Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Right Wing Suggestions Regarding Climate - Do Nothing That Stands In The Way of Profit

Right wing economist Robert Murphy, who works for right wing think tanks that receive substantial donations from the likes of Exxon Mobile and the Koch Brothers (that is, groups that profit handsomely from fossil fuel consumption) has suggestions for mitigating global warming. Suggestions that we've heard before. Do nothing that impedes profits.

Murphy makes two major arguments. He argues that the mainstream scientific consensus is global warming will provide net benefits up until around the year 2050. Here Murphy is very trusting of the science (when it favors profits). Later in the article he becomes very distrusting of science. He is dubious of the accuracy of climate models. His conclusion is one that once again is in the best interest of his corporate backers. Trusting of science when it is profitable. Distrusting it when it is unprofitable. Big surprise.

As I've pointed out before corporations will pursue any rhetorical strategy to enhance profits, even when today's rhetoric contradicts yesterday's rhetoric. Global warming isn't happening. It is happening but man is not the cause. Actually the globe is cooling. No wait, it is warming, man is the cause, and there's no reason for concern.

How often has the right wing been wrong in these types of matters? The right wing think tanks told us there was no reason for concern with tobacco, but we beat them back and took steps to reduce smoking, saving many lives. They told us there was no reason for concern due to lead in gasoline, but we beat them back (at least in the US. Other parts of the world still suffer with lead for profit.). Don't worry about the ozone layer and don't require different kinds of refrigerant that are too expensive and harmful to business. We beat the profit interest back once again, for the good of the planet. The stakes are even higher with global warming. We must beat them back again.

And what's frustrating is that the purveyors of lies for profit in tobacco and lead will probably go unpunished, though their rhetoric lead directly to the death of many. We have to beat them back again and live with the fact that they will go on to peddle the next lie for profit.

Just a couple of points in reply. When Murphy says that global warming has "net benefits" what he's saying is a reference to this paper. Initial warming will increase GDP. So let's say we thaw some tundra in Canada and increase the amount of arable land. Let's say that this increases Canadian GDP 5%. Canadians, like Americans, are relatively rich already. Nobody is starving there. They get a bit richer. But at the same time in Africa some formerly arable land is now a dust bowl and 100,000 people die. If their deaths cause a reduction in GDP but that reduction is less than the increase in Canada, then what we have here is a "net benefit." Already rich people are a little richer. Poor people have died in droves. This is a good thing for Murphy. I don't agree.

Let's also note that there is a growing acceptance of the idea that 2°C of warming is not just bad. It's extremely bad. Much worse than the consensus position concedes. Granted, this is a minority view. But the idea that we should do nothing that impedes profits is predicated on the notion that we have high confidence that some global warming is actually good. We do not.

And I would suggest that the incentives push scientists towards drawing conclusions that are extra conservative. Meaning we have reason to think that the more alarmist positions should be taken seriously. Michael Mann was hauled before a Congressional inquiry as a result of global warming denial hostility for publishing charts that were later confirmed to be accurate by multiple independent studies. An error in the IPCC report claiming the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, which is a claim that is not based on published scientific literature, results in endless derision by the science denial community. Then the fake scandal called Climate Gate. All bogus as independent studies have confirmed. But scientists know they must be cautious and not go too far or they will get destroyed. The incentives cause them to err on the side of less alarmist claims. So claims are qualified, not too bold, and often the uncertainty is emphasized.

Murphy then seizes on this uncertainty in the later part of his article to pooh pooh the climate models. It's true that the models on average predicted a little bit more warming than what we actually experienced. It's also true that the sun, which has a fairly consistent periodic cycle of activity and inactivity, in fact had a bit of an extended period of inactivity over the past 15 years. So we had a bit less solar heating than the models would have predicted. That's not particularly surprising. And even with this inactivity the earth experienced the hottest decade ever. I believe 10 of the 11 hottest years ever recorded were recorded during the last decade. Now the sun is re-entering it's active phase. And it's getting hot.

One side of this debate always seems to get it wrong. They tell us to not worry about it. If they're wrong again, like they always are, and we listen to them, there will be hell to pay.


Examinator said...

I point out to our right wing contingent that *I* am largely neutral on politics (i.e. the support teams Tweedle dee and Tweedle dum ) I also said I wouldn't venture a clear (unequivocal) side unless the difference was between (scientifically) two clearly good and Bad. This ARTICAL by Robert P. Murphy (economist) is one such instance.

His article isn't a Scientific refutation of Global Warming sic. (Anthropomorphic Climate Change) what it is , is you rightly implied ...propaganda! It's clearly yet another artificially pulverised into a micro fine cloud of age dried (and tried) BULL SHIT , to hide both its toxic nature and insidious intentions. These include both selective self-interested reading of the facts, such egregiously deliberate errors (misinformation). The net intention is deliberate manipulation of both the the ignorant and those who, who fear change.

From a fundamental (grade 5 taught ) scientific concept/ methodology.... report ALL The facts not just the convenient ones. There in lies the beginning of his failure of credibility.
Oddly enough ALL PhD regardless of the discipline are based on that principal.
Lest me give you an example “Climate Gate”, what he doesn't tell his audience is that after 3 separate a serious investigations (one the equivalent to Congressional Special Prosecutor Investigation) no-one including the so called villain was ever found guilty of anything more serious than sloppy house keeping.
NO Academic fraud or criminal activity. Not even grounds for a civil action for damages. It was in the wash up only a PR disaster.
I would point out that allegedly even under the USA code of law/guilt even PR debacles aren't proof of criminality or academic fraud.

Now if we were to hand Mr Murphy's diatribe over to say one of the nations that are CURRENTLY dealing with the consequences of AGW Now. And given he's advocating letting the situation get worse (early part of AGW (sic) is um beneficial to business ...i.e. they derive benefit from doing nothing yet) there is potentially some grounds for legal action even 'crimes against humanity' (i.e. by doing nothing in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary that results in ...um swamps entire nations and inundates land causing Billions in damages and the probable deaths of millions(more than in the holocaust).
...and if his paper is cited as reasons for business NOT reacting well.... my advice to Mr Murphy is be careful if you go outside the USA.

One thing that always bothers me about the right wing myopic thinking is that it tends to stop at the edge of the continental boundaries. Let's hope some of the victims of the extreme weather in the near future don't take a similar stance and petition him as a defendant in a Class action.

I could go on and refute piece by piece his document with proven facts.... the scary thing there is I'm not a qualified scientist in the relevant discipline ...imagine if one or a group of them decided to legally/ scientifically tear him a new one?

Jon said...

That would be justice if these people were indicted as you say. I think you're right. The suffering here is potentially worse than the holocaust. We are talking about such enormous consequences.

And just for the record I happen to think based on my limited experience and expertise, that the more alarmist views are more likely to be proven accurate. The climate is more sensitive than the consensus view has conceded. Obviously I could be wrong here but scientists are scared to say what they really think. Look at the whole Climate Gate thing. Despite the fact that these investigations proved no wrongdoing, imagine what the scientists are going through as these inquiries are occurring. They are scared. And they should be. You never know what might come of these type of inquiries with all the money and influence that is involved. People like Mann are totally innocent, yet he's getting hauled before a Congressional inquiry. Sure, he was proved right. But who wants to go through that? So scientists are very much hesitant to say what they honestly think if what they honestly think contradicts the right wing agenda.

A relevant recent article on food scarcity. We're in big trouble on this issue.


HispanicPundit said...

I dont agree with much of what you write here, but I still wanted to say that I am very excited that you read EconLog. You should especially focus on Bryan Caplan. That dude is my favorite living economists...seriously.

Jon said...

I do follow Caplan, but not super closely. I replied to some very poor reasoning from him on Vietnam here. Watch him here ridiculously try and pretend Ho Chi Minh was like Hitler and my reply. Ho Chi Minh dared to resist the US military which had traveled half way around the world to carpet bomb civilian population centers and this makes him Hitler, but of course the US is very benevolent. What kind of a person can convince themselves of stuff like this? One that very much hates democracy and much prefers that everyone bow to the whims of the very few oligarchs.

Examinator said...

The reality is that a successful prosecution of him in The USA is unlikely in that his defence would be that he is an economist not a scientist and as such the 'reasonable man test' of him being an expert would fail.
In other word he would simply admit the truth that his diatribe should not be believed or have any more weight than any other PR or employee of the companies that back him.... it simple terms it's a BS opinion not founded on anything substantive.
It is designed and intended to con the unwary end the gullible...sadly they allow such utter BS to influence their votes.

Jon said...

Actually I want to retract what I said. I don't want people to be prosecuted for expressing ideas, however horrible they may be. Once you criminalize expression you unleash so many other worse problems. I strongly support freedom of speech, and if that means anything at all it means allowing speech you find offensive.

He's right though that we shouldn't be listening to him or putting much stock in the economics profession as a whole. Economics is more like religion than it is like science. No controlled experiments, no real way to falsify claims in a scientific way like through testable predictions. You can pretty much say whatever you want and it's very difficult to prove you wrong. We really shouldn't pay attention to them.

Examinator said...

the problem is where does one draw the line?
In the western world there is this monumental Myth that there is such a thing as free speech... there never was, isn't and couldn't be unless one is advocating a law of the jungle ...the Malthusian concept of the biggest, badest, most ruthless survives and all others don't... not for mine. The reality is that freedom of speech is has always will be conditional.
We live in a society and any definition of that concept includes sub concepts like co-operation, mutual benefit , harmony... *without * which it won't last. This doesn't mean sitting around in a love In etc. But it does mean a preponderance of the key positives. Arguments advocating extremes ( binary B/w) are simply silly.
And that leaves us with the first question, put another way, “ when is an idea (?) acceptable and when is it not?” A real conundrum particularly if one tries to codify it.
It's a bit like codifying good manners...*that * is always changing.

Personally it comes down to the intention of the 'speech' i.e. would a reasonable man/person see the speech as .....e.g. positive, neutral, or negative intentioned, in the context rather than the word(s).
e.g. is one is speaking factually/ reporting the Nazi ideas of racial supremacy that is neutral but to then go ahead and advocate that in what can be described as hate or inciting speech then it isn't.
There is a big difference between saying I don't believe in AGW because of A- B- C facts contradicting E-f-g but it's a different thing altogether deliberately (wantonly) lying or miss leading for profit, particularly given the consequences for all societies. My view here is that this man's nonsense is negative and is Intentionally designed to advantage a minority AT THE COST OF ALL SOCIETIES. There, it is hate speech. My assessment is largely based on the fact that he does know better ...he has a PhD and therefore knows how to reasonably put an argument. HE chose not to therefore guilty of incitement to do harm.
The key here is that to the average man he is a learned person and therefore his words should be given preferential weighting. He Knew this as did his employers, he has conveniently/ deliberately done is abuse this weighting. If for example Hispanic Pundit or I had written the diatribe it would have been (rightfully) ignored. Again the Key is context.
Even a PhD and NOBEL laureate in Biochemistry recently in a speech prefaced it with a clear acknowledged that he wasn't an expert in the field and would confine his comments to what was known and the consensus. Keep in mind that the whole doubt raising bluster was concocted by 3 aging physicists to help Big Tobacco .
If someone wants intellectual respect they should earn it and maintain it not sell it to the highest bidder.
I would argue he and his ilk has degraded education.

Examinator said...

If one has followed the the phone hacking scandal in the UK. it is clear that Murdoch knew about it and turned a blind eye to the culture of the abuse of power of his news papers. The papers bullied slandered and breached several laws over a long term. Merely paying bribes to govt officials/ police/ politicians et al is against the law. But they did that with impunity. Regardless of his having prior knowledge of the actual phone tapping, he isn't/wasn't so dumb as not to have realised that it was impossible to have an endless parade of 'victims' and targeting of those who opposed his interests didn't emanate from questionable source mining. Further to that he must have know that his special pleading and changing governments to a more compliant one was also clearly wandering into at best undemocratic at worst illegal territory.
Likewise his boast that he had pictures (presumably illegally gotten) . He was also well aware that such pictures need not be of any illegal activity just that they may sufficiently embarrassing to 'neutralise' the individuals (i.e. blackmail them..... which is illegal and as such he's a common thug).
His papers weren't acting the public interest of need to know and the noble ideal of freedom of speech it was simply manipulation of the unwary, ignorant and the pathological self interested , by pandering to the less admirable
The Sun and the News of the World have the right to freedom of speech to say what ever they want either true or untrue? Being real the chances of a successful court outcome was very much against anyone who opposed them.

In truth it was a happy set of circumstances and tactical blunders that the whole shit hit the fan.
I think it's interesting how Rupert reacted in the enquiry trying to manage the news by his irrelevant comment of “this being the most humiliating day in his life”.... and ? Additionally he also has a history of promising one thing then doing the other. He would have you believe he is just a business man and regards money as the determining factor of worth as a human being. But is it ? If profit was his only concern may of his papers would have closed years ago as unprofitable. He would be well aware of “opportunity cost” (what earnings the capital invested/losses would have made if invested elsewhere).
What it does show are marked symptoms of sociopathic tendencies... no conscience, promising one thing to governments then doing the opposite to satisfy his wants.. His life is typified by lust for power...
One is entitled to wonder what is still hidden in other countries and businesses … The leopards and spots thing?
If we take his example we can confirm the research data that may heads of Corporations display the same sociopathic tendencies. As your self is this what we need to our leaders to be? Totally self obsessed to the disregard of others often seeing those who don't see things their way as the enemy … and the end justifies the means.
Is this what we mean by Freedom of Speech? I hope not.
I rather think that Freedom of speech is conditional based on a test of who how and why (context) of what was said rather than the word(s).
If it isn't then our definition of the purpose of a society is wrong. And we by extension merely naked apes after all and Malthus was right our civilisations are no more than an adoration to the ultimate goal of the 1st law .of thermodynamics …. we are driven by evolution for no point.
Personally I take the view that we are a more advanced species with a more advanced degree of comprehension of abstract thoughts like right and wrong. This gives us if we chose to use it to determine our own evolution. All other option end in Chaos and the Malthusian brutality.

Examinator said...

Something to read and ponder on FOS.
http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/06/look-obamas-other-secret- national-security-policies/53072/
particularly the one about Drake.
By that I mean US citizens having the NEED to know.

Jon said...

Wow, it's a very difficult issue, isn't it. Whether or not freedom of speech actually exists I consider myself a supporter of it. It is pretty strong here in the US if not entirely free. Prior to the 60's it didn't exist at all. You couldn't even protest a war. People went to jail for handing out literature in a public place against the Vietnam War. But there were a number of Supreme Court rulings in the 60's that paved the way for the very unusual freedom of expression we do have here, one of the main praiseworthy things about our government in my opinion.

So if you support free speech naturally you support it even for speech you find offensive. That's what being a supporter of freedom of speech means. Obviously supporting it only for speech you like means nothing. Even Stalin did that.

The problem here though as you say is we're talking about crazy suffering if they are wrong. Millions dying. A billion concievably over maybe a century. It's absolutely incredible, and these idiots are making it happen. Am I supposed to just stand by and watch that happen simply because I don't want to sully my principles? I guess I couldn't do that.

Not that we know this many people will die if his arguments wins the day here in the short term, but there's a risk. He's taking a huge risk, and for what? Corporate profits of course. It really is awful.

Examinator said...

My bad.
Clearly I examine too intensely to the to the point where I'm perceived as being aggressive, dominating.
When in truth neither was my intention.
but like they say 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions." I apologise to all and will , with your permission remain but in a far less active and casual contributor.
A humble e.ANT

Jon said...

I'm not sure what you are apologizing for. Your comments just got me thinking about how taking a dogmatic stance (free speech no matter what) could lead to massive death, so I was pondering the difficulty in balancing my commitment to this principle and my competing commitment to save innocent people. You said nothing that would lead me to expect an apology from you.

Examinator said...

I wrote the post unaware of your penultimate. I read ...go away and ponder then write responses.
I was referring to the wider blog site.
My approach has been to drill down and examine the underling (logic) principals/ assumptions to most of the posts..
Fundamentally,I believe one doesn't sensibly build a philosophic edifice on dodgy foundations. However, one does have to work with the tools(logic analytic skills) and material(knowledge)one has at hand.
*I try to improve both and assist others likewise it's called responsibility to others.*

In context of the topic, in this day and age one can't know every thing on any subject and therefore claims of absolute dogmatic correctness are.. well, Nonsensical. The idea that an economist is sufficiently across all points of his topic is likewise nonsensical but to then claim sufficient knowledge to refute a different *multiple * unrelated disciplines is .....
ergo one needs to doubt their motives. if those motives are dubious one can say antisocial...(the actual meaning).
As for responsibility to other people I'd ask show me any philosophy in its real form that stresses the opposite.
Society by definition demand * some level * of individual sacrifice of absolute freedoms ( absolute FoS being one) responsibility to the society as a whole.
Therefore by simple logic we should be talking about where to draw the line (albeit a moving feast)rather getting bogged down and fixating on non-existent absolutes/ dogmatism .
I would then argue that means examining each case to the (temporary standards...) more and laws then deciding not some ill informed prejudice (dogmatism is prejudice)
e.g in the 401k topic.
Many of the comments are based on incomplete or wrong information, assumptions (ignorance)
Perhaps the biggest two are the (false)assertion that SS recipients by and large don't want to work (define work). Consider their rights (are they base on their bank balance?)... Anything else is slavery by a different means. Do as I say or ...*chose *to die (hobs' choice).

The other is, on what hands on (experience ) with these people do they make their sweeping inaccurate assumptions?
Dealing with these people they virtually all have exactly the same ambitions as everyone else. Those that don't want to work are indeed inconveniently a MINORITY.
The assumptions that the Majority don't take their personal responsibility is false and victimisation. Because the excluding factor is opportunity and/or competence. Choices are more often *forced * on them by circumstance.
Clearly this type of analysis has an uneasy fit hence my apology. And future post will be different.