This follows on to previous discussion of Manzi here. Manzi’s original piece is at The New Republic.
First off, what are integrated assessment models?
The DICE model, developed by William Nordhaus, is a dynamic integrated model of climate change in which a single world producer-consumer makes choices between current consumption, investing in productive capital, and reducing emissions to slow climate change. [more]
Remarkably, an IPCC WGII report (see p 17) shows the “cost” of a 4 degree C temperature increase to be on the order of 3% of net economic output.
Jim Manzi uses this assertion to conclude that Waxman-Markey is a bad idea. I would go further. If 3% were a measure of anything realistic it would be hard to argue for the sort of policy measure that we are all so urgently arguing for. [more]
I find it enervating to listen to economists trying to explain our circumstances without reference to resource constraints, as if resources were a separate topic. Krugman’s backing of Waxman-Markey carries some weight with me, but not as much as it would if he didn’t totally neglect resource constraints.
Some of the things Tidal has said in comments here fit in with this point of view; essentially driving the collapse of the Ponzi scheme is the fact that our ability to borrow from the future is now facing substantive limits which it did not face before. [more]
I have tried to make the case that an economic slowdown properly handled can be a good thing on balance, even though it will be certainly stressful in the short run for people who are unprepared for it. I proposed repackaging the whole business, dropping the depressing words “depression” and “recession” in favor of “relaxation”, on the presumption that the level of activity in the most advanced economies is already excessive. [more]
A given economic growth rate can be sustainable only if the average impact per unit wealth declines at an equal or greater rate.
I argue that this is certainly true if one grants that a sustainable behavior must be sustainable indefinitely.
Shortly after coming to this pretty firm conclusion and wondering how smug to feel about it, I realized that it’s just a consequence of the old I = PAT tautology, due to Ehrlich and Holdren (yes that Holdren). [more]
Hats off to Gil Friend for spotting the New York Times’ enthusiasm for Wall Street deregulation a decade ago.
”Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,” Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. [more]
The prolific (and arguably indispensable) Joe Romm has a terrifying summary about global warming which appears to me to be pretty much on the mark.
Joe believes that people who understand the situation in this way should stick together. Given the scope of the problem, and the vast difference between the perspectives of those few who understand it and those many who don’t, you’d think we ought to stick together through thick and thin. [more]
Here’s an alternative view of economics that I heard in a talk, written up by Douglas Rushkoff. The most interesting point to me is this one:
Local currencies favored local transactions, and worked against the interests of large corporations working from far away. In order to secure their own position as well as that of their chartered monopolies, monarchs began to make local currencies illegal, and force locals to instead use “coin of the realm.” These centralized currencies worked the opposite way. [more]
You would think the situation might call for a revisiting of conventional notions, a moment of introspection, an admission that perhaps past advice may have been not entirely of the finest caliber.
You might think so but, well, no.
David Leonhardt, in an unusually early preview of this week’s New York Times Magazine:
But while Washington has been preoccupied with stimulus and bailouts, another, equally important issue has received far less attention — and the resolution of it is far more uncertain. [more]
OK, never mind, for the moment, if lawns are a good idea. Let’s consider lawnmowers.
If you have a typical American house, you have a typical lawn in front of it, a lawn that is in need of occasional trimming. Unless you contract out for lawn services, you almost certainly own a lawnmower too. [more]
Thanks to “Tidal” for pointing out the fascinating essay by a similar title, CAN SCIENCE HELP SOLVE THE ECONOMIC CRISIS? by Brown, Kauffman, Palmrose and Smolin. I mostly agree with their perspective (I have a few quibbles about what “equilibrium” means) enthusiastically, and I appreciate the kick it gave me to express what I have come up with so far myself. [more]
I mean “begging the question” in the original sense, of constructing a complex but ultimately circular argument that depends on the result you intend to to prove, not the unfortunate sense that it inevitably developed in casual speech of “begging for, or raising another question”.
I think great swaths of economics are based on question-begging. [more]
Dot Earth is running “Eleven Questions for Obama’s Science Team” and I would like to especially recommend they (and all of us) think long and hard on question eight, which is a nice statement of one of our themes here:
My request to the Obama transition team is to introduce the economy team to the science team. [more]
A surprising glimmer of recognition spotted in the major media:
“Look,” said the President, walking across the stage with a microphone in hand, “here’s what no one wants to tell you. Structural changes in our economy, and new competition from countries like China and India, mean that we’re in a different world now. [more]
This article, “The Failure of Networked Systems”, on The Oil Drum explains matters very well.
It is sort of an engineer’s twist on the tradeoff between risk and return. Go read it.
It applies both to the immediate financial mess and the even bigger picture reservoirs-and-flows views of the earth system. [more]
From Herman Daly’s keynote to the AMS workshop on Federal Climate Policy:
However, it is useful to back up a bit and remember an observation by physicist John Wheeler, “We make the world by the questions we ask”. What are the questions asked by the climate models, and what kind of world are they making, and what other questions might we ask that would make other worlds? [more]
The rest of the cartoon (H/T Dot Earth) is here. Another timely toon here.
H/T Atmoz for the title of this posting.
The NY Times points to an audio production of an outsider’s asking stupid questions about finance. It promises to be very interesting.
I thought I’d capture my opinions about what I’ll call the wtf, by which I mean the current financial/political situation, before listening to that report. [more]
Whatever else Microsoft will achieve by buying back $40 bn of its own shares, it has certainly achieved demonstrating how confused I am about finance.
It seems to me if a company “buys back” 10% of its shares, the remaining shares are worth 10/9 of what they were before, and the company has billions of dollars less to use. [more]
In a more or less typical “economists who agree with my preconceptions are reasonable, economists who don’t, aren’t, and climate science doesn’t really exist” essay, someone calling himself the Skeptical Optimist manages this wonderful blurt:
GW news is too frequently contaminated by confirmation bias, belief preservation, and rehearsed political dogma. I stop reading as soon as I detect any of that, which means I skip a lot of GW “news.”)
I was glad to see Freeman Dyson’s recent review…
(Link added by your humble editor. [more]
Suppose you believe the things that most people who understand the science believe:
that the changes we are imposing on the world are huge and dangerous
that the impacts follow the causes by some decades
that we have a moral obligation not to trash the whole planet in the future
Then suppose you grant that, as an especially egregious op-ed by Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal has it today:
Our political system has been looking at the problem of climate change for a generation, and lack of action is not due to the machinations of big oil – but to the inability of policy to bridge a giant chasm between proposed costs and benefits. [more]