Friday, July 30, 2010

Thoughts on Roger Pielke Jr. | Stand-Up Economist - Yoram Bauman - Childe's_Tomb

Thoughts on Roger Pielke Jr. | Stand-Up Economist - Yoram Bauman
As an economist, I found Roger’s lack of discussion of climate impacts to be extremely disturbing. If—totally hypothetically—the science said that hitting 450ppm would cause the planet to explode, I’m pretty sure Roger’s talk would have looked different. (At least I hope so!) The economic point here is that cost-benefit analysis has two halves—costs and benefits—and you can’t do it by just talking about one of the two halves. Why Roger failed to talk about both halves has me totally perplexed and leaves me questioning how much he actually knows about economics. (For the record, he’s not an economist, so I think this is a legitimate question, not an insulting one. He’s a political scientist, but his talk was not about the intersection of science and politics; his talk was fundamentally about economics.)
RPJr's rhetorical trick "there is a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation displayed in this post... Fortunately, my new book covers all of these points so that there should be no ambiguity in my views." is annoying.
As if a book is a tomb for the ideas of a public intellectual, and it makes them incapable of stating plainly their views in public forums.

Y. Bauman refuses to play ball:
"Okay, here are some questions: (1) What did you say about the tenets of climate science? (Then I’ll try to get a video of your talk and see if I owe you an apology.) (2) How would you quickly characterize the main points of your talk? (3) Since you note above that you “did not discuss costs or benefits”, I’m curious about why. Do you not think cost-benefit analysis is important? (4) How (if at all) would your talk have been different if the scientific consensus was that 450ppm would destroy the planet?"
Is RPJr so craven as to simply "hit-and-run" from this forum, now that the questions are specific?  Stay tuned!


Related posts:
[Edit 7/31/10]

To my surprise, RPJr replied; his answers:
1. I used a “bathtub” model to describe the challenge of stabilization and I argued that everyone in the debate on all sides agree that CO2 has impacts. Where there are debates is when those impacts become dangerous (the height of the bathtub, e.g., 450 ppm) and the consequences of spilling over. Such debates are of course legitimate.
2. Three points: A. Targets and timetables for reducing emissions now being discussed or even enacted in law (e.g., in the UK) are not credible (I think I proved this), B. Stabilizing concentrations requires advances in technology deployment and innovation rather than GDP contraction (shown a bit, but largely asserted), C. Acccelerating decarbonization requires much greater public investments in technology (asserted not proven).
3. I’ve written a lot of CBA, and teach it as well. This talk was not about CBA, but policy evaluation. I am happy to discuss the topic.
4. I have no idea.
"Moral Compass" by "psd"
My comments to (1): "Such debates are of course legitimate."  RPJr has a problem with the debate coming to provisional conclusion, on the side of the science and the moral question of future generations being left a livable world - a provisional conclusion where we begin work on drastically reducing carbon emissions and mitigate previous carbon emissions, where GDP takes a major haircut if need be.  RPJr's fretting and fussing is consistent with the moral question of future generations being left a livable world always taking a backseat to today's GDP/standard of living - but he doesn't have the guts to admit that, or he realizes that if his cravenness is so obvious, he gives up any chance of political effect.

My comments to (2): Actually, this is the first sensible thing RPJr has ever said, to my knowledge.  It is very true: we have exactly zero experience with asking citizens to voluntarily cut their standard of living for the moral outcome of  future generations being left a livable world.  "Warmists", it can be argued, don't have the guts to admit this, or they realize that if they are so truthful they give up any chance of political effect.

My comments to (3): Why talk to economists about policy evaluation without reference to cause and effect?  That was Y. Bauman's original puzzlement.

My comments to (4): Pathetic.  Again, RPJr cannot deal with science predicting catastrophe (catastrophe, because it is hard to imagine the moral monsters that could cheerfully leave future generations an unlivable world), because his goal is that he moral question of future generations being left a livable world always taking a backseat to today's GDP/standard of living.  That can be used to perfectly predict his reaction to anything.
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Protect American Jobs! No Soot Tax!
Ice cased Adelie penguins
after a blizzard at Cape Denison /
photograph by Frank Hurley
"The quickest, best way to slow the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice is to reduce soot emissions from the burning of fossil fuel, wood and dung, according to a new study by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson.
Soot from the burning of fossil fuels and solid biofuels contributes far more to global warming than has been thought, according to a new Stanford study. But, unlike carbon dioxide, soot lingers only a few weeks in the atmosphere, so cutting emissions could have a significant and rapid impact on the climate. Controlling soot may be the only option for saving the Arctic sea ice from melting."
I smell Stealth Issue Advocacy!  I smell a Dishonest Broker!  (I smell a witch)

Protect American Jobs!  No Soot Tax!  In my new book, soon to come out, I argue that there are huge technical barriers, costs are too high and that we lack political will.

The Nathan Myhrvold and the Freeman Dyson recommend painting black penguins white with lead based paint.


Related links:

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Can it be Irrational to prize Rationality? What is Rationality?
I am a big fan of Scott Plous's The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, because not only does it call out cognitive failure modes, but it also suggests remedies.  The book is written in a non-technical style, so uses the conventional language of modes of thought being "Rational" or "Irrational", and "biases" leading to "Irrational" decisions.

I found a blog post "Is postdecisional dissonance functional?" that takes exception to calling "Post-decision dissonance" irrational (post-decisional dissonance is where the self-judged value of a chosen item increases, and the value of a declined item decreases, compared to the self-judged values before the choice is made: ).

"Is postdecisional dissonance functional?" seems like a yes/no question, but the answer can change from situation to situation.  We can construct a situation where this bias is "Irrational/dysfunctional", or is "Rational/functional".

Example: If postdecisional dissonance is the way that one "stops" the decision process, instead of endlessly revisiting a decision and wasting time and energy, then postdecisional dissonance is functional (this is the point raised by Konrad Talmont-Kaminski).  If postdecisional dissonance keeps you from switching decisions when later you are offered the alternate choice along with a small but real payment, because you deny yourself the additional payment even though the options were judged to be identical in value, postdecisional dissonance is dysfunctional.

Which is the most likely scenario?  What is the cost of a more rigorous and rational analysis?  Different answers from subtle changes to these questions...

All of these biases, because they are manifest in humans today, cannot absolutely prevent reproductive success or success in cultural transmission of ideas, obviously.  So you are on very shaky ground calling these biases non-adaptive.  And if you cannot call them non-adaptive, what is the exact basis for calling them "Irrational/dysfunctional"?

Modeling, instead of using the language of Bias and Rationality and Functionality

George Mason University,
Dept of Statistics,
Gallery of Great Statisticians,
George E. P. Box
That is why it is not always wise to use the culturally defined notion of rationality, or assume an implied sound situationally defined notion of rationality, and why *sometimes* there is benefit to specifically stating:

(1) the failure mode of decision that you are trying to avoid and

(2) how you are modeling the
(2A) cost of falling victim the failure mode and the
(2B) cost of remedy

(3) how you are modeling the likelihood of different scenarios taking place.

And different models will give different answers.  As George E. P. Box says "All models are false but some models are useful."

[Edit 7/29/2010]

Very helpful reply [] from academic Konrad Talmont-Kaminski, but my profound ignorance prevents me from getting much from it.  I am self-taught exclusively from an engineer's perspective of decision making from Decision Analysis texts [ term coined in 1964 by Ronald A. Howard ].

I fixed the post above, to add

1) specific examples as to how postdecisional dissonance can be functional or dysfunctional,

2) why one is unjustified to call manifest biases non-adaptive, and

3) the need to model the likelihood of different situations arising, or else the the analysis is nonsensical.

[Edit #2 7/29/2010]

Konrad Talmont-Kaminski recommends the writings of Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize winner in Economics 1978.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The link between Judith Curry and John Christy oobrien
Judith Curry has the annoying habit of constantly recommending articles that she, herself, has not read closely and cannot personally vouch for.  As if she is feeding the text of opposing arguments to a mailing list, in partial real-time, and parroting back the links.

Plus the reality of SingerLomborg, and John R. Christy being spent forces for irrational climate inaction and denialism, because prior talking points have been proved absolutely ridiculous over just a few years.

So the next wave of voices, with watered down arguments and moved goalposts, are Pielke Jr. and Judith Curry.

Offering articles that you cannot stand behind yourself is just another "heads I win, tails you lose tails I don't lose" trick in the Art of Controversy.  So at least I can inform myself about the original source of the weak-soup arguments.

With not much to go on, and probably too much leaping without looking, I sense a link between the new voice of Judith Curry and the spent force of John R. Christy, made famous for his hatchet job on Al Gore in the Wall Street Journal opinion page.



Last updated August 29, 2009
The NASA Earth Science Subcommittee (ESS) advises the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on priorities within the Earth Science Division (ESD), focusing on tactical implementation of the strategic vision expressed by NASA Initiatives and by external inputs from organizations such as the National Research Council (NRC). ESS was organized by NASA in April 2006 and presently has the following membership: Byron Tapley (chair), Daniel Jacob (vice-chair), John R. Christy, Judy Curry, James Hansen, Raymond Hoff, Gregory Jenkins, William Large, Patricia Matrai, Patrick McCormick, Anna Michalak, Jean-Bernard Minster, Michael S. Ramsey, Steven Running, Kamal Sarabandi, Robert Schutz, Hank Shugart, David Siegel, Mark Simons, Konrad Steffen, Charles Vorosmarty. Executive Secretary for ESS is Lucia Tsaoussi.

Nobel Laureate Dr. John Christy: “Without energy, life is brutal and short”
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal pointed to an interesting notable quote:
And when we build — and I’m one of the few people in the world that actually builds these climate data sets — we don’t see the catastrophic changes that are being promoted all over the place. ??For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the Arctic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum.

JOHN R. CHRISTY: My Nobel Moment (2007 Nobel Peace Prize)
Wall Street Journal | November 1, 2007 | JOHN R. CHRISTY
Posted on Thu Nov 01 2007 18:35:15 GMT-0800 (Pacific Standard Time) by neverdem
I've had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don't think I will add "0.0001 Nobel Laureate" to my resume...

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Calling "Climategate" for what it really is - Kerry Emanuel

Image by IkaInk (Julian Wearne) via Flickr

Slams Lindzen, Singer and Happer as liars

MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel has been at the forefront of trying to explain many aspects of climate science to the public, especially in his field of expertise — hurricanes.  He has written a good essay on the hacked emails, ” ‘Climategate’: A Different Perspective [ ],” originally published at the National Association of Scholars [NAS] website.  Near the end, he notes:
While the climategate email authors are castigated for not being paragons of virtue, the sins of others go unremarked. In the summer of 2009, a one-page letter was sent to Congress, signed by one actual climate scientist and six physicists with little or no background in climate science, three of whom were retired.
Among other untruths, it contained the sentence, referring to evidence of anthropogenic global warming, “There is no such evidence; it doesn’t exist.” I confronted the sole climate scientist among the authors with this statement, and he confessed that he did not hold that to be the case. Last I checked, lying to Congress was a federal crime.
Emanuel doesn’t mention Richard Lindzen by name, but that is who he means (as is made clear here [ ]).  The laughable letter itself is here [ ].  Emanuel is thus calling out his old friend Lindzen, plus William Happer and S. Fred Singer, as liars on climate science.  No argument here.
Kerry Emanuel:
"those interested in treating the issue as an objective problem in risk assessment and management are labeled “alarmists”, a particularly infantile smear considering what is at stake. This deployment of inflammatory terminology has a distinctly Orwellian flavor. It originates not in laboratories and classrooms, where ideas are the central focus and one hardly ever hears labels applied to researchers, but in the media, the blogosphere, and political think tanks, where polarization attracts attention and/or turns a profit.
But it turns out that there are not enough mavericks in climate science to meet the media’s and blogosphere’s insatiable appetite for conflict. Thus into the arena steps a whole host of charlatans posing as climate scientists. These are a toxic brew of retired physicists, TV weather forecasters, political junkies, media hacks, and anyone else willing to tell an interviewer that he/she is a climate scientist."
The whole Climate Inactivist circle-jerk:

"But, but, but... we must not hamper "spirited debate"... um uh... guilty of "stealth advocacy"... hurr durr...  let's be "Serious" and "Reasonable"... herp derp... over-zealous scientists are most responsible for a warming earth..."

Kerry Emanuel is a welcome remedy to prattle.
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Uncertainty is not an argument for the status quo

The cognitive errors that lets some take demonstrations of uncertainty and confuse them for arguments for continuing the status quo:

(For the following, substitute for "plausible" the phrase "developed/confirmed to such a degree that it is perverse to withhold provisional assent")

1) To inform a rational choice of actions, plausible full narratives compete solely with other plausible full narratives. If I open a door, and in the bright light of the room see a breathing tiger across the room, it is rational to step back out of the room and close the door. Any demonstration of uncertainty of my ability to tell a living tiger from a amusement park animatronic tiger is not an argument to stand motionless at the open threshold. The demonstration of uncertainty can be used to choose between plausible full narratives by discounting some narratives, but it (the demonstration of uncertainty) doesn't have the power to construct a plausible full narrative in opposition to the one under consideration, much less make the opposite of the considered action rationally attractive.

2) Rational action and rational inaction are both born of rational choice. By changing the language, changing the viewpoint, changing the scope, we can phrase action in terms of inaction, and inaction in terms of action. So what is temporally/culturally/situationally described as an action/intervention is under no extra burden of rational justification than what is likewise described as inaction/absence-of-intervention, and inaction does not have a lesser burden of rational justification than action. (Imagine that the decision to burn fossil fuels is remade on the 1st of each year, for example, with a corresponding decision of how much. So burning fossil fuels in the new year is the intervention, and we wish study if that intervention is rational.)

3) Demonstratively persuading plausible full narratives are not in competition with a swarm of idiosyncratic narratives that are each in contradiction with all others of the swarm. The contradictions inside the swarm renders the whole swarm repellent to the rational. From the swarm should emerge a small number of demonstratively persuading plausible full narratives, first, to challenge the mainstream narrative, second. Or else it is more likely the idiosyncratic narratives are just a symptom of the opposition to the mainstream being handicapped by debilitatingly idiosyncratic minds, incapable of meaningful rational persuasion.

Consider the inability to construct a plausible full narrative for a wide conspiracy to assassinate JFK from those who find fault with details of the many investigators that agree that Oswald was the sole gunman. Consider the inability to construct a plausible full narrative for a wide conspiracy throughout the US government to bring down the Twin Towers by controlled demolition from those who find fault with the details of the many investigators. Consider their pathetic nature. Likewise, note that those who would dispose of the mainstream narrative about carbon emissions and climate disruption and ocean acidification shirk from the burden of supplying an persuading plausible full narrative in opposition. How quickly they rush to use the art of controversy! Is it because they have no alternative?

Inspired by comments to the blog posting...

Only In It For The Gold: There Are Skeptics and Then There Are Skeptics

People who do not support vigorous policy can only be skeptics if they offer very high certainty that the science is biased to overstate the risks. Nobody does this very successfully. Some pretend to do this; at least their position is coherent, if not very well supported.
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The Post-Email-Hacking phase of climate denialism - What can we expect?

Below is a great reply to RPJr from Bart Verheggen/ourchangingclimate

[To go along with Michael Tobis']

I really appreciate Bart quoting of David Keith:
"However when people and the political community hear technical people say “can’t be done” they assume we mean that technically can’t be done and that is untrue and destructive.
It’s destructive because it hides the central moral choice: we could cut emissions if we want to, we could have started decades ago when the scientific warnings about climate change were first raised, but we decided not to. It was a choice, implicit or not. A choice that, in effect, we cared more about current consumption than we did about preserving our grandchildren’s chances to enjoy a climate like the one in which our civilization developed."
Where do I agree with RPJr's list, and the viewpoint of the very-very-balanced never-dare-call-us-deniers boys and girls?  The most I would grant to RPJr, Fuller, et al. is that the lack of political will is as least as important as the science.  (I will not grant any more, because their behavior is consistent with a mania to provide intellectual cover for the powerful who refuse to consider a change in consumption consistent with the mainstream scientific view of the risk of climate disruption and ocean acidification.  The behavior consistent with mania (squealing for false balance and blubbering from hurt feelings from those naughty scientists) separates them from rational actors.)

These fellows cannot help but telegraph their moves, and, reading the above from RPJr, we can infer that in the near future morality and moral consequence will completely vanish from scope of their analysis.  It is a three-legged stool - science, morality, policy - and it is sufficient (and efficient) to attack a single leg to compromise the whole.  Their arguments (along with Kloor and Curry), now we are in the post-email-hacking phase, will suddenly be devoid of moral language, and they will open up the waterworks with Glenn-Beck-like whaling sniveling if any mainstream climate scientist dares to use moral language or draw out moral imperatives.

RPJr has already practiced with the term "stealth advocacy" for any climate scientist who has not suffered frontal lobe damage - in other words, for any scientists who is a whole human and cannot resist finding out the consequences of common moral imperatives (that we human individuals owe the future of the same quality (if not quantity) that we owe to the past that born us), and acting accordingly.

Comment on Pielke Jr’s main conclusions « ourchangingclimate/Bart

9. In their political enthusiasm, some leading scientists have behaved badly. (Pielke)
Without specifics, this is impossible to answer, and is bound to lead to even more misunderstanding. I could try reading your mind of course. You probably have some of your critics in mind, notably some RealClimate scientists as well as Hansen, who you have criticized. I find this very problematic. In most instances that I followed (involving Gavin Schmidt, Michael Tobis, Eric Steig, Hansen, Briffa at different occasions), I have found your and others’ criticisms off base, besides the point, largely irrelevant to the bigger picture and having the smell of a smear campaign (science-bashing). As I commented regarding the latest McIntyre affair (see my review here): “A lot of scientists are getting understandably frustrated with self-proclaimed auditors of science (and their supporters) who cast doubt about a whole scientific field by blowing minor flaws out of proportion and insinuate accusations of scientific misconduct”. Against this backdrop of a lot of people ready to embrace any little nitpicked criticism as if it overthrows the whole scientific consensus, and ignore the mountain of evidence in favour of this consensus, I can perfectly well understand that a lot of scientists (and their supporters) are getting frustrated having to deal with this behavior and (mostly) fake arguments. In the grand scheme of things, the big problem as I see it is the contempt of science and its practitioners by a sizeable segment of the general public and some high profile bloggers; if a scientist responds to faux criticism in a frustrated tone, I find that a minor flaw in comparison. Granted, they (climate scientists) are your subject of study, so you naturally focus on their behaviour, but at the same time, please consider the context in which they operate, as well as the main message they are trying to convey. In light of this, your claim that “bad behavior by the folks at Real Climate does more to hurt the cause for action than the political actions of the skeptics” is preposterous. William Connolley brought up Fred Singer as the most obvious example.
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Krugman takes on the Pain Caucus - but aren't they simply Paper Tigers?

[To the right: a photo from an early morning white-paper presentation by the economists of the Pain Caucus.  The pages of the paper in question must have been scattered during the passionate post-presentation Q&A session.]

Krugman, below, correctly takes the insufferable David Brooks to task for mindlessly agreeing with the Pain Caucus - the idiots that, independent of evidence, think that inflation is a risk and stimulus must stop now, recovery or not.  Anything that takes these dopes down a notch is welcome.

On the other hand, too much is made of the Pain Caucus. Where is the government with the guts to cut their stimulus before the full recovery? Maybe Ireland displayed real guts, maybe the ex-Soviet satellite states displayed real guts - these are practically the only places with leaders with the guts to pull off real structural reform (cutting the stimulus without a plan for structural reform is just meaningless self-flagellation). Greece will go down that road toward structural reform kicking and screaming, but, *now*, *other* places in Europe have more violent protests. Everywhere else you see wimps - they talk about pain, but they keep paying off the voters today, with debt to be serviced by future generations, without the benefit of a foundation of sound structural reform. The Pain Caucus are paper tigers, so it is hard to get too worked up by their stupidity and hypocrisy.

Economics and Politics - Paul Krugman Blog - - David Brooks and the Pain Caucus; Arguments From Authority

A quick note on David Brooks’s column today. I have no idea what he’s talking about when he says,
The Demand Siders don’t have a good explanation for the past two years
Funny, I thought we had a perfectly good explanation: severe downturn in demand from the financial crisis, and a stimulus which we warned from the beginning wasn’t nearly big enough. And as I’ve been trying to point out, events have strongly confirmed a demand-side view of the world.
But there’s something else in David’s column, which I see a lot: the argument that because a lot of important people believe something, it must make sense:
Moreover, the Demand Siders write as if everybody who disagrees with them is immoral or a moron. But, in fact, many prize-festooned economists do not support another stimulus. Most European leaders and central bankers think it’s time to begin reducing debt, not increasing it — as do many economists at the international economic institutions. Are you sure your theorists are right and theirs are wrong?
Yes, I am. It’s called looking at the evidence. I’ve looked hard at the arguments the Pain Caucus is making, the evidence that supposedly supports their case — and there’s no there there.
And you just have to wonder how it’s possible to have lived through the last ten years and still imagine that because a lot of Serious People believe something, you should believe it too. Iraq? Housing bubble? Inflation? (It’s worth remembering that Trichet actually raised rates in June 2008, because he believed that inflation — not the financial crisis — was the big threat facing Europe.)
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