mt on Pierrehumbert on Paul Ryan on global warming

mt quotes Ray Pierrehumbert: "The most explicit statement of Ryan’s climate change views appears in this 2009 op-ed, and since he still features it on his official website, we can take it as an indication of his beliefs..." writing in Slate. Some of what Ryan writes is indeed std.denialist_lies:

The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. The e-mail scandal has not only forced the resignation of a number of discredited scientists... rant, rant, rant...

which self-condemns Ryan as a fool. But... without trying to defend Ryan's views, I'll point out that he really has little or nothing to say about the actual science. Yes I know what slant you get from reading it; what I'm trying to point out is that he isn't really addressing the science, because that isn't what interests him. What does Ryan say? Things like "leaders in Washington have failed to provide the American people a serious policy debate" which seems fair enough. Unfortunately Ryan isn't exactly contributing either, indeed he is damaging the debate, because to have a meaningful debate on the policy consequences you have to start from accepting the science as presented, say, by the IPCC. And to be able to talk about Carbon Taxes without having teabaggers ejaculating over you (note: I said "talk about" not advocate).

Also, I think RayP's bizniz-sense is weak:

Most of what Paul Ryan has written specifically about climate change is a corollary to his basic tenet of faith that everything done by the government is necessarily bad, and everything done by the private sector is necessarily good... He consistently ignores the manifold and arguably greater flubs of private investment. To pick one of the sillier examples, Google paid Paypal co-founder Max Levchin $200 million for a company that made things like electronic-pet apps for Facebook, but wrote off most of its investment a few years later.

This is about as sensible as saying "its snowing; GW can't be true". Which is precisely what he starts off criticising Ryan for saying. Motto: the tailor should stick to his last. I do, obviously.

Other stuff

* Climate Moving at One Foot Per Hour - QS


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Code words often confuse foreigners.
This statement "leaders in Washington have failed to provide the American people a serious policy debate” isn't written in English, but in Spinlish.
I'm not sure if it is fully translatable to American English, much less the Queen's English.
But realistically, what kind of a serious policy debate do you have with someone that thinks God Almighty sets the temperature of the planet and it will never change because of any of our actions, excluding just perhaps allowing gay marriage?

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 30 Aug 2012 #permalink

Perhaps you're mistaking Ryan's animus towards c-a-t as a demand for a carbon tax? Keep in mind that Ryan is seen in the US as a way to mollify the TPers who distrusted Romney in the primaries. He shares his constituency with Monckton.

" I’ll point out that he really has little or nothing to say about the actual science."

Hmmm ...

" were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion"

Says quite a bit about the science, actually. That it's fraudulent. Once you accept that, the details are unimportant, right?

[Yeah, sure, he's wacko about that (or more likely just playing to his fans). But no, he isn't talking about the science in that quote -W]

200 M$ here, 200 M$ there, and sooner or later you are talking about real money.

[200M$ is real money. So what? Business involves risk. RP should just have left that stuff out, it looks silly / ignorant / biased to anyone from the business side -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 30 Aug 2012 #permalink

Once you accept such an absurd falsehood as truth, yes, no other details would matter. Likewise, if you accept that the planes that seemingly struck the WTC were actually holograms, you wouldn't need to quibble over how many not-real passengers didn't really die on the not-real planes.

Michael Tobin, I have several times observed media coverage of the collapse of state owned banks. It is invariably treated as a moral lesson that state ownership is bad, and the collapse is invariably attributed to the state ownership rather than, for example, to the activities of a rogue trader. Conversely, I have seen the coverage of the collapse of privately owned banks. No similar conclusions are drawn. The collapse of privately owned banks are never taken as an indication that private ownership of banks is bad; and nor is the collapse ever attributed to that private ownership alone. Clearly a double standard applies.

The double standard can be pointed out in a number of areas, but pointing out that it exists when applied to commentary on wasteful investment as Ray Pierrehumbert has done is not an error, and does not make you look silly. It may close certain ears to your message - but that is an indication of the prejudice of the minds behind those ears, not of a problem with the comments.

Further, while I am a great fan of listening to experts, and deferring to their opinion unless you have taken the effort to become similarly informed, and expert is a person who has learnt the fundamental errors in their discipline, and how to avoid them. Given the scale of predictions of the global financial crisis, that means the number of economic experts approaches zero.

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 30 Aug 2012 #permalink

Apologies, preceding post should have been addressed to William Connolley.

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 30 Aug 2012 #permalink

> the number of economic experts approaches zero.

And approaches zero from the minus side, note.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 30 Aug 2012 #permalink

Ranting on while...

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 30 Aug 2012 #permalink

You have the better take on Ryan. Folks like Ray P are having a hard time facing up to the fact that our President - a career long supporter of corn ethanol and coal, who flat out refused to work on climate legislation as a US Senator - sold them a bill of goods in 2008. The lofty statements about climate were nothing more than fishing for votes.

[I'm not convinced by that. I think Obama would have liked to do something about GW, had it been possible, though you could argue that he should and did know it would take more effort than he could spare. Whereas Bush would have liked to do nothing or be opposed -W]

I disagree that to have a meaningful debate on the policy consequences you have to start from accepting the science as presented, say, by the IPCC. Climate is a fine reason to stop burning carbon, but it is only one of a number of equally valid reasons. It is possible to be passionate about replacing fossil fuels without any consideration of climate.

[Those are two separate strands, I think. What I meant was, if you waste all your time arguing about the science, you can't meaningfully talk about policy (of course for some people this is the objective). If you're going to talk about the public policy consequences *of GW* then you need to start from, say, the IPCC's presentation. If you want to replace fossil fuels for other reasons - security, we're-running-short - then your policy answers may differ -W]

Really, William, if you continue to call them teabaggers, they certainly will have good reason to not listen to anything you say and to disapprove of any words that slip through. I wouldn't expect you to understand who the tea partiers are. The uniting principle for them is tax and spending reform. If you treat them with respect, you may find some kindred spirits.

[Its not kind of me, I know. But they don't seem to be kind people, from what I see over here. Also, I don't perceive them as amenable to reason over GW, which is what I'm interested in for public purposes. They have made a fundamental error:

1. I don't like govt
2. GW, if true, requires action from govt
3. Therefore GW is false

This makes them idiots. Although I doubt Ryan is an idiot on this matter, instead my best guess is that he is dishonest -W]

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 31 Aug 2012 #permalink

What Tom Curtis says. There's a clear double standard when judging wasteful mistakes depending on whether the government is somehow involved. This ignores that making mistakes is inevitable when basing decisions on imperfect knowledge; and in our human condition knowledge is always imperfect, ergo. Actually the loans programme that Solyndra was part of was remarkably successful (and Solyndra pretty much its only failure), even financially, by the standards usually applied to private enterprise.

By Martin Vermeer (not verified) on 31 Aug 2012 #permalink

"The lofty statements about climate were nothing more than fishing for votes."

Baloney. Health care reform was his #1 priority, and he spent his political capital on that. Once Scott Brown was elected to replace Ted Kennedy there was no chance of significant climate legislation being passed by the Senate, and before that very little chance given the fact that there were a few coal-state dems in the way.

And, of course, the Great Recession wasn't something Obama campaigned on. Perhaps Paul hasn't noticed, but the worst recession since the Great Depression has been a political game changer.

Meanwhile the administration has taken positive steps to increase wind and solar adaptation, to boost the efficiency of new cars, etc.

[I've removed a bit at the end, which wasn't really necessary. I'm sensitive to the problem that most commenting here are "GW" side people, loosely defined. I don't want this to get anywhere near the WUWT situation, where "non believers" are attacked and made to feel unwelcome. So, attack the views by all means but not the viewer. That's not just directed at you, BTW -W]

I'll stipulate that Ray is enviably innocent of business. That said, I rarely find anything substantive to argue with Ray about. He is careful and precise and usually right.

I think if placed in the context of the right wing ranting about the Solyndra error as evidence of the incompetence of government, the point about Google is perfectly sound. False positives and false negatives are a fact of life no matter who is making the decisions.

[I see your point, but I think you're trying to argue that two wrongs make a right. Ryan can't use anecdotes about individual govt failures to prove private-is-better; RP can't use similar to prove that private-is-no-better -W]

In this case, the question is not Ray's business sense but whether Ray's attribution of absolutism to Ryan is a fair summary of his rhetoric. Because if it is, his counterexample has every bit as much weight as the great successes of government, including the Apollo missions that we are recalling in the wake of the passing of Neil Armstrong.

Actually I think the distinction between what "the marketplace" does and what "the government" does is entirely artificial and contextual. This is an argument I need to expand upon. I think it's at the core of my trouble with existing economic theory.

[I find it hard to see (after an exhaustive 10-second think) how the distinction could be artificial; so please do write it up -W]

Paul, I have to disagree with this statement:

"who flat out refused to work on climate legislation as a US Senator"

Obama sponsored or co-sponsored several climate change related bills while in the Senate, including the McCain bill on which he acted as a sponsor (not co-sponsor).

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 31 Aug 2012 #permalink

it might have been fairer to Ray to have quoted:
'To pick one of the sillier examples, Google paid Paypal co-founder Max Levchin $200 million for a company that made things like electronic-pet apps for Facebook, but wrote off most of its investment a few years later. Or more consequentially, the financial industry's love affair with credit-default swaps, which played a big role in bringing down the world economy. For that matter, in just a few weeks of playing with other peoples' money, a rogue trader for JP Morgan Chase lost about four times as much as the Obama administration invested in Solyndra.'

it is silly to focus on the silly example. I know of many sillier ones around the Valley, even done by really smart folks, such as this one,
Sometimes a few silly ones turn out OK and it is the nature of fast-moving technology businesses that there are bad calls.

Ray;'s bizniz sense may or may not be strong, but he in fact selected a decent set of examples. He could have omitted the silly one (after all, Google has a lot of money, and spending some of it dumbly didn't really do much damage, unlike the others. The other two he mentioned were the kind where people *extract* wealth from the system by privatizing profits while socializing terrible financial risks. )

[Yes, I could have quoted more fully. But a silly example is, indeed, silly. And the JP Morgan rogue trader example is also silly. the point, which RP should appreciate, that JPM can lose as much money as it likes, because its not ours. The govt doesn't have that liberty.

And I'm dubious about his view of CDS.

But more that this... this is all off the point. RP knows the science, and should be talking about it. Choosing to veer off into economics is just not a good idea -W]

By John Mashey (not verified) on 31 Aug 2012 #permalink

Sure, "RP can't use similar to prove that private-is-no-better " but he didn't. He can indeed use it to DISprove that private-is-ALWAYS-better, which is what he literally claimed. That literal claim is trivially true.

[Does that help? Why is RP wasting time proving things that are trivially true? -W]

The place where Ray's argument is more vulnerable is in suggesting that Ryan actually advocates the universal superiority of the private. That said, considering that Ryan is an avowed enthusiast of Ayn Rand, such an attribution is sadly plausible.

[I doubt you'll find Ryan saying that. But then again, I've read almost none of his stuff, so who knows -W]

"Yes, I could have quoted more fully. But a silly example is, indeed, silly. And the JP Morgan rogue trader example is also silly. the point, which RP should appreciate, that JPM can lose as much money as it likes, because its not ours. The govt doesn't have that liberty."

JPMorgan is losing "our" money for a suitable subset of the public, ie, investors and depositors in banks that have invested in JP Morgan.

[Is this really so hard to understand? People investing and depositing in banks do so of their own free choice. People don't give money to the govt of their own free choice.

No wonder the Republicans don't trust your/RP's business sense -W]

Given the widespread assumption that banks should not be allowed to fail, any trade that exposes JP Morgan to collapse also risks "our" money in exactly the way government expenditure does.

[This is a better point. But there is no evidence that JPM is likely to fail. In the time since that bad trade, there has been no sign of it. Therefore, using that bad trade *is a bad example* -W]

Further, as the GFC clearly demonstrates, the silly decisions of private business can impact all citizens by depressing the economy. Our money is exposed, not just by direct investment, but also by wider impacts to the economy.

[Tough. That is how things go. Unless you're arguing for wise central planning so that no-one is allowed the freedom to make these bad decisions? -W]

"Does that help? Why is RP wasting time proving things that are trivially true? -W"

Possibly because this trivial truth is so frequently denied, if not publicly by politicians, then certainly by large numbers of their constituency

William, it is possible that as an Englishman you are not aware of just how rabid the anti-government sentiment is elsewhere, notably (by my observations from Australia) in the US..

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 31 Aug 2012 #permalink

CDS: I assume you've read The Big Short

1) VCs invest in lots of companies, knowing that most will fail, but a few winners will make up for that. Anyone who invests in VC funds knows how this works. If VCs invest badly, they may get their management fees but lose any serious upside, since Limited Partners get their ,money back first.

2) Companies like Google act like VCs in some ways, although companies often make strategic investments that VCs would not.

In both of the above cases, the people who make the decisions are usually exposed to both upsides and downsides of decisions, and at least some of them have some element of transparency.

Some of the financial games seem to be designed so that the decision makers are taking chances that are usually profitable for them and their investors, but can expose them to serious disasters, and in some cases, shift risk onto people who don't realize it, and in some cases, onto the government, in cases where they are considered "too big to fail." I.e., somebody else pays. The story of the CDS shows how crazed this can get. Of course, hedge-fund guys can be pretty scary, as it is very hard to tell what they are doing.

This is ~black swan of Taleb's, but an even better example.related to climate is the insurance business in places like Florida:

a) People on coasts don't want to pay what State Farm or Allstate thought was needed, and Florida wouldn't let them do that, so they left.

b) Risk was spread across the state, by a state-run entity, but I hear it's actuarily unsound. I think the real game plan is that if a really big hurricane comes, they'll expect the Federal government to bail them out.

There are always legitimate arguments over the size and shape of government, and the "right" answers differ.

[Insurance is a good example of govt getting it wrong, and effectively subsidising people to live in dangerous areas. We have the same here on a smaller scale: whenever it floods, and peoples premiums rise, there are inevitably stories about people being "priced out of their homes" and calls for the govt to intervene and similar nonsense. Often lead by right-ring newspapers like the Torygraph, because the beneficients of said subsidy is partly their readers -W]

By John Mashey (not verified) on 31 Aug 2012 #permalink

The private/public terminology causes confusion.
The fundamental issue is that some people extract money from the overall society by privatizing the profits and socializing the risks and/or costs. This may be done by:

a) Just stealing the money, which is at least straightforward. Costs show up directly or in higher insurance rates.

b) Taking profits while avoiding paying for *costs* incurred by others, then or later. The tobacco business fits this well.

In Pittsburgh, PA, houses sometimes collapsed from problems with long-abandoned coal mines underneath. In CA Mercury from the Gold Rush is still working its way down the rivers. The gold mines were shut long ago.
Most environmental issues fall under this. Sometimes, people didn't know. Of course, if one has a business whose profits depend on continuing damage to others, it is a good investment to put money into politics to avoid regulation. The private/public dividing line can get fuzzy. For instance, some people fairly think that working in an Appalachian coal mine is better than other alternatives.

c) When playing the socializing-risk side of the game, there are many avenues.
- Executives/investors may extract money, with the risk falling on employees.

- Companies may cut corners on products, such that customers bear the risks. (Drugs, food, occasionally cars).

- Deals structured so that all the upside accrues to a few people, while potential downsides are spread around, if need by, via government, using political power and/or regulatory capture. Some actions seem like games of "chicken." Romney played well.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 01 Sep 2012 #permalink

FWIW about three years ago Eli pointed out that Obama was going to use EPA regulations for the purpose of dealing with climate change and he is doing so. You have a problem with that?

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 02 Sep 2012 #permalink


According to McCain, while a sponsor at first agreed and the declined (better than refused?) to participate in the crafting of the bill, something sponsors usually do. McCain talked about it in the campaign.

Obama replied that his memory was a little different. Besides, he had a climate bill of his own that was far superior to McCain's or Hilary Clinton's for that matter. He based this superiority the distribution of allowances. Obama stood foursquare with a 100% auction. He said cap and trade could not be effective at reducing emissions unless without it. His campaigned presented detailed and persuasive arguments for his position. And, guess what?
He was absolutely correct.

Obama's 100% auction position was hailed and and promoted on climate sites and all over. It was proof that he was a guy who knows what it takes. It helped him defeat both Clinton and McCain.

I say he was just fishing for votes. My proof is that, upon becoming President, he quickly reversed his position and went with giving away 85%. That pretty much put and end to the chances of a good bill and we ended up with Waxman/Markey.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 04 Sep 2012 #permalink