenario of climate catastrophe

  1. I’ve stated this multiple times before, but anyone who claims to use any version of the “Dismal Theorem” is adopting the logic of Pascal’s wager. If they adopt the logic of Pascal, they are then bound by it and better show up in Church every single Sunday and engage in every other behavior that a devout Christian practices.

    You cannot have one without the other. To espouse any derivation of the Dismal Theorem and not immediately practice devout devotion to God is 100% hypocrisy.

    • CTM, The Bible has two gospels: Of the Kingdom & Age of Grace. We are under the freedom of choice through the death, burial & resurrection, the ‘finished’ work of the cross. You want to have a relationship with God, through the power of the Holy Spirit no religion required if you don’t believe me ask Him. Join the Body of Believers if you want to, the dues have already been paid in full.

      1Corinthians 15:1 ¶ Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

      1Co 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

      1Co 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

      1Co 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

      Rev 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with you all. Amen.

      • Gospel of Thomas:

        51 His disciples asked him: When will the dead rest? When will the new world arrive? He replied: That which you are waiting for has come, but you don’t recognize it.

      • The Devil is particularly evil when he quotes non-canonical scripture.

      • Why is the Gospel of Thomas any less believable than the four usual gospels?

      • “Consensus.”

        Good one!!

        Now, when did Jesus ever care for consensus?

      • He was bigger on conformity. Since Paul is popular tonight, try 1 Corinthians 11, neighborhood of v. 16: But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

      • Jesus was perhaps the least conforming person in the history of the world.

        Thomas:
        113 His disciples asked him: When is the Kingdom coming? He replied: It is not coming in an easily observable manner. People will not be saying, “Look, it’s over here” or “Look, it’s over there.” Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is already spread out on the earth, and people aren’t aware of it.

      • I read that as a positive argument, not a normative one.

        Scribes, pharisees, hypocrites is more like it. Chasing the money changers out of the temple. Generally running amok disrupting things as all good revolutionary martyrs do. That said, he could be pragmatic and a wicked tactician: Render unto Caesar …

      • I read that as a positive argument, not a normative one.

        I goofed … I missed a critical word: He replied: It is not coming in an easily observable manner.

        I remember it better from Luke 21:

        20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
        21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
        22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
        23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.

        Another one the Nicaean Councils might have done well to be rid of.

      • Congratulations on a post that frightened AGW propaganda promoters!

      • 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

        Probably better translated “[…] among you

        Another one the Nicaean Councils might have done well to be rid of.

        Highly doubtful.

        The “church authorities” were having the same sort of trouble with apocalyptic heresies as they have over the last few centuries. Quotes like this one can justify treating the whole “second coming” as metaphor.

        Remember the whole purpose of the Nicaean Council was to stabilize “Christianity” as a religion acceptable to the Roman Emperor. Apocalyptic movements tend(ed) to be highly destabilizing.

      • Since Corinthians is in vogue today, here is perhaps my favorite.

        Love never gives up, never loses faith,

        is always hopeful, and endures.

        — I Corinthians 13:7

        When you remember that God loves us, why worry about climate change? God will never give up on us.

      • AK,

        Probably better translated “[…] among you”

        What can I say, I’m a KJV snob.

        The “church authorities” were having the same sort of trouble with apocalyptic heresies as they have over the last few centuries. Quotes like this one can justify treating the whole “second coming” as metaphor.

        Matthew 24:32-44 makes that one a tough sell in my view. For pure apocalypse AND fodder for utter lack of mutual agreement, nothing beats Revelations. I find that even Isaiah is easier to understand.

        Why so many … problematic … passages remain can be explained by a number of things like translation, copying errors, motivated editing etc. It’s also worth pointing out that these texts and manuscripts weren’t available to the general public at all during Constantine’s reign, and pre-Gutenberg, literacy rates were such that “Bibles” made available to the general public were akin to children’s picture books today.

        Remember the whole purpose of the Nicaean Council was to stabilize “Christianity” as a religion acceptable to the Roman Emperor. Apocalyptic movements tend(ed) to be highly destabilizing.

        Indeed. Arguments over any and all points of doctrine tend to be destabilizing. My crack about “consensus” was just that, a crack. By far the predominant mechanism the Nicaean Councils (re)introduced is homogenization [giggle] and enforced conformity. Orthodoxy. It’s embedded in your use of the word “heresies” above. Consensus is for Councils of Elders, and that’s about it. Once the thinking has been done, the rank and file are expected to go along with it.

        I see the Protestant reformations as a repetition of the same cycle Christ started: undermining the corruption and abusive authority of the clerical classes, splitting off to form a new group and over time again becoming a new orthodoxy.

      • timg56,

        When you remember that God loves us, why worry about climate change? God will never give up on us.

        As an agnostic, I don’t rely on that assumption. As an ex-Christian I would challenge it on the basis that dominion over the fowls of the air and the beasts of the earth entails stewardship for them as well. Even so, Genesis 9 makes many reassuring promises to Noah for “perpetual generations” about no more flooding to the point of total destruction. There’s an interesting ambiguity there about whether the Lord is promising no more such destructive events by His own hand, or none by our hand either.

        As an extreme example of what might settle that question for me, I might look at nuclear weapons stockpiles. Whether by fire or water, self-destruction is still destruction. Fortunately, there’s not enough ice to fully bury the continents, and for any physically conceivable scenario I know of it would take on the order of thousands of years for CO2 forcing to do it.

        Back to Genesis 9, verse 1 reads: And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

        That’s KJV, other translations say “fill the earth”, but “replenish” is what sticks, having learned it that way at an impressionable age.

        There are Christian websites arguing for AGW mitigation on the basis of scripture, and they probably do a better job of it than I can. The natural sciences are more where I put my trust these days. You can call that faith on my part if you like; there are certainly similarities to me believing in the evidence of things not (yet) seen when I caution against unfettered CO2 emissions.

      • Brandon,

        I very much agree that we are granted the responsibility for being stewards over the natural world. The motto of the science education non-profit I’ve been with the past 20 years is “Scientists for a day, Stewards for life.”

        And as I was typing my comment, that ambiguity you mentioned did occur to me. God supposedly took mankind to the brink of extinction once. Guess we have to trust in his word that he wouldn’t do so again. As for allowing mankind to destroy himself – my understanding (or maybe version is a better term) of god is he provided us with free will. Meaning we are capable of ending his grand experiment.

        Appreciate your comments. And I do not disagree with having a concern over “unfettered CO2 emissions”. I just happen to also have concerns about folks who hype certain outcomes as certain in order to push their specific agendas.

      • timg56 wrote:
        “When you remember that God loves us, why worry about climate change? God will never give up on us.”

        Tell that the 6 million Jews.
        Tell it to the children who every day die of starvation.
        Or die of cancer.
        Or the homeless who sleep under bridges.
        All the dogs abandoned.
        All the elephants being hacked to death for their ivory.

      • I still do not see why Thomas should be dismissed (though I do see why Church founders wanted to dismiss him — Thomas puts the emphasis on creating the Kingdom of God here and now, and not on an afterlife).

    • Experimental evidence reinforces a seemingly intrinsic belief of humans (and perhaps all forms of life) in a Higher Power. The evidence does not seem to endorse any particular religious practices, except the importance of living in conscious contact (awareness) of a Higher Power. That is also called sanity, escape from the ego cage, humility and may be the ultimate reality for all of us at the point of death.

    • > anyone who claims to use any version of the “Dismal Theorem” is adopting the logic of Pascal’s wager

      Show me.

      Some help:

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/

      ***

      > You cannot have one withou the other.

      Of course you can – otherwise “adopting the logic” of the St. Petersburgh paradox would also imply that you become a devout Christian.

      Assigning a positive probability to God doesn’t imply anything about Christianity, btw.

    • Charles of course not, Pascal’s wager is a ternary issue: 1 reward, 2 punishment and 3 nothing. Option three skews the decision to indecision, exactly what is happening in climate policy. That is also the reason why a roulette table has a zero: to skew the odds in favour of the casino.

      • > Pascal’s wager is a ternary issue: 1 reward, 2 punishment and 3 nothing.

        It’s actually an issue between everything (to win) and nothing (to lose).

        Are you sure you read the original wager? It’s a very short paragraph.

    • Your statement makes no sense.

  2. In pascal’s wager belief in god is costless.

    • chaamjamal,

      In pascal’s wager belief in god is costless.

      His formulation proposed action being required to demonstrate belief:

      You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. …

      But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

      So there’s an opportunity cost to belief. But since the expected utility of belief is infinite, we can argue that no finite cost is too much to pay.

      Benny gives a pro-tip on covering the bases:

    • “In pascal’s wager belief in god is costless.”

      I believe in electrons.

      Costs me nothing.

      Does that mean electrons aren’t real?

    • chaamjamal ==> Costless and Priceless.

  3. Just read parts one and two of Opus Majus and we can understand how one can utterly circumvent the entire scientific method as has effectively been done here with AGW climate theory.

    From what I have learned in professional sales training for sales engineering and even partially from Toastmasters is the power of emotional argument to circumvent logical reasoning process appealing specifically to the primitive amygdala…. some call it the reptilian mind….. fight or flight thinking etc. So then is it possible that Al Gore chose such strategies to convince the world of his agenda?

  4. Lucas Bergkamp,

    Virtually everybody believes that the climate changes over time, and that humanity has some influence on the climate.

    Not true in the US:

    Despite massive climate alarmism and a constant stream of doom scenarios, fewer of us believe that we heading towards climate catastrophe.

    Also not true in the US:

    How citizens will see this issue, will likely have an important influence on future climate policy-making. And how ambitious climate policies will be, is, in part, a function of citizens’ belief in climate catastrophe.

    Those who would seek to influence policy get off to a bad start making untrue statements about the current state of belief and or its trend …

    In the case of Pascal’s Wager, it is not a problem that the answer to Sagan’s question is faith, because religious belief is a personal matter. In the case of the Dismal Theorem, however, it would be irresponsible to spend huge amounts of society’s resources on the basis of faith in the doom scenario of climate catastrophe.

    … and don’t make things much better by ending on a false dilemma, a begged question and a strawman.

    • We could stop global warming tomorrow — if everyone just changed their voter registration to the Republican party.

      • They’re nothing if not efficient.

      • You guys don’t like politics I take it? Neither do I. Here’s one for you.
        A little old lady has a flat by the side of the road.
        A car stops. It’s a democrat. He drives away. He doesn’t know how to fix the flat and abandons the old lady to avoid facing his embarrassment.
        Another car stops. It’s a republican. He drives away. He knows how to fix the flat but doesn’t want to miss ‘ugly pants happy hour’ at the country club.

    • This is what happens when everything you know becomes Sci-Fi.

      In the case of Pascal’s Wager, it is not a problem that the answer to Sagan’s question is faith, because religious belief is a personal matter.

      The Creator, God, He said he died for you already and won’t be spit on anymore… yada yada, now what are you going to Do about it? Test Him, in the privacy of your own home,it is a very personal matter, after all.

    • brandonrgates ==> Like many in the social [so-called] sciences, you provide, for evidence of thing, evidence of a slightly different thing.

      The author’s “Virtually everybody believes that the climate changes over time, and that humanity has some influence on the climate.” is NOT contradicted by a survey that asked if “increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century are more due to pollution from human activities or natural changes in the environment…”

      Similarly, the poll showing that the percentages of people who feel GW will pose a serious threat to their way of life in their lifetimes has not changed since 2008 does not refute that “fewer of us believe that we heading towards climate catastrophe” — it simply shows that the climate wars have polarized the general public to a steady state.

      The topic today has to do with the philosophies of facing societal problems.

      • Kip Hansen,

        Like many in the social [so-called] sciences, you provide, for evidence of thing, evidence of a slightly different thing.

        Like so many op-ed writers, the author provided no evidence whatsoever. Perquisites of the position, I suppose.

        The topic today has to do with the philosophies of facing societal problems.

        What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China? Does Bergkamp have data to back up his claims or doesn’t he?

      • Brandon ==> Your slash-and-hack attack style of objecting to nearly everything anyone else says hardly serves well here. Almost no one is interested in the minutia in an Op-Ed, especially of broad-brush statements that are generally not in contestation. These type of social facts are not the bone of contention in the Climate Wars.

  5. This cartoon comes to mind.

    • As long as you don’t mind killing tens or even hundreds of millions of people and relegating perhaps even more to permanent poverty, your better world costs nothing.

      • It’s called a no-regrets approach here.

      • That there is what we call “leading with one’s chin”.

      • What is proposed is not a no regrets solution. Proposed solutions are ineffective and costly.

      • As long as Charles shields his fight freedom with the poor, he has little to lose.

        Does it mean Freedom Fighters should become devout Christians?

      • Jim D ==> No Regrets actions are those that “virtually everyone” can agree are good things now that will result in good things for the future.

        We really ought to get on with as many as we can get enough agreement on — like investment in new clean massive energy sources, anti-pollution measures that actually clean up the air people breathe and the water we drink, battery technology breakthroughs that will allow electric cars that really replace gas powered cars in utility — yes, all of it.

        But not the society and economy killing measures called for by Paris etc.

        And not at the cost of condemning the peoples of the developing world to continued decades of grinding poverty.

      • One regret we would have is if we didn’t move off fossil fuels (oil, gas) by the end of the century, preferably a long time before depletion raises their prices. A no-regrets approach is to transition to other energy sources because we will be doing that anyway.

    • It might help to separate that list into what is real and what is so loosely defined as to mean anything (or nothing).

      Real:
      Energy Independence – happening is the US
      Preserving rainforests – not happening
      Renewables – happening, but has limitations
      Clean water & air – already have that in the US
      Healthy Children – already have the means
      (like someone to demonstrate how climate change has effected the health of children)

      Loosely defined buzz words:
      Sustainability
      Green jobs
      Livable cities

    • That cartoon is ridiculous…… The world cannot become a better place as the result of a big hoax! But then again, people who are convinced that the earth is heading into a thermal runaway condition due to anthropogenic factors have a very weird sense of humor to begin with. Well at least we know where you are coming from…. don’t we!

  6. We are all on the same journey from birth to death, and we will all successfully complete the journey. Religions teach that the good (heavenly) life requires us to admit that a Higher Power is in control; that failure to admit powerlessness will yield a horrible (hellish) life. Whether or not we accept the concept of a Higher Power during life, we will all be forced to admit that reality at death.

  7. Tim Ball: The deliberate corruption of climate science. Inadequate data sampling. Over-reliance on parameterization.

    Andrew Montford: The hockeystick illusion; Hiding the decline (censoring data which don’t support your pre conceived belief.)
    Cook et al “97% of climate scientists ” (thoroughly debunked)

    Failed predictions of climate science as ‘projected’ by computer models of climate. The absent ‘hot spot’ in the tropical troposphere at 10 km altitude.
    Can the models tell us when, where or how much precipitation will occur (beyond normal weather predicting for about 3 days)?

    Computer modelling of climate … attempting to produce deterministic models of a complex, chaotic climate system involving dozens of interacting variables (with varying temporal relationships) most of which are very poorly constrained.

    Significant gaps in knowledge of the physics of clouds & causes of ocean circulation patterns. Indirect solar effects ignored.

    ‘Adjustments’ of tide gauge data to conform to questionable satellite altimetry.
    (Why else would NASA want to replace that satellite system?)

    I’m sure others here can add to the list.

    • “Tim Ball: The deliberate corruption of climate science. Inadequate data sampling. Over-reliance on parameterization.”

      Notice how Tim Ball completely avoids the peer reviewed literature.

      He avoided it before retirement, except for about 4 meaningless papers. In about 4 decades. Only NOW does he decide all climate science is wrong. It’s not convincing.

      • Don’t play the man, play the ball…oh wait.

      • Tim Ball is not a climate science expert, and this has been admitted in a court of law.

        After the Calgary Herald published an op-ed by Ball on April 19, 2006, whom the newspaper identified as the first climatology PhD in Canada and a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years, they published a letter on April 23, 2006 from Dr. Dan Johnson, a professor at the University of Lethbridge, who pointed out that neither of those descriptions is true; that Dr. Ball’s credentials were being seriously overstated. Ball later threatened Johnson and the Herald and ultimately sued for defamation.

        In their Statement of Defense filed in Court, the Calgary Herald submitted the following:

        1. “…that the Plaintiff (Ball) never held a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming.

        2. “The Plaintiff has never published any research in any peer-reviewed scientific journal which addressed the topic of human contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming

        3. “The Plaintiff has published no papers on climatology in academically recognized peer-reviewed scientific journals since his retirement as a Professor in 1996;

        4. “The Plaintiff’s credentials and credibility as an expert on the issue of global warming have been repeatedly disparaged in the media; and

        5. “The Plaintiff is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist.”

        Ball dropped his lawsuit.

        Source: The Calgary Herald, Statement of Defense – paragraph 50, Dr Tim Ball v The Calgary Herald, In the Court of the Queen’s Bench of Alberta Judicial District of Calgary, Dec 7, 2006 (http://is.gd/brO4uO).

    • From Ross McKitrich, ‘A Brief Retrospective on the
      Hockey Stick.’
      An on the record example of Cargo Cult Science
      ain’t it?

      ‘A very brief summary of the problems of the hockey
      stick would go like this. Mann’s algorithm, applied to
      a large proxy data set, extracted the shape associated
      with one small and controversial subset of the tree-rings
      records, namely the bristle cone pine cores from high
      and arid mountains in the US Southwest.The trees are
      extremely long-lived, but grow in highly contorted shapes
      as bark dies back to a single twisted strip. The scientists
      who published the data (Graybill and Idso 1993) had
      specifically warned that the ring widths should not be
      used for temperature reconstruction, and in particular
      their 20th century portion is unlike the climatic history
      of the region, and is probably biased by other factors.

      Mann’s method exaggerated the significance of the
      bristlecones so as to make their chronology out to be
      the dominant global climatic pattern rather than a
      minor (and likely inaccurate) regional one; Mann
      then understated the uncertainties of the final climate
      reconstruction, leading to the claim that1998 was the
      warmest year of the last millennium, a claim that was
      not, in reality, supportable in the data. Furthermore,
      Mann put obstacles in place for subsequent researchers
      wanting to obtain his data and replicate his methodologies,
      most of which were only resolved by the interventions of
      US Congressional investigators and the editors of Nature
      magazine, both of whom demanded full release of his
      data and methodologies some six years after publication
      of his original Nature paper

      Mann had re-done his hockey stick graph at some point
      during its preparation with the dubious bristlecone records
      excluded and saw that the result lost the hockey stick
      shape altogether, collapsing into a heap of trendless noise.
      However he never pointed this out to readers. He also
      stated that he had computed test scores called statistics
      that he said (or implied) confirmed the statistical
      significance of his results, yet when the scores were later
      revealed they showed no such thing; and by then he had
      taken to denying he had even calculated them.’
      Ross McKitrick ‘

      … and from Phil Jones at CRU… ‘I’ve just completed Mike’s
      Nature Trick of adding in the real temps to each series for
      the last 20 years ( ie 1981) and from 1961 for Keith’s to
      hide the decline.’

      Look away those who do not wish to see what the record
      shows.
      Try ter
      toss it
      down the
      memery
      whole…

  8. The climate change issue is b.s. = beyond science. It is a policy issue to be decided by lawyers / legislators, or in the U.S. by abuse of executive orders.

    • So do you think that CO2 doesn’t absorb infrared radiation, or do you think the Earth doesn’t emit any?

      • That isn’t the question. The question is whether or not natural climate variations have been minimized/ignored in order to magnify the role of CO2, and insofar as the hockey stick is concerned the answer is yes.

      • Have you looked into the RCP8.5 emissions projections? Do you think they are appropriate for a “Business as Usual” case?

      • Appell

        Dripping with inductive inference. Elevate your game.

      • Why do you always avoid the issue with smoke screens like this David?

        I know how CO2 molecules work with regard to infrared. I know the climate is changing and human impacts (including those other than CO2) account for a portion of that change. I don’t know how big a portion, but I’m willing to accept the IPCC position of “at least 50%”. I am also willing to accept that over time a continuous rise in temperature, even if gradual, could result in negative impacts.

        But because I ask for evidence of what those impacts will be or how long until they might occur, or an explanation of the mechanism(s) by which they will manifest themselves, I’m suddenly a denier.

        Show you are truly a scientist and not a true believer by providing real evidence. Evidence that SLR will be 10 meters by the end of the century. Examples of islands disappearing beneath the seas. A mechanism by which flooding events will increase or how tropical cyclones will become stronger or more frequent.

      • > because I ask for evidence of what those impacts will be

        Poor Tim – wondering why nobody can see the future for him.

        Contrarians should crowdfund a new Delorean.

      • Poor nothing trench coat willie. Just pretending I’m from Missouri.

        If you spent less time standing around the school yard you might have heard that people try to look into the future all the time. Many even get paid to do it. The question for climate science is whether they are among those who do it because billions of dollars are at stake or are they in the group that does it for entertainment?

      • > people try to look into the future all the time.

        Yet they fail, Tim. Even present is moot – by the time the light goes through the retina and the nervous system, you get an image of the past. It’s more obvious when you look at the stars.

        We just don’t have telescopes to look into the future. At best you could ask for quasi-empirical evidence. Teh stoopid modulz can’t do any better.

        From lesser powers come lesser responsibilities.

      • Willard,

        If you were Jim D I’d understand if you didn’t understand my point. But whatever you are, uncomprehending dummy is not one of them.

        We get lots of predictions (or projections, if that makes some people happier) from climate scientists, federal organizations and the clowns in the media. If as you say most looks into the future are bound to be wrong (fail was your wording), then why should we pay any attention to what scientists say will happen in 2100, let alone 2200 or 2300? We already know they are unlikely to get it right? What is wrong with asking for more time or more research to get a better understanding of what is happening? That sounds like the logical, rational approach compared to most of the measures being pushed today as being vital to save the planet. Save the planet from what – projections we know are most likely to be wrong according to your argument?

        If a warming environment is supposedly so bad for us, one would think that 30 years into it some of those bad things we are told to worry about would start manifesting themselves. One of the first clues I had that something was possibly hokey was that every potential outcome being projected for a warming climate was universally negative. That’s not how the natural world works. Take the tale of salamanders and newts in the PNW. Newts have some competitive advantages over salamanders. One of them is an affinity for a wider temperature range towards the warmer end of the scale. It’s not a huge advantage, but combined with the others, it favors newts in competing for habitat. As a result they are gradually replacing salamanders. Is warming bad for salamanders? Sure sounds like it. Is it bad for newts? Looks pretty good I’d say. What about the for the ecology of PNW forests? Well, it might mean a slightly different looking ecological system, but how does one rate it as bad or good. Nature certainly doesn’t care. Climate’s impact on our environment is made up of millions of little elements, some good, some bad and many neutral. But all we here is bad. About the only thing more telling for someone running a scam than only touting the bad is when they start to tell us to “think of the children”. That one is a 100% guarantee we are being lied to.

      • > If as you say most looks into the future are bound to be wrong (fail was your wording), then why should we pay any attention to what scientists say will happen in 2100, let alone 2200 or 2300?

        Because all modulz are wrong, but some are useful. Projections are not for predictions, but for outlining scenarios. Since we don’t have telescopes, we use modulz.

        Your “2100, let alone 2200 or 2300” gets the difficulty upside-down, BTW: it’s harder to get a projections right for the next years than the next decades, it’s harder to get projections right for the next decades than the next centuries, and so on and so forth. Transpose this into “I project that the Chicaco Cubs will win another World Series by X” to see why.

        If you don’t get any of this, Tim, you don’t get to patronize me.

        ***

        As for investing in teh stoopid modulz is concerned, that’s another question. I don’t care much, quite honestly. Not that I mind much Denizens’ skepticism regarding it – they don’t seem to be that scepticism of NicL’s. Even more fascinating is the total obliviousness to the fact that these modulz are fed up into economic modulz, modulz that are not subject to any kind of audit.

        For instance, do you realize that most economic calculations of the social cost of carbon assume some kind of infinitary reasoning, just like the one Lucas is criticizing right now?

      • Don Dalton wrote:
        “The question is whether or not natural climate variations have been minimized/ignored in order to magnify the role of CO2, and insofar as the hockey stick is concerned the answer is yes.”

        Which natural climate variations were minimized, specifically?

      • ting wrote:
        “But because I ask for evidence of what those impacts will be or how long until they might occur, or an explanation of the mechanism(s) by which they will manifest themselves, I’m suddenly a denier.”

        Impacts: Read IPCC 5AR WG2
        https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/

        How long will the impacts last? Essentially forever.

        “The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate,” David Archer (University of Chicago), 2008.
        http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10727.html

  9. Geoff Sherrington

    “Probable-Possible, my black hen,
    She lays eggs in the Relative When.
    She doesn’t lay eggs in the Positive Now,
    Because she’s unable to postulate How.”

    (Attr: F. Winsor and M. Parry, quoted by Jeff Masten in “Epistemic Ambiguity and the Calculus of Risk: Ethyl Corporation v. Environmental Protection Agency,” in South Dakota Law Review, 1976.)

    Bergkamp’s topic is old ground being trod again. The ditty above was composed during a court hearing about the ‘new’ end of the world threat of cancer epidemics caused by man-made chemicals in the 1950-80 era, with then-US Government responses similar to those it presented on Global Warming. The cancer scare has since been shown a figment of excited scientific imagination, yet it cost a fortune in $$ and reputations before it was exposed.

    Can we please divert funds from this remotely-observed philosophising by non-scientists. One path to salvation, as noted here by Lucas Bergkamp, is similar to “Promoting unbiased, disinterested climate science would be good start. Stimulating innovation in energy technology would be another useful action”.

    I would but change his ‘promoting’ and ‘stimulating’ to ‘conducting’.

    • Geoff Sherrington,

      One path to salvation, as noted here by Lucas Bergkamp, is similar to “Promoting unbiased, disinterested climate science would be good start. Stimulating innovation in energy technology would be another useful action”.

      I would but change his ‘promoting’ and ‘stimulating’ to ‘conducting’.

      Wouldn’t really fix the fact that artificial intelligence isn’t quite ready for that kind of prime time. Neither would subbing ‘dispassionate’ for ‘disinterested’, though it might then allow the impetus for inventing robot scientists in the first place.

      Ideals are all well and good. Begging the question that they’re wholly absent is about as far from unbiased and disinterested as I can imagine.

    • Geoff,

      Your hen sounds like a candidate for chicken dinner.

  10. Judith wouldn’t put this on here if she didn’t think it supported her views on climate change.

    • If you believe that, then I have a bridge you may be interested in buying…
      Judy has said many times that things she draws attention to are those she finds “interesting” – this does not mean mean she finds them convincing, nor does it mean she feels they represent her views. Except where she explicitly states she supports (or opposes) a particular view, it would be most unwise to assume she does (or doesn’t).

    • “Judith wouldn’t put this on here if she didn’t think it supported her views on climate change.” – Tom Taylor

      Tom, I have been reading this blog for a little over a year, and have only stepped out from behind curtain on few occasions to comment; that said, Dr. Curry seems to put ‘articles that caught my eye’…which include both sides of the debate.

    • Looks like a new clown has joined the circus.

  11. Since life is an energy consuming process, the human species can be and has been controlled by controlling access to energy. Since the fountain of energy that sustains the solar system is nuclear, Weizsacker-Bethe’s obvious error in the definition of nuclear “binding energy” has enslaved humanity.

  12. Nice post, but it leaves two important points about the Dismal Theorem unaddressed.

    First, the Dismal Theorem shows that just a little bit of parameter uncertainty renders the conventional benefit-cost analysis (based on normally distributed risk with known parameters) invalid. I think this is why it is called Dismal. It is a pretty big deal in climate economics, given that a) the probability distribution of risk is not well known and b) we are using conventional analysis in every calculation of optimal carbon taxes and such.

    It does not follow that we should expend more effort on emissions reduction, only that conventional analysis needs to be supplemented by an explicitly ethical choice (how important is catastrophe?) and separate attention to the probability of catastrophe.

    This is the second important point not touched. Weitzman gets to his stronger claims by talking about catastrophe probabilities in the neighborhood of five percent. Individual values may differ, but I agree with him: it is s worth a lot of sacrifice if we can reduce a one-in-twenty chance of the end of civilization to one in fifty. Or from one in fifty to one in a thousand.

    I don’t know whether those are the right probabilities to use. I’ve seen some recent evidence that encourages me to reduce the catastrophe odds, but not yet to negligible. Scientific progress may get us there. There is no equivalent to such progress in Pascal’s scenario. And making use of it does not require rejecting Weitzman’s logic.

    • Michael Margolis said:

      I agree with him: it is s worth a lot of sacrifice if we can reduce a one-in-twenty chance of the end of civilization to one in fifty. Or from one in fifty to one in a thousand.

      In making such a statement, you’ve demonstrated your belief in CAGW, and also the possibility of mitigating it. You’re already several levels down on the decision-making chart.

  13. I’d simply ask the all powerful God to prove he didn’t exist. Simple for a true deity.

  14. There exists a whole array of binary decisions that CAGW true believers must make before they even get to the the point where Pascal’s Wager or the Dismal Theorem becomes relevant. The decision flow chart looks something like this:

    Once we get tot he bottom of the chart, we come up with two types of CAGW believers.

    The first type of CAGWist believes that the cost to mitigate CAGW is small or even negative. This is Barak Obama’s belief — a “you can have your cake and eat it too” doctrine — which he articulated in an interview a couple of days ago:

    September 8, 2016: Exclusive Obama Interview on ‘Terrifying’ Threat of Climate Change | The New York Times

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Part of our goal throughout my presidency has been to raise awareness, but also then to create frameworks, structures, rules that allow us to take specific action in ways that create economic opportunity and improve people’s well-being as opposed to people feeling as if there are these enormous tradeoffs that necessarily make life a lot harder for them….

    I think we as a country owe everybody opportunity. And if they’re in a sector that, because of the necessities of doing something about climate change are going to be adversely affected, then we need to be there for them.

    So what we owe the remaining people who are making a living mining coal is to be honest with them and to say, “Look, the economy is shifting, how we use energy is shifting, that’s going to be true here but it’s also going to be true internationally. And how can we take your skills and talents and work ethic that you’ve shown in the coal mine and use it to built some wind turbines or use it to install solar panels.”

    I think there are a lot of folks in West Virginia, Kentucky and southern Illinois who do think the reason they’re having a tough time is because of Obama and the EPA, and now of course Hillary Clinton, that we’re all trying to destroy them. But what I want to do, I think what we should all want to do, is to have an honest conversation about how these communities thrive with the energy industries of the 21st century, not of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

    The second type of CAGWist believes that the cost to mitigate CAGW will be great, and great human sacrifice and austerity will be needed. A good of example of this type of CAGWist is Michael Hoexter. Here’s how he put it in an essay he published a couple of days ago:

    Living in the Web of Soft Climate Denial
    http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2016/09/living-web-soft-climate-denial.html

    5. SOFT CLIMATE DENIAL,FOSSIL FUELS, AND THE HEDONIC SELF

    • One of the primary components of economic demand, with increased importance within our consumer-focused society, is human desire, which has both biological and sociocultural determinants.

    • Neoclassical economics treats the individual as an insatiable, desiring “black box” oriented towards the consumption of goods and services.

    • In consumer societies, one could say that a primarily pleasure-seeking “self”, a “hedonic self”, is encouraged both by business leaders and government macroeconomic managers.

    • This has led to an emphasis, since the 1920’s in the developed world, on the development of hedonic selves in consumers that respond more readily to the possibilities of pleasure in the market.

    • Keynes proposed humane adjustments by government to an economy, that already in the 1920’s and later, had committed itself to stimulating the consumer and thereby growing the economy. Keynes was saving capitalism from itself.

    • Critical for the realization or satisfaction of a vast majority of desires that involve the material world and human interaction is the use of fossil fuels and resulting carbon emissions.

    • Fossil fuels have become the great enabler of human desires for now the last two hundred years at least.

    • Many modern cultures, even before we consider our self-made climate catastrophe, are, to say the least, conflicted about our desiring natures.

    • Various pre-capitalist religious doctrines inveigned against human desiring for material goods and worldly pleasures.

    • The required “v-turn” away from fossil fuel use endangers our satisfactions in the developed and rapidly developing worlds.

    • A transformation and reordering of some of the values that are currently dominant in our society is inevitable if we want to preserve a habitable planet for human beings.

    • We will need to cultivate our “agapean” (from the Greek “agape love” or duty-based love of others/humanity) selves, a more duty-driven personality than a primarily hedonic one that seeks fulfillment mostly in sensual pleasures.

    • We must, among other things, learn to define happiness in a way that emphasizes longer term and relational satisfactions rather than ego-driven, narcissistic, pleasures.

    • Here’s a critique of Obama’s NY Times interview that helps flush out the opposing theologies that exist within the overarching CAGW religion:

      Obama Again Sounds Climate Change Alarm But Continues To Support Fossil Fuel Industry
      http://www.desmogblog.com/2016/09/09/obama-again-sounds-climate-change-alarm-continues-do-nothing

      Reflecting on his climate legacy in the interview, President Obama reinforced his concerns about and dedication to acting on climate change, but his rhetoric fails to match up with his broader record, which notably includes overseeing the United States’ rise to the top spot among fossil fuel producers worldwide.

      Indeed, in the interview, President Obama referred to climate change trends as “terrifying,” a statement which is hard to argue with considering the overwhelming scientific evidence. The Times also mentions the president’s successes in putting the Clean Power Plan in place and his role in committing the United States to the Paris climate agreement…..

      But there is one vital piece of information missing from The Times’ coverage of Obama’s climate legacy: The fact that he has done even more for the fossil fuel industry than his predecessors, including the ones who literally used to work for oil companies.

      There are two very distinct issues here: The first is the president’s limited success in actually reining in carbon emissions and protecting the environment, and the other is his simultaneous approval and expansion of fossil fuel projects….

      Looking at some of the numbers on this issue reveals a pro-industry approach toward energy production. When President Obama took office in 2009, domestic oil production was at about 5.1 million barrels a day. By April of 2016, that number had climbed to 8.9 million barrels a day, which CNN notes is a 74 percent increase in just 7 years.

      Under President Obama’s watch, the United States has become the largest fossil fuel producer on the planet when accounting for both oil and liquefied natural gas production. In terms of just crude oil production, the U.S. falls to third place, behind Russia and Saudi Arabia.

      Oil and gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) now accounts for 50% of U.S. oil production, and, thanks to the Republican-controlled Congress, the 40-year-long ban on crude oil exports was lifted….

      While the president may not have personally approved all of these projects, as leader of the United States and a purported leader on climate action, he bears the responsibility for allowing them to happen and not doing more to stop them during his administration.

  15. David Middleton

    Greg Craven posted a climate change version of Pascal’s Wager on YouTube a few years ago…

    His nonsensical “logic exercise” is flawed – even when using his assumptions.

    If the economic impact required to reverse global warming would cause a global depression in the “False” case, it would also cause a global depression in the “True” case. In all four cases the climate would continue its own natural changes irrespective of what mankind does…

    Using the Craven’s own assumptions…

    AGW is False + Decarbonization = Global Depression + Natural Climate Change

    AGW is False + No decarbonization = No Depression + Natural Climate Change

    AGW is True + Decarbonization = Global Depression + Natural Climate Change – Anthropogenic Component

    AGW is True + No decarbonization = Natural Climate Change + Anthropogenic Climate Change = Global Catastrophe.

    Craven left one very important factor out of the AGW is True + No decarbonization choice…Since mankind would not have endured a self-inflicted global economic depression in an effort to avert CAGW…we would be in a far better economic position to adapt to his worst case scenario.

    Since every recent observation-based estimate of Transient Climate Response is less than 2 °C, most are barely over 1 °C, the odds of CAGW in a true “business as usual” scenario are right around…

    No sane person would spend trillions of dollars, impoverish and/or kill millions of people and destroy our energy infrastructure. Pascal’s Wager and the Dismal Theorem are only relevant when the odds of an infinitely bad outcome are at least 50%.

    So-called climate change economic “experts” put the price tag of decarbonization is in the range of $20 trillion (just for the U.S.) to avert a 10% chance “of an utterly catastrophic finale to humanity’s atmospheric experiment.”

    Two Harvard economists, after trawling through voluminous, authoritative research, said last year that the odds of an utterly catastrophic finale to humanity’s atmospheric experiment is about 10 percent. That’s a conclusion that can focus minds pretty quickly—and perhaps turn the expenditure of trillions of dollars over three decades into only a tough, but manageable, problem.

    […]

    Jacobson researches how states (PDF) and countries can achieve 100 percent renewable energy systems—even more ambitious than the cuts President Barack Obama wants by 2050 and which informed Heal’s study. What Jacobson calls a mistake in his colleague’s paper concerns the overall estimate, which accounts only for reductions from electricity generation, transmission, and storage.

    But electricity makes up only 30 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. To account for the other two-thirds of energy use—transportation, industry, and residential and commercial use—that total should be much higher, Jacobson said.

    By his measure, that would leave an economy-wide, 100 percent renewable price range of between $5.3 trillion and $22 trillion by 2050, closer to Jacobson’s own central estimate of about $14.6 trillion, he said.

    Once Jacobson expanded Heal’s estimate so that it covered 100 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from all key sectors, their approaches stood about $8 trillion apart.

    Heal did estimate that electrifying American transportation—cars, trucks, trains—would require approximately $620 billion in additional generation capacity. Beyond that, he didn’t go into non-electricity costs because the numbers would be smaller (billions, not trillions). “These costs will be small relative to the massive numbers associated with energy production and storage,” he said.

    […]

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-30/the-8-trillion-fight-over-how-to-rid-america-of-fossil-fuel

    My back-of-the-envelope calculations put the price tag closer to $40 trillion, just for U.S. electricity generation… Whatever the number, it’s in the trillions and it will avert a 10% chance of catastrophe. That’s idiotic – Particularly since the 10% chance is based on computer models using the RCP 8.5 scenario… Models that have failed to demonstrate predictive skill 95% of the time.

    • Fear and guilt. Oh … oh …
      Chaucer a few centuries afor
      Pascal, ‘Indulgences for sale,
      come buy my indulgences!’

      ‘Thanne peyne I me to strecche forth the nekke,
      And est and west upon the people I bekke,
      As does a dowvè sittynge on a berne.
      My handès and my tonge goon so yerne
      That it is joye to se my bisynesse.
      Of avarice and of swich cursednesse
      Is al my preeching, for to make hem free
      To hiven hir pence, and namely unto me.
      For myn entente is not but for to wynne,
      And nothing for correccïoun of synne
      I rekke nevere, whan that they been beryed
      Though that hir soules goon a- blakeberryed.’

      The Pardonner, Canterbury Tales.

    • David Middleton:
      “No sane person would spend trillions of dollars, impoverish and/or kill millions of people and destroy our energy infrastructure.”

      Correct! What we (the USA) are actually doing is spending $35 Billion a year on improving and expanding our nuclear weapons. It should accomplish the same thing in a fraction of the time. They even have models called War Games to calculate how many billions of people will die if we go All In.

      • David Middleton

        Those models are actually reliable and have predictive skill. However, the purpose of nuclear weapons is to kill the enemy and destroy their infrastructure, not our own.

        And nuclear weapons only work if you never use them, because they will work as advertised.

        This is pretty well the exact opposite of CAGW and the propsed government solutions.

      • Credible deterence, jack, credible deterrence…that’s how you deal with bullies when you can’t run to momma.

      • The MAD doctrine doesn’t work if the systems are hacked. For all we know there might be a zero day exploit already embedded in one or more nuclear armed nations. The system is rigged I tell ya.

      • Unless they can hack GPS signals Jack, there is one leg of the triad which is not susceptible to hacking.

      • timg56,
        Hacking is a relatively new threat vector and opens the possibility of rouge actors. I would be just as worried about China or Russia systems too.

    • This has a better beat.

      stomp…

    • Richard Tol calculated the worst case cost at 10% GDP loss, that is a big depression, but not the end of the world.

  16. In some religions, one is expected to tithe 10% of income. This isn’t a negligible cost, and neither is “climate change” prevention/mitigation dependent on in what “god” you believe, for there are many more than one.

  17. Re Decision theory and the doom scenario of climate catastrophe, 9/11/2016:

    Excellent article, well-placed. It puts Climate Science in precisely the right basket, alongside religion and other belief systems. It is what happens to a perfectly good science once it admits an iota of subjectivity. It is practiced overtly in every appeal to Bayes with subjective priors.

    David Appell’s post at 2:02 am today is evidence that Tim Ball failed in court because he was not a member of the AGW clergy. The court candled him by the light of postmodern, Publish or Perish Science.

    Furthermore, the climate science under discussion is not an example of Pascal’s Wager. If we believe in AGW, and AGW exists, the rewards are the status quo, maybe with a little clean-up on aisle 6. If we don’t believe and it exists, catastrophe! The end of Life As We Know It. The driving force is not the heavenly reward, it’s eternal damnation. Pascal’s Wager is an attractant to the faith; AGW is a deterrent designed to scare people into conformity. This is the art of IPCC’s Working Group III, addressed to our unreachable PolicyMakers. It blooms in the Petri dish of naivety. It’s political.

    If you believe in Obama Care, you will get to keep your doctor.

    • Jeff Glassman said:

      The driving force is not the heavenly reward, it’s eternal damnation.

      Not necessarily.

      Some CAGW true believers, like Obama, do indeed believe there is a “heavenly reward,” which according to millenarian and prosperity gospels ends up being an earthly reward, to be redeemed in this-world.

      Here’s an exposition of the theology:

      A National Plan for the UK: From Austerity to the Age of the Green New Deal
      http://www.greennewdealgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Green-New-Deal-5th-Anniversary.pdf

      This report proposes a £50 billion per year Green New Deal national programme of infrastructural renewal that is environmentally sustainable and will generate work, business and investment
      opportunities…

      We have shown that such a programme is easily affordable through…increasing the tax take by stimulating employment and providing a safe haven for pension fund investments….

      Under this process the Bank of England creates tens of billions pounds and the Government allows the Green Investment Bank or a National Development Bank, whichever is the more rapid and effective, to issue bonds, which are then purchased by the Bank of England. The Green/National Development Banks could then make loans at low-to-zero rates to finance the country wide Green New Deal. This would in turn create new jobs and businesses and generate further tax money and save on benefits.

      The £50 billion per year Green New Deal spending would provide:

      • £20 billion worth of solar PV to be fitted free for some three million south facing roofs, best suited to capture the maximum amount of energy.

      Based on 2011 figures when around 20,000 installation jobs were created putting PV on 150,000 dwellings, a million home a year programme would eventually create 140,000 jobs. If that were then to be extended to all the potential nine million homes that could benefit from PV then the employment growth would be much larger still, and there would, of course, be the added benefit of all the energy generated.

      • £16 billion to really kickstart the government’s Green Deal energy efficiency programme for homes.

      The government expects this to support at least 65,000 jobs in insulation and construction by 2015. Local authorities, many of whom are already involved in planning to make tens of thousands more local homes energy efficient, could also access a QE Green Deal fund to initially finance such work.

      • Funds to build more energy efficient homes for both rent and sale using predominantly brown field sites, whilst also ensuring adequate protection for wildlife and vital green spaces.

      • Funds to repair, maintain and improve the nation’s public transport system
      and its information equivalent –the broadband superhighway.

      • The biblical precedent for the Obama theology can be found in “the miracle of the five loaves and two fish” whereby five barley loaves and two small fish supplied by a boy were used by Jesus to feed a multitude.

      • Glenn Stehl @ 10:50 am:

        In context, I was pretty clearly referring to the AGW movement, and not the whole of environmentalism, as carrying the stick but leaving out the carrot. Environmentalism feeds on naivety, too, but it’s chock-full of goodies for the glassy-eyed social newbies.

        And thinking of social media, don’t miss today’s episode of Marmaduke.

    • Jeff Glassman wrote:
      “David Appell’s post at 2:02 am today is evidence that Tim Ball failed in court because he was not a member of the AGW clergy.”

      Tim Ball failed in court because his publisher could not and would not defend him. It was Ball who withdrew his suit — no one forced him to.

      At least get your facts straight.

      • Re David Appell @ 10:29
        I didn’t state any fact about Ball’s failure in court. Read carefully, there aren’t that many words there — I only observed evidence that you provided along with a hypothetical fact that it might support.

        Your clarification about Ball’s publisher changes nothing. You admit he failed court. The remark about force is irrelevant, as is whether he withdrew the suit, or his lawyer did, or whether the court summarily dismissed it.

        What you HAVE done is push the ultimate cause upstream. So now, why did Ball’s publisher choose not to defend him? Was his publisher another of those that only publishes works in support of the AGW dogma? Was his editor hand selected by Jones and Mann? Was his publisher embarrassed for having published a “skeptic” (i.e., a scientist?)

  18. God exists or doesn’t exist is binary choice.

    Catastrophe or no catastrophe isn’t.

    Most likely scenario is AGW has some positive and some negative effects. We need to understand the magnitude and extent of the negative effects to decide what to do and how much to spend.

    • Upwards of 40% of fish, fiber, and food comes from post 1900 CO2.

      Given the speed with which wilderness is being converted, even with increased plant growth, we need to keep increasing the CO2 just to slow down the conversion.

      The AG studies that show that temperature and drought resistance is increasing, and soybean yields are increasing fastest at the equator makes a mockery of the fears of global warmers.

      Global warming (CAGW) reminds me of the mosquito stories in the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota. The mosquitoes (AGW) are said to carry away several unwatched infants a year.

      Are there mosquitoes? Yup.
      Are they large and numerous? Sure.
      Do they carry away children? No.

      Now you could probably model this and find that several thousand mosquitoes working in unison could potentially pick up baby.

      Would this mean it is possible? Sure.
      Does that mean it is happening? No.

      Even if it is theoretically possible, the model assumes an absurd worst case. Much like CAGW.

      • PA,

        Which model did you think I was referring to?

        My own opinion is that the one really bad thing that could happen is sea level rise. And I am not saying we can’t mitigate that but only that it might be costly. The evidence is really mixed for a lot of the other stuff.At any rate, we need to understand what we are dealing with which requires more science and probably more models. Sorry.

        https://broadspeculations.com/2012/08/26/climate-of-change/

      • My own opinion is that the one really bad thing that could happen is sea level rise.
        The 38,000 GT of carbon already in the ocean turns the “assidification” claim due to 2.7 GT per year into a joke.

        https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/nasa-study-mass-gains-of-antarctic-ice-sheet-greater-than-losses

        If the global warmers were right the sea level rise would be a minor problem. Few if any current buildings will be there 100 years from now and all it takes is zoning to deal with sea level rise. The global warmers from what I can tell are telling a deliberate outright lie about the ice sheets. The Antarctic sheet is growing.

        Only about 10% of the Greenland sheet is outside the mountain ridge that runs around the island. This amounts to about 0.8 meters of sea level if it all melted at once and it won’t.

        Greenland+Antarctica are basically a wash (less than 0.3 mm/Y) and that isn’t going to change much… The polar melting is going to make about 1-2 inches difference in sea level over the next century assuming things don’t get cool again.

        http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n9/full/nclimate3111.html
        Earth’s surface gained 115,000 km2 of water and 173,000 km2 of land over the past 30 years, including 20,135 km2 of water and 33,700 km2 of land in coastal areas. Here, we analyse the gains and losses through the Deltares Aqua Monitor — an open tool that detects land and water changes around the globe.

        The amount of land area increased 173,000 km2 in last 30 years.

      • Few if any current buildings will be there 100 years from now and all it takes is zoning to deal with sea level rise.

        Dirt itself is worth money, and coastline dirt is especially valuable. Who compensates the land owners when the local authorities zone their property value to pennies on the dollar, PA?

        The global warmers from what I can tell are telling a deliberate outright lie about the ice sheets. The Antarctic sheet is growing.

        Yeah, ok sure. At the same time, the global warmers can’t get it together for Teh Modulz to agree with falsified surface temperature data or the fudged ocean heat content estimates.

      • brandonrgates | September 12, 2016 at 10:09 pm |

        Dirt itself is worth money, and coastline dirt is especially valuable. Who compensates the land owners when the local authorities zone their property value to pennies on the dollar, PA?

        More lies. False premise.

        http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n9/full/nclimate3111.html
        Earth’s surface gained 115,000 km2 of water and 173,000 km2 of land over the past 30 years, including 20,135 km2 of water and 33,700 km2 of land in coastal areas.

        There is 33,700 km2 more coastal land than there was 30 years ago. 173,000 km more land overall.

        The whole premise of sea level rise “coastal land is disappearing” is a damned lie.

        It is what it is. Global warmers try to argue that the environment never changed before global warming. That is an outright lie.

        We are in an interglacial. Land will be increasing. The sea is sinking over 0.3 mm/y and the land is rising over 0.7 mm per year. Until the amount of land actually starts decreasing the premise of the sea level risers will simply be wrong.

        Global warmers want everything except what they change to stay the same. This is childish and immature.

      • PA,

        Dirt itself is worth money, and coastline dirt is especially valuable. Who compensates the land owners when the local authorities zone their property value to pennies on the dollar, PA?

        More lies. False premise.

        It was a question based on the true premise that dirt is worth money, and coastal dirt worth more money. You didn’t answer it.

        http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n9/full/nclimate3111.html
        Earth’s surface gained 115,000 km2 of water and 173,000 km2 of land over the past 30 years, including 20,135 km2 of water and 33,700 km2 of land in coastal areas.

        There is 33,700 km2 more coastal land than there was 30 years ago.

        Nope, 13,565 km2 *net* coastal land.

        The whole premise of sea level rise “coastal land is disappearing” is a damned lie.

        Which part, sea level rise or the 20,135 km2 coastal land converted to water?

        It is what it is. Global warmers try to argue that the environment never changed before global warming. That is an outright lie.

        That’s funny. IPCC WGI devoted a whole chapter in AR5 to paleoclimate

        The sea is sinking over 0.3 mm/y and the land is rising over 0.7 mm per year. Until the amount of land actually starts decreasing the premise of the sea level risers will simply be wrong.

        Hoo boy, the authors of that Nature study you cited might disagree with you:

        Changes from land to water and vice versa are extremely relevant as witnessed by many recent news items: the President of Kiribati declared that his people would need to move to new grounds to prevent them from dying from the effects of sea-level rise on the atoll1; the impoundment of the Three Gorges Dam in China is causing massive inundations, forcing about 1.3 million people to resettle2 ; new islands along the coast of Dubai are created to provide new secluded areas for leisure and residence for the wealthy; and finally, the Mississippi Delta is losing thousands of hectares of land per year due to soil subsidence and lack of sediments3, further aggravated by sea-level rise.

        The causality of appearing or disappearing water surfaces may strongly depend on the case-specific context. Although atolls, such as Kiribati, are under severe threat, the exact effects of sea-level rise on coastal erosion, globally, may strongly depend on biophysical interactions as well, particularly in coastal marshes4, as atolls may increase accretion rates as sea-level rise progresses5. The impoundment of the Three Gorges Dam has resulted in a reduction in sediment concentrations in the downstream Yangtze River of about 70%. Unexpectedly, this reduction has not led to a retreat of the downstream submerged Yangtze River Delta so far6, contrasting what happens in the Mississippi Delta.

        These examples demonstrate that conversions — and the stories and reasons behind them — can vary widely and are often the result of compounding causes. Therefore, general conclusions cannot be drawn from a limited sample of case studies. Instead, planetary-scale monitoring is needed to understand (and disentangle) the causes of detected changes and their attribution to natural variability, climate change or man-made change. Until now, such monitoring and estimates of land–water conversions were not feasible.

        Back to my original question of you: Who compensates the land owners when the local authorities zone their property value to pennies on the dollar?

      • Who compensates the land owners when the local authorities zone their property value to pennies on the dollar, PA?

        It was a question based on the true premise that dirt is worth money, and coastal dirt worth more money. You didn’t answer it.

        Nope, 13,565 km2 *net* coastal land.

        We’re gaining coastal land. So despite the warmunist metrics, sea level is effectively falling.

        There are people who have property where the local sea level is rising. The sea level rise hasn’t changed much in 100 years. So the current owners can’t claim ignorance. Most of the problem is subsidence (from pumping ground water, building on flood plains etc.) Subsidence in New Orleans is an order of magnitude greater than the claimed “sea level rise”. The actual sea level rise is 1-1.5 mm/y and New Orleans subsidence is 5 mm to over 10 mm per year.

        Since flooding is a known problem and these people built there anyway there isn’t much you can do. Federal flood insurance is a waste of time since it encourages construction in flood zones. We don’t want people building there. Some people are going to build there anyway.

        The three solutions are:
        1. Let anyone build whatever they want if they can get private insurance.
        2. Block new construction.
        3. Let them build with code changes to protect the buildings (they have to build on piles etc. so their building won’t flood).

        We don’t have to zone. We just make it clear that in designated flood areas Federal flood insurance and reconstruction funds will be unavailable and people can do what they want. We don’t want people living in flood plains and if they chose to live there they are on their own.

      • PA,

        Who compensates the land owners when the local authorities zone their property value to pennies on the dollar, PA?

        It was a question based on the true premise that dirt is worth money, and coastal dirt worth more money. You didn’t answer it.

        Nope, 13,565 km2 *net* coastal land.

        We’re gaining coastal land. So despite the warmunist metrics, sea level is effectively falling.

        The article you cited was published in a “warmunist” journal: Nature Climate Change. Again, you didn’t answer the question. Who compensates land owners when the local government rezones it?

        There are people who have property where the local sea level is rising. The sea level rise hasn’t changed much in 100 years. So the current owners can’t claim ignorance.

        Let’s keep in mind your comment which I originally challenged: If the global warmers were right the sea level rise would be a minor problem. Few if any current buildings will be there 100 years from now and all it takes is zoning to deal with sea level rise.

        Did current owners know ahead of time that their local government would “deal” with sea level rise by rezoning their property?

        I repeat: Who compensates land owners when the local government rezones it?

        Most of the problem is subsidence (from pumping ground water, building on flood plains etc.)

        Go read the Nature citation you provided; it does not make such strong claims. In fact, the authors argue that one main motivation of the method and tools they developed is because they felt that anecdotal case studies are inadequate. They then caution that just looking at their data alone may not be sufficient to understand what is going on at any particular location.

        The three solutions are:
        1. Let anyone build whatever they want if they can get private insurance.
        2. Block new construction.
        3. Let them build with code changes to protect the buildings (they have to build on piles etc. so their building won’t flood).

        I have a better idea: solve the actual problem instead of slapping ointment and band-aids on it.

      • Brandon, you know that the only real solution is dat India and China go full throttle on nuclear.

      • Did current owners know ahead of time that their local government would “deal” with sea level rise by rezoning their property?

        I repeat: Who compensates land owners when the local government rezones it?

        The same people who compensate the owner of property that is subsiding I suppose.

        Given it is easy to find examples where subsidence is 5-10 times the sea level rise, who compensates people when their land gets too low to use because of subsidence?

      • Hans Erren,

        you know that the only real solution is dat India and China go full throttle on nuclear.

        For the long-term, I think that’s the cheapest solution for baseload grid power. For the near-term, I don’t think they can deploy it fast enough. Same for the US and Europe. The more expensive long-term option is 100% intermittent power with redundancy and storage.

        I would prefer nukes be significant part of the mix.

        None of this solves the liquid fuels problem entirely, but it does take some of the pressure off.

      • Hans Erren wrote:
        “Brandon, you know that the only real solution is dat India and China go full throttle on nuclear.”

        The US has already emitted about twice as much CO2 as has China and India combined.

        The onus of leading on a solution is on us.

      • PA,

        The same people who compensate the owner of property that is subsiding I suppose.

        A local government rezones my property after I bought it in such that I can no longer use it for the purpose I intended, they get to compensate me for any financial loss I can prove in court.

        Given it is easy to find examples where subsidence is 5-10 times the sea level rise, who compensates people when their land gets too low to use because of subsidence?

        Anyone who can be held liable for the subsidence would be at the top of the list. Failing that, much depends on how smart the local municipality is about protecting property values contributing to its tax base.

        I smell class action lawsuits.

      • PA wrote:
        “problem. Few if any current buildings will be there 100 years from now and all it takes is zoning to deal with sea level rise.”

        Who pays for the lost real estate?

        It’s taxpayers who will make land owners whole, that’s who.

      • Taxpayers don’t exist in libertarian utopias, David. Get with the program.

  19. I like the Sabine Gods, they make the weather that causes the climate to change.

  20. Why are we not spending trillions protection against a life destroying meteorite impact?

  21. Pascal’s only friend was Schrodinger’s cat.

  22. The wonderful ironies abound with Pascal.

    On one hand, Pascal advanced scientific method by promoting empirical evidence ( taking barometer measurements up the mountain to demonstrate pressure variation ) over the method of authority which had been corrupt since Aristotle’s ‘authority’ squelched the theory of atoms for a millenium.

    On the other hand, Pascal took up the wager with utter disregard for empirical evidence.

  23. Pascal did not consider enough alternatives: there are hundreds of gods — pick the wrong one and you’re doomed. Worse, a decision based on evidence does not have much to go on.

  24. Pascal’s Wager was refuted a long time ago: It is not a binary choice. By taking the wrong religion you can still end up in hell, so the odds of ending up in hell are far larger than ending up in heaven. So I’ll gamble on the non-existence of a Deity.

    As for climate, I still don’t see evidence for a net negative effect. If you consider that the only victims of the PETM were the cold-loving creatures on the bottom of the arctic ocean, and for the rest life was booming, I also take the wager that burning fossil fuels will make people wealthier and healthier.

    • > Pascal’s Wager was refuted a long time ago: It is not a binary choice. By taking the wrong religion you can still end up in hell,[…]

      Refusing to play the rules of the game may not be the best way to refute it.

      Which is all as well, because it’s just an excuse to strawman Weitzmann.

    • He was talking about one God. The God of Issac and Abrahim. Nothing about religion. That’s a human construct.

      • The God of Abraham is also a human construct, for example beside non-belief, there are real existing Buddhist and Hinduist theological alternatives Pascal should have included in his options, and I am not even starting on the mutual exclusive monotheistic denominations.

      • > He was talking about one God.

        He was more talking of believing in God than believing in one God:

        Vous avez deux choses à perdre : le vrai et le bien, et deux choses à engager : votre raison et votre volonté, votre connaissance et votre béatitude ; et votre nature a deux choses à fuir : l’erreur et la misère. Votre raison n’est pas plus blessée, en choisissant l’un que l’autre, puisqu’il faut nécessairement choisir. Voilà un point vidé. Mais votre béatitude ? Pesons le gain et la perte, en prenant croix que Dieu est. Estimons ces deux cas : si vous gagnez, vous gagnez tout ; si vous perdez, vous ne perdez rien. Gagez donc qu’il est, sans hésiter.

        In this short paragraph, Pascal presumes that if you are right, you win. Any case where you don’t win should go into the “wrong” box.

        Hans’ argument is a complete strawman.

      • Does belief in Dog count?

      • Damn Willard,

        Nice point.

      • La raison n’y peut rien déterminer.

    • Hans Erren,

      So I’ll gamble on the non-existence of a Deity.

      Suppose the heaven/hell dichotomy is false, and there’s a sliding scale. Apply that argument to climate.

      As for climate, I still don’t see evidence for a net negative effect.

      I would consider it a gross failure of our collective reason for net negative effects becoming unambiguously realized to be the thing which finally prompts urgent, concerted action to transition out of carbon-emitting energy production.

      If you consider that the only victims of the PETM were the cold-loving creatures on the bottom of the arctic ocean, and for the rest life was booming, I also take the wager that burning fossil fuels will make people wealthier and healthier.

      PETM citation, please?

      Here’s a “no regrets” argument against fossil fuels on the basis of estimated damages already on the books. By these figures alone, my wager would be the nuclear option. For me, potentially catastrophic AGW is just the clincher for an already obvious reason to stop dumping hydrocarbon combustion products into the atmosphere.

      Another way for me to put it is that collective reasoning has already failed on the basis of demonstrable evidence.

      • brandonrgates said:

        Here’s a “no regrets” argument against fossil fuels on the basis of estimated damages already on the books.

        If you believe that humans are going to stop using fossil fuels to grow their crops, fuel their automobiles and airplanes, heat and cool their homes, power their factories and run their washing machines and other household appliances, all because doing so entails some level of danger, it just goes to show how extreme your fanatacism is.

        Your argument is tantamount to saying people should never go outside because some have been struck by lightening, and these damages are “already on the books.”

      • If you believe that humans are going to stop using fossil fuels to grow their crops, fuel their automobiles and airplanes, heat and cool their homes, power their factories and run their washing machines and other household appliances, all because doing so entails some level of danger, it just goes to show how extreme your fanatacism is.

        Well thanks, that makes me not a fanatic.

        Your argument is tantamount to saying people should never go outside because some have been struck by lightening, and these damages are “already on the books.”

        Where would you be without your strawmen to pillory, Glenn?

      • Brandon,

        “I would consider it a gross failure of our collective reason for net negative effects becoming unambiguously realized to be the thing which finally prompts urgent, concerted action to transition out of carbon-emitting energy production.”

        I can acknowledge this as a reasonable position. My question would focus on the term “unambiguously”. I am not expecting unambiguous proof of for any of the catastrophic outcomes which get bandied about. But I believe that at least some empirical evidence in support of these claims is required. Unfortunately the most obvious trend I see is one of increasingly alarmist claims tied to the meme of CAGW. If I remember the story correctly, the wolf did turn up one day. I know that a climate wolf could be lurking out there. It would be much more than a shame if mankind ignored that possibility due to too much exaggeration.

        To extend the analogy further – do we level the forest for hundreds of miles around us so we can see the wolf coming, all based on an assessment that it offers prime wolf habitat? No actual evidence of a wolf such as scat, tracks, remains of a kill. Just someone doing a few sampling experiments, mashing and munching the data and then using a model to predict the surrounding forest could be home to 10,000 wolves.

      • timg56,

        I can acknowledge this as a reasonable position.

        I hadn’t expected that kind of response, thank you.

        My question would focus on the term “unambiguously”.

        As you should, it’s an extremely slippery term.

        I am not expecting unambiguous proof of for any of the catastrophic outcomes which get bandied about. But I believe that at least some empirical evidence in support of these claims is required.

        There’s the problem of not being able to provide empirical evidence of *future* events. What you are in effect arguing is that you need to see some evidence that harms are already being done, and that’s the very thing I am cautioning we ought to avoid if at all possible.

        We’re working against two things here. One is that the system is massive and complex, as are our interactions with it, so attribution is a problem. The other one is that AGW progresses gradually. I don’t want us to become the boiling frog.

        I know that a climate wolf could be lurking out there. It would be much more than a shame if mankind ignored that possibility due to too much exaggeration.

        Interesting point. I hadn’t considered that both of us are looking at the future as if we had the benefit of clear hindsight.

        I don’t know if the Biblical analogies upthread work for you or not, but as they’re a theme I’ll note that I think that’s what David Appel was getting at when he quoted apocrypha: Gospel of Thomas: 51 His disciples asked him: When will the dead rest? When will the new world arrive? He replied: That which you are waiting for has come, but you don’t recognize it.

        This could be a real communication problem amongst we Prophets of Doom in that we too often we invoke catastrophe as if it were a discrete, *unambiguously* recognizable event. With the possible exception of a large chunk of Antarctica or Greenland ice breaking off, none of the physical theory with which I’m familiar suggests anything nearly so dramatic.

        Fact of the matter is that large chunks of Antarctica *have* broken off, but years to decades pass between those kinds of events. The Larsen Ice Shelf is a poster-child example of missed warnings. Shelf A and B are gone, C is getting ready to go. Being ice shelves already floating on the water, they don’t contribute to SLR and as “everyone knows” ice shelf calving is a perfectly normal process. I don’t have satellite imagery of Larsen stretching back to the mid-19th Century, so I can’t shove an animated .gif under your nose and say, “See, just like the ice boffins are telling us in literature, this is unprecedented modern human history.”

        So my warnings are discounted or disparaged as alarmist claptrap. It’s quite frustrating, and the longer I see us dragging our collective feet on actually solving the problem before it gets worse, the more frustrated, afraid — and angry — I get. Clearly I’m not the only one in my camp going through that process, thus I don’t think you’re totally off base when you say …

        Unfortunately the most obvious trend I see is one of increasingly alarmist claims tied to the meme of CAGW.

        … because it would be difficult for me to argue that my camp has not become more shrill and strident over the past two decades. I will, however, note that the CAGW meme is not our creation, we call it AGW. The C is there for mockery and dismissal of the politics of fear and perceived overconfidence.

        AGW is no meme, it’s science. You’ll note that I didn’t say it was settled.

        Still, I can own the C, so long as its preceded by a P for “potentially”.

        No actual evidence of a wolf such as scat, tracks, remains of a kill. Just someone doing a few sampling experiments, mashing and munching the data and then using a model to predict the surrounding forest could be home to 10,000 wolves.

        Can’t attempt to predict the future without a model, timg56, unless you’re God. If you really think there is some other more valid way to go about this without building models, God may be our only hope.

        Thing is I’m not a believer in Deity(ies), though I cannot rule out the possibility. And then there’s always the question of benevolence, which to me would be a *very* open question.

        I do know we exist, however, and are very much not immortal nor omniscient. So my working assumption is that it’s up to us to collectively decide our own fates on grossly imperfect and incomplete information. I hope we choose wisely.

        Cheers.

      • Brandon, my source us Appy Sluijs, who studied extensively the biological history of the arctic during the PETM. Onshore there was no mass extinction, au contraire life was booming. Cold is bad, warm is good. Tim, I would use the Little Chicken analogy instead of the Boy who cried wolf analogy.

      • OTOH, I’ll never get tired of boyz who cry about boyz who cry wolf, Hans.

        Please, do continue.

      • brandonrgates | September 12, 2016 at 8:19 pm |

        I would consider it a gross failure of our collective reason for net negative effects becoming unambiguously realized to be the thing which finally prompts urgent, concerted action to transition out of carbon-emitting energy production.

        Huh? Where do you get this stuff from?

        1. We don’t want to transition out of carbon-emitting energy production.

        2. The atmosphere has too little CO2 and we should be looking at ways to increase it.

        3. Energy sources that don’t produce CO2 should be surtaxed to subsidize sources that produce CO2. The producers of CO2 are benefiting everyone and they should be compensated. 40% of our food/fiber/food is a direct result of the actions of those courageous burners of fossil fuel and the brave and hard working men that extract it.

        4. The undeserved benefit to the greens from the bounty produced by more CO2 should be computed and they should be taxed for it.

        5. The earth was starving from lack of CO2 before man came on the scene. The C3 plants need over 750 PPM. Fortunately man is restoring the balance of nature.

        6. We are only going to be burning fossil fuels in any quantity for about 50 more years so all the lying and deception by global warmers doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        There is nothing wrong with burning fossil fuel. In less than half a century it will start getting too scarce and expensive, and we will transition to something else. Hopefully we will have burned enough to save the planet by then.

      • Hans Erren,

        […] my source us Appy Sluijs, who studied extensively the biological history of the arctic during the PETM.

        My request was for a citation, not a source … although that is somewhat helpful to me. I have reviewed several of Dr. Sluijs’ works and do not find him making conclusions as you have worded them. Perhaps I have read wrongly. Please provide a direct citation.

        Thanks.

    • Yes, it does seem odd that a global climate question is being compared to idiosyncratic musings on a minority theological viewpoint.

      • What you call an “idiosyncratic musing” can be considered the first decision theory result.

        The author more than compare Weitzman’s result to Pascal’s when he simply asserts that Pascal’s logic has been applied by scholars to the issue of climate change.

        There’s nothing odd about that: it’s easier to caricature Weitzman’s result than to tackle it directly. Assuming the existence of contingent goods and markets for the long run, like Ross does, may beg a more important question than God’s existence.

      • W:

        I lost the thread of your response. Assuming there was one.

      • Assuming you are wondering, opluso:

        (1) Your “idiosyncratic musing” is wrong.

        (2) There’s nothing odd in Lukas using Pascal’s wager to caricature and bypass Weitzman’s argument.

        (3) Lukas seems to forget that Ross’ paper assumes the existence of contingent goods to show that an unbounded discount factor does not emerge with contingent goods, as remarks the only author who cited that crap.

        Hope this helps,

      • Dis/Belief in a deity is personal/individual. Global climate is not. Category error.
        I was replying to Hans Erren, somewhere far upstream. Believing (or not) in a deity is of no consequence one way or the other unless that belief brings with it theological consequences, e.g., burning in hell vs. eternal pleasures. The baggage of belief, so to speak.

        You want to focus on Weitzman. Be my guest.

      • opluso, 9/12/16 @ 6:38 pm said,

        Yes, it does seem odd that a global climate question is being compared to idiosyncratic musings on a minority theological viewpoint.

        and the next day @ 10:02 pm,

        Dis/Belief in a deity is personal/individual. Global climate is not. Category error.

        These posts are difficult to parse. For example, is the word minority important? That global climate is not personal/individual seems like a strange observation. Opluso’s point just might be that comparing AGW and theology is a category error. With that, I would disagree.

        Anyone interested in this point might put aside any belief, pro or con, in AGW, while listening to Jeff Kiehl, PhD, TAR Contributing Author, a biological parent of the Radiative Forcing paradigm behind each Global Climate/Circulation/Catastrophe Model, expound on Climate Change for All.

        The parallels between this recent (2015) sermon and any protected by the First Amendment are striking, complete with evidence, scripture, and non-denominational evangelism. Caveat: as Seinfeld said, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        But, alas, perhaps all this is obvious only to nonbelivers.

      • > Dis/Belief in a deity is personal/individual. Global climate is not. Category error.

        Which is why Lucas says:

        Pascal’s decision theory involves the same assumption as the Dismal Theorem: the loss resulting from an uncertain event in the future is infinite. In Pascal’s theory, the infinite loss is living in Hell, in the Dismal Theorem, it is climate catastrophe. But there are important differences between the two models.

        [U]nlike Pascal’s Wager, the Dismal Theorem involves a decision about the allocation of scare resources, which raises all of the issues typically associated with collective decision-making influenced by special interests.

        In other words, Lucas is saying that any model with an infinite payoff function follows “Pascal’s logic,” whatever that means.

        The decision matrix of “Pascal’s logic” abstracts away both the nature of the decision and the nature of the agent. It applies as soon as the cost is negligible and the payoff is tangible: buying a lottery ticket for 0$, the 1% an estate promoter needs to invest in artists, etc. There are many ways to refuse to abide by “Pascal’s logic” – none of them refutes it.

        Furthermore, and in contradistinction to Lucas’ point, this kind of framework has shown its fruitfulness. Paradoxes like that reappear even if we stick to finitary resources.

        Please beware that by setting up a boundary, Ross plays the same role the Banque does when it delimits the bet spread on its games.

      • These posts are difficult to parse. For example, is the word minority important? That global climate is not personal/individual seems like a strange observation. Opluso’s point just might be that comparing AGW and theology is a category error. With that, I would disagree.

        Yes, the word “minority” is important for, as Hans Erren pointed out, Pascal’s wager was restricted to a small subset of religious beliefs and his results would not necessarily hold when applied more broadly.

        Hans Erren made a salient observation regarding Pascal’s wager with which I agreed. Perhaps confusion was introduced by Willard’s expansion of my limited point.

        All I meant was that Pascal’s personal/individual wager was being compared to the risk of catastrophic climate change for the entire globe. Pascal addressed personal, subjective loss based on cultural myths that have zero evidence in support. Climate change is (essentially) universal and based on objective evidence. Any responsive policies will require simultaneous agreement by vast numbers of individuals. Different scales, different things.

        Pascal’s early, if flawed, example of decision theory was limited to one person’s loss/gain and only from the perspective of one particular cult out of many possibilities. The “game” only works if you accept his initial restrictions and requirements — which is kind of like cheating. That’s why I thought it odd to contrast with international efforts to address economy-wide climate-related issues.

        Though I suppose if you “play the game” of climate policy decisions with similarly constraining restrictions and requirements, you could “prove” that the proferred climate policies are just as logical as believing in sky gods.

  25. For Marler @ 12:38 pm & Erren @ 12:39 pm:
    As we all know, there is at most one true God — mine.

  26. Coincidence is the way truth is revealed anonymously.

  27. What is this ‘believe/belief’ business? …particularly approached used rational DA? Non-starter for me.

  28. “Worst Apocalypse. Ever.” – The Comicbook Guy.

  29. Since the author only linked to Ross’ crap, here’s Weitzman’s original article:

    https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3693423/Weitzman_OnModeling.pdf

    Here’s an interview for the hard of reading:

    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2015/06/martin_weitzman.html

  30. Love the previous link, Yet Another Author Claims Statistically Significant Temperature Change. 99.999%!

    The exclusive, or lone, or only, or single, solitary, sole way to check whether any model is good is if it can skillfully predict new data, where “new” means as yet unknown to the model in any way—as in in any way. The reason skeptics exist is because no know model has been able to do this with temperatures past a couple of months ahead.

  31. …beautiful:

    If we seek to understand this physics, it’s not likely that statistics will play much of role. Thus, climate modelers have the right instinct by thinking thermodynamically. But this goes both directions. If we have a working physical model (by “working” I mean “that which makes skillful predictions”) there is no reason in the world to point to “statistical significance” to claim temperatures in this period are greater than temperatures in that period. (ibid)

  32. I have not been able to shake this image all day. You have the UN selected Red Angry Bird as the climate mascot. Dismal Theorem could have one and I nominate; Eeyore.

  33. Once there was human society ruled by religion.
    Belief demanded.
    Then science came along.
    Turn around and all them that demands belief are at it again.
    Can’t catch a break.

    • The ecclesia are not fools, they have more than likely searched the scripture daily.

      Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

      Yon don’t need a religion, you just have to seriously want the relationship.

    • Well……Of topic but for a fun read try https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Rule The Templars were warriors who came to the order after winning their spurs. Knights had more in common with Al Capone than Lancelot. Check out the rules about partying, drunkenness and ….. well you read between the lines. Most punitive measures aren’t taken unless to curtail behaviors that leadership feels have gone over the top.

  34. It has to be true, a banker said so…

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/bank-america-analysts-claim-theres-8823425

    One, more time.

    2Pe 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

    If will can determine this is a simulation of sorts, game over. Go Team!

  35. voiceofreasonoriginal

    The problems with “decision theory” applied to climate change are thus:
    1 – Stipulating for the sake of argument that AGW (or ACC) is occuring, no one has come up with a plan that will actually “fix” climate change without destroying the world’s economy. Most impacted will be the developing world, who would love to have energy to spend on such “luxuries” as life-saving air-conditioning during a heat wave.

    Maybe there will be technological advances in the future that allow us to drastically reduce carbon emissions, etc., and NOT crash the global economy and halt development. But today, there is no free lunch.

    2 – As the Skeptical Environmentalist points out, the likely downside of AGW/ACC are exaggerated.

    So it is not rational to make the drastic changes that would be required with today’s technology to essentially stop or reverse AGW.

    • Stipulating for the sake of argument that AGW (or ACC) is occuring, no one has come up with a plan that will actually “fix” climate change without destroying the world’s economy.

      Nope.

      You simply insist on only looking at the ones that match your confirmation bias (To be fair, the ones getting the most attention would probably fit your definition. But that’s because most of the people yelling loudest about it either don’t know, or don’t care, about looking for feasible plans that minimize the cost.)

      • India and China are the countries we should be looking at, they have a huge energy need for their growing economies, and China gives priority on economic growth over fossil fuel reduction, perhaps after 2030 things will change. If you really want to “dent a packet of butter” the only option is nuclear, see eg Jim Hansen and Mark Lynas.

      • The US has already emitted twice as much CO2 as China and India combined.

        The US created an outsized share of this problem — that means it has a moral responsibility to lead the way to cutbacks and a solution.

      • voiceofreasonoriginal

        Show me the numbers.

        last time i checked, the only feasible option that could support a middle class global level of energy usage was nuclear.

        Current and projected alternative fuels didn’t even come close to be viable economic substitute for petroleum, coal, and natural gas.

  36. A fundamental problem with the Dismal Theorem or the precautionary principle is that it needs to be applied to all consequences.

    As stated, the only catastrophe in the system is climate catastrophe. But, there is also a far from zero probability that actions to mitigate climate change could result in changes in the social system that are catastrophic – for example, global thermonuclear warfare.

    Our understanding of social systems is no better than our poor understanding of the climate system. Both are complex nonlinear dymanic systems.

    Unless the potential for catastrophe in all paths is factored in, the whole exercise is fatally flawed.

  37. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #241 | Watts Up With That?