December 21st, 2007


How it all ends: a response

evillinn recently posted this video:

It's an entertaining video, and I encourage you to watch it.

However, while I agree with the creator's overall methodology, I have a few objections:

* He minimizes the costs of taking action, and exaggerates the costs of inaction. Consider the Kyoto accord, one of the major anti-global warming initiatives. At least one peer-reviewed economic analysis shows that the costs of the Kyoto accord far outweigh the benefits:

"The major conclusions are: (a) the net global cost of the Kyoto Protocol is $716 billion in present value, (b) the United States bears almost two-thirds of the global cost; and (c) the benefit-cost ratio of the Kyoto Protocol is 1/7.

Not to mention bothersome nanny-state interventions into our economy, such as the recently passed ban on incandescent light bulbs.

* The NAS and NAAS are not disinterested parties. The majority of scientists are government sponsored researchers. Research dollars flow to politically popular subjects -- AIDS research, breast cancer, global warming -- even if, on objective basis, far more people are killed by other less popular diseases/risks (malaria, prostate cancer, etc.) Drum up fear of global warming, and watch the research dollars flow.

* Talk is cheap. Voting in a poll costs a scientist little, since, if he's wrong, the costs of government action will be spread out over the entire world population. His fraction of the cost will be relatively small. And if research dollars flow into his lab as a result of exaggerating global warming risks, he may benefit on net even if he's later proven wrong.

A better source of odds would be a betting market for science policy questions. Betting markets would enforce discipline upon proponents and skeptics alike, as each is forced to put their money where their mouth is.

Think global warming is a crock, and the rolling average of temperatures over the next 20 years will be constant? Well then, if you're so confident in your opinion, why not put some cash on the line? Since scientists who make bad bets would lose money and influence, we would expect that they will be careful in the bets they take, and therefore, we should have greater confidence in the odds that emerge. (If they're so great, why aren't such betting markets more widely used, you may ask? Because of other nanny-state interventions into the economy, namely the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and anti-gambling statutes . )

* The fact that oil companies support emissions reduction should be a red flag. Why would oil companies support regulations counter to their interests? The answer is that it is common for large, established corporations to favor strict regulations. Large companies have the money to comply with expensive regulations, or the political connections to get exemptions for themselves. Phillip Morris, for example, supports restrictions on broadcast advertising of tobacco products, bans on the use of cartoons in cigarette ads and prohibitions on the placement of advertisement in locations with a "particular appeal to minors". An economic analysis of the effects of the 1970 TV and radio advertising ban found that existing cigarette companies enjoyed abnormally large returns following the ban. They attribute these abnormal returns to decreased competition from upstart competitors, who were legally barred by most kinds of advertising.

* The greatest threat that humanity has ever faced is not global warming, but aging, in my opinion. 150,000 people die every single day as the result of aging, 55 million lives a year. To me, the certain loss of that many lives is deserving of much more action than the uncertain effects of human influenced global climate change, which may or may not be real, and may in fact even be beneficial on net if it is real.

Trip to New Hampshire

I'm planning to go to New Hampshire for the 2008 Liberty Forum. Here's my flight itinerary:

Wednesday, January 2

Arrive:WASH/DULLES 3:51 PM

Depart:WASH/DULLES 4:55 PM

Wednesday, January 9
Seat(s): NONSTOP


I have a room reserved for the evenings of the 2nd - 5th (Wed. - Sat) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua. I'm going to try to find a way to volunteer for the Ron Paul campaign on the 7th and the 8th. However, if it's impractical to try to help on such short notice, I'll probably drive down to Boston. If any of you guys in Boston/New Hampshire would be up for a visit, please let me know.

Pimp My Ride

Why does Ron Paul arouse such devotion? Tucker Carlson’s essay Pimp My Ride answers that question better than anything else I’ve read.

Though Paul argues passionately for liberalizing marijuana laws and is beloved by potheads (Timothy Leary once held a fund-raiser for him), he has never smoked pot himself. He sounded shocked when I asked him. “I have never seen anyone smoke marijuana,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be open to using it.” For some people, libertarianism is the philosophical justification for a zany personal life. Paul, by contrast, describes his hobbies as gardening (roses and organic tomatoes) and “riding my bicycle.” He has never had a cigarette. He doesn’t swear. He limits his drinking to an occasional glass of wine and goes to church regularly. He has been married to the same woman for 50 years. Three of their five children are physicians.

Ron Paul is deeply square, and every bit as deeply committed to your right not to be.

Original: craschworks - comments