Tolgate

Via BigCityLib (whose post title I stole), the story of Richard Tol’s approach to science:

For the 2008 project, Tol co-wrote a paper along with Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University and two researchers from the Electric Power Research Institute, a US trade association. The two climate change proposals were ranked against numerous development and human welfare issues and came in 29th and 30th out of 30.

Long-term Lomborg critic KÃ¥re Fog took Tol, whose FUND computer-model was the basis for the simulation, to task about the study. Tol admitted that the study used a discount rate that fell gradually from 5% whereas all the competing proposals used a 3% rate. Tol excused himself by saying that re-writing the model to use the 3% discount rate was too difficult and that the other proposals should have used his rate, even though the project specifications dictated 3% and he has at other times successfully employed FUND with other rates. This inherent bias caused the bottom ranking.


Fog’s criticisms did not end there. Tol claims his research showed a net benefit from global warming until mid-century, after which the effects turn sharply negative. For this purpose, welfare effects were calculated in local economy terms, with deaths for example being costed at a certain multiple of local per-capita GDP. Thus a single European saved from winter influenza, probable – in actuarial terms – to be elderly and infirm, outweighed not one but many Africans dying – likely in the prime of life – due to global warming.

and

While empirically-based criticism is central to science, Tol has shown no zeal in his dealings with Lomborg or with Ian Plimer, another scientific fraud alongside whom Tol acts as scientific advisor for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a secretive pressure group opposed to fossil-fuel restrictions. Plimer often simply reverses the conclusions of papers cited when it suits his purposes, a fact he didn’t deny when it was put to him three times on ABC television. Astrophysicist Michael Ashley described his book Heaven and Earth as “scientifically worthless” in The Australian.

Comments

  1. #1 Tim Worstall
    January 8, 2011

    Certainly found a scandal here Tim!

    “Tol admitted that the study used a discount rate that fell gradually from 5% whereas all the competing proposals used a 3% rate.”

    So Tol was using the Treasury’s (UK that is) Green Book recommended rates? Market rates for the near future (some decades) and then falling to account for our human propensity to hyperbolic discounting? What horrors, eh?

    “This inherent bias caused the bottom ranking.”

    That’s something which it is necessary to prove, not assert. I very seriously doubt whether that change in discount rates made say, climate change mitigation policies, more cost effective in increasing aggregate human utility (which is roughly what Lomborg’s studies were trying to decide) than trying to deal with malaria with bednets (one of the higher ranked proposals wasn’t it?) or HIV (another?)

    Don’t forget, Stern used a much lower than 3% discount rate and it’s still not obvious that all mitigation attempts are better than adaptation.

    “For this purpose, welfare effects were calculated in local economy terms, with deaths for example being costed at a certain multiple of local per-capita GDP. Thus a single European saved from winter influenza, probable – in actuarial terms – to be elderly and infirm, outweighed not one but many Africans dying – likely in the prime of life – due to global warming.”

    Again, entirely standard practice. For such economic studies do not attempt to measure some “true” or anvarying value. They attempt to measure the values that people actually put on things as shown by their actions. “Should” life be regarded as cheaper in a poor country? That’s a moral question: it’s undoubtedly true that we all act (including those people in poor countries) as if life is cheaper in poor countries. Which is what the economist is attempting to measure in such studies.

    I wouldn’t even dream of trying to defend Plimer but the GWPF as “secretive”? Seriously?

    I couldn’t find out much about the author of this piece online other than the obvious fact that he doesn’t like Tol very much (many of the online references are to his comments at Tol’s blog).

    He certainly doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts of the economic points with which he’s trying to criticise Tol.

  2. #2 Didactylos
    January 8, 2011

    The unequal weighting of human life is of course despicable – but it is also common practice. Even if they were to ignore economics and use a measure such as the disability-adjusted life year, Africans will still, in general, be underestimated due to lower life expectancies (unless the model is sophisticated enough to account for the fact that low life expectancies are mainly a product of high infant mortality).

    I suppose this means that unadjusted mortality figures are the only reliable measure – although it would be nice to see them separated from other causes of death. And that’s where it gets sticky, of course, since climate change is far more likely to reduce the length of peoples’ lives than simply kill them outright. And causes of death – disease and malnutrition – may be the same in either case.

  3. #3 Didactylos
    January 8, 2011

    Tim Worstall: Are you being deliberately obtuse? The discount rate is an arbitrary assumption. Using a completely different discount rate merely makes it impossible to compare the results with the other studies. Can you not read? “the project specifications dictated 3%”

    The argument about what is the correct or most likely discount rate is entirely separate, and trying to conflate the two issues is just stupid. (And I’m not letting Adrian Kelleher off the hook for blurring the argument, either.)

  4. #4 Steve L
    January 8, 2011

    I don’t have a problem with economists valuing different lives more than others. I mean, it’s distasteful, but the economist must model human behaviour realistically, so I wouldn’t fault them there. But I think what I’ve learned from the first two comments is that economists don’t use life tables in assessing value. Wow! That’s awful. I understand that the future is difficult to predict, but one would think that some useful work has gone into studying the relevant demographics.

  5. > the GWPF as “secretive”? Seriously?

    Yes, seriously. What other adjective can one give to a stubborn refusal to disclose their funding sources, a stubborn refusal to disclose their ‘investigation’ methods, and a stubborn refusal to disclose their ‘investigation’ data? But I digress.

  6. > Astrophysicist Michael Ashley described [Plimer’s] book Heaven and Earth as “scientifically worthless” in The Australian.

    But… but… but… Plimer is a Professor! A Professor! Take that, warmists! And he’ll be travelling to Canada for a luncheon with the Friends of Science!

    > Dr. Ian Plimer, professor of Mining Geology at the University of Adelaide in Australia, and a good friend of Christopher Monckton has agreed to address a spring luncheon sponsored by The Friends. […]

    > Arrangements for the spring luncheon will be scheduled pending the finalization of Plimer’s plans to visit Canada.

    Yeah, I know, you socialist warmists are all jealous. But that’s only because, unlike all you fat potato-couch jihadist pinkos, Herr Professor Plimer is able to create value and wealth through productive activity!

  7. #7 Area Man
    January 8, 2011

    The two climate change proposals were ranked against numerous development and human welfare issues and came in 29th and 30th out of 30.

    Putting aside the validity of the study, the existence of some other human development or welfare issue that delivers more bang for the buck than mitigating climate change has nothing to do with whether or not we should mitigate climate change.

    This line of reasoning would only be valid if there were some finite pool of money going to good causes that could never increase. But that’s not the case. We spend a pittance on foreign aid and development, and massive amounts on frivolous consumer goods. It’s a simple thing to increase the size of the pie. Money used to mitigate climate change doesn’t have to come from starving African children, unless someone’s silly cost/benefit analysis concludes that African children are less important than stuff like F-22s, Q-ray bracelets, or potato chips.

    If conservative/libertarian opponents of carbon mitigation really care about the effects of HIV or malaria in Africa, then they should simply advocate that we spend more money on those things. Strangely enough, I don’t often see that.

  8. #8 Fran Barlow
    January 8, 2011

    Well said Area Man.

    If they really were going to do NPV they’d have to rank all of the usages of resources, including the private ones by some utility measure and place them alongside all of the goods and then work their way down from most pressing to least pressing until the resources available were exhausted. That sounds like socialist humanism to me!

    Of course, such a process could scarcily escape massive arbitrariness because utility, especially future utility is highly subjective and one never can know for sure how well a system will perform in returning it. Of course, human societies are dynamic and so the guesswork about what would happen would change the data you’d use for evaluation. Map that onto the assumption by those in charge of the lion’s share of resources that lives in the first world count for more than lives everywhere else and the whole thing could get very ugly very quickly.

  9. #9 Neil
    January 8, 2011

    Wow, a whole 8 paragraphs from Worstall, in the first comment and all. Now, what does that tell you, eh?

  10. #10 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Frank
    Note that it is illegal under UK law for a charity to disclose the identity of its benefactors.

    @Tim L
    Mr Kelleher’s discussion of the discount rate is incorrect. The FUND model is routinely run with every discount rate imaginable (Anthoff et al. 2009b;Guo et al. 2006;Tol 1999). Valuation of mortality risks is according to best practice (Aldy and Viscusi 2007;Viscusi and Aldy 2003), while the implicit inequities are routinely corrected (Anthoff et al. 2009a;Anthoff and Tol 2010;Azar and Sterner 1996;Fankhauser et al. 1997;Fankhauser et al. 1998).

    Aldy, J.E. and W.K.Viscusi (2007), ‘Age Differences in the Value of Statistical Life: Revealed Preference Evidence’, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 1, (2), pp. 241-260.

    Anthoff, D., C.J.Hepburn, and R.S.J.Tol (2009a), ‘Equity weighting and the marginal damage costs of climate change’, Ecological Economics, 68, (3), pp. 836-849.

    Anthoff, D. and R.S.J.Tol (2010), ‘On international equity weights and national decision making on climate change’, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 60, (1), pp. 14-20.

    Anthoff, D., R.S.J.Tol, and G.W.Yohe (2009b), ‘Risk Aversion, Time Preference, and the Social Cost of Carbon’, Environmental Research Letters, 4, (2-2), 1-7.

    Azar, C. and T.Sterner (1996), ‘Discounting and Distributional Considerations in the Context of Global Warming’, Ecological Economics, 19, 169-184.

    Fankhauser, S., R.S.J.Tol, and D.W.Pearce (1997), ‘The Aggregation of Climate Change Damages: A Welfare Theoretic Approach’, Environmental and Resource Economics, 10, (3), 249-266.

    Fankhauser, S., R.S.J.Tol, and D.W.Pearce (1998), ‘Extensions and Alternatives to Climate Change Impact Valuation: On the Critique of IPCC Working Group III’s Impact Estimates’, Environment and Development Economics, 3, 59-81.

    Guo, J., C.J.Hepburn, R.S.J.Tol, and D.Anthoff (2006), ‘Discounting and the Social Cost of Climate Change: A Closer Look at Uncertainty’, Environmental Science & Policy, 9, 205-216.

    Tol, R.S.J. (1999), ‘Time Discounting and Optimal Control of Climate Change — An Application of FUND’, Climatic Change, 41, (3-4), 351-362.

    Viscusi, W.K. and J.E.Aldy (2003), ‘The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates Throughout the World’, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 27, (1), 5-76.

  11. #11 John Mashey
    January 9, 2011

    Well, GWPF:

    1) Run by social anthropoligist Benny Peiser, who was a senior lecturer at School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, although GWPF bio omits that in favor of Buckingham only. I don’t know if he’s still attached to LJMU or has departed. I am pleased to know that CCnet is “the world’s leading climate policy network.”

    The Wikipedia page mentions Velikovsky although I couldn’t find that paper easily. I’m sure Deltoid readers remember Benny.

    2) It has a fascinating Advisory Board.

    3) GWPF’s choice of Andrew Montford as an investigator is problematic, given that in his book The Hockey Stick Illusion:

    a) Montford twice quoted David Deming from the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE), which I think might be more usefully called a Dog Astrology Journal. Hence, this is not a good start for HWQDAJ (He Who Quotes Dog Astrology Journal). More information can be found on the issue containing Deming’s article can be found @ Rabbett Run. it is truly delightful. It’s right there with Wegman and black helicopters, although in different directions. But this is merely absurd, whereas…

    b) This archived Wikipedia *talk* section explains how Montford either:

    * Showed massive incompetence, like inability to read English about a major point.

    OR

    *Committed a clear falsification in an effort to tar Jon Overpeck with emailing something for which the only evidence presented was climategate email in which Jon wrote that he did not.

    SO, what do people think? Merely incompetence, or deliberate falsification? Of late, I’ve been calibrating falsification for another report so I’m interested in comments. Sadly, Montford is not an academic, and his publisher likes interesting titles so may not care. (I see Carter is there.)

    (The Wikipedia post caused a frenzied effort to delete it from a *talk* page, kindly defended by The Stoat.)

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    Richard, you haven’t explained why you think that Kelleher’s discussion of the discount rate is incorrect. Kelleher did not say that FUND could only be run with one discount rate — in fact he implied the opposite.

    Also, please provide a citation for your claim that GWPF is legally prohibited from being transparent about its funding.

  13. Tol:

    > Note that it is illegal under UK law for a charity to disclose the identity of its benefactors.

    What a weak excuse. The GWPF can’t even try to get permission from the funders to disclose their identities?

  14. #14 Fred Knell
    January 9, 2011

    John Mashey is a fine one to complain about Peiser
    with his own certifiably insane claims here that Wegman plagiarized Ray Bradley, when Wegman clearly sets out to refute Bradley’s hockey stick, and in no way seeks to appropriate Bradley’s deeply flawed work as if it was his own.

    Richard Toll is right of course. Setting the discount rate at close to 0% like Stern and Garnaut means that investments which cannot pass tests at 3-5% are adopted in preference to those that can, which means impoverishment for all of us.

  15. #15 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tim
    I responded to the sentence “Tol excused himself by saying that re-writing the model to use the 3% discount rate was too difficult” which is remarkable as we have done this routinely for almost 20 years.

  16. #16 Tim Worstall
    January 9, 2011

    “This line of reasoning would only be valid if there were some finite pool of money”

    There is. It’s called “global GDP”.

  17. #17 Tim Worstall
    January 9, 2011

    “This line of reasoning would only be valid if there were some finite pool of money”

    There is. It’s called “global GDP”.

  18. #18 guthrie
    January 9, 2011

    I can’t find anything on the charity commissions website about disclosing benefactors. Is your claim based upon information law stuff rather than charity law?

  19. #19 Marco
    January 9, 2011

    OK, then, Richard, if it is so easy to adjust the discount rate in your model, then why did you use a different discount rate for AGW related issues compared to the others? Or is that claim wrong, too?

  20. #20 Marco
    January 9, 2011

    Fred Knell: care to explain that if Wegman considered Bradley’s work so flawed that large parts of Bradley’s textbook were copied (without attribution), with small changes introduced in key areas, changing the meaning, and even introducing obvious errors?

    It’s not like there are no other textbooks on the issue of paleoclimatology that Wegman could have copied…

    Even funnier is that several plagiarism experts have already pointed out that to them the case was quite clear: plagiarism. What’s your background to dismiss the plagiarism claim? And do you have an explanation as to why the SNA also contained large parts of copied text without attribution? Ah, that’s right, that little element is often conveniently left out when McIntyre or Watts try to defend the Wegman report.

  21. #21 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    Sorry Richard, you are not being clear. If you are saying that that wasn’t your excuse, you should tell us what you did say. And you have not responded at all to the central point — that a different discount rate was used from that in the specification.

  22. #22 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    Tim W quotes Area Man:

    > “This line of reasoning would only be valid if there were some finite pool of money”

    What Area Man actually wrote:

    >This line of reasoning would only be valid if there were some finite pool of money going to good causes that could never increase.

  23. #23 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tim
    Sorry for not being clear: I did not say or write this to either Mr Fog or Mr Kelleher, and it is not true.

  24. #24 Tom Curtis
    January 9, 2011

    Tim Worstall, it is stated quite clearly in the article that Toll’s analysis of the proposals to combat global warming used a 5% discout rate, falling to a 3% rate, while all other proposals used (as specified) a 3% rate. Over 10 years, a 5% discount rate will estimate future benefits ast being 19% less than estimates based on a 3% discount rate; over 50 years it values them 65% lower. The bias introduced by Toll may not be that large, depending at the rate at which his discount rate declined, but it may be larger. In any event, the bias is clearly sufficiently large to distort any rankings of the proposals.

  25. #25 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tom
    Your source is a fifth-hand, inaccurate account.

  26. #26 bigcitylib
    January 9, 2011

    Richard, then you should do something about your wiki page, because the accusations all trace to there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Tol

    And given that you wrote part of your own wiki entry,I would havbe to assume what I am looking at is accurate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Richard_Tol

  27. #27 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    Richard, you still have not responded to the central point.

  28. #28 Rocco
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Tol: Did you write this?

    “On the discount rate: I do not know what the other papers used. We used a consistent discount rate — all calculations, and all reporting was done with the same discount rate. The models that we use would require extensive recalibration for a different discount rate … As we used dynamic optimization models fitted to observations, we had to stick to the discount rate we had. As the rest of the Copenhagen Consensus used simpler methods, they should have used our discount rate.”

  29. #29 bigcitylib
    January 9, 2011

    #28 is a quote from here:

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/CopCons2008.htm

    …which traces to a no-longer available comment on Pielke Jr’s old blog.

  30. #30 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    So let’s go to the source: [Tol wrote](http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/?p=4526#comment-10872):

    >On the discount rate: I do not know what the other papers used. We used a consistent discount rate — all calculations, and all reporting was done with the same discount rate. The models that we use would require extensive recalibration for a different discount rate.

    [and Fog replied](http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/?p=4526#comment-10873):

    >Concerning discount rates: I got the impression that the organisers of the Copenhagen Consensus conference instructed experts to make calculations with 6 % and with 3 %. Is that correct ? You may then have felt that 6 % would be too much for the climate issue which has a very long time perspective, and chosen instead to use 5 %, declining gradually to 4 %. However, the result of that is that other issues have been treated with other discount rates, which means that the calculated benefit/cost ratios are not comparable. That is certainly a problem for the whole ranking procedure. Furthermore, it is confusing that the other issues were treated with two discount rates, but that, in the end, the ranking was made according to the results obtained with 3 %. This leads to the absurd situation that in the end, at the final ranking, your projects, and the project formulated by Chris Green, have been treated with discount rates HIGHER than the other projects, which means that the ranking procedure has become greatly flawed. And, as you state, there is no easy method to convert results obtained with one discount rate to a situation with another discount rate, because the models would require extensive recalibration.

    And Tol [replied](http://cstpr.colorado.edu/prometheus/?p=4526#comment-10876):

    >Kaare: Agreed on the discount rate. As we used dynamic optimization models fitted to observations, we had to stick to the discount rate we had. As the rest of the Copenhagen Consensus used simpler methods, they should have used our discount rate.

    I think Kelleher’s account is an accurate summary of this.

  31. #31 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    [webcite of Prometheus discussion linked above](http://www.webcitation.org/5vbjaIh33).

  32. #32 J Bowers
    January 9, 2011

    Don’t forget that Lawson is a barrister. No doubt he’s in a good position to advise whether charities are allowed to divulge the identity of donors, but the identity of the donors must be known for accounting puropses. I’d also like to see them define what they mean by “significant”.

    My question is whether the GWPF is actually following its own charitable objects:

    TO ADVANCE THE PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF GLOBAL WARMING AND OF ITS POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES, AND ALSO OF THE MEASURES TAKEN OR PROPOSED TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE TO IT, INCLUDING BY MEANS OF THE DISSEMINATION OF THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY OF, AND RESEARCH INTO
    A THE SCIENCES RELEVANT TO GLOBAL WARMING
    B ITS IMPACT UPON THE ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMIES AND SOCIETY
    C AND THE ABOVE-MENTIONED MEASURES

    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/ (enter 1131448 in the search field)

    For instance:
    http://www.thegwpf.org/uk-news/2086-gwpf-calls-for-independent-inquiry-into-met-offices-winter-advice-.html

    1. Has the Met Office changed its view, or its calculations, following the harsh winters of 2008, 2009 and 2010?

    There was a week of extreme snowfall in Feb 2009, last winter, and the first month of this current winter. Prior to those the winters were mild. What kinds of standard do the GWPF hold to make such a glaring mistake?

    Other GWPF illogical reasonings for basically attacking science (meteorology in this case) comes in the form of an homage to the Gish Gallop: ‘GWPF Calls For Independent Inquiry Into Met Office’s Winter Advice’…

    1. Why did the Met Office publish estimates in late October showing a 60 per cent to 80 per cent chance of warmer-than-average temperatures this winter? What was the scientific basis of this probabilistic estimate?

    2. Has the October prediction by the Met Office that this winter would be mild affected planning for this winter? If so, what is the best estimate of how much this has cost the country?

    * Winter is only halfway through, and I have to say the sun is beaming brightly through my window here in England. In fact it’s been mild for a couple of weeks now.
    * The Met Office warned the authorities that the run up to Christmas would be very bad, which they did last October.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jan/04/met-office-delayed-big-freeze-forecast

    But I fail to see how such a comparatively (to climate) short-term UK Met Office weather forecasts are within the GWPF’s remit given their objects above which specifically state they advise/educate/blah-blah on climate and global warming. Weather is neither global warming nor climate, nor does the Met Office’s weather forecasts for this winter have any bearing on the subject in any way whatsoever. They even use different models. Surely this is a disservice to their donors who must have donated under the assumption that the GWPF will educate and advise on climate, not weather?

    Fred Pearce made a salient point about the GWPF’s job description for Assistant Director last March:

    I have two thoughts on this job ad. I’m no HR expert, but might it not have benefited from an extra criterion? Something along the lines of: “Good understanding of climate science.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/mar/09/global-warming-policy-foundation-job-advert

    I also see a search on Benny Peiser at LJMU’s website comes up with a single result about an asteroid, from November 2005. A bit weird, isn’t it?

  33. #33 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tim
    Thanks for the link to Fog’s work. There is no reference to FUND there.

  34. #34 Tim Lambert
    January 9, 2011

    Richard, and your point is?

  35. #35 Tom Curtis
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Tol, my discussion may be based on fifth hand sources, but the quotes posted @30 strongly suggest that they are accurate. It is, however, open to you to correct impression that they create by stating here the discount rate used by you, and the discount rates used for analysing other projects for the Copenhaggen Concensus.

    It has been pointed out above that you are evading making a clear statement about whether all used the same discount rates or not. As that is obviously the relevant issue here, your failure to correct the record makes a very poor impression.

  36. #36 Tim Worstall
    January 9, 2011

    Tom Curtis:

    “Over 10 years, a 5% discount rate will estimate future benefits ast being 19% less than estimates based on a 3% discount rate; over 50 years it values them 65% lower. The bias introduced by Toll may not be that large, depending at the rate at which his discount rate declined, but it may be larger. In any event, the bias is clearly sufficiently large to distort any rankings of the proposals.”

    I wouldn’t say I was overly convinced by that last line. I’ve just had a look at (for the first time) the paper under discussion and with the 5% falling to 4% discount rate we get benefit/cost ratios of ranging from 0.9 to 6.6 to one…..see the paper for the discussions of how that range is constructed.

    From over here:

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/CopCons2008.htm

    we get the following:

    “Higher ranks are given to treatments of malaria (benefit/cost 20:1), child diseases (benefit/cost 20:1), and heart diseases (benefit/cost 25:1). However, in these cases, a discount rate of 3 % was used.”

    Now I agree that my mathematics isn’t all that good but 0.9 is certainly more than 65% different from 20:1…indeed, I think I’m right in saying that the difference between 6.6 and 20 is more than 65%.

    I’ve no particular dog in this particular fight and I agree that I’m just taking the figures you are presenting and comparing them, fleetingly, with some of the others under discussion. But at first pass it certainly looks to me as if the difference in discount rates makes a difference to the numbers for mitigation, yes, but not a sufficient difference to make a difference to the rankings (and I agree, I’ve not looked up all of the cost/benefit ratios for all of the solutions).

  37. #37 Fred Knell
    January 9, 2011

    First, re discount rates: Tol long ago pointed out that Stern was wrong not to have used his own then employer’s (HM Treasury) ordained rate for public sector project appraisal when he opted for 0.1% instead of its 3%. Actually the Treasury rate should have been higher, at cost of borrowing plus appropriate margin for risk etc. as in the private sector.

    Secondly, the ineffable Marco said “Fred Knell: care to explain that if Wegman considered Bradley’s work so flawed that large parts of Bradley’s textbook were copied (without attribution [sic]), with small changes introduced in key areas, changing the meaning, and even introducing obvious errors?”.

    As others have noted, Wegman was commissioned by the House Committee to review the hockey stick of Mann Bradley & Hughes on one hand and of the McIntyre & McKitrick rebuttal on the other, and suggest which was the more valid.

    In doing that review for the House Committee, Wegman summarised the work of both MBH and of the 2 Mc’s, largely using their own respective words. At no point did he claim authorship of either version of the hockey stick. That is the minimum requirement for a charge of plagiarism to stick, namely claiming to be author of another’s work. The reason Mashey is confined to a lunatic asylum, soon to be joined by Marco if it knew where to find him, is that he cannot grasp the difference between plagiarism and summary in the context for the latter of fair comment and critique.

    Mashey’s lunacy is most evident in his meticulous demonstration that Wegman summarised Bradley with 99% accuracy, but without at any point admitting that Wegman never claimed Bradley’s work was his own.

    The reason GMU has yet to make a finding on Bradley’s puerile complaint is that it cannot understand what he and Mashey are on about, and neither can I unless Mashey can document where Wegman actually claims to be the real author of MBH 1998 and other stuff by Bradley.

    Marco, where and when did Wegman claim to be the onlie begetter of the hockey stick? And I think you should tell us how many times Wegman cited MBH and Bradley. Take care, Wegman is in the public domain.

  38. #38 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tim
    Mr Kelleher misrepresents Mr Fog’s work.

    @Tom
    This thread is about Mr Kelleher’s article in Village Magazine.

  39. #39 Rocco
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Tol: If Lomborg misrepresented your work wrt. discount rate, I think you have an ethical obligation to speak out.

  40. #40 MartinM
    January 9, 2011

    At no point did he claim authorship of either version of the hockey stick.

    It’s not the hockey stick Wegman has been accused of plagiarising. You might want to familiarise yourself with the actual allegations before declaring them to be false.

  41. #41 Fred Knell
    January 9, 2011

    MichaelM: “It’s not the hockey stick Wegman has been accused of plagiarising. You might want to familiarise yourself with the actual allegations before declaring them to be false”.

    Really? What was Wegman commissioned to review if not the hockey stick? Did Bradley not contribute to MBH 1998? Was his prior work not germane to MBH 1998? And again, where, when did Wegman present Bradley’s work as his own? in what journal or book do we find Bradley reprinted under Wegman’s name? Is it not the case that Bradley’s book is cited 6 times in Wegman’s first few pages?

  42. #42 bigcitylib
    January 9, 2011

    36 wrote:

    “But at first pass it certainly looks to me as if the difference in discount rates makes a difference to the numbers for mitigation, yes, but not a sufficient difference to make a difference to the rankings (and I agree, I’ve not looked up all of the cost/benefit ratios for all of the solutions).”

    Dig further through that link and you find:

    “If the climate- and non-climate projects had been calculated with the same rate of interest, investment in climate technology would rank higher than vitamin A supplementation. Lomborgs explaining away does not shake that. Thus it must also be maintained that the project calculations are not comparable and that the ranking in Copenhagen Consensus is not worth the paper it is printed on.”

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/Faadebate2008.htm

    So it looks to me that Fog made an attempt to work out the math.

    And Richard, you say Kelleher misrepresented Fog but, sorry, I’m not seeing this. Could you elaborate.

  43. #43 Fred Knell
    January 9, 2011

    MichaelM again: actually MBH 1998 and 1999 are cited 10 times on Wegman page 1 (BTW, B stands for Bradley). And although you would never guess it from MichaelM, the Wegman Report was all about the hockey stick (see p.5).

    Section 2.1 of Wegman is titled “Background on Paleoclimate Temperature Reconstruction”. In para 1. it says “Table 1 found in Bradley (1999)illustrates the wide variety of … natural phenonmena that may be used as proxies”. It adds, “Table 2 found in Bradley (1999)…summarizes a variety of proxies…”.

    Then Wegman’s Table 1 ends “after Bradley (1999)”… and so on.

    Over the years I have taught at or been associated with various universities, sadly, all too many of whose students from 3rd world countries resorted to their host country peers (even teachers, often for sexual favours) to write their essays/theses (or copied their peers’ work).They never frankly admitted their sources, unlike Wegman above.

    Mashey and Michael: where is the plagiarism in Wegman’s Table 1 “after Bradley (1999)”? Or on page 14: “see Bradley (1999) for a discussion of the fitting and calibration process…” If Wegman is plagiarising he is not very good at it with his frequent references to Bradley!

  44. #44 Marco
    January 9, 2011

    Fred Knell: quite the revisionism you try there!

    The whole plagiarism issue is about the Wegman report containing a description of the input data for paleoclimatic reconstructions. Those were directly copied from Bradley’s textbook (which is NOT, I repeat, NOT the same as MBH) on paleoclimatology. But rather than making a direct copy, which would to a very minor extent support your contention, changes were made in some places, introducing errors. Either you copy the text directly with proper attribution, or you truly summarise it in your own words, which does not include copying large sections and making some small changes here and there. The latter IS plagiarism. In fact, the ORI defines one aspect of plagiarism as follows: “Substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work means the unattributed verbatim or nearly verbatim copying of sentences and paragraphs which materially mislead the ordinary reader regarding the contributions of the author.” By not indicating that they copied so many parts of several textbooks (*), they suggested that this text was their own intellectual property.

    (*) It is interesting to note here that you, AGAIN, ignore the Social Network Analysis section, for which the Wegman report also contains large copies of near verbatim copying of paragraphs without proper attribution, something repeated in a publication by Wegman.

    Also, why do you think Elsevier has been involved in the accusation? You think they do not know what plagiarism is? Do you think the experts on plagiarism who looked at the case, as reported here:
    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/globalwarming/2010-11-21-climate-report-questioned_N.htm
    do not know what plagiarism is? Care to tell us what YOUR background and expertise is to make such large claims?

  45. #45 Fred Knell
    January 9, 2011

    Marco: you have lost the plot; in my last which crossed with yours I gave you Wegman’s explicit citations of Bradley’s textbook (1999, he also cited Bradley & Eddy 1991). Not only that, like Mashey you are unable to distinguish between a Report commssioned to evaluate some authors’ works, including those of Bradley, with a paper reprinting Bradley under Wegman’s name. Wegman never has done the latter, he was commissioned to do the former.

    I also gave my background as an academic over many years, albeit with other experience in between times.

  46. #46 Tom Curtis
    January 9, 2011

    Tim Worstall, it is probably well that you do not claim to be so good at maths. If you reduce the value of a 20:1 benefit to cost ratio by 65%, it becomes a 7:1 cost benefit ratio. That places the upper end of the paper in question in the same ball park as the much higher ranked (according to Lomborg) treatment of malaria. Treated fairly, then, it would not have been the highest ranked issue, but it would almost certainly not been the lowest ranked issued.

    The other global warming paper considered (Green’s) in fact conducted analysis at a 4% and a 3% discount rate. Lomborg ranked it on the 4% discount rate (with a benefit cost ratio of 16:1), but had he used the 3% discount rate as was used for all other issues except those directly concerned with global warming, it would have had a cost benefit ratio of 28.5/1.

  47. #47 Tom Curtis
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Toll, the title of the post is “Tollgate” That makes it fairly clear what issue is under discussion here. I think it becomes very clear that the reason you are avoiding answering a very straightforward and germaine question is that the answer reveals a deliberate biasing of the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 conclusions against tackling climate change.

  48. #48 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tom
    I’m no part of the Copenhagen Consensus. I’m just one of their expert witnesses. I have nothing to do with their rankings, neither results nor methods.

  49. #49 Rocco
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Tol: So you have no idea what discount rate was used for the rankings? Why didn’t you say so right away? Aren’t you worried about the possible misrepresentation of your work?

  50. #50 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Rocco
    We published a fairly critical paper in Climate Change Economics on the treatment of climate change in the Copenhagen Consensus. Geoff Blanford and Gary Yohe separately published more accessible critiques.

  51. #51 Marco
    January 9, 2011

    Fred, if we ever discussed before, I more than likely pointed out that there was NO reference to the large sections of text that Wegman (and co, I think Wegman himself did very little of the actual ‘writing’) copied and slightly altered in some places.

    If I copy, without quotation marks, 5 paragraphs of somebody else’s work, and then put one reference to that work at the end of those 5 paragraphs, it is inappropriate attribution. And a commissioned report is not unlike a scholarly work, especially if you claim it to be a scientific evaluation of scientific work. Unless you are telling us that such a commissioned work is not about the science, but political in nature, and thus can spit on all academic traditions and practices. Which would explain why plagiarism is merely one of many problematic issues of the Wegman report.

    And if Wegman “evaluated” Bradley’s work, where IS the evaluation of Bradley’s textbook from which they copied? Where is the discussion of Bradley’s textbook (with due reference to that textbook as Bradley’s work) in the context of McIntyre and McKittrick’s criticism of MBH? It isn’t there.

    And why do you continuously ignore the plagiarism in the SNA section? Doesn’t quite fit in your claims of Wegman merely evaluating MBH’s work, perhaps?

    And why do you continously ignore Elsevier’s involvement in the matter, supporting Bradley’s claims of plagiarism? Doesn’t quite fit your claims of Wegman not plagiarising, perhaps?

    And why do you continuously ignore that THREE plagiarism experts call it plagiarism? Doesn’t quite fit your claims of Wegman not plagiarising, perhaps?

  52. #52 John Mashey
    January 9, 2011

    In the interest of staying at least somewhat on topic, perhaps the Immedtiately-preceding thread (“Wegman Update”) would be better for the Wegman arguments.
    I’m not sure how my calibration of GWPF ( which Tol advises) stirred up a Wegman discussion, although there is a weird, but slight connection.
    (The WR relied heavily on a McI-McK PPT that featured the same quote from David Demibg, except ghat the JSE cite somehow became Science, oddly after a few weeks earlier version in Australia got it right.)

  53. #53 Tom Curtis
    January 9, 2011

    Richard, in that case I have no quarrel with you, though I am still puzzled about why you were not more forthcoming about the discount rates. I have found your paper critiqueing the Copenhagen Concensus here:
    http://www.worldscinet.com/cce/01/0102/S201000781000011X.html

    Unfortunately it is behind a pay wall. Can you clarify whether it discusses the discount rate issue?

  54. #54 Richard Tol
    January 9, 2011

    @Tom
    I’m not aware that there is an issue with the discount rate. We certainly do not discuss it in the paper.

  55. #55 Rocco
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Tol: But in your response to Kaare Fog, you said that “they (other groups) should have used our discount rate.”

    Are you saying that it is not a problem if they didn’t?

  56. #56 Steve L
    January 9, 2011

    Dr Tol: please do everyone (including yourself) the favor of clearly stating what was said, what was done, and what relevant effect(s) resulted. Please also clarify the discrepancies that have been noted. This should reduce the number of questions being asked of you and the number of responses that you have to make. Your current approach of short, vague comments just seems to bring more questions about inconsistencies. Thank you.

  57. #57 jakerman
    January 9, 2011

    Tim, Tol is not addressing the central point for a reason:

    >*the result of that is that other issues have been treated with other discount rates, which means that the calculated benefit/cost ratios are not comparable. That is certainly a problem for the whole ranking procedure. Furthermore, it is confusing that the other issues were treated with two discount rates, but that, in the end, the ranking was made according to the results obtained with 3 %. This leads to the absurd situation…*

    The reason is that it clear cut. So the face saving strategy is to try is be vague and tangential.

  58. #58 Eli Rabett
    January 9, 2011

    So Richard, don’t recall your criticizing Lomborg loudly and publicly at the time that the Copenhagen Consensus was dominating the news. Does not appear that you dropped your friends a note not to get too involved with supporting the thing, from which some, not Eli to be sure, conclude that the heat is getting to you and you are trying to put up a post facto smoke screen.

  59. #59 Neven
    January 9, 2011

    I have a relatively easy question to ask: Richard, is it true that you did work for Ian Plimer?

  60. #60 Marion Delgado
    January 9, 2011

    He’s always been a real poster boy for the delusion that devotion to market fundamentalism replaces brains and knowledge. Which gets people much further than it should.

  61. #61 Marion Delgado
    January 9, 2011

    And there’s a name for his responses: the Gish Gallop.

  62. #62 Bernard J.
    January 9, 2011

    Fred Knell.

    You had better add myself to your list containing John Mashey, Marco, and any others whom you are accusing of insanity, because I fully support their interpretations of plagiarism, and dismiss your extremely lax one.

    In fact, you should probably add to your list the entire scientific faculties of at least four Australian universities for which I have worked, or with which I have had close contact, as each of the aforementioned institutions has plagiarism policies that closely reflect Mashey’s and Marco’s definitions.

    If you had ever presented your interpretation of plagiarism to any undergraduate class in any of the courses at these four universities, I suspect that you would have been invited for a little chat with the respective heads of departments, and in all likelihood also with committees responsible for the oversight of academic behaviour.

  63. #63 John Mashey
    January 9, 2011

    So, can someone convince me that any of these discount rates make sense? Predicting future GDP growth based on that seen over the last 100 years, without accounting for energy and especially the one-time boost from fossil fuels …

    is like:

    seeing that a rocket accelerates on launch for 30 seconds, and predicting that it will achieve escape velocity, ignoring whether or not it has enough fuel to do so.

    (To be convincing, it helps to have studied the IPCC and Stern, and maybe have looked at Nordhaus’ DICE model code and be able to explain to me what’s wrong with the general idea of Ayres&Warr that neoclassical Total Factor Productivity (Solow Residual) is mostly another name for work = efficiency* energy. See the last page of this.

    I do not know they are right [but I have read their book; see first blurb, and we had Ayres over for dinner a few years ago, and he struck me as pretty sharp.
    But of course, I’m no economist, and maybe the fact that he’s a physicist-turned-economist makes his arguments appeal to me.

    Of course, if they are right, GDP effectively goes down, which implies *negative* discount rates (horror!).

  64. #64 Bernard J.
    January 9, 2011

    Richard Tol.

    I will not have institutional access to any material by you for a day or so, so perhaps you might answer some questions for me here, instead.

    At the top of this thread occurs this quote:

    Tol claims his research showed a net benefit from global warming until mid-century, after which the effects turn sharply negative.

    I am very curious about how it is that you’ve determined that there is a “net benefit from global warming until mid-century”, and especially, whether this net benefit is simply a theoretical economic modelling, or if it includes a detailed scientific analysis of the biological/ecological sequelæ of global warming that have no immediate economic relevance to Western society. How far into the future do you project your analysis: particularly, how far and to what extent do you account for overall deleterious effects from changes to which you attribute benefit until the mid-21stcentury?

    Further, if you project “net benefit” to the middle of the century, there must surely be an implicit acknowledgement in your modelling of a lag time for the warming effect of carbon emissions. What lag time do you incorporate: indeed, what other fundamental assumptions (viz, sensitivity, feedbacks, biological responses, and such) did you incorporate in your modelling? The lag time matter has relevance to the sharp negativity that you predict will occur, and the other parameters are no less important in an integration of effects, but I might explore this after you’ve clarified your model assumptions.

    I’m not asking for an extended rehash of your methodology, but I am very keen to try to understand the overall basis upon which you determined that action to mitigate warming ranks so much lower than other actions.

  65. #65 Bernard J.
    January 9, 2011

    [John Mashey](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/01/tolgate.php#comment-3090498).

    Heh, you’ve basically pre-empted one of my concerns underlying [my own questions](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/01/tolgate.php#comment-3090520) above.

    I sincerely hope that Richard Tol provides a little more detail of the assumptions in this analysis. If Jeff harvey’s lurking on this thread, I’m sure that he’ll be intensely interested too…

  66. #66 Majorajam
    January 9, 2011

    Ironic in its timing, if nothing else. Not many months removed from his public crusade against Dr. Stern and The Review, in the main for the latter’s choice of discounting parameters, Professor Tol aides and abets an academic sounding charade that trades on (amongst a great many other things) absurd and unjustifiable discrepancies in discounting.

    It is hardly surprising though. It would’ve been obvious to Dr. Tol to what ends his work would be put simply from structure of the Copenhagen Consensus, let alone the well documented (and profited from) anti-environmental policy jiihad of its organizer. Any honest social science could smell the flim flam from miles away.

    It’s not like farm subsidies or defense spending or other vast public expenditures that make up the bulk of global public spending were selected for comparison by the brain trust- no no no. Instead we have a bevy of projects set up to show that the most efficient projects involve benefits where no costs are borne. In other news, institutions would run more efficiently if they were staffed by altruists (when you consider the presupposition for behavioral dynamics in economic studies, this is also known as begging the question).

    By contrast, many of the most important benefits of mitigation- foremost amongst them as insurance against the thick and potentially cataclysmic left hand tail of climate damages- are shared by all, not least by nations with the most wealth to lose, (not that this last is even recognized as a benefit by those such as Tol that prefer assuming away uncertainty to grappling with its disquieting and industry unfriendly implications).

    In other words, these projects were not remotely comparable in their agency, which is just another way in which the deck was stacked by Lomborg, (adding the discount rate imbroglio to the others, e.g. the subjective choice of program size, the ‘experts’ whose ‘expertise’ drawn on, etc. etc. etc.). Dog bites man for those of us that follow such things.

    Point being, Tol being the esteemed economist he fancies himself would know all that going in. He would know its implications for his results, and for the bottom line results of the industry friendly PR exercise also known as the Copenhagen Consensus. And he would know how those pre-cooked ‘factoids’ would be advertised to the public at large. And yet he enthusiastically participated. I would be tempted to draw inferences.

    PS A social discount rate of 5% is utterly unsupportable in any case. Empirically. Theoretically. Unsupportable.
    PPS Dr. Tol, please tell us what you knew, and when you knew it.

  67. #67 Fred Knell
    January 10, 2011

    Majorajam | January 9, 2011 11:45 PM
    “A social discount rate of 5% is utterly unsupportable in any case. Empirically. Theoretically. Unsupportable.”

    Not so. The present rate in Australia is well above 5% (the present cost of funds to the government).Unlike Stern & Garnaut, Tol knows that opportunity cost offinancing is the critical determinant of discount rates. If thisgovern

  68. #68 Fred Knell
    January 10, 2011

    Sorry,I got cut off. If this government invests in say NBN knowing it will not return 5% while borrowing at 5%+ to finance its investment, it is subsidising NBN even more than already knew.

  69. #69 Eli Rabett
    January 10, 2011

    Fred, go look up what a social discount rate is. It is not the cost of funds.

  70. #70 Richard Tol
    January 10, 2011

    @Rocco
    We were the only one to use a Ramsey discount rate, but over the shorter life-times characteristic of the comparator problems, there is an equivalent consumption discount rate. Our discount rate is close to one of the two standard rate in CC08.

    @Neven
    I never met Ian Plimer and never worked with him (this is easily checked with Google). I’m not much impressed by his climate work.

    @Eli
    It is the prerogative of the senior author to engage in public debate, and that is what Gary Yohe did.

  71. #71 Jeff Harvey
    January 10, 2011

    *Tol claims his research showed a net benefit from global warming until mid-century, after which the effects turn sharply negative*

    If this statement is indeed true, then it shows that Richard Tol, like many other economists, lacks even a basic understanding of the ‘natural’ economy. Lomborg certainly expunges the effects of rapid warming on complex adaptive systems in his narrative for the same reason: his understanding of systems ecology is basically non-existent.

    The effects of climate change at rates it is occurring now on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are exceedingly difficult to predict, given our understanding of these processes is at best rudimentary. I would like to know if Tol, or Lomborg, or any economist for that matter making such utterly absurd and rash predictions about the net effects of warming understand even basic ecology. My take is that most, and certainly not those pushing ‘neoclassical’ economics, don’t. Fraying food webs, collapsing ecosystems, phenological mismatches, changes in the abiotic environment and emerging processes generated over highly variable spatial and temporal scales just do not fit in with their tidy little econometric models. Quite honestly, its embarrassing watching many of them make such rash predictions on the basis of such little knowledge about natural systems and human dependence on a range of services that emerge from them.

  72. #72 Zibethicus
    January 10, 2011

    37: “The reason GMU has yet to make a finding on Bradley’s puerile complaint is that it cannot understand what he and Mashey are on about”

    Really?

    It’s taken them over nine months to fail to understand the complaint, and they /still/ haven’t formally reached that conclusion?

    Dear, oh dear…now, you’d really think that if that was true, the whole thing would have been done and dusted months and months ago, wouldn’t you?

    But instead…

  73. #73 Wow
    January 10, 2011

    > Don’t forget that Lawson is a barrister. No doubt he’s in a good position to advise whether charities are allowed to divulge the identity of donors

    Uhm, lawyers and barristers know very little law. They know more law than almost anyone NOT a lawyer or barrister, but most of what they know is court procedure. NOT law.

    And any lawyer will be able to find a reason for your desired outcome if you’re willing to pay for it.

  74. #74 Richard Tol
    January 10, 2011

    @Bernard J
    The net positive economic impact of climate change in the first half of the 21st century is discussed in AR3 and AR4 of the IPCC.

    The result (which is based on the work of a number of people) follows from the fact that the world economy is concentrated in the temperate zone. You only need to think back a few weeks to realize that cold can be very damaging.

  75. #75 Wow
    January 10, 2011

    > @Bernard J The net positive economic impact of climate change in the first half of the 21st century is discussed in AR3 and AR4 of the IPCC.

    Isn’t your thesis about the FUTURE, though?

    > follows from the fact that the world economy is concentrated in the temperate zone.

    Funny how all the resources are concentrated in the rest of the world…

  76. #76 J Bowers
    January 10, 2011

    Re. 73 Wow.

    That may as well be, but it doesn’t address the practical issues. I think Lawson would have more immediate access to the relevant texts on British charity law than anyone here, to be honest. Nobody has found anything to contradict Richard Tol’s claim, and my own searches on the web seem to support him on this point. “Are charities allowed to divulge the identities of their donors?” is a yes or no answer, and the answer seems to be, “Yes, but only if they gave consent when making the donation.” In other words, “No”. There are actually good reasons for anonymous charitable donors remaining anonymous whether we like it or not, outside the narrow subject of climate. He may seem old and frail on TV, but Lawson is sharp as a pin and has the track record to prove it over decades of political and legal life. He even went so far as to declare he would like to make the donor names public to Parliament in testimony, but here in England the law appears to say that anonymous means anonymous, end of, and even if the GWPF declared it’s now their policy to make donor identities public they would probably be prohibited from doing so, retrospectively.

    I’m pretty sure, though, following Lawson’s testimony to Parliament, that the GWPF could have immediately changed its policy on anonymity so that all future donations were made with the explicit agreement that names will be public. If total transparency is so desirable, then why didn’t it just change the policy from then on? ;)

  77. #77 jakerman
    January 10, 2011

    >*Funny how all the resources are concentrated in the rest of the world…*

    Suffering poor people might make Tol’s resources cost inflate slower than with vulnerable people on a sound footing.

    >*Isn’t your thesis about the FUTURE, though?*

    WG2 assess cold relief out weighing harm of warming in some colder regions of the world for part of the current century. But Swathes of Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia suffer net harm. WG2 predicts clear net harm (including in many temperate zones) by the end of the century. And next century it gets worse.

  78. #78 Fred Knell
    January 10, 2011

    Re Zibethicus | January 10, 2011 4:19 AM

    who quoted me: “The reason GMU has yet to make a finding on Bradley’s puerile complaint is that it cannot understand what he and Mashey are on about”

    Then said :”Really? It’s taken them over nine months to fail to understand the complaint, and they /still/ haven’t formally reached that conclusion?”

    I think GMU and Wegman could well have instituted legal proceedings against Bradley for defamation, but have chosen not to, as they unlike him, are decent people. In my early days in academe it was unthinkable that any academic would launch proceedings against one of his/her peers on the flimsy grounds put forward by Bradley (Mashey has no standing in this matter until his tosh sees peer-reviewed light of day, and it never will), and none ever did.

    Bradley’s honourable course of action was to publish a peer reviewed paper criticising the Wegman Report. Only a playground sneak does what he did – and GMU has clearly like Wegman refused to sink to his level.

    Wegman meantime has grounds to sue for defamation, but honourable gentlemen do not do that to worthless scum like Bradley and Mashey.

    As for Majorajam and the Rabbitt on social discount rates, they are out of their depth in that area, and know nothing of the subject. When you have read all of Tol’s enormously impressive opera on that subject, get back to us.

    Briefly, discounting is a method of weighing future benefits against current costs. If the rate is set at 0.1% as by Stern & Garnaut, that is saying governments even with US T-Bills as they now are (3 months) at 0.22% (but 3.47% for 10-year bonds, 5.68% in Australia) should borrow at that rate to finance projects whose benefits are only positive at 0.1%. Over 100 years the losses will be large, especially relative to the benefits from projects yielding say 5% that are crowded out when the discount rate is set at 0.1%. Tol made that point in his first comments on Stern.

  79. #79 Neven
    January 10, 2011

    Richard, thanks for your answer. I couldn’t imagine you working with Plimer, so I obviously misread this piece:

    While empirically-based criticism is central to science, Tol has shown no zeal in his dealings with Lomborg or with Ian Plimer, another scientific fraud alongside whom Tol acts as scientific advisor for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a secretive pressure group opposed to fossil-fuel restrictions.

    In fact, this isn’t true as you say you never had any dealings with Plimer. I didn’t know you were scientific advisor to GWPF, though.

  80. #80 jakerman
    January 10, 2011

    Fred Nnell is entertaining!

    More jokes like this please Fred. What ever will you do if GMU cannot find away to wash away Wegman’s plagerism?

    On the social discount rate, I found [this an interesting read](http://www.pc.gov.au/research/visiting-researcher/cost-benefit-discount), it contains [this chapter](http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/96706/05-chapter3.pdf).

    But when dealing with century timescales we run into several problems. We are at peak oil, we have developed much of our economic practice during a period of increasing consumption and radical population growth. This will not continue. Discount rates related to lending rates now have no validity for determining prices in a world of steady state economics, let alone if we drive this economy over the cliff with peak oil and ecological crisis.

  81. #81 Jeff Harvey
    January 10, 2011

    *@Bernard J The net positive economic impact of climate change in the first half of the 21st century is discussed in AR3 and AR4 of the IPCC. The result (which is based on the work of a number of people) follows from the fact that the world economy is concentrated in the temperate zone. You only need to think back a few weeks to realize that cold can be very damaging*.

    Pure and utter tosh (see also Knell’s posts). The IPCC is only able to make very rough projections based on the empirical literature which itself is full of holes with respect to the effects of warming on the natural economy. In brief: we have only barely scatched the surface in our understanding of the factors that determine how ecosystems assemble and function (see work by Tilman, Naeem, Soule, Huston, Vitousek, Pimm, Pacala, Petchey, and many other scientists in which the debate is still ongoing). I wonder how much of this literature Richard Tol has read. Probably none of it. We know that humans are utterly dependent on the natural economy in delivering a range of supporting services. How these services emerge from natural systems and are maintained is still very poorly understood. This is because a stupendous array of biotic and abiotic processes are involved that make it impossible to extract simple linear generalizations. Then throw in climate warming, which is occurring at different rates in different places and at different temporal scales, and things become even more complicated. Certainly its plainly crazy to try and suggest that anyone or any body (including the IPCC) has even anything more than a vague idea what the consequences of climate change will be on communities, ecosystems and biomes in the coming century. The prognosis is not good, as I said in my last post. What I find supremely annoying is the utter hubris that many ‘experts’ express with respect to the costs and benefits of warming. Its a crap shoot. Certainly we can expect to see food webs breaking down as species within them respond differently. We know that it is likely that diversity begets stability and resilience in many systems, and that a loss in the diversity of these systems will lead to a breakdown in the way they funca s ittion. But, given that ecosystems do not function linearly, we can expect, as it continues to warm, to approach and then pass critical ‘tipping points’ beyond which there will be quite dramatic changes (see work by Scheffer et al). Again, understanmding how close we are to these ‘tipping points’ is the subject of intensive research, but we have a long way to go. In effect, we have little idea what the medium-term consequences of regional warming will be, but there is every sign that there will be very nasty surprises in store.

    Tol, Lomborg (and their followers here like Knell) appear to believe that we have worked out all of the finer details. They also appear to believe that humans are exempt from any constraints imposed by nature. Such a flippant comment about cold weather (above) in temperate zones barely deserves an answer. But the fact is that a range of anthropogenic assaults – of which climate change is an important one – are simplifying nature at an astounding rate. Technology cannot replace many supporting services that permit humans to exist and to persist, and even when it can, the costs are prohibitive. There are many examples of this I present at lectures on the subject of tha natural economy and human welfare.

    I do not even want to go into the subject of power structures and how eliminating poverty in the south is hardly on the agenda of the developed world (and there is plenty of evidence for this). The fact is that western elites know that there are not enough resources to support 6 plus billion people consuming capital like the average North American or European (read comments over many years by the likes of Kennan, Kissinger, Brezinski and others and this should become clear). This explains why western planners habitually espouse concern over the threat posed by those in the south of ‘breaking free’ from the grip of western financial institutions, governments and corporations. But this belongs on another thread.

  82. #82 Wow
    January 10, 2011

    > I think Lawson would have more immediate access to the relevant texts on British charity law than anyone here, to be honest.

    And only finite time to investigate. To bring OT, Tol has the immediate access to relevant information. Yet he’s managed to fail to be accurate in his statements.

    Access to the right information doesn’t mean the output is accurate.

    There is no *legal requirement* to keep donations secret.

    There isn’t a *legal requirement* to open them either.

    But if you go proclaiming secrecy is bad in how funding of the met services goes ahead, you can’t really expect people to take you seriously if you keep YOUR funding secret.

  83. #83 Fred Knell
    January 10, 2011

    jakerman, for once you’re right when you link to Mark Harrison who confirms everything I have said here about discounting.

    Jeff Harvey: you are a colossal bore. Your last post repeats what you have been saying here ad nauseam for as long as anyone can remember. For example, your latest yet again says: “[Economists]also appear to believe that humans are exempt from any constraints imposed by nature.”

    We know how for millennia humans have overcome Nature’s constraints. For we just like the Pharoahs are The Masters of Nature (except in Australia where we have surrendered to your alter ego, Bob Brown, who has successfully prevented us from fending off floods by building dams). Now go away and have a good sulk.

  84. #84 zoot
    January 10, 2011

    Fred Knell sounds suspiciously like a sock puppet, particularly in his pathetic swipe at Bob Brown. Hoping for a thread derailment perhaps?

  85. #85 Jeff Harvey
    January 10, 2011

    Fred Knell,

    Better to be a colossal bore than a colossal ignoramus, like you.

    Your post shows clearly that you nothing diddley squat about natural systems (about anythinbg, actually). But that’s probably because you are another Dunning-Kruger disciple. Full of arrgance and ignorance: a legend in your own mind.

    If you can pry yourself away from the mirror, please tell me how exactly humans are going to replicate ecological services: for example, maintenance of soil and renewal of soil fertility, pest control, water purification, breakdown of wastes, seed dispersal, pollination etc. as they decline? Wingnuts like you ignore that fact that nature is littered with free subsidies that do not carry prices; as the seminal Costanza et al paper in Nature (1997) showed, these subsidies, if priced, woudl have been worth between 18 and 33 trillions dollars annually to the global economy. In other words more than the sum of all national GDPs at the time combined. But since you are clearly scientifically illiterate, I’d stick with your own self-adoration.

    Moreover, I suppose clowns like you dismiss the importance of the 2006 Global Ecosystems Assessment, which painted a stark picture of human impacts across the biosphere, which, in case you didn’t know, are many millions of times more significant than when the Egyptian civilization fluorished. And, in case you were wondering in part why the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome collapsed, look no farther than ecological overshoot: the local human populations decimated their regional ecological life-support systems, transforming once biotically rich regions into veritable biological deserts. The only difference is that now humans are doing it on a global scale.

    Lastly, it is dinosaurs like you (and Tol, and Lomborg, and many other contrarians) who are endangered. Not only the vast majority of the scientific community stands behind my words, but also many enlightened economists (John Gowdy, Stefan Viedermann, Geoffrey Heal, et al.). If you wish to engage in an online debate about the importance of nature’s services and the consequences of losing them on human civilization, I’d be glad to humiliate you.

    Otherwise, please parade your ignorance elsewhere.

  86. #86 J Bowers
    January 10, 2011

    Re. 81 Wow: Read up on the UK’s Data Protection Act, and [read this](http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Our_regulatory_activity/Counter_terrorism_work/compliance_toolkit_2.aspx#e2)

  87. #87 luminous beauty
    January 10, 2011

    >For we just like the Pharoahs are The Masters of Nature…

    I’m sure this is what the Easter Islanders were saying right up until the end.

  88. #88 Wow
    January 10, 2011

    Jeff, that doesn’t cover what you think it covers. After all the roll call of the Board Of Directors is likewise personally identifiable information.

    Bestrides which, since these people are funding a charity (and therefore getting a tax break on their donations), there’s a little less leeway for personal information to be held on donations. Added to which, the “charity” is proclaiming that secrecy of funding is why AGW is false. Yet they want to retain secrecy of their funding (which, under their lights, would make anti-AGW position they take false).

    You ARE allowed to say you donate, you know. Even if there were laws stating you COULD NEVER say who you get the money from.

  89. #89 Marlowe Johnson
    January 10, 2011

    Nice to see the discussion finally moving to assumptions about the economics of climate change.

    Tol stop prevaricating and anwser the damn question :P.

    The thing to realize is that Tol’s POV is by no means a fringe one within the profession. However, that doesn’t mean that his work is representative by any means or that it hasn’t been criticized by other economists. Ackerman for example notes that:

    “One conclusion from the revised analysis is that FUND is an outlier among climate economics models…DICE and PAGE project modest but positive damages at low temperature changes, but FUND projects net benefits…to the world from warming until the world is almost 3oC (more than 5oF) hotter. That is, FUND believes the world will be better off as a result of the first several decades of global warming.

    With a high enough discount rate, those decades of desirable warmth outweigh the far future when we move beyond 3oC; at a 5 percent discount rate, FUND’s estimate of the SCC is negative!”

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with the many assumptions that Tol uses (i.e. valuing lives in richer countries more, ignoring risk aversion, etc.). What bothers me is that he isn’t upfront about the ethical implications of these assumptions or the fact that his work puts the social cost of carbon at the very low end of the spectrum.

    If people understood that the $6/tCO2e estimate stems from assumptions which say that we don’t care about coloured people or the welfare of our children’s children (discount rate) I suspect they would treat the results differently…

  90. #90 Jeff Harvey
    January 10, 2011

    Luminous beauty,

    An excellent example. To make such an arrogant and frankly stupid remark such as, “For we just like the Pharoahs are The Masters of Nature…” reveals a lot about the speaker of said words.

    Look also at Biosphere II. A complete and utter failure to replicate even the most basic self-perpetuating ecosystem. Simon Levin says it perfectly when he writes, in *Fragile Dominion*: “They (ecological services) permit our survival but do not exist by virtue of permitting it, and so we need to ask how fragile nature’s services are”. Exactly. We already know that nature’s capacity to support man is being diminished. The most pressing concern amonst systems ecologists is to determine at which points we will exceed critical thresholds (‘tipping points’) in the functioning of complex adaptive systems.

    In my scientific career I have had to deal with enough anthropocentric cranks such as Robert Knell who ignorantly dismiss the importance of nature beyond its plunder and exploitation. Its just sad that some people still think this way. Most scientists certainly don’t. Neoclassical economists are hundreds of years past their sell-by dates.

  91. #91 luminous beauty
    January 10, 2011

    [John Mashey](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/01/tolgate.php#comment-3090498)

    Thanks for the link to Ayres & Warr. Scary stuff. On the hopeful side we have work by [Elinor Ostrom, et al.](http://www.press.umich.edu/titleDetailDesc.do?id=9739) which promises a substantive way of combining the uncertainties of ecosystem resilience and complexity with endogenous economic development, and a path beyond the false dichotomy commonly presented between global regulation and private property.

    My question to Dr. Tol is: Has he read any of these authors and has it changed his thinking on any of these issues?

  92. #92 Wow
    January 10, 2011

    Alternatively, Jeff, that link isn’t covering what I mean in post 81.

    I guess it depends on the point of view.

  93. #93 Former Skeptic
    January 10, 2011

    Tol stop prevaricating and anwser the damn question :P.

    Don’t hold your breath, Marlowe :-). Tol’s shifty evasiveness when confronted with truth has been seen before over at Eli’s and at Tobis’s.

  94. #94 John Mashey
    January 10, 2011

    1) This is a useful thread. It would be nice if Wegman arguments went to Wegman update rather than here.

    2) Tim occasionally creates special threads for special posters. RealClimate is now doing 2 things to improve S/N ratios of normal threads:

    a) Unforced Variations is a monthly thread for OT discussions, to which people can post … and to which moderators move posts.

    b) The Bore Hole is … well, read it and see, if you can stand it.

    3) Hopefully, people will experiment and eventually blog software will improve to make sensible moderation really easy, lest good blogs succomb to Gresham’s Law (Internet version) and go the way of once-fine USENET groups.

  95. #95 Majorajam
    January 10, 2011

    We know that humans are utterly dependent on the natural economy in delivering a range of supporting services. How these services emerge from natural systems and are maintained is still very poorly understood. This is because a stupendous array of biotic and abiotic processes are involved that make it impossible to extract simple linear generalizations. Then throw in climate warming, which is occurring at different rates in different places and at different temporal scales, and things become even more complicated.

    Think I heard a toilet flush Richard. Better strike out for a plunger as I’m not sure even one of those could swallow FUND whole.

    Of course this isn’t about this or other, as Jeff aptly puts it, flippant, presumptions of models like Richard Tol’s, (including amongst other things assuming away disease vectors with the economic progress of tropical nations, assuming a negative direct effect on mortality of global warming as all the obese diabetics in the Western World survive more winters, assuming that heat stress poses no danger to the drinkign water resources of billions, assuming that ice sheet dynamics can safely be ignored because the doom-mongering IPCC doesn’t venture to prognosticate there, assuming zero costs due to geopolitical conflict stemming from climate change, assuming that earth system climate sensitivity is, to some narrow range of probabilistically potential values, known, etc. etc. etc. etc.).

    This is about fraud. So please Richard, answer the fargin question. As it appears you remain pure as the driven snow:

    When did you know you were being set up by Mr. Lomborg to underwrite a fraudulent analysis, and what have you done about it?

    While you’re at it, perhaps you can explain to us whether you think it’s appropriate to ignore massive discrepancies in agency when doing capital budgeting? Of course, the Lomborg Consensus didn’t so much ignore these as cherry pick them, but we have to start somewhere.

  96. #96 Zibethicus
    January 10, 2011

    Re 78: “Wegman meantime has grounds to sue for defamation, but honourable gentlemen do not do that to worthless scum like Bradley and Mashey.”

    Your sustained, vicious vituperation and increasingly desperate and flailing /ad homs/ do not in any way disguise the fact that you have resoundingly failed to answer the simple question I raised – namely, if things are as cut-and-dried in this matter as you claim, why has GMU not reached the same conclusions as you have and closed the matter long ago?

    The fact that they have not done this, and instead done apparently little or nothing whatsoever, hardly supports your contention. On the contrary, it strongly suggests (at least to me) the dynamic inaction of a group of people who are well-and-truly over an oil barrel, as it were.

    If they find against Wegman their Koch funding will surely be in question. But if they find /for/ him, under the circumstances, their academic integrity might well be called into question.

    Solution? Do nothing at all, for as long as you can get away with it. It’s not a real solution, but at least it buys precious time.

    Intriguing to see the same sort of people who were hollering for burnings-at-the-stake before the ‘Climategate’ enquiries even started now bending in the diametrically opposite direction when it’s the conduct of their own camp under scrutiny.

    Now if you want to take this further, John Mashey has suggested that this goes to the latest Wegman thread and I think that’s appropriate. I’ll be happy to discuss the matter there.

    PS: On the basis of your compared postings here, I would have to say that your claims about “Mashey’s lunacy” (37) might be better applied to he whom you confront in any mirror. Mashey seems to me to be infinitely less troubled than you do. You have my guarded sympathy.

  97. #97 jakerman
    January 10, 2011

    Former Skeptic, [you provided](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/01/tolgate.php#comment-3093540) an interesting link.

    Tol works very hard to try and lable one of his opponetns as authoritarian (for the crime on wanting the public well educated, particularly on climate change).

    Here is some of Tol’s hard work:

    >*Yes, Michael, you disrespect other people’s opinions, and you want to make sure that they are powerless.*

    But what was Tol attacking Michael for? For this:

    Tol
    >>*there is a small group of people who think that climate change is Armageddon, and who are burning is much coal as they can hoping to see the Second Coming during their earthly life time.*

    MT
    >The thing to do about small groups of crazy, evil people is to try to make sure they stay small and try to convince them to be less crazy or evil. If you think otherwise, you’re the postmodernist

    Tol
    >*Yes, Michael, you disrespect other people’s opinions, and you want to make sure that they are powerless.*

    Tol is attempting to rebadge “authoritarianism” as someone who is not a moral relativist.

    I guessed Tol now needs to come up with a new label for those who kill people for their political views and trample civil liberties, as to distinguish those from people who want a well educated public and do not respect every opinion as being equal.

    By the way Tol, by definition are you “authoritarian”? I.e. Do you respect Nazi ideology? Or do you believe we should deal with antisocial groups like Nazi by trying to:

    >* to make sure they stay small and try to convince them to be less crazy or evil*?

  98. #98 Gaz
    January 11, 2011

    John Mashey @63, forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, but prospective GDP growth rates have no direct implications for the appropriate discount rate to use in cost benefit alaysis.

    Discount rates are simply used to compare the value of costs and benefits at different points in time. A positive discount rate just means the future is given relatively less value than the present.

    The higher the discount rate, the less the future is valued relative to the present.

    For businesses, the use of a discount rate makes sense. It enables the comparison of a project with a given expected rate of return with alternative investments.

    For a society, though, it is by no means as clear cut.

    For environmental policies, the discount rate is at least as much a moral question as a technical one. And economics generally does not deal well with either interpersonal and intertemporal comparisons of utility on either count.

    Garnaut’s 2008 report has a [discussion of these issues in section 1.7 of the first chapter.](http://www.garnautreview.org.au/pdf/Garnaut_Chapter1.pdf)

    Stern as well used a [lowish discount rate](http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/Chapter_2_Economics_Ethics_and_Climate_Change.pdf).

  99. #99 John Mashey
    January 11, 2011

    gaz: you may want to review the *rest* of Stern Chapter 2 that you cited, but also Chapter 2A, wherever that is.

    Whether or not Stern is right, he clearly thinks GDP matters…

    CH.2
    p.9 (labeled 31) of PDF (p.35 in my copy of book):

    “Typically, in the application of the theory of welfare economics to project and policy appraisal, an increment in future consumption is held to be worth less than an increment in present consumption, for two reasons. First, if consumption grows, people are better off in the future than they are now and an extra unit of consumption is generally taken to be worth less, the richer people are. Second, it is sometimes suggested that people prefer to have good things earlier rather than later – ‘pure time preference’ – based presumably in some part on an assessment of the chances of being alive to enjoy consumption later and in some part ‘impatience’.”

    The first depends ~GDP (given all the caveats about what GDP really means) and the second is the time preference.

    Chapter 2A is mostly about discounting. The book (p.54) says:
    “Growing consumption is a reason for discounting. Similarly if consumption were falling the discount rate would be negative.”

    See also IPCC AR4 WG III on discount rates.

    “Intuitively, as suggested by this formula, a larger growth in the economy should induce us to make less effort for the future. This is achieved by raising the discount rate. In an inter-generational framework, the parameter δ characterizes our ethical attitude towards future generations. Using this formula, the SAR recommended using a discount rate of 2-4%. It is fair to consider δ =0 and a growth rate of GDP per capita of 1-2% per year for developed countries and a higher rate for developing countries that anticipate larger growth rates. ”

    Again, I am not saying that IPCC or Stern are correct, merely that they both think future GDP matters to discoutn rate.

    Now see IPCC AR4 WG III, GDP growth rates in the new literature.

    “The SRES scenarios project a very wide range of global economic per-person growth rates from 1% (A2) to 3.1% (A1) to 2030, both based on MER. This range is somewhat wider than that covered by the USDOE (2004) high and low scenarios (1.2–2.5%). The central projections of USDOE, IEA and the World Bank all contain growth rates of around 1.5–1.9%, thus occurring in the middle of the range of the SRES scenarios. Other medium-term energy scenarios are also reported to have growth rates in this range (IEA, 2004).”

    Now, if *per-person* GDP CAGR is projected to 2100, 90 years, we get the relative size of GDP/person in 2100AD:
    1.01^90 => 2.4X
    1.02^90 => 5.9X
    1.03 => 14.3X
    but just for (not fun) try
    .99^90 => .4X
    .98^90 => .16X
    .97^90 => .06X

    I once asked the Co-Chair of WG III, Bert Metz, where they got the numbers, and he confirmed that they basically used the standard numbers from folks like the World Bank, etc.
    And basically, if you dig around in the standard numbers,

    Ayres & Warr 9the book) p.224 says:
    (if a hypothetical panel wer asked)
    “‘what average real growth rate to expect the US to enjoy during the 21sr century?’ we think the answer would fall between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent per annum. But that is because virtually all economists assume that economic growth is automatic and costless, and that is it independent of energy price or availabllity.”

    SO: Stern & IPCC both think that future GDP matters to discount rate. Almost everybody seems to think GDP growth has little dependence on energy. If they are right, that US folks would be 2-6X richer in 2100. If Ayres&Warr are right, and energy is actually a big chunk of GDP growth, then GDP flattens, maybe mid-century.

    So, the question I’ve raised is the extent to which people should be including negative discount rates in models. You make very different investments if you think GDP growth continues indefinitely than if you think otherwise.

  100. #100 Wow
    January 11, 2011

    > Wegman meantime has grounds to sue for defamation, but honourable gentlemen do not do that to worthless scum like Bradley and Mashey.

    What does that have to do with Wegman?

    He’s no gentleman, he’s a hired hitman. The reason why Wegman doesn’t sue is because he has no grounds and, if he were to press suit, he would be unable to quash the facts he wants hidden.

    NOTE: if you’re being threatened with lawsuit by someone who is trying to silence you, it is better to let them sue you (if they will) because your testimony then becomes your defence and that can’t be silenced.

Current ye@r *