?

Log in

No account? Create an account

How it all ends: a response - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Dec. 21st, 2007

12:55 am - How it all ends: a response

Previous Entry Share Next Entry

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.

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:cryo
Date:December 21st, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
To make the 150k people dying every day even more pointed, is to say that within 100 years, 10 BILLION people will be dead.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:December 21st, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Good point!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:aelius27
Date:December 21st, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
The flaw in using a betting market in this case is that if the odds did show that global warming was an actual problem, and we then took significant action to solve the problem, how would you decide which bets to pay?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:December 21st, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
You'd set up conditional bets. For example, one contract might pay if "U.S. adopts Kyoto accords by 2020 and global median temperatures fell by 5%".

Edited at 2007-12-21 06:59 pm (UTC)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:the23
Date:December 21st, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
good point re: betting markets. if (as they seem to be) they are more reliable than opinion polling on political questions then they will surely be more reliable when those polled have vested interests as with scientific and financial issues.

the threat of aging v the threat of global warming seems like an apples v potential oranges situation. aging in no way threatens the continued existence of the human race (although i suppose if we oculd be rendered immortal it would come in handy) as some hardcore global warming pushers would no doubt have it. indeed we've been growing in number for quite a while despite it......that said if humanity is our main concern then cancer prevention and clean water seem much greater concerns than possible higher temperatures.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:almond_tiger
Date:December 22nd, 2007 04:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
I think nobody ever dying would be a far worse threat than global warming. :)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:troyworks
Date:December 24th, 2007 10:17 am (UTC)
(Link)
I disagree with the premises for similar reasons.

1) we don't know that we are causing global warming, mars and juipter are warming too...and we don't have any influence on those.
2) given the choatic equilibrium in the world, any action we take to actively reverse (e.g not reduce carbon footprint) is likely to backfire and have unintended side effects.
3) like prohibition did little to curb alcohol, most protocols only push out the manufacture of pollutants to countries where there aren't any regulations and the dynamics there make such standards impractical (china, and india).

4) I suspect (though am unsure) that the majority of the curbable action from a consumer who cares makes very little difference in the scheme of people who don't care or have other interests to keep things as they are.

I'm all for increasing efficency of cars (ideally replacing them with suitable mass transit+smart vehicles), mpg, alternative fuels, dependency on foreign oil. These are just smart things to do, that shouldn't require global warming to motivate.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:the_dimka
Date:January 3rd, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
(Link)
this is just a little guy making an argument, just like you do now. that's fine. after all if giant corporations would not be able to change regulations by lobbying because government would have fewer regulations and it would be more upto people most of us would clearly agree that cleaner environment is good and saving energy and resources is good too.

in the end all those people who are trying to fight global warming just want to make the planet cleaner, and it will improve many things including longevity.
(Reply) (Thread)