Friday, March 15, 2013

Krugman and Thought Crimes

Paul Krugman highlights his true colors in the NYT today:
You can deny global warming (and may you be punished in the afterlife for doing so — this kind of denial for petty personal or political reasons is an almost inconceivable sin). 
Liberalism clearly hasn't remove the concept of sin, merely changed it. I think that the global warming is a plausible concern, but mainly an overblown pretext for giving more power to governments.

Consider that climate alarmists think that there's an amplification effect of around 3 to our CO2, so that the greenhouse effect of the CO2 is multiplied via its effect on water vapor, etc. This would suggest that the climate is in an equilibrium with positive feedbacks, inconsistent with the millions of years of a habitable planet. Clearly our atmosphere has mainly negative feedbacks, because otherwise we would have slid off to Venus or Hoth many millions of years ago via the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa  or other climate calamities.

Or consider that earth temperature data is measured very imprecisely in prior centuries, often with tree rings. I'm skeptical. Really good data only started about 10 years ago with Argo, where one takes thousands of submersibles and measures the temperature of the sea at various depths. Guess what: no trend.

I think it's reasonable to be a skeptic, and not have any petty or political motive, just sincere doubt.  In any case, I think sins are like vices, and should apply to actions, so even if you did believe in Global Warming, you should look at actions as opposed to 'thoughts'. It's simply more reasonable to judge people on what they do more than what they say, and Gore's airplanes and ethanol program have put more carbon into the atmosphere than anything I might do.

But, liberals don't just want obedience. As Orwell said in his novel 1984:
We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will...It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be.


Oliver Townshend said...

and what's the risk premium on that? :)

Marton said...

Eric, please stick to markets.

Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses as they say.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Marton: Well, per your quote, weekend posts are for off-topic observations in general, and at my blog especially. Keeping your thoughts to yourself doesn't help you or others learn the truth. To the degree one is wrong, you will learn much more quickly if you can receive feedback. I want to have better beliefs, not just comforting ones. If you think I'm mistaken, tell me why.

Anonymous said...

I like the off-topic observations more in general, because the views of mr Falkenstein are already fairly well-known. I tend to learn more through the off-topic posts as it is also more thought provoking and insightful of underlying motives for human action. Please do more of them if possible.

Eric Falkenstein said...

anon: tx! And note, most really smart guys had some pretty wrong, even silly beliefs (Frege and Hiedegger were Nazis, Chomsky is a communist, Newton was a biblical literalist). So, you shouldn't expect people to agree with all your beliefs, and it wouldn't mean much if they did. Things like Global warming and the equity risk premium contain arguments that stand on their own.

Anonymous said...

I always tell the true believers that I have never met anyone who acted as though global warming was a real problem. You know, no one who stopped contributing to the CO2 emissions (no car, no bus, no train, no refrigerator, no electronic devices, no illumination, no heating or cooling, etc). I haven't been given a name of someone who "walks the walk." I suspect pointing to the hypocrisy doesn't win me any popularity contests.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on posting whatever crosses your mind. After all, there's only so much you can say on risk premia and low vol investing and if that was the extent of your knowledge and interests, you'd be very dull. As an aside it always astounds me how greenhouse alarmists are furious that there are still skeptics.

Anonymous said...

1. The issue of climate change is one of risk. From your short paragraph, it seems like you're more familiar with the skeptical arguments of the reality climate change than you're familiar with the negative effects of global warming on the future generations - like mass extinctions, acidification, irreversibly of the effects for centuries. Are you skeptical of the science of the potential negative effects as well?

2. To harm the future for centuries for "petty personal or political reasons" ... that sound like a sin? PK is probably pointing out two specific examples: money (petty personal reasons - Koch) & political gain by serving a ignorant electorate (Palin, but maybe she actually doesnt understand what science is).

PK did not write we people cannot be skeptics in this article?

Kevin said...

So all the vast photographic evidence of a warming climate - the vastly shrunken glaciers at Glacier National Park, the shrinking polar ice caps, the much earlier Spring photos of flowering trees and shrubs than those taken at the exact same location even 30 years ago - all that is just my lyin' eyes?

And this one data set trumps 500 other data sets measuring warmer temperatures that perfectly explain what our photographs are telling us? This is why I tell my children never to get involved in partisan politics. If you WANT to believe something badly enough because it's important to your TEAM, you WILL believe it even against a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Politicians are well paid - whether it's by labor unions or oil companies - to believe ridiculous things so in a dispute between politicians and scientists over the review of objective data, I'll always side with the scientists who tend to be vicious toward one another when their analysis appears tainted by who's funding them. Politicians have no such ethical code and it's expected that their views will be shaped by who's funding them...

Eric Falkenstein said...

Kev: arctic ice is shrinking, antarctic ice is growing, so it's hard to say what's more important. Obviously it's very seasonal. I don't think anecdotes about Vikings growing grapes in Iceland, or skating on the Thames in the 1700s, really helps. The argo data contains thousands of very solid measurements, so it's the gold standard. In contrast, most estimates of the medieval period are from tree rings that have become unlinked from the global temperature changes in the 20th century. So, if they aren't accurate today, why should I think tree rings are accurate 500 years ago as estimates of global temperatures? I think temperatures probably rose a degree or two this century, but given standard errors, that's hard to say it's caused by CO2 because it's but one of many things that affect global temperatures. Sure, it adds other things equal, but the climate is a system in equilibrium with many powerful negative feedback mechanisms, it can handle a lot of abuse. Most arguments about global warming are arguments by authority (eg, most scientists believe) or anecdotes, and given the financial incentives in this field towards supporting global warming, tendentious.

Kevin said...


Unlike Arctic ice which is permanent and governed by air temperature, Antarctic ice is seasonal and is governed more by ocean temperature. Water temperature changes much more slowly than air temperature which explains why Antarctic ice has not begun to melt.

Scientists suspect the reason it has actually grown the last few years is because of the tremendous cloud cover over the Antarctic that has been caused by the huge ozone hole that has developed directly above the Antarctic. Air temperatures above the Antarctic have dropped over the last 10 years due to cloud cover while air temperatures around the rest of the world have risen.

And yes, the earth has powerful ecosystem forces that keep the climate in equilibrium, but Eric, every gallon of gas we pump out of the ground and you burn in your car releases around 19 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (a gallon of gas consisting of mostly carbon molecules weighs 6 pounds and each carbon molecule binds with 2 oxygen molecules to create CO2).

Now think about that for a moment. You just drive to work and might release 100 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. Now multiply that times a billion people and times 365 days a year and you will begin to understand that the earth's atmospheric control mechanisms (ocean and plant life absorption) aren't going to cope with that well.

The last time that much CO2 was in the atmosphere was during the dinosaur age when the earth was much warmer and Kentucky where I live was a tropical swamp (which is where the coal the swamp created is being dug up and the coal's buried carbon re-released into the atmosphere).

And Eric, do you seriously believe that the financial incentives of this argument skews toward supporting global warming? Seriously? You really believe that? Eric, please look up the richest companies on earth and tell me what industry the vast majority of them are in.

I'm not a pollyanna or even a liberal and my Chrysler V8 gets a lousy 17 miles to the gallon. But I always make an effort to not be delusional about which side is being honest and which side is being paid...

Kevin said...

Eric, I'm sorry, I just re-read my post and I certainly didn't mean to imply that you are delusional. On the contrary, I find your posts highly intelligent. But I've told my now-grown kids that whenever you get too close to being on a team (and politics is definitely a team sport), you can suspend your critical thinking and look for evidence that supports the team rather than critically examining the total volume of evidence.

The total volume of evidence here clearly supports the thousands of scientists. If it weren't for WalMart, every single one of the top ten richest companies in the world would be oil and gas companies which explains why scientists are getting tremendous blowback on basic science that even an elementary student can understand: if you dig or pump long-buried carbon out of the ground and release it back into the atmosphere, it will gradually take temperatures on earth back to what they were when that carbon WASN'T in the ground.

Anonymous said...

My favorite climate change anecdote is that there is some evidence the Alps in during Roman times were green.

Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to figure out how to make money on this sure thing called global warming other than getting research grants from the govt. Buy land in the northwest territory?

Eric Falkenstein said...

Kev: I think reasonable people can believe in global warming, I just disagree with them. There are unreasonable people on both sides, and I'll ignore them. But I do think that if you are doing climate research, there more money available to studies confirming global warming rather than not, from universities, NASA, the UN, and a lot of other places. Exxon and the Koch brothers don't sponsor nearly as much research as those other sources. I'd hazard it's 20:1.

I don't have really strong opinions on this, but I do have a strong opinion on people saying I only believe this because of higher priorities. I think they are projecting.

Unknown said...

The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion Versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America

Engaging, provocative, ignored.

The U.S. Review of Books has announced that Professor Robert H. Nelson's recent book, The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America (Penn State Press, 2010), is the 2010 grand prize winner of the Eric Hoffer Book Award. This is the highest award made by the Eric Hoffer Awards, created in 2001 "to honor freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit."

The author was a government economist at the Interior Dept. during the years of transitional thinking.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of this. This reply is to Kevin and all the “scientists” who KNOW that they are right about global warming. Grow some humility! I’m not a physicist, I’m a statistician. I know what it’s like to model, forecast, and fail. Don’t you people understand the sources of forecast error? Let me just list some to remind you: Measurement error in the dependent variable(s); measurement error in the independent variables; wrong functional form; wrong variables, missing variables; time-varying parameters, non-normal disturbances, over-identified systems, overfitting, unstable solutions to nonlinear models, choice of priors on hyperparamters (IPCC finally went Bayesian a while back for part of their modeling); bayesian vs. non-bayesian approaches etc….. So think about: short time periods of data; tree rings vs. ice cores; heat islands; selective measurement station use; end-point sensitivity; IPCC model “recalibration”, data fudging (East Anglia, hockey stick); actual large forecast errors; trouble with accounting for clouds; the effect of Mr. Sun…….Yet we are to impoverish people and crush freedom because you think your models are so good. All this even before considering that “warming” could be net beneficial. I suppose that’s why you now call it “climate change”. Anybody who has done serious modeling and looks at some of the modeling done by the IPCC and others has the right to be skeptical, because we are skeptical about our own models and predictions in our own fields. One can be a “climate scientist” (physicist, meteorologist etc. you choose) and not know jack about modeling.

Kevin said...

Anonymous, I'm quite familiar with the many variables that go into forecast modeling. I'm also aware that it makes the field incredibly easy to question and raise doubts when people don't like the forecasts (and there are hundreds of forecasts by the way, all using different methods with results differing only by degree and many of the early forecasts are already proving quite accurate).

And when the people who don't like the forecasts happen to be the richest people on earth and their continuing wealth depends on those doubts being raised, then doubts will get raised.

However, I'm also familiar with science I learned in the 9th grade (and I'm 53). We knew that carbon dioxide was a greenhouse gas many decades before someone at NASA noticed the earth was warming and decided to investigate why.

And when he realized we were bringing enormous amounts of long-buried carbon out of the ground and re-releasing it back into the atmosphere, everyone on earth who wasn't asleep during 9th grade science suddenly hit their forehead and thought "duh!"

Eric, "more money is available to studies confirming global warming rather than not?" You and anonymous seem to have a very cynical view of the ethical standards of scientists, the scientific method and the critical review of their scientific competitors who can be quite vicious if strict, objective guidelines aren't followed.

If we had a lot of conflicting studies or the science wasn't so incredibly 9th grade basic, I might understand that cynicism but since scientists in every country on earth have come to the same conclusion and the science IS incredibly basic, then I just suspect that most climate cynicism is politically driven.

And as for your contention that Koch and Exxon are being outspent 20:1 on scientific studies, I would have to greatly disagree. It's more likely 2,000:1. Unlike politicians, scientists can't have opinions based on who's paying them.

They have to perform objective studies and no scientist is going to say that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas or that burning carbon doesn't produce large amounts of CO2. All Exxon can do is pay people to question the variables used in the forecast models and pay for blogs so that they have a forum...

Kevin said...

And what's really sad is you guys are arguing with someone who drives a 17 mpg car, opposes the Kyoto Treaty and supports the XL pipeline.

Why? As I stated before, I'm neither liberal nor conservative and there are legitimate reasons that Kyoto would be a tremendous waste of resources and would not be an overly effective solution to the problem.

But to try and question 9th grade science or the motives of scientists in the face of vast photographic evidence that our planet is already rapidly warming would put me out on "silly island" with the birthers who question Obama's birthplace even in the face of 50 year old newspaper announcements.

If you want to do your country and planet good, then get off silly island which is being financed by Exxon and oppose Kyoto for legitimate reasons. Of course Exxon doesn't like any other alternative either because anything that burns less carbon will destroy their long-term profits so the only thing they will finance is silly island, therefore silly island is all over the internet...

Anonymous said...

Kevin. Dont care what car you drive. Dont recall 9th grade science also saying "Warming bad" or "Current climate optimal." Also dont recall it saying "We must hide the decline!". Funding is overwhemingly pro warming. Heck even the Weather Channel directly and indirectly tows the line. If all we need is 9th grade science, then millions of "scientists" disagree with you.

RPB said...


The whole point that Eric and many here are trying to make WRT Global Warming is that the science of global warming is substantially more advanced than "9th Grade Science" and it is certainly not "settled."

The most dire warming predictions are not based upon a simple GHG model, but, rather, many interacting forces with GHGs that predicate on multiple "positive feedback model." The main presumption being that increases in CO2 and other GHGs leads to an initially small temperature increase which itself leads to a great increase in the atmospheric carrying capacity of the most insidious GHG: Water Vapor. This interaction is understood to perpetuate and exasperate warming far, far more than the presence of the man released GHGs alone.

So, you have a system which increases in temperature are based upon predictions that are not necessarily certain to occur, and, as Eric notes, go against evidence of planetary temperature/climate interaction we've seen through past climate record observation. And one of the most salient point Eric and other more advanced critics are making is that if such positive feedback mechanisms were possible the planetary climate would have spun out of control into either a frozen solid scenario or a runaway heat scenario like Venus. If there was a continuous positive (or negative) climate/CO2/Water vapor interaction, then surely the planet would have frozen solid through the many ice ages (applying global warming theory in reverse).

Obviously, neither of those events has occurred in the past because so many forces exist outside of the current models of atmospheric chemistry interactions.

My problem, as well as many others, is that the Global Warming theory is being sold as certain, provable science rather than science by committee and consensus (non-science). The certainty interjected into the debate is disingenuous and is being used to justify a manner of actions that would likely leave much of the world poorer than before.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, the world's wealthiest people are not all from 'big oil ' you know. Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison all give heavily to pro AGW research and education. (They are four of the top five richest people on the planet, according to Forbes; I'm not sure about Amancio Ortega.)

Tel said...

I would have thought that 9th grade science would tell you that warm, moist air rises. Actually, anyone who ever boiled a kettle knows that.

How high does it rise? Well, it just keeps rising until it cools down, whatever it takes. That's what keeps the Earth's surface at a constant temperature. There ain't no sheet of glass up above our heads obstructing convection like there is in a greenhouse ya know.

Strangely, the climate modellers don't accept 9th grade science. They claim that a huge bubble of warm, moist air (a.k.a "the hot spot") has been building up over the equator. No one can observe this in real life (weather balloons don't detect it), but the model shows it sure as eggs. You wonder why this bubble doesn't rise like steam from a kettle... or at least, a 9th grader would wonder, not a climate scientist.

But that's all idle chatter. Any economist will tell you that while there is a significant advantage going to the nation that burns fossil fuels, then all nations will burn those fuels. They may victimize their citizens on false pretences in the meantime... but the fuel will burn just the same, because every nation has some sort of elite who don't want to live their lives in grinding poverty.

When we have a viable alternative, and when the oil supply inevitably dwindles, people will start using that alternative without requiring a gun at their head to motivate them. In the meantime, the CO2 will keep rising, them temperature will fluctuate around like it always has done, and the climate scientists will keep demanding more government money.

By the way, have a read of Ed Krug's book "Environment Betrayed: The Abuse of a Just Cause" which tells you everything you need to know, from a first hand perspective.

JWO said...

I always tell the true believers that I have never met anyone who acted as though global warming was a real problem.

The way that I expect true believes in extreme AGW to act, is to buy land in Maine close to the coast but at least 30 feet above the current sea level.

BTW I believe that the best science is that AGW is real but that it is at the very low end of the IPCC estimates and will stay there. I therefore believe that though it would be fairly cheap to reduce the warming by removing co2 from the air that it is not worth the effort and cost.

Methods to remove co2 from the air include biochar, enhanced weathering and deep ocean iron fertilization. Even cheaper than removing co2 from the air might be to have jets put reflective particles in the air.

JWO said...

One more point:

People live on the equator (which BTW is not projected to warm significantly), no one lives at the poles. So a warmer climate might be better.