How it all ends: a response - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal
Dec. 21st, 2007
12:55 am - 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.