Shorter Lavoisier workshop

The Lavoisier group has published the presentations from their ‘Rehabilitating Carbon Dioxide’ workshop. Allow me to shorten them for you.

David Archibald: I predict imminent global cooling based on the record from five US weather stations.

Tim Curtin: Nicholas Stern is in league with the Prophet Mohammed.

David Evans: In 1999, we didn’t know that the world had cooled from 1940 to 1975. The recent discovery of this fact has changed my mind about AGW.

Michael Hammer: According to my calculations, the IPCC has got the climate sensitivity too high by a factor of 20.

Bob Carter: E-G Beck shows that CO2 values were higher when less accurate measurements were being made.

Alexander et al: NASA scientists don’t know about the inverse square law.

Credits: “Shorter” concept was invented by Daniel Davies. Eli Rabett and Ken Brook for the link.


  1. #1 guthrie
    July 12, 2007

    Wait a minute, is there some kind of different language here? Can someone define value and price properly here?

  2. #2 Richard Tol
    July 12, 2007

    price = the amount of money you get or pay for the house

    value = the change in utility if you buy or sell the house

    now utility is obviously not measure in dollars, but if you assume that you would be happier if you have more money in the bank, you can work out the transformation from money to utils

    and no, Eli, you would not go through the Jacobian

  3. #3 JB
    July 12, 2007

    Tol said: “You are still confusing marginals and totals. Marginals are small changes to the status quo, that is, the sort of thing we do. What matters is not the value of the total ecosystem, nor the value of the part of the ecosystem that we destroy, but only the value of the part of the ecosystem that we can avoid destroying.”

    “Marginal” is a relative term.

    I don’t recall who made this analogy, but if I have an airplane and start popping the rivets that hold the wing on, each rivet popped does not have the same effect. The first few rivets (maybe even the first few hundred) may have no noticeable effect. But I reach a point where popping a single rivet makes the whole damned wing fall off. Engineers call this “catastrophic failure”, for obvious reasons.

    The same may be the case with many natural systems. In many cases, we simply do not know enough about these systems to say one way or the other.

    Your argument about “marginal cost” with regard to such systems is basically one made from ignorance.

  4. #4 JB
    July 12, 2007

    For anyone who doubts that so-called “changes on the margin” can have catastrophic effects on natural systems(ie, that “marginal” is a relative term), one need only consider the human body.

    Up to a certain point, cutting blood flow to the heart may cause only minor changes to the pumping, but one reaches a point (during a heart attack, for example) where a minor additional (“marginal”) reduction in blood flow causes the whole heart to fail, with the obvious minor inconvenience for the person whose heart it happens to be.

  5. #5 Ian Gould
    July 12, 2007

    “The value clearly matters to both the seller and the buyer.”

    Yes but the value of the item in question must be different for the two parties or the trade wouldn’t take place.

    “Anything is worth what someone is willing to pay you for it.”

  6. #6 Ian Gould
    July 12, 2007

    Nonlinearity and threshold effects are two of the characteristics of ecosystems which many economists struggle with.

    The idea that, for example, 100 ppm of a toxin is okay but that people start getting sick when it hits 110 PPM goes against many of the standard ways economists like to think.

    Samuelson diagrams tend to feature nice smooth continuous lines with no discontinuities or changes in slope.

    On that day (hopefully far in the future) when Tim C. and Richard stand before their maker I fear they’ll have some stern words for him about the messy and irrational nature of his Creation.

  7. #7 JB
    July 12, 2007

    “The value clearly matters to both the seller and the buyer.”

    “Yes but the value of the item in question must be different for the two parties or the trade wouldn’t take place.”

    True enough (and really a tautology), but that’s not what Tol said (and if that was what he was trying to say, he made it about as clear as mud)

    “Knowing the value of what you own matters to you, not to the prospective buyer”

  8. #8 Hank Roberts
    July 12, 2007


    “… Ehrlichs (1981) use an analogy of rivets on an airplane …”

    Ironically, that’s from the National Park Most Likely to Be Renamed Soonest:

  9. #9 Richard Tol
    July 12, 2007

    there are four values in a trade

    the value of the object to the seller and the buyer, and the value of the money changing hands to the seller and the buyer

    both the seller and the buyer only care about their own values that they place on the object and the money

    obviously, the trade would not take place if either party disagrees with the conditions

    this goes back to Aristotle — even Costanza seems to understand

    going back to marginals and totals, in a catastrophic system, the principles do not change, only the numbers — the marginals are non-smooth, but it is still the marginals that matter

    there is little sign of singularities in the climate system, however

  10. #10 Chris O'Neill
    July 12, 2007

    “I wonder, what does it mean when you reply to your own posts? (as Hans just did?)”

    “re 45 Tell me.”

    It means he’s making sure his really, really funny joke is really, really funny.

  11. #11 Chris O'Neill
    July 12, 2007

    According to Tim Curtin: “With targets of rapid reductions of as much as 60% of emissions, to 10 billion tonnes, atmospheric CO2 will begin to dwindle ushering in another Little Ice Age all too soon for my comfort or even yours.”

    And not only that but because of Curtin’s First Law of atmospheric physics (i.e. the mass of the atmosphere is conserved), when CO2 is removed from the atmosphere, its mass will be replaced by water which means there will be less water available to fall as rain. So there’ll be a huge drought as well, according to Curtin’s First Law.

  12. #12 JB
    July 12, 2007

    Richard Tol said
    “in a catastrophic system, the principles do not change, only the numbers — the marginals are non-smooth, but it is still the marginals that matter”

    I don’t believe you have any idea what you are talking about. If you can’t say at what point such a system will fail, then it is impossible to say that degrading the system by X amount will lead to Y amount of cost.

    “there is little sign of singularities in the climate system, however”

    What I love about economists is that they are always so certain about everything — even climate science.

  13. #13 John Quiggin
    July 13, 2007

    OK, now I get it. Tol the academic signs off on the opinions of his co-authors but doesn’t endorse them. Tol the blog commenter is the real deal.

  14. #14 Richard Tol
    July 13, 2007

    JB: Indeed. Uncertainty smoothens catastrophic failure.

    JQ: Which opinions are you talking about? In the sentence you quote, we say that HM Treasury goes for 1.5% (a fact) and that there are arguments for and against a 0% PRTP (a fact). Can you tell me where it says “We think that it should be like this.”? Or do you argue that because the sentence with the pro is longer than the sentence with the con, we are pro?

  15. #15 Marion Delgado
    July 13, 2007

    guthrie #60:

    It may appear nothing worth replying to is being said, but I think it just needs some refinement and translation:

    It is funny indeed how easy it is to poke holes in “An Inconvenient Truth” , although I myself cannot do so … She has a better understanding of the science of climate change than many people many years her senior whom I cannot name, although she did copy some errors from others that i won’t name – no money in that. She is clearly not at university level, but so[sic] are many others For instance, that damn 6-year-old in Australia. But again, I won’t specify anyone A senior member of the Stern Review that I won’t name does not know the difference between ice melt and ice displacement — as my top-secret Mento-Ray device has established – pity there’s no evidence I can cite without harming the patent — after 18 months of working full-time on climate change. The point is, however, that a novice can poke holes in what purports to be well-founded documentary though admittedly, I cannot, by someone who used to be admired as a policy wonk . If you say I mean Gore I will say Stern Review, and vice versa. Or maybe Ralph Nader or Jeremy Rifkin. Then Hansen. Then back to Gore. But I’m a little afraid of Hansen

    If a 15-yr-old can punch tiny holes, then all credibility is gone. Would that it were so! Anyone who does not want to believe Al Gore’s message, just has to point to Kristen Byrnes and say “ha ha, he cannot even hold his own against a school kid”. I tried it, and it worked for me! Debate over — at Heritage and AEI, where until Inconvenient Truth came out there had been vigorous debate over whether we should or should not have climate policy. But Gore ruined all that.
    Unfortunately, this is the logical consequence of the hyperbole I cannot specify of An Inconvenient Truth. The movie is not rock solid for reasons there is not room in the margin of this post to prove, although very wrong in only a few places that I can’t name or refute, but the result is that the entire movie is untrustworth[sic]. As my citing the 15-year-old as a credible authority shows, I am pretty much the Gold Standard of trustworthiness sleuthing … a number — There! you can’t say I didn’t use ‘a number’ in my comments — of my papers still stand … Hyperbole a la Gore and Stern is no basis for serious climate policy, because some 15-year-old will come and prick your balloon. It is written that he shall be named the Kwizatz Haderach … there is a difference between credibility (in the public eye), and conservative political correctness. If a 15-yr-old (real or not) can protest and hold her ground for a while, something is wrong. I am amazed you are not more concerned about the possiblity, however remote, that Gore can be refuted by an IMAGINARY 15-year old! Stern is better than Gore on this scale. One needs a PhD to demolish Stern, but then it is easy. As soon as Pat Robertson’s Regent University mails me mine, watch out, Stern! My point is not the climate change is nonsense, or climate policy not necessary. The fact that I am pushed into that corner is a symptom of something wrong with you! of something wrong with YOU! A critical voice is simply not tolerated –whether real or imaginary. I have consistently argued for climate policy for over 15 years. a sensible policy the details of which I won’t specify, ever. But it involves sensibly doing nothing except to vilify the hyperbole of those who think climate change merits ACTION as some sort of RESPONSE. In other words, radical eco-terrrorist Marxists. My point is that serious climate policy should be based on serious science which I will sensibly and seriously not specify, but the letters AEI come to mind, and not on the sort of nonsense that Gore and Stern sprout. I reject the notion that the message should be simplified, exaggerated and sweetened to convince the public. That works in the short term, but not in the long term. In the long term, sadly, you pretty much have to start lying. But I’m told the money and attention will be worth it.
    As to Canada, I guess the burden of proof is on those who think that this country will suffer from climate change — I call this the ‘postcautionary principle.’ .. most studies again, Heritage has this stuff clogging the halls, people! have shown net benefits (that is, some losses, but greater gains; net benefits does not mean no losses). Again, it is a symptom of the unhealthy state of debate that a trivial conclusion like “climate change will bring more tourists to Canada” (surprisingly, that turns out to be true even in the event of a meteor strike or Nuclear Winter) is picked up by the newspapers. wait, don’t take that the wrong way! … Canadians have by and large isolated their economy from nature, just like other rich people. Anyone who’s anyone lives in a Biosphere nowadays. Geoff Heal is a central figure in the movement that says that nature is important for the economy. and it’s precisely that tiny movement that is so hindering the economic boom that Mars and Pluto have been anticipating for centuries The fact that that needs to be said makes it clear that it is not obvious, and nature is indeed in the 2% mark by comparison, Paris Hilton is still at the 68% mark more than nothing, but peanuts by which i mean honest, manufactured orange candy peanuts in the large scheme of things.

    That’s only “a number” of the comments just to this thread, but tiny fist-proofing the rest is left as an exercise for the student.

  16. #16 Ian Gould
    July 13, 2007

    “What I love about economists is that they are always so certain about everything — even climate science.”

    That’s an unfair slur on the followers of the dismal science.

    It’s just those bloody Austrians who think that.

  17. #17 Richard Tol
    July 13, 2007

    I wonder what the next school kid will make of all this. Kristen Byrnes assembled and summarised the many critiques of Al Gore. She was hailed by the anti-climate-policy camp as evidence of what nonsense the other side talks. And rather than make sense, the other side brings forth Guthrie! Is climate change a conspirarcy of illiterates or what?

    The Treasury official is Dimitri Zenghalis. He confused ice melt and displacement at a meeting at Birmingham U on March 9, 2007. Dr Zenghalis also challenged Leibniz on calculus.

    If you want to know what mistakes are made in An Inconvenient Truth, try Google.

  18. #18 JB
    July 13, 2007

    Richard Tol: “Uncertainty smoothens catastrophic failure.”

    Tell that to the guy who is having the heart attack.

    Or to the guy who just drove his car into the San Francisco bay because the bridge failed.

    I certainly would not want to drive over any bridge that you had designed.

  19. #19 dhogaza
    July 13, 2007

    If you want to know what mistakes are made in An Inconvenient Truth, try Google.

    Yes, we already know that Richard believes random trash found on the internet is much more reliable than the results of peer-reviewed science.

    And he believes that since a 15 year old girl is capable of typing an HTML document and placing it on the web, the science behind Al Gore’s movie is discredited.

    What a world we live in. This guy has a university job?

    Personally, I wouldn’t trust this guy to clean my room. Lord knows what horrors googling “housecleaning” might entrench in his mind.

  20. #20 Chris O'Neill
    July 13, 2007

    “She was hailed by the anti-climate-policy camp as evidence of what nonsense the other side talks.”

    Actually, she was hailed by the credulist camp as evidence that a 15 year old can hold her ground for a while when she was achieving nothing more than getting her ass kicked.

  21. #21 John Quiggin
    July 13, 2007

    Richard, the only two values of PRTP for social choice considered by Guo et al as being supported by reasonable arguments are “zero” and “very small positive”. Which of the two do you support?

  22. #22 Richard Tol
    July 13, 2007

    JQ: True, with selective citation, you can get anyone to say anything. My favourite quote from the Guo et al. paper is:

    Our analysis is not concerned with determining the ‘correct’ value of the SCC.

    I think that the social rate of time preference should be somewhat lower than the median private rate of time preference.

  23. #23 Tony
    July 13, 2007

    I’m personally offended at the level of sexism inherent in accusations that Kirsten Byrnes’ work was largely or completely written by her father. In fact, it could have been her mother wot wrote it.

  24. #24 Lurker
    July 14, 2007

    If I decide to go to a Halloween party this year, I’m going as Richard Tol.

  25. #25 Hank Roberts
    July 15, 2007

    Richard Tol wrote:
    :If a 15-yr-old (real or not) can protest and hold her ground for a while, something is wrong.”

    Yes, she was on vacation. She wasn’t in the discussion for three weeks after posting her site.

    Now she’s back. She deserves a bit of time to catch up.
    Any bets on whether she’ll fix the obvious errors?

    I wonder if the science (?) teacher who got her project caught any of them or not.

  26. #26 John Mashey
    July 15, 2007

    Hank: I would love to see any objective, independent evidence that:
    – 15-year-old Kristen Byrnes exists & goes to Portland High School
    – that she wrote the original PtM website as an extra-credit project, and that teachers reviewed it.
    – that she wrote it herself
    – that the other postings on that website are actually written by her

    It is certainly possible that no teacher ever looked at this; obviously, I don’t know. We ought to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Clearly, when she was on vacation, she spent her time looking at weather stations in Maine, as any 15-year-old would naturally do.

    Tim: nice to hear of UNSW CSE, with which I have a weird connection, involving John Lions’ kind replacement of my lost books, and in return, a 1998 $6K donation to a USENIX/John Lions Scholarship Fund for getting the CA UNIX license plate.

  27. #27 Tim Curtin
    July 20, 2007

    Further to my #84, and contrary to Dano & Gould, I have checked Stern’s program for emissions reduction (5% pa from 2016) against Houghton’s data on net atmospheric increase after terrestrial and oceanic absorption.
    The CO2-e level reaches the pre-industrial level of 280 by the 2080s, suggesting a return to the cold, nasty, brutish and short lifestyles of the 1780s for most people. I’m glad I won’t be around, and so is Stern that he won’t have to defend himself from a starving populace in London.

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