05 March 2013

Graph of the Day: Global Weather Disasters and GDP

Data from Munich Re and United Nations. The graph shows a ratio of global weather-related disaster losses to global GDP expressed in 2011 dollars and calculated at market exchange rates. For a peer reviewed analysis which goes into some depth on this subject, see this Munich Re-funded study:

E. Neumayer and F. Barthel. 2011. Normalizing Economic Loss from Natural Disasters: A Global Analysis, Global Environmental Change, 21:13-24 (here in PDF).

They conclude: "there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

139 comments:

David Appell said...

Interesting, but this requires us to keep getting richer to avoid relative harm. Some economists have been speculating lately that the era of ~3%/yr growth may be over -- that we may be entering an era where growth will not be what it was:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/02/is-slow-growth-americas-new-normal/

On the other hand, one might have expected this to show up in the graph already for the years since the financial crisis.... I wonder how the graph would look if China's growth slows from about 9% currently to 5% or lower....

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-1-David

If both (a) the frequency and/or intensity of extremes and (b) GDP are increasing, then avoiding "relative harm" would imply that (b) is increasing at a rate faster than (a).

A low global growth rate of, say, 3.5% annually would imply a doubling of GDP every 20 years. I am aware of no climate scenario that would suggest a doubling in extreme events that cause damage every 20 years (or remotely close).

We looked at this question rigorously in this paper:

http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/1/014003/fulltext/

One can vary assumptions etc. (Emanuel did here: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-11-00007.1?journalCode=wcas)

But the results are robust to a very wide range of scenarios.

Thanks!

Paul Price said...

Do you really think your argument here is a sound basis for decision-making? As David notes above and you agree, we have to get ever richer to avoid relative harm.

Do you have peer reviewed papers you could point me to that indicate how long the planet can sustain a doubling of GDP every 20 years? Should we really assume unending growth as a sound basis for mitigation/adaptation decision-making?

You state that you are aware of no climate scenario that would suggest a doubling of extreme events every 20 years. You may well have some criticism of Hansen et al. but you cannot be unaware of their paper "Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice" that shows exactly such a doubling in extreme events over the past 20 years.

I also worry about: first, all of the very real, increasingly repeated human suffering accepted in such economic loss analyses; and second, the ongoing cumulative CO2 emissions associated with such GDP doublings, quite probably leading to more suffering. Are you saying we should not worry because we can afford to adapt? Is that true for Africa?

In your co-authored paper, the focus on emergence timescales for a regional phenomenon, US tropical cyclones, which as you note may even weaken over time, is surely not a relevant scale for assessing global trends. Are you saying it is?

Neumayer et al. finish their paper with two graphs showing the very definite large increases in weather-related disasters and major disasters. They end by saying that though they may find not evidence for an increasing trend in normalized economic toll, the inability to control adaptation measures cannot rule out the actuality of an increasing trend now or in the future.

Indeed they say policy-makers should consider preventing future development of wealth in disaster prone areas. This gives me a quite different impression of the paper from the graph you pick out above.

I enjoy being challenged by your often contrarian views when reasonably balanced, but in my opinion this post is not up to scratch!

Paul

Brian said...

Roger,

My impression is that Munich Re has previously claimed evidence of a climate signal in loss data. Is my impression accurate and is this paper a step back from that?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-4-Brian

No actually. Munich Re has a long-time habit of saying one thing is press releases and another via the research that it supports, see, e.g.,

http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/11/mixed-messages-from-munich-re.html

Munich Re's latest sighting of a human-caused climate change signal in loss data was in short-term damage trends in US thunderstorm losses.

Doug said...

Paul Price wrote: "Do you really think your argument here is a sound basis for decision-making? As David notes above and you agree, we have to get ever richer to avoid relative harm."

I suppose the questions I would ask you are: what is your "sound basis for decision-making?;" has the possibility that no decisions be made until reliable, incontrovertible data suggesting a necessary course of action are in hand not occurred to you? And that decisions that have been made based on contemporary climate science-- which are themselves based on incomplete data--may turn out to be disastrously wasteful and needlessly punitive? Consider yourself lucky that we have become so rich that we can absorb these kind of policy mistakes. For how long, is another question.

As for getting "ever richer" that is a given whether you like it or not. Billions of people will settle for nothing less and you are not going to stop them. How this is achieved and when, remains to be seen, but it's going to happen and I for one welcome it, having enjoyed a comfortable and healthy life due to becoming, along with the vast majority of the population I reside with, "ever richer." Should people live frugally and abide by the maxim "waste not, want not?" Of course. That's how you become "ever richer."

I'm reminded of a cartoon I saw the other day: two prehistoric men dressed in animal skins are sitting in their cave and one says to the other: "Something is not right. our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet no one lives past thirty."

If it's one thing I've learned from studying and observing the alarmists and catastrophists, starting with Paul Ehrlich in the 1970s and other keepers of the Malthusian flame, is that they don't understand the present well enough to be able to even remotely predict the future with any accuracy.

You speak of human suffering but are apparently oblivious to the wide-spread human suffering that will result if we fail to grow "ever richer."

bernie said...

Doug:
Nicely said.

PantsOnFire said...

Roger

What is to stop someone from reaching this conclusion.

We see from the graph that our normalized weather-related disaster losses appear to be trending down. Mitigating against severe weather caused by climate change would reduce losses even further.

David Appell said...

Doug: Of course no one is suggesting that people not get richer.

But one's lot also improves if you avoid what makes you poorer. If all additional oil revenue in Texas is doing is paying for climate change induced drought damages, what's the point?

MattL said...

Firstly, if we don't get richer, then it's difficult to imagine how climate will be worse than the effect of being poorer (see Bjørn Lomborg). Perhaps people in this thread aren't suggesting we get poorer, but that's not to say that no one is.

And assuming that wealth generating activity is causing climate change and that the changed climate will be worse as far as weather is begging at least two questions.

And assuming that "all additional oil revenue in Texas is doing is paying for climate change induced drought damages" is obviously wrong, unless we're just paying those guys to burn the stuff right at the well.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-9-David Appell

I like questions that prompt a look at some numbers.

Texas oil production is more than 2 million barrels/day. That works out to about $800 billion per year at ~$100/barrel.
http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=pet&s=mcrfptx2&f=m

Cost of 2011 Texas drought, perhaps $9 billion:
http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=pet&s=mcrfptx2&f=m

Paul Price said...

Hi Doug,

As Roger has noted, science involves establishing and narrowing uncertainties. It is never going to provide the "reliable, incontrovertible data" you seem to be asking for. Science will give probabilities in forecasts that will help but it will not give certainty.

Roger Pielke has been clear in saying that scientists must be careful to delineate the uncertainties in their advice and not just give "one number". You are asking climate science for something that is unscientific. Why not just accept their strong consensus advice that we are headed for a very bad place, very fast? Do we not take that into account in our decision-making and act on the best evidence?

As for making assumptions without strong evidence, the assumption that getting "ever richer" is a given is one very huge assumption. As I requested of Roger I would like to see the evidence that continued doubling of GDP is even possible and if so for how long. Can you give me reliable, incontrovertible data suggesting that this is possible?

You are right that the poor should see development but could it be that there are limits to growth that mean we have to curb our own consumption to allow for their development?

All the best, Paul

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-12-Paul Price

Thanks, but you have me confused:

1. Science "is never going to provide the "reliable, incontrovertible data" you seem to be asking for"

2. "Can you give me reliable, incontrovertible data suggesting that this is possible?"

I think that you may have answered your own question;-) Thanks!

David Appell said...

Roger, but people who drill for oil aren't making the market price on every barrel, but a small fraction of it -- there are many middlemen along the way.

Mooloo said...

Do you have peer reviewed papers you could point me to that indicate how long the planet can sustain a doubling of GDP every 20 years? Should we really assume unending growth as a sound basis for mitigation/adaptation decision-making?

Growth is not consumption. The old Soviet Union was immensely wasteful of resources and an environmental disaster and yet had pitiful GDP. It's not the rich European countries with scarred landscapes. Being rich allows countries to improve the environment. (That's why the scare factor has to be something invisible, BTW. Otherwise suggesting France is a disaster area and North Korea a paradise just looks silly.)

So we could potentially double GDP with no increase at all in resource use. In fact, I suggest that we already are close to that, on a per capita basis. Happy now?

n.n said...

This graph suggests two possibilities. First, that GDP has increased at a rate exceeding valued losses. Second, that valued losses have not kept pace with GDP changes, implying that global weather-related disasters have caused less damage which are assessed as valued losses in quantity and/or quality.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-14-David Appell

Thanks, middlemen are part of the economy too ...

Christopher said...

To add to Mooloo's point, economic growth is a result of getting better at both getting and using resources.

Doug said...

Paul Price: thanks for responding. My response is that the uncertainties are not narrowing, but rather the opposite. They are broadening. The tidy little theory that as long as we were introducing CO2 into the atmosphere that warming would march along stride for stride with it has proved to be insufficient to explain the complexities of the earth's climate. Something else is causing the temperatures to level off. Which suggests we may be too hasty in prescribing solutions to a problem we don't yet fully understand and that could cause disruptions in the supply of cheap, plentiful energy sources that run our advanced economies.

Re growth and wealth creation, I think that plenty of people look at getting richer in the societal sense as the same thing as ruining the environment and consequently oppose growth in principle. Opposition to the Keystone project is coming from that kind of ideological faction, since it now appears that the environmental affects of the pipeline will be negligible. Furthermore, those who oppose all growth that doesn't meet their requirements for smart growth are a threat to those societies who are only now beginning to grow into advanced societies. Sometimes economic growth booms, at other times it crawls along or ceases. Sometimes it's filthy and sometimes it's relatively clean. Poorer societies need the freedom to boom and/or bust without green social and technical engineers dictating what is acceptable.

There are a lot of people outside the cliquish principals who have run the IPCC over the years who are no longer impressed with the science. In fact, many scientists who had alternative theories to AGW and were shut out of the debate over the years are now being heard. Other dissident voices are scientists or engineers in peripheral fields. I'm a student of history and philosophy and therefore not very conversant in the science, but I read the educated skeptics and they are increasingly dubious of the claims of the climate science elite.

At this point I think a wait and see attitude is the best course. If temperatures stay level or begin to decline (the horror!) over the next ten or fifteen years, we will know the AGW hypothesis was over-hyped and the uncertainties not adequately addressed or understood by the activists in climate science. We will be in a better position to address what should be done to meet the challenges of climate change, whatever they may be.

Albatross said...

Roger, can you please explain exactly what you are trying to say here in terms of addressing AGW and the impacts of AGW? You seem to be arguing (just in time for today's hearings in DC I might add; they were cancelled because of the storm) that we do not need to worry too much about the cost of extremes in the future. That is, so long as the economy continues to grow at at least 3.5% per annum, there is not reason for concern.

How does your figure tie in with a coordinated and global plan to reduce GHG emissions? You seem to be suggesting that (based on some adjustments to damage costs), extremes are not a reason for concern.

Can you please make an unambiguous and explicit statement (no obfuscation please or referrals to one of your paper of books) on the above questions.

Thanks!

PS: Your use of global GDP is appears flawed. For example, it fails to take into account the winners and loser. What about externalities such as improved building codes? More importantly, it essentially hides the huge socio-economic impacts of extreme events in developing countries with smaller economies. Not everyone is going to be affected equally by AGW and the associated increase in extremes.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-20-Albatross

Thanks for your comment ... a few replies:

1. Please none of this:

"You seem to be arguing ..."
"You seem to be suggesting ..."

2. You write: "Can you please make an unambiguous and explicit statement (no obfuscation please or referrals to one of your paper of books) on the above questions."

Sorry to disappoint, I wrote a book on climate change to clearly set forth my views on the topic all in one place. If you want to know what my views are, then just read it.

If, when you are informed, you'd like to discuss what I have argued (rather than speculating on what you think seems to be the case) then I will be happy to do so.

3. I have authored dozens of papers on extreme events and policies in response, and no place can you find me expressing a view that "there is not reason for concern."

If you have specific questions about what I have argued or the data used, ask them, but please do not offer uninformed speculation as to my views and ask me to rebut them. That is not worth either of our time.

Thanks!

Albatross said...

Roger, when I say "seem" I'm actually giving you the benefit of the doubt-- or would you rather I didn't do that? ;) What I noted is what you seem to be saying/suggesting by my reading of your post. All I am asking is for you to make clear and unequivocal statement to clarify.

Thanks!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-22-Albatross

The message of this post is hidden in plain sight and is as follows (to borrow from Neumayer /Barthel):

"There is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

Anything else is an invention of your apparently creative and fertile imagination;-)

If you'd like my views on other topics, I am happy to share. I've even written many of my views them down at times and put them online, so there is no need for "benefit of the doubt" or even any doubt at all.

Thanks!

Albatross said...

I specifically requested that you didn't refer us to one of your publications but to answer the questions here, on this thread. Your "concerns" about AGW are oddly absent from your post. All you state in your post is one finding, using a particular methodology, Neumayer and Barthel. There is no context and no caveats are provided. Rather this looks like a post that is conveniently framed in such a way so that someone like say, Inhofe or Morano or Watts, might use to argue that there is not a problem.

Fancy that, AGW denier Marc Morano has already trumpeted your post ;)

Regarding you saying "uninformed speculation" when referring to me, please save us all your argument from self-authority and whatever delusions of grandeur you might have.

Thanks!

Albatross said...

Just a follow up to my previous post about Roger's blog post lacking context.

People following this thread may not have read/perused Neumayer and Barthel-- Marc Morano probably did not. The quote that Roger chose to highlight does not relay some important/critical observations that the authors' made (not to mention al the caveats associated with their methodology). The conclusion that Roger chose got highlight is anything but unequivocal or clear cut as Roger might like his readers (or people reproducing his post) to think. The concluding paragraph of their paper:

"In sum, while we find no evidence for an increasing trend in
normalized economic damage from natural disasters, this provides
no reason for complacency. That inflation-adjusted non-normalized
disaster damage is significantly increasing should prompt
policy-makers into seriously considering measures to prevent the
further accumulation of wealth in disaster-prone areas. More
importantly for the debate on climate change, our results do not
undermine the argument of those who, based on the precautionary
principle, wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to
prevent or reduce a potentially increasing economic toll from
natural disasters in the future. We find no evidence for an
increasing trend in the normalized economic toll from natural
disasters based on historical data, but given our inability to control
for defensive mitigating measures we cannot rule out its existence,
let alone rule out the possibility of an increasing trend in the future."


Also, from their Conclusions,

"Much caution is required in correctly interpreting these
findings. What the results tell us is that, based on historical data,
there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the
normalized economic loss from natural disasters. More cannot be
inferred from the data. In particular, one cannot infer from our
analysis that there have not been more frequent and/or more
intensive weather-related natural disasters [18]. Our analysis necessarily
cannot take into account defensive mitigating measures
undertaken by rational individuals and governments and a serious attempt at trying to collect data on such measures should top the
priority list for future research. Such measures would translate into
lower economic damage compared to the damage in the absence of
defensive mitigation and if mitigating measures have increased
and strengthened over time then this increasing trend toward
protection could well mask an increasing trend in natural disaster
loss over time."


You might have not explicitly said there is no reason for concern, but your above blog post sure conveys that message, and that is why it is delightful fodder for deniers of AGW like Marc Morano.

Your actions continue to smack of insincerity Roger.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-25-Albatross

Thanks for your comments, but all you are doing is revealing how utterly uniformed you are. Come back when you've done your homework - meantime, please take the speculation on motives elsewhere ... Thanks!

Albatross said...

Roger @23,

You see, you are now engaging in the merry dance that I was hoping you would save us all from witnessing. I did not have to invoke a fertile or creative imagination to ask you to clarify something and to place your post in context.

Regardless, maybe I'm not being clear enough. So I'll ask what I hope is a clear question:

Keeping in mind the clear words of caution by Neumayer and Barthel about interpreting their results, do you agree with them that "More importantly for the debate on climate change, our results do not undermine the argument of those who, based on the precautionary principle, wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent or reduce a potentially increasing economic toll from natural disasters in the future."?

MattL said...

"Our results do not undermine the argument of those who say you should stop beating your wife."

Seriously, the great thing about the precautionary principle is that once you accept it, it cannot be undermined. Of course, their results don't undermine the arguments of those who do not wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, either.

Albatross, Roger is pretty open about what he believes. I'll bet your local library has his book (mine does). Are you suggesting that Roger should ignore data that does not support some agenda? Your not so subtle badgering of Roger sure seems to say so.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-27-Albatross

Q: "Do you agree ..."
A: Yes.

If you want more, see:

1. Pielke, Jr., R. A. (2007), Future economic damage from tropical cyclones: sensitivities to societal and climate changes. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 365 (1860) 2717-2729.
http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2517-2007.14.pdf

2. Crompton, RP, RA Pielke and KJ McAneney (2011), Emergence timescales for detection of anthropogenic climate change in US tropical cyclone loss data. Environ. Res. Lett. 6 (1)
http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2011.02.pdf

Scott said...

GDP does not have to increase.

Scott said...

Lets say GDP is constant. Then there is no increase in stuff over time that can get damaged by disasters and there is no greater wherewithal to repair that stuff after it is damaged. All that would mean is that you would not have to normalize for GDP if it remained constant over time. Just like you don't have to normalize for land area changing over time because it remains constant. GDP would not have to constantly grow to prevent an absolute increase in disaster losses!

Joshua said...

Roger -

I don't understand why you think this graph is particularly interesting, let alone a "graph of the day."

It doesn't seem to me to provide much information that is very useful.

First, how do these data control for the stimulative effect on GDP of rebuilding after damage from extreme weather? I doubt that the stimulative effect fully balances out losses due to damages, but wouldn't you think that if you want to look at the impact of extreme weather relative to GDP, it would be useful and important to separate out the stimulative effect of rebuilding?

I mean suppose that same money could be spent on other stimulative projects - without the negative impact of loss from extreme weather? Wouldn't, then, this graph become fairly meaningless? The losses from extreme weather are still losses irrespective of GDP growth - and the growth in GDP is still the growth in GDP irrespective of any losses from extreme weather (assuming that the stimulative effect of rebuilding is controlled). The fact that GDP might grow concurrent with extreme weather does not make the losses any less impactful. Do you suppose it would be some consolation for someone displaced by a storm to know that there was contemporaneous growth in GDP?


I recall from previous comments that you expect that extreme weather is likely to increase as the result of climate change. Do you assume that as that extreme weather increases, it will do so as a linear continuation of past extreme weather? That doesn't seem very logical to me. Seems to me that more extreme weather doesn't just mean more extreme weather of X magnitude (similar to past events of X magnitude). Wouldn't it also mean increases in events of X+1, or X+2, etc., magnitude? Wouldn't it be logical to assume that an X+3 event might so devastating that rebuilding that may have been possible with an X magnitude event would be infeasible?

And then you have to consider the impact of aggregating these data globally. Global GDP might very well include some countries with high levels of GDP growth that aren't particularly affected by extreme weather (perhaps because they have the resources to mitigate the effects), and it might also well reflect other countries with very little GDP growth and that suffer severe impact from extreme weather.

Would pointing to this graph of aggregated data somehow mitigate the impact in those poor countries that suffer more damage?

Given that you think that this chart is worthy of the label "graph of the day," I would imagine that you might think that it has some significant scientific or policy implications. Do you think you might spell out in more detail what those implications would be?

David Appell said...

The other thing I wish is that economists would put error bars on their data. Do we really know global losses due to weather disasters to what the graph suggests is the nearest 0.01% of global GDP or less -- about $7 billion? I'm dubious, especially given the wide range in the quality of governments around the world and the secrecy of many (especially China)....

John said...

Thank you, Matti and Doug.

Roger: Thank you for noting, again, Munich Re's publication priorities.

John R T

Albatross said...

Thanks Roger, now that was not so painful was it? ;)

Given that you agree with Neumayer and Barthel's findings (including caveats and limitations), it makes you sticking that "Graph of the day" on your blog along with the quote from their all the more questionable. Why? I am not certain that Neumayer or Barthel would approve of people selectively quoting their findings and publicly reproducing their methodology without openly recognizing the caveats and limitations of their work.

Had you done so, then that would have been altogether different story.

Joshua asks a good question @32. Look forward to reading your answer.

PS: Is the linear trend in the graph statistically significant at the 95% confidence level? It is good practise to provide that information when showing a trend line. Could you please show us the LOWESS smooth curve for these data?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-35-Albatross

Don't take it from me (or Neumayer/Barthel) -- Here is what the IPCC says:

"Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded (medium evidence, high agreement)."

If you have a problem with that conclusion it would be best to take it up in the peer reviewed literature with data and analysis, you are of course welcome to present your analyses here as well.

If you think that there is a mistake in the information presented here, have at it, it is an open forum. The key point being that you need to bring something more than rhetoric to the table.

However, if you wish to complain that you would have written my blog posts differently if you were me, well, get your own blog;-)

Thanks!

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-33-David Appell

The error bars in global GDP estimates are certainly much larger than the magnitude of weather disasters.

Think about that;-)

eric144 said...

Albatross


What does the phrase 'hide the decline' mean to you ?

What is the effect of clouds on forcing ?

Is cosmic ray cloud seeding an amplifier of solar output ?

What is the figure on your daily carbon calculator?

How does that compare with the global average ?

Do you agree with Andrew Simms of the Guardian that you have only 32 months to save the planet ? What are you planning to do about it ?

What is your greatest personal contribution to saving the planet from CLIMATE CHANGE ?

Do you agree with James Lovelock that democracy must be put on hold for the time being ?

James Hansen endorsed a book by Keith Farnish that called for " removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams". Do you agree with Hansen ?

If you have children, have you told them they are certain to die of CLIMATE CHANGE ?

Do you believe that childbirth should be restricted ?




Albatross said...

Roger @36,

1) You are misrepresenting me and making a strawman argument when you claim "...if you wish to complain that you would have written my blog posts differently if you were me,..." , because I never said that.

2) You citing the IPCC out of the blue is clearly just to set up your strawman argument that follows. This is about your misleading post and you selectively quoting Neumayer and Barthel. And if you are going to quote SREX, please provide some context (the discussion of limitations that you left out are equally as relevant and important):

"Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded (high agreement, medium evidence). These conclusions are subject to a number of limitations in studies to date. Vulnerability is a key factor in disaster losses, yet it is not well accounted for. Other limitations are: (i) data availability, as most data are available for standard economic sectors in developed countries; and (ii) type of hazards studied, as most studies focus on cyclones, where confidence in observed trends and attribution of changes to human influence is low. The second conclusion is subject to additional limitations: (iii) the processes used to adjust loss data over time, and (iv) record length."

3) I have brought more than "rhetoric" to the table. Besides, you have engaged in quite a bit of rhetoric yourself (e.g., "Come back when you've done your homework")...

4) The problems with your post have been made very clear by me and others. That you somehow fail to recognize that is rather odd. For example, you generated the graphic, so the ownness is on you to do it properly and provide the p-values for the slope of the trend line and for you to be upfront about any caveats and limitations of the method used to generate the graphic. The request about applying a LOWESS smooth was sincere, and asking about the statistical significance of the slope is entirely reasonable and relevant.

Mark Bahner said...

"Interesting, but this requires us to keep getting richer to avoid relative harm. Some economists have been speculating lately that the era of ~3%/yr growth may be over -- that we may be entering an era where growth will not be what it was:..."

They're wrong:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2004/10/3rd_thoughts_on.html

This is why:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2005/11/why_economic_gr.html

Mark

P.S. I'll expect my Nobel Prize in Economics in a decade or so (when I expect global per-capita GDP to be consistently expanding by more than 5% per year). They can give me the one they gave to Robert Lucas Jr. ;-)

http://longbets.org/194/

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-39-Albatross

Thanks, I think that we have exhausted this exchange. Here are my final thoughts ...

The bottom line from this post is the following: "there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

If you would like to contest or argue against that, please do so (you haven't, have you?). If you'd like to say that there is more to be said, then just say it -- books, papers, reports and assessments have been devoted to this topic, so there is of course more that could be said than you'll find in a 90 word blog posting.

Don't complain, just say what you want said -- that is why there are comments here.

If the past 15 years is any indication I will probably revisit this topic again in short and long blog posts, and in academic papers, (but probably not in another book;-).

Thanks!

Albatross said...

Hi Roger,

Funny how the exchange again suddenly becomes "exhausted" once the heat gets too hot. I have contested the argument, but whatever. It is a pity that you also avoided Joshua's legitimate question @32.

Anyhow, as always it has been a pleasure :)

Thanks!

eric144 said...

It's interesting that corporate journalists complain about a few dollars tossed out to fringe loonies like the Heritage Foundation, but never mention insurance industry funded climate scientists (Munich re).

Nor do they mention that Tony Blair is paid literally millions of dollars a year to sell global warming for the banking and insurance industries.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23838369-tony-blair-to-earn-millions-as-climate-change-adviser.do

In a 2007, a Guardian / Observer poll, 6% thought Blair was trustworthy.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1617511,00.html


Mike said...

Albatross (& Joshua) -- it's rather tiresome the way you always insist on reading things into Roger's posts that aren't there. Roger was exactly on target when he said that your complaint is that you would write the posts differently if you were he...

Mark Bahner said...

"Why not just accept their strong consensus advice that we are headed for a very bad place, very fast?"

Somehow this "strong consensus" didn't make it into the IPCC reports.

http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/sres/emission/index.php?idp=100

Per Table 4-6 from that document, world per-capita income in 1990 was between $3,700-4,000. For the four scenarios, the world per-capita income in 2050 is projected to range from $7,200 (for scenario A2) to $20,800 (for scenario A1). And world per-capita income in 2100 is projected to range from $16,100 (for Scenario A2) to $74,900 (for Scenario A1).

Using a midpoint GDP per capita in 1990 of $3850, the GDP per capita in 2050 (adjusted to 1990 dollars) is expected to be 1.9 to 5.4 times higher. And the values for 2100 are 4.2 to 19.4 times higher than 1990 (again, adjusted to 1990 dollars).

If the per-capita GDPs of 2050 and 2100 represent a "very bad place," a whole of people want to get to that "very bad place" as quickly as possible.

Paul Price said...

-13- Roger

Sorry to confuse you but if you had read Doug's post, (in your point 1.), he was asking for the "reliable, incontrovertible data", and (in your point 2.) I was asking if he could assure me of endless future growth by the same, to my mind absurd, standard.

Do you Roger not agree that science is "never going to provide the "reliable, incontrovertible data""?

Disappointed that you have not answered my points in 3. at all. They seem at least relevant to your post. Certainly, they were meant seriously though you have chosen not to answer them.


-19- Doug: Nice to have a discussion.

You say uncertainties are broadening with respect to the current state of warming. My point was different though. You seemed in -6- to be asking for incontrovertible proof and I was simply noting in response that that is not the nature of science. Richard Feynman's 1964 lecture on scientific method (youtube) is very good on this. Science is not about absolute proof it is about getting ever closer to answers.

As to the current state of warming, the uncertainty level is the same as always for climate: we have to look over a thirty year timescale and use models to help us predict the overall trends. As RP points out today, CO2 is rising inexorably, and all the paleo-data suggests that the equilibrium temperature will be bad for us, whatever pauses occur along the way. Maybe we should consider some action.

On the growth issue, can we stay away from the ideologies for a moment and get back to the question I wanted reassurance for. Is the assumption that getting "ever richer" is possible a viable one? Personally, it sounds great to me, but, as I requested of Roger also, I would like to see actual evidence that continued doubling of GDP is even possible and if so for how long? Roger seems to want numbers, I would be delighted to see them for this. So far I ask economists and they don't reassure me.

I hear your concern for the transmission of the science and IPCC administration but I worry about your translation of that concern to the science. As one student to another can I encourage you to put the talk about the science to one side and instead actually get into the science.

There are some superb lectures and presentations out there from climate scientists from all over the world easily available online, from the most basic discussions of CO2 to really arcane stuff. The AGU and EGU have annual meetings with all the lectures to see. How can anyone comment on the state of the science without seriously engaging with it?

The wait and see attitude is often the best course in life but the trouble is, especially when there is inertia in a system pushing things in a bad direction, it could be a very bad mindset.

Say we are on a speeding steam train shovelling fuel into the boiler and enjoying the speed. Some geeky type is poking his head out and tells us there is no track not too far ahead. Do we keep shovelling?


MattL said...

-32- Joshua wrote:

First, how do these data control for the stimulative effect on GDP of rebuilding after damage from extreme weather?

The Broken Window Fallacy rides again!

ChemDad said...

Roger, you said above:
‎"If it's one thing I've learned from studying and observing the alarmists and catastrophists, starting with Paul Ehrlich in the 1970s and other keepers of the Malthusian flame, is that they don't understand the present well enough to be able to even remotely predict the future with any accuracy."

Thank you for that. I have been sharing it far and wide, with attribution.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-48-ChemDad

Thanks, but that comment came from Doug.

eric144 said...

Here is the top comment on a BBC page about processed meat*. There seems to be a major backlash against disaster propaganda in general, not just weather.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21682779


"The best way to control people is to frighten and demoralise them on a daily basis, instilling feelings of hopelessness and pessimism. An educated, confident nation is harder to govern."

Tony Benn (serious British left wing politician, there is no American equivalent).

The more I speak to people about their lives at work, the more I come to believe that is the ongoing agenda. Engineered misery. You know who I blame !!!


* I am not criticising the scientists. I have been a vegan for 20 odd years. The right to eat unhealthy food is the British 'right to bear arms'. Tee hee.

Mark Bahner said...

"Personally, it sounds great to me, but, as I requested of Roger also, I would like to see actual evidence that continued doubling of GDP is even possible and if so for how long? Roger seems to want numbers, I would be delighted to see them for this. So far I ask economists and they don't reassure me."

The currently global per-capita GDP is $11,600. Not only is a global per-capita GDP in excess of $500,000 (in year 2012 dollars) possible, it's likely it will be achieved by the end of this century.

The evidence of this is that (free) human brains are what create economic growth, and the number of human brain equivalents is likely to explode very soon (surpassing 1 billion per year added circa 2025 and 1 TRILLION added per year circa 2033). My previous comments contained links to where this information can be found on my blog.

Joshua said...

MattL -

===]]] The Broken Window Fallacy rides again! [[[===


Please explain. I don't understand your point.

The phenomena as described here:

http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2013/jan/29/disaster-inc-some-companies-win-big-post-sandy/

are not a fallacy. Please note that I said:

===]]] I doubt that the stimulative effect fully balances out losses due to damages,... [[[===

I am not suggesting that the more extreme weather, the better it is for GDP. I am suggesting that if you are comparing GDP to losses from extreme weather, then it makes sense to also consider the stimulative effects from rebuilding related to extreme weather (to get a full picture of the losses in context).

Do you disagree with that point?

Do you think that there is no reason to consider the opportunity cost of the revenues focused on the rebuilding from damages when evaluating GDP growth relative to losses from damages?

MattL said...

-52- Joshua,

I'm talking about the Parable of the Broken Window.

It's definitely true that people whose business is to build / rebuild stuff that breaks in storms will have business after storms. But they money they are paid must come from somewhere. If they weren't getting paid to rebuild this stuff, the money so used would be doing other things, which it cannot now, since it is going to rebuild.

The stimulus you see is balanced by anti-stimulus that you don't see. Of course, this isn't to say that the stuff should be rebuilt, but after we've paid for stuff to be rebuilt, the stuff owners (who may or may not be the people doing the paying) got their stuff back, but we are out the money we paid to the builders. Our loss is their gain.

A potential loophole is that what gets rebuilt is better than what was there before. In fact, you might have wanted to demolish what was there, but couldn't for some reason (or just hadn't gotten around to it yet). Still, I think in the case of storm damage, this is probably does not outweigh the overall damage costs.

Joshua said...

MattL -

==]] But they money they are paid must come from somewhere. [[==

Not sure how that relates to my point w/r/t calculating GDP.

==]] The stimulus you see is balanced by anti-stimulus that you don't see. [[==

Could you provide some more information on how you define the money paid, to a contractor for example, as being "anti-stimulus" - particularly with reference to calculating GDP?

Is it your argument that money such as that paid to a contractor has any affect w/r/t GDP other than a positive one?

bernie said...

Roger:
You deserve another Job Award, courtesy of the aptly named Albatross.
On another topic, what did you think of Nani's red card?

Doug said...

Re MattL's "parable of the broken window:"

Perhaps it will help Joshua to think of it this way: damage from catastrophic weather events destroys existing value or wealth. When you rebuild or repair, you are not creating new wealth or value. You are merely replacing that which has been lost. Therefore there is a net loss of value in society in that the new wealth or value that could have been created somewhere else is not created. Presumably, if there had not been a catastrophic event, more new houses would be built or rennovated, creating more wealth in society. Or the money could have been invested in something else of value, which contributes to economic growth.

I just looked up MattL's parable of the broken window and found that it is also considered a logical fallacy as postulated by Bastiat.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-55-Bernie

Harsh, and curious:

http://leastthing.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-social-media-may-say.html

Joshua said...

===]]] Perhaps it will help Joshua to think of it this way: damage from catastrophic weather events destroys existing value or wealth. When you rebuild or repair, you are not creating new wealth or value. You are merely replacing that which has been lost. Therefore there is a net loss of value in society in that the new wealth or value that could have been created somewhere else is not created. [[[===

Except I never spoke about value to society. I didn't mention creating new wealth. I am not talking about net value to society. GDP ≠ value to society. GDP ≠ new wealth. The economic activity from rebuilding is reflected in GDP. The losses from extreme weather are not.

Seems to me that in a general sense, you are both supporting my larger argument as to the lack of value of Roger's comparison of losses to GDP (because it doesn't reflect the loss of wealth you are referring to) but regardless, from what I can tell you are discussing different phenomena than what I was discussing in my post - the net impact on GDP.

eric144 said...

My view of the Nani sending off is similar to my view of this thread. Playing it back from 4 different angles in slow motion isn't the point. Unless, like many football discussion participants, you are a fan(atic).

Nani saw the guy at the very last moment, but when his boot hit his chest, he was looking right at him. The referee has to decide on one mental image. Foot in chest. Right or wrong.

Referee explains his decision on Nani.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEi7m4B-1r4

Doug said...

Joshua: why don't you provide a graph that is meaningful to you and reflects your thoughts on this issue? Maybe then we could figure out what you are objecting to. Roger has provided a graph that tells part of the story. A graph typically only has two axes and is therefore limited in what it can convey.

So show us a graph. Show us several graphs, if it would help illustrate your point, whatever that may be.

Mark Bahner said...

"What is to stop someone from reaching this conclusion.

We see from the graph that our normalized weather-related disaster losses appear to be trending down. Mitigating against severe weather caused by climate change would reduce losses even further."

The problem is that reducing CO2 emissions does almost nothing to reduce severe weather events.

bernie said...

Joshua: I second Doug's request. It feels like you are tossing spitballs. What
is your alternative?

Joshua said...

Doug and bernie -

===]]] What is your alternative? [[[===

I don't understand. Alternative way to do what?

I'm saying I think that the graph is pointless (on top of not factoring in important aspects of the comparison it is making). Why would I offer an alternative way to do something that has no point? As far as I'm concerned, you might as well ask me for an alternative way to describe the sound of one hand clapping or an alternative answer for whether it is the flag or the wind that moves.

I have a counter-request. How about if one of you explains to me the significant scientific or policy implications of graphing trends in weather-related disaster losses against GDP?

The lack of control for a stimulative effect of rebuilding on GDP is one aspect that seems problematic about the graph - but that's on top of the more basic question of why the comparison would be informative to begin with.

Seems to me that MattL's "anti-stimulus" is what is important about weather-related disaster losses, and those loses have no direct and meaningful relationship to GDP.

Mark Bahner said...

"First, how do these data control for the stimulative effect on GDP of rebuilding after damage from extreme weather? I doubt that the stimulative effect fully balances out losses due to damages, but wouldn't you think that if you want to look at the impact of extreme weather relative to GDP, it would be useful and important to separate out the stimulative effect of rebuilding?"

The "stimulative effect of rebuilding" is a trivial percentage of the total GDP. The figure shows the losses are only about 0.25% to 0.20% of GDP. So assume that the "stimulation effect of rebuilding" adds half of that back to GDP.

Let's say the world GDP is $70 trillion. The damages of 0.25% represents $175 billion. Or $0.175 trillion. So let's say the rebuilding adds half of that back...the world GDP is still just $70.085 trillion. So the damages would still be $175 billion divided by $70.085 trillion...rather than divided by $70.000 trillion.

Or are you even suggesting that the damage of the storms should be discounted by the amount spent on rebuilding? So if a storm costs $50 billion, and half of the damaged properties are rebuilt in the same year, the storm should only be counted as a $25 billion storm?

Doug said...

Joshua: the graph is not "pointless." The graph suggests that "there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

Please produce a graph that contradicts that statement if you disagree. Can you produce a graph that shows that economic loss from natural disasters has actually been increasing since 1990? If not, what is your point?

Temperatures have gone up since 1990. CO2 levels have gone up since 1990. Losses due to weather-related disasters have gone down vis a vis GDP. Claims are being made that weather-related disasters due to global warming are increasing. The graph, along with a lot of other graphs I'm sure Roger could produce if he chose to do so, suggests that the claims of an increase in extreme weather events because of "climate change" are without statistical foundation. If you think extreme weather events and the damages they cause are increasing, please show us a graph or some statistical evidence that proves that.

Until you can do that, you aren't getting anywhere. You are arguing without a point of view.

eric144 said...

What we really need is a slow motion version of the graph, it's too fast for me.

A slow motion video of one hand clapping and one of a flag blowing in the wind would be useful too. Otherwise this could go on for ever.

Was Arbeloa insured against chest injuries ? The referee would have surely taken that into account before he gave the red card.

David Appell said...

But what's true for the world isn't necessarily true for everyone in it. Between 1990 and 2011, world GDP increased by 218% according to World Bank data, but US GDP only increased 160%. I suspect African GDP increased much less.... But the world isn't paying our damage costs -- we are, and assuming our disaster costs are proportional to the world's, we will find them more onerous than the world in general. Africans could be much more stressed about paying for disaster costs than the world is, or we are....

So I don't find this graph necessarily comforting. Richer countries, who have more resilient infrastructure to begin with, may have better (i.e faster growing) economies than poorer countries with more susceptible infrastructure and economies that lag the global average.

Unless there is some way for the cost of disasters to be spread across the world, and especially across those who are causing extreme weather via climate change via fossil fuel use, a lot of people will suffer.

David Appell said...

Actually Sub-Saharan Africa's GDP has increased by 321% from 1990 to 2011. (It really took off around 2002.)

MattL said...

-54- Joshua:

Could you provide some more information on how you define the money paid, to a contractor for example, as being "anti-stimulus" - particularly with reference to calculating GDP?

Sure. You're interested in the stimulative effect of paying someone to do something. However, the money used to pay them cannot be used for whatever you would have planned to do if hadn't had to pay them.

So from the contractor's perspective, there is a positive. But maybe you had planned to buy a new car, and that money went to pay for construction, so the car dealer and manufacturer are worse off than they would have been had you not needed to hire a contractor.

With respect to the Parable of the Broken Window, the contractor is the seen and the car dealer and manufacturer are the unseen. So what's the net effect? It depends, of course, but it will almost certainly be less than the amount spent on the contractor.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-67-David Appell

The linked paper conducts its analysis at the regional level, which will address directly some of your questions/concerns. Thx.

eric144 said...

David Appell

"a lot of people will suffer."

So you say, but if they have good insurance, they won't suffer financially.

Do you have CLIMATE CHANGE insurance yourself ?

If not, Tony Blair recommends his business partners Zurich Insurance and J P Morgan Chase. The fact that he is one of the most despised human beings in history is of no consequence in business.

Joshua said...

===]]] Or are you even suggesting that the damage of the storms should be discounted by the amount spent on rebuilding? So if a storm costs $50 billion, and half of the damaged properties are rebuilt in the same year, the storm should only be counted as a $25 billion storm? [[[===


First, I don't really buy your configuration that estimates money spent on rebuilding as some fixed proportion (1/2) of the cost of the damages. Do you have some kind of evidence that explains that ratio?

Second, I'm not suggesting any simplistic accounting - such as discounting the cost of storms by the amount spent on rebuilding. My point is that a simplistic accounting is problematic. I’m saying that the effect of disasters on GDP should not be assumed. In other words - for the graph to be meaningful, there needs to be some accounting for the stimulative effect of disaster rebuilding.

Looking briefly around the Interwebs, I've read analysis that runs both ways w/r/t the effect of disasters on GDP. I don't know what a meta-analysis might show (let me know if you’ve seen one). My guess is that the effect of disasters on GDP is probably variable – but to the extent there might be a pattern – it would be that with higher magnitude events, the impact on GDP is likely to be more negative in balance.

Counterfactuals are tricky and there is a lot of uncertainty here. But that uncertainty gets to the point I'm making - this graph seems to me to be basically meaningless because it basically doesn't touch on the uncertainties.


I think that we're mostly all in agreement that major disasters would likely cause more hardship than we would experience otherwise – whether that hardship be expressed by an impact on GDP or by other measures such as lives lost or people displaced. So that seems to me to be the bottom line – and as Roger predicts more extreme weather as a result of climate change, I am still left scratching my head as to what Roger thinks are the significant implications of this graph – policy-wise or scientifically.


===]]] Joshua: the graph is not "pointless." The graph suggests that "there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters." [[[===

I notice that to explain the meaning of the graph, you eliminate an explicit reference to GDP (a major aspect of the graph). My point was that I don't understand the reason why Roger is using GDP as a comparative reference. He has shown other graphs that look at the relationship between weather extremes and normalized losses (an absolute measure controlled for inflation). Now I've got a few questions as to his analyses there (specifically, I'm not completely convinced about his methodology for accounting for changes over time in building technologies and weather forecasting - and I am still wondering whether his analysis would be more robust if he eliminated outliers) - but I’m not confused about the point of such graphs. I am confused about this graph because it uses GDP as a point of reference – because GDP is such a relative measure and can be affected by the very phenomenon he is comparing to.


Joshua said...

===]]] But maybe you had planned to buy a new car, and that money went to pay for construction, so the car dealer and manufacturer are worse off than they would have been had you not needed to hire a contractor. [[[===

Maybe. And maybe it was going to sit in the bank. Or spent on drugs. Or maybe spending that money on rebuilding would generate more economic stimulus relative to spending the money on a new car. So my point is that you really don’t know if it would be “anti-stimulus” or not.

===]]] With respect to the Parable of the Broken Window, the contractor is the seen and the car dealer and manufacturer are the unseen. So what's the net effect? It depends, of course, but it will almost certainly be less than the amount spent on the contractor. [[[===

Counterfactuals are difficult. I guess that’s why in my brief Interwebs search, I have seen differing opinions about the impact of disasters on short-term and long-term GDP growth. To repeat for the last time, my guess, as an Internet troll, is that disasters have a stimulative effect on GDP but that effect is not withstanding a negative impact on wealth. That is why I think the GDP metric is pretty useless. Certainly, IMO, if you’re going to use the GDP metric, it should be done in the context of controlling for a possible stimulative effect as well as the impact on wealth as well as consideration of opportunity cost (as reflected in the “broken windows fallacy"). And add onto that the weakness of aggregating GDP globally, and the fact that GDP itself aggregates data in a way that obscures inequalities.

Anyway, to repeat (hopefully for the last time!) – what we do know is that many people are negatively impacted by extreme weather events. To the extent that those events increase in frequency (as Roger predicts), we can expect more people to be negatively affected. To the extent that those events might increase in magnitude (as I assume Roger predicts), we could expect the magnitude of those negative impacts to grow non-linearly. I assume that we’re all in agreement with all of that. Maybe that's a good note to end on.

Mark Bahner said...

"So I don't find this graph necessarily comforting. Richer countries, who have more resilient infrastructure to begin with, may have better (i.e faster growing) economies than poorer countries with more susceptible infrastructure and economies that lag the global average."

The most significant story in the post-1970s time frame has been the rise of China and India. Those two countries have a massive population...currently approximately 2.6 billion, approximately 37 percent of the world's approximately 7 billion people.

Their economic growth rate since the 1970s has been spectacular...much faster than the world's growth rate.

Mark Bahner said...

"So my point is that you really don’t know if it would be 'anti-stimulus' or not."

One ought to be able to get a clue by the fact that people generally don't throw block parties after the homes on their block have been destroyed by water or wind.

Mark Bahner said...

"In other words - for the graph to be meaningful, there needs to be some accounting for the stimulative effect of disaster rebuilding."

No, as I pointed out in comment #64, since the cost of disasters is a smaller fraction of the size of the overall economy (between 0.25 and 0.20 percent, from the graph) it doesn't matter whether there is a "stimulative" effect from the disaster. The denominator (the size of the total global economy) won't change enough to alter the look of the curve.

As I pointed out in #64, disasters are about $175 billion a year in a $70 trillion global economy. So the only way that the curve would look different is if the $175 billion in disasters somehow stimulated tens of trillion of dollars in economic growth. Instead, it is virtually impossible to argue that the $175 billion in disasters even stimulates and off-setting $175 billion in economic growth. The key is that the denominator (the global GDP) is so much larger than the cost of the disasters. That's why the graph won't change to any discernible amount, even if there is some sort of "stimulative" effect of disasters.

bernie said...

Joshua:.
I do not understand your point at all. If the slope of the graph was clearly positive, would you still be complaining about the graph and the use of GDP? It would then show that climate change-induced disasters was taking an increasing toll. Sheesh.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
"The most significant story in the post-1970s time frame has been the rise of China and India. Those two countries have a massive population...currently approximately 2.6 billion, approximately 37 percent of the world's approximately 7 billion people.

Their economic growth rate since the 1970s has been spectacular...much faster than the world's growth rate."
----------------
But there is still the same problem: what's true for the entire group isn't necessarily true for everyone in it, and unless the entire group is paying these damage costs instead of individuals (or cities, or states), some will have a burden rising faster than their income. And not just a burden -- some may be wiped out completely or set back for a lifetime.

Mark said...

77. bernie said...
Joshua:.
I do not understand your point at all.


Well of course not. Joshua is a troll. His only interest is to confuse and obfuscate Roger's point.

The main thrust of the original post was to show that disasters are less disastrous than they used to be. Joshua knows full well that he can't argue that point directly, because 1) Roger knows far more about it than he does, and 2) all the hard evidence is on Roger's side.

He has no point in this argument. He is merely here to argue.

Mark said...

78. David Appell said...

But there is still the same problem: what's true for the entire group isn't necessarily true for everyone in it, and unless the entire group is paying these damage costs instead of individuals (or cities, or states), some will have a burden rising faster than their income.


Well, some might. There's a fair bit of handwaving posing as argument here.

There is no economic system that is perfect, so there will always be winners and losers.

Do you have a system that provides more winners than the current one? If so, persuade us of its merits. Telling us the obvious about the current system is pointless.

On the whole a rise in GDP will provide more winners than losers. And even the losers will be better off than they were. How is that worse than the alternative of no growth?

David Appell said...

There is no economic system that is perfect, so there will always be winners and losers.

Yes, there will -- and now there is a additional way to lose, one that, if projections come true, could become very significant.

Shouldn't those causing a problem at least be made to pay for the loses of the losers, maybe via a carbon tax?

Mark Bahner said...

"But there is still the same problem: what's true for the entire group isn't necessarily true for everyone in it, and unless the entire group is paying these damage costs instead of individuals (or cities, or states), some will have a burden rising faster than their income."

Yes, that's obviously true. The question is, what to do about it? It seems to me the absolute last thing to do is to say, "I'm going to start driving a car that gets twice as many miles per gallon."

Rather, it makes much more sense to have national, or even international, compensation funds for natural disasters. However, it would also make sense that people who live in areas most prone to disaster would have to pay in the form of insurance, in order to avoid the problem of moral hazard, wherein people simply build in areas prone to disasters, because they know they'll be compensated for their losses.

I also think that a tremendous amount can be done to reduce the chance of disasters through engineering. (Possibly because I'm an engineer. ;-))

One area that I think is especially promising for reducing disaster damage is through development of a portable system to prevent storm surge damage. I came up with this concept after I reviewed the damage from Katrina. I realized that no practical amount of wetlands would protect New Orleans. And I also realized that spending billions to protect New Orleans would do nothing for New York, Miami, Tampa, or any of the other cities on both coasts.

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2008/01/the-us-should-b.html

I've become convinced that it ought to be possible to use the materials that are abundantly available to every coastal city--seawater and air--to protect cities from storm surge. Specifically, if tubes with large diameters are filled with water, and then large tubes filled with air are placed inside the water-filled tubes, the air-filled tubes will float and form a sort of dam. The water-filled tubes will get pushed towards shore, but they will move slowly because they're so massive.

This is just a very preliminary conceptual design. The most important aspects are that it is extremely portable, and can be deployed to protect any city on a few days' notice. This design is something that can be used anywhere in the world, and the deployment can be tailored specifically for the storm track and strength of a storm as it approaches land.

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2012/11/a-potential-portable-storm-surge-barrier-design.html

A major problem is that the conversation about protecting against storm surge needs to get moved (no pun intended) from a discussion of fixed barriers to the idea of a portable barrier system (even if it's completely unlike my conceptual design).

Mark Bahner said...

"Yes, there will -- and now there is a additional way to lose, one that, if projections come true, could become very significant."

The figure shows global weather-related damages decreasing as a proportion of GDP.

"Shouldn't those causing a problem at least be made to pay for the loses of the losers, maybe via a carbon tax?"

The conclusion at the bottom of the post is, "there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

So you want people who emit carbon dioxide to pay for the natural disasters, even though there is so far no evidence that climate change has increased normalized economic loss from natural disasters? Don't you see how that's not going to be popular?

David Appell said...

By what possible logic would you *not* want a car that gets twice the current miles per gallon???

There is, of course, not an iota of a discussion of a "compensation funds for natural disasters." The funds come from the national level, if they come at all, even though the US has contributed 28% of the extra CO2 in today's atmosphere (China: only 10%).

Today, polluters spread carbon pollution for free. The US has gotten rich by trashing the atmosphere.

That looks good if, like me or you, we are big carbon polluters who don't have to pay for our pollution.

But try to imagine how it might feel if you're an African small farmer suffering a drought that may be caused, or partly caused, by carbon emissions.

What might you think then?

David Appell said...

Come on, Mark: the graph is for the globe as a whole.

That is far different from the effect on individuals.

Unless the global whole is paying for the losses of all individuals, then some individuals are being impacted, and even wiped out completely.

In fact, since the US's GDP is rising slower than the world average over the last 21 years, we are paying a larger share. People in New Orleans or New Jersey or Nebraska are paying a larger share still.

Again: if you were a small farmer in Africa, suffering from a drought, and you saw the US and China emitting all these climate-changing gases... what would you think? They're not coming to your rescue. No one is.....

Doug said...

David Appel: the idea that "carbon polluters" as you call them, which means both you and I as well as every human being that breathes, need to be punished through taxes for their so-called "pollution" based on the findings of contemporary climate science is dubious. It pre-supposes that those who are polluting on an industrial level are not providing enormously valuable services and goods that contribute to the high standard of living throughout the world, which is unprecedented in human history. More people are living healthy and longer lives than ever before. Your blame-gaming doesn't adequately weigh the good so-called carbon polluters do vis a vis the purported damage they do, which has never been adequately quantified.


Oil companies and other energy providers heat hundreds of millions of homes and provide the fuel that powers hundreds of millions of vehicles that transport people in advanced economies. In other words, they provide the lifeblood of those economies. You want to punish them and tax them for their products' emissions when it's not clear the emissions their products generate are having a significantly negative affect at all on quality of life. You need to weigh the good fairly vs the bad. If it's one thing the green-minded neglect to do, it is weight the good energy producers do versus the bad they do.

You mention the African farmer suffering a drought that " may be caused, or partly caused, by carbon emissions."

Forgive me if I'm not persuaded. There is no indication that my driving a car in California or New York or Beijing has any effect at all on drought conditions in Africa. None. Unless you have some sources I'm not familiar with, that is is how things now stand. There is no conclusive proof that emissions are influencing climate in any meaningful way and particularly in a negative way. It's just not there. You can infer that industrial emissions are having a negative impact on a global scale, but you can't prove it.


Until you can, I'm going to drive my F-150 and heat my home with propane and live comfortably and well. And I'm hoping the farmer in Africa eventually achieves the same level of comfort and wealth I have achieved as an American and the beneficiary of a dynamic economic heritage.

MattL said...

Mark,

The villainous role of carbon dioxide is an article of faith, no matter what's actually happening.

I would imagine that this graph over represents damage in richer places, and that poorer places have higher loss of life and lower economic losses (the archetype being, say, Bangladesh). We could certainly keep those people poor, but I imagine they'd rather have to deal with the economic losses than the human losses.

Mark said...

By what possible logic would you *not* want a car that gets twice the current miles per gallon???

When that car costs $50,000 more, in order to save $20,000. Also the same reason I have not double-glazed my house - I don't have $20,000 to do it with.

Come on, Mark: the graph is for the globe as a whole. That is far different from the effect on individuals.

You're handwaving again. You have no evidence that individuals will be worse off. You can't say "it's obvious" because it isn't obvious.

The poor people in the US today are better off than the poor people of 100 years ago. Healthier (even with the recent obesity), better educated, bigger security net in hard times. That's what economic growth does - even when it is unevenly spread.

Global growth will do the same. That's why countries chase it so badly.

Meanwhile countries that overtly pursue a policy aimed at social equality over economic growth – say Cuba – just remain poor (and not particularly equal either, come to that).

Mark Bahner said...

David, you write:

Come on, Mark: the graph is for the globe as a whole.

"That is far different from the effect on individuals.

Unless the global whole is paying for the losses of all individuals, then some individuals are being impacted, and even wiped out completely."

What in the world gives you the impression I think any differently? You've already made that point, time and time again. And in comment #81, I replied, "Yes, that's obviously true."

"In fact, since the US's GDP is rising slower than the world average over the last 21 years, we are paying a larger share. People in New Orleans or New Jersey or Nebraska are paying a larger share still."

Yes, yes, yes. Obviously. You keep repeating this as though there is some disagreement. But there isn't. I said it was "obviously true."

But as I noted in comment #81, "The question is, what to do about it?"

Your suggestion seems to be to have a carbon tax. Good luck with that. Especially since "there is no evidence so far that climate change has increased the normalized economic loss from natural disasters."

P.S. Your own blog contains the quite remarkable statement, "It sure looks like we ought to have been heading into another glacial period, doesn't it?"

So why aren't you proposing massive *rewards* for CO2 emissions?

P.P.S. Global warming is a depressingly religious matter. But I digress. :-(

bernie said...

David:
If your unit of analysis is individual outcomes then you will need a completely different data set - one that I am not sure exists. In addition attributing the effects of drought on a small farmer somewhere in Africa to actions of the US and China is going to be rather difficult - given all the intervening variables not to mention net effects of technical and other forms of aid.
Go ahead and construct your own chart. What you are currently saying makes little sense because you repeatedly are mixing apples and oranges and then complaining because the graph measures bananas.
As I said before, the graph says there is no apparent increase in the relative losses in line with climate change. If the graph had the opposite slope it would indicate that there was an apparent increase in losses with climate change. It is a correlational argument not a causal one and is weak evidence regardless. It does say a lot, but it does say that the impacts of climate change are not as obvious as some may argue. That is all, IMHO.

David Appell said...

Doug:
So anyone has the right to modify and pollute a global environment, as long as they individually get something out of the product causing the pollution?

By that logic, you wouldn't mind if your neighbor disposed of his waste by dumping it into your yard. It's much cheaper for him to do so, and he's gotten a lot of good out of the products whose waste he's disposing of.

By your logic, why would we ever make any polluter clean up their pollution? Someone is benefiting from their product....

David Appell said...

IPCC 4AR WG1 FAQ3.3:
"More intense and longer droughts have been observed over wider areas since the 1970s, particularly in the tropics and subtropics. Increased drying linked with higher temperatures and decreased precipitation has contributed to changes in drought. Changes in sea surface temperatures, wind patterns and decreased snowpack and snow cover have also been linked to droughts."
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/faq-3-3.html

David Appell said...

bernie wrote: "As I said before, the graph says there is no apparent increase in the relative losses in line with climate change."

*Globally*. But unless the globe is paying for everyone's and anyone's damages to to extreme weather, some people are paying more than others, usually much more.

Are consumers of coal in China paying for the destroyed home of a resident of Staten Island (to the extent that global warming contributed to Hurricane Sandy's strength)?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-92-David Appell

You'll want to have a look at IPCC SREX and IPCC AR5 SOD for the latest on drought -- here is a hint of what you'll find:

http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/11/little-change-in-drought-over-60-years.html

Thanks!

David Appell said...

Regardless of what's going on with droughts -- and there seems to be some disagreement -- the principle remains that same, and that's what we're discussing here: to the extent that climate change causes damages, those damages aren't being paid for by the world as a whole, but by individuals who aren't getting compensated by the entire globe.

And it seems to me that the poorest people, least able to handle climate damages, are the ones least likely to get compensation from anyone -- especially those causing their problems.

Climate change creates a whole new class of winners and losers, and to the extent that damages end up being ~2% of GDP as per Stern, it matters a great deal where you reside in this class.

MattL said...

-93- David Appell,

Are consumers of coal in China paying for the destroyed home of a resident of Staten Island (to the extent that global warming contributed to Hurricane Sandy's strength)?

I believe that they are, yes. You clearly think otherwise, but you lack evidence.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-95-David Appell

Thanks ... there are important issues related to equity and climate worth discussing (I raised some in a 1998 paper on adaptation, so I hear you).

However, this post is about this topic: "... to the extent that climate change causes damages ..."

Many claims about damage are unsupported. That is a problem for both science and policy.

Thanks!

bernie said...

David Appell #93:
You provide no evidence to support your assertions. It is trivially true that anyone, anywhere adding CO2 to the atmosphere might possibly add to the greenhouse gas effect that might possibly add to the strength of tropical storms that might possibly add to the strength of a particular storm.
I live near Plum Island in Massachusetts. The last couple of Nor'Easters destroyed 12 houses. They are tearing them down as I write this. Should I assume some moral responsibility for these losses? Your line of Borg-type reasoning suggests "yes".

Mark Bahner said...

"By that logic, you wouldn't mind if your neighbor disposed of his waste by dumping it into your yard. It's much cheaper for him to do so, and he's gotten a lot of good out of the products whose waste he's disposing of."

It's interesting that you should mention that. A neighbor of mine is elderly, and is not able to bring her cart to the curb, so the waste company comes to the back of her house to get it. We are also supposed to put bulky items (e.g., rollaway beds, plastic lawn chairs, brooms, long-handled dust cleaners) out at the curb, but she can't do that eirher. The thing is that waste company has simply left that bulky stuff near her cart (possibly not knowing it's intended to be thrown out).

Just this weekend, I saw all that stuff (I don't normally go back there). T told her I'd put the rollaway bed out next to the curb with my cart. And I broke the broom handle in half, so it would fit in the cart. But the plastic lawn chair and the long-handled dust cleaner I kept for myself. So if she'd thrown that waste on my lawn I would *not* have minded.

In a similar way, extra CO2 in the atmosphere provides many benefits, as well as costs. In fact, an analysis by Richard Tol looks at 14 estimates of the net costs or benefits of rising global temperatures and finds that warming of up to 1 degree Celsius above present provides increasing net benefits. And those benefits don't disappear until the warming is more than 2.2 degrees Celsius above present. (See the "least squares fit to the 14 estimates" in Figure 1.)

http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/documents/Tol_impacts_JEP_2009.pdf

Therefore, since temperatures are currently rising by less than 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, and the rate is unlikely to increase, it is likely that global warming will provide a net *benefit* for the remainder of this century. This is an inconvenient truth (to borrow a phrase) that must be addressed.

David Appell said...

Matt, how exactly are consumers of coal in China paying for the Sandy-destroyed home of a resident of Staten Island?

MattL said...

--100- David,

I didn't say they were paying for the home. Just their part of it, which I figure is pretty much $0 (i.e., to the extent that global warming contributed to Hurricane Sandy's strength).

But we want to make them pay for that, shouldn't they get a refund for reducing the number of hurricanes and saving us so much money?

David Appell said...

Mark: So you wouldn't mind getting your neighbor's trash, as long as you have time to sort through it, keep what you want, and the ability to discard the rest.

Of course, carbon pollution works nothing like that -- you get it all whether you want parts of it or not.

Even if 1 C of warming provides benefits, they too are not distributed equally, and unless those who get the benefits are writing checks to those getting the damages, we just have all new classes of winners and losers from a huge problem.

And, of course, we will not stop at 1 C of warming (we're already committed to go past it), and 2.2 C looks out of the question too.

David Appell said...

Matt: But the person who lost their Staten Island home suffered enormously. He may be made good on his economic losses (but still loses a lot), but it will be by his state or national governments, not, in part, by coal users in China.

If you want to include a benefit like fewer hurricanes because of global warming, while including that actual storms will be stronger, in some kind of overall cost/benefit analysis, that's fine.

We all can debate these things intellectually, but it must all look very different to residents of South Pacific islands who are facing the impending lose of their land.

MattL said...

-103- David Appell,

Yes, he suffered a lot. People suffer all the time. That doesn't mean that you should be able to arbitrarily decide that some other folks should pay for it because of your irrational feelings towards carbon dioxide.

So, like I said, the people burning coal have paid for their share. It just so happens that their share (based on their contribution to global warming and Sandy) is zero.

The Pacific islands that are going away aren't going away due to sea level rise, so I'm not sure why you would bring that up.

Before you go off making people pay money, you should have some pretty strong evidence. That's not what you have.

David Appell said...

Yes, people suffer all the time, and entire industries exist to see that, to the extent possible, those who cause the suffering pay for it.

Kevin Trenberth estimated that Hurricane Sandy was about 10% stronger than it would otherwise be due to global warming. That would put Sandy's AGW cost at roughly $5 billion.

Why should climate change, projected to cause huge losses (~ couple percent of GDP in damages) be exempt? Just because the globe as a whole has (so far) had decreasing normalized damage costs? Again, that is not the cost for all individuals.

Expecting those who trash an environment to pay for their damages is not an "irrational" attitude to carbon dioxide, it's the libertarian vision of a market. Markets should not just be free, but cost free as well.

Sea level is undergoing some of its greatest rates of increase in the South Pacific, and past warming events on Earth indicate projected warming by 2100 could eventually cause SLR of a few dozen meters (Figure 8 here:
http://chadtolman.com/risingseas.html)

It's not even clear you can attach a monetary cost to the lose of something like an island state or a glacier -- many things have values that cannot be captured purely in terms of dollars.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-105-David Appell

"Kevin Trenberth estimated that Hurricane Sandy was about 10% stronger than it would otherwise be due to global warming."

And carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas, and GMOs cause farmer suicides and vaccines cause autism. Somebody said so in the internet, must be true! ;-)

HowardW said...

-105- David Appell
"Projected warming by 2100 could eventually cause SLR of a few dozen meters."
That is a fairy tale with which to scare children. Sea level rise of such magnitude would take millennia.

It brings to mind Keynes' quote, "In the long run we are all dead."

MattL said...

-105- David Appell,

If you actually read what I wrote, I wasn't saying that trying to price externalities (like pollution) was a bad idea. I said that believing that carbon dioxide is pollution is irrational.

Mark Bahner said...

Hi David,

You write, "Even if 1 C of warming provides benefits, they too are not distributed equally, and unless those who get the benefits are writing checks to those getting the damages, we just have all new classes of winners and losers from a huge problem."

First of all, it seems to me it can hardly be accurately called a "huge problem" if there is a net *benefit* (and will likely be a net benefit for at least the next 7-10+ decades). And whereas I totally agree that it would be wonderful if the winners would compensate the losers out of the winners' winnings, don't you see that there's basically no chance of that ever happening?

For instance, you have pointed to China as one of the villains. Well, they would say--and I would agree with them completely--that temperature responds to cumulative emissions, not instantaneous emissions. Their cumulative emissions aren't squat, because the rise in their emissions have been so recent. They would also say--and I'd also agree completely--that the proper way to look at it is from a per-capita standpoint. Their per-capita emissions---particularly their per-capita *cumulative* emissions--are completely trivial relative to the West. So I don't think you will *ever* "shame" the people of China into giving money to anyone, on the basis of China's CO2 emissions. (And I say, "Good for them!")

More broadly, I don't think you're ever going to be able to shame anyone anywhere in the world into giving money to farmers in Africa, or victims of hurricanes, cyclones, or tornadoes anywhere in the world, on the basis of CO2 emissions. Your writing seems to imply that every single weather event (droughts in Africa, Katrina, Sandy, etc.) is caused by global warming. You asked me previously, "Again: if you were a small farmer in Africa, suffering from a drought, and you saw the US and China emitting all these climate-changing gases... what would you think?“ I was going to reply, “I’d think, ‘Geez, we *never* had any droughts in Africa until the U.S. refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. I hope G.W. Bush can be brought up in the Hague for “Crimes Against the Planet.’” But then I just skipped it. Life’s too short. ;-)

You conclude with, "And, of course, we will not stop at 1 C of warming (we're already committed to go past it), and 2.2 C looks out of the question too."

Leaving aside the debatability of that assessment (I think it's very debatable...especially the "and 2.2 C looks out of the question too")...do you agree that we’re not going to go 2.2 degrees Celsius higher than present within the next 60 years? My point in asking is that I think I see the morality of the situation exactly the opposite of you. I think it's immoral for the people of 2013 to sacrifice for the benefit of the people in 2073 and later, since I think the people of 2073 will be far, far better off. I wrote about this on my blog: http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2013/03/my-entry.html.

Do you think it’s moral for people who are less well off (people of the present) to sacrifice for the benefit of people who are better off (people of the future)? Or don't you agree that people in the future will be better off?

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
[China's] cumulative emissions aren't squat.

Actually China's cumulative fossil fuel emissions are 10% of total cumulative fossil fuel emissions, 2nd behind the U.S. (28%).

Data (1900-2010) here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/co2-emissions-historical
http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/IEDIndex3.cfm?tid=90&pid=44&aid=8

David Appell said...

Roger: I asked Trenberth after seeing his quoted number for Sandy, and he said it was based on the arguments in these papers which give that number for Katrina:

Trenberth, K. E., C. A. Davis and J. Fasullo, 2007: Water and energy budgets of hurricanes: Case studies of Ivan and Katrina . J. Geophys. Res., 112, D23106, doi:10.1029/2006JD008303.

Trenberth, K. E., and J. Fasullo, 2007: Water and energy budgets of hurricanes and implications for climate change. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D23107, doi:10.1029/2006JD008304.

He said there is a 4-5% increase in water vapor, which gets doubled by increasing the intensity of the storm.

(PDFs are available on his site.)

David Appell said...

Here are some numbers showing how hard it is to keep up with world GDP growth.

World GDP growth rates for recent years, adjusted for inflation, are (from Wikipedia via the IMF):

2006: 5.1%
2007: 5.2%
2008: 3.0%
2009: -0.5%
2010: 5.3%
2011: 3.9%
2012 (est): 3.5%
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_world_product#Recent_global_growth

And here are US real GDP growth rates:

2006: 2.7%
2007: 1.9%
2008: -0.3%
2009: -3.1%
2010: 2.4%
2011: 1.8%
2012: 2.2%
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GDPCA

So from 2005 to 2012, real world GDP has grown by 28%, while US GDP has grown by just 8%.

In these seven years, real world GDP growth averaged about 3.6% per year. Can the US keep up with that? (Or can the world, for decades and decades?) From 1980-2007 real US GDP growth averaged 3.0% per year....

To the extent that the US (or anyone) doesn't keep up, its economic losses due to weather-related disasters will be higher than the global average. The trendline in the chart is negative, but (a) it's not very negative, and (b) it's a short time period so it's not clear that negative trend is statistically significant.

David Appell said...

Mark wrote:
...do you agree that we’re not going to go 2.2 degrees Celsius higher than present within the next 60 years?

No, I don't think that's obvious.

Emissions are rising exponentially, and temperature change is proportional to cumulative emissions (the carbon-climate response function of Damon Matthews et al (Nature v459 June 2009), with the proportionality constant being 1.5 C per trillion tonnes of carbon. (5-95% confidence limits are 1.0-2.1 C/TtC).

I'd have to do the math, and it will depend strongly on the carbon emissions growth path (exponentials always overwhelm everything).


Do you think it’s moral for people who are less well off (people of the present) to sacrifice for the benefit of people who are better off (people of the future)? Or don't you agree that people in the future will be better off?

I think it's immoral for *some* people of the present to sacrifice for the people of the future -- today's poor people.

But the US and Europe aren't poor -- we're quite wealthy, and have gotten wealthy by burning fossil fuels, thereby changing the climate.

Of course it's a judgement call, but IMO we're now wealthy enough to pay for our carbon pollution. Like Roger wrote in "The Climate Fix," I think a great idea is a smallish carbon tax (~$5-10/tC) that all goes into R&D, on everything: better solar cells, air capture, fusion, CCS, CDR schemes, thorium reactors, all of that.

If it's not moral to sacrifice for the sake of the future, why clean up any type of pollution?

MattL said...

But, if growth slows then so, presumably, will development of stuff that can be affected by a disaster. So why would the normalized rate necessarily get worse just because we aren't growing? Oh, yeah, because you're making unwarranted assumptions about future weather.

David, if you think you're polluting by emitting carbon dioxide, by all means, pay for it.

Mark Bahner said...

I wrote, "[China's] cumulative emissions aren't squat."

David Appell responds, "Actually China's cumulative fossil fuel emissions are 10% of total cumulative fossil fuel emissions, 2nd behind the U.S. (28%)."

Well, I guess we'd have to agree on what "squat" means. I think the fact that China's *cumulative* emissions are 1/3rd of the U.S. cumulative emissions (even though their present emissions are more than for the U.S.) means their cumulative emissions are pretty insignificant.

But what about my point that they should be judged on a *per-capita* basis? Do you agree with that?

Mark Bahner said...

I wrote, "...do you agree that we’re not going to go 2.2 degrees Celsius higher than present within the next 60 years?"

David replies, "No, I don't think that's obvious. Emissions are rising exponentially, and temperature change is proportional to cumulative emissions (the carbon-climate response function of Damon Matthews et al (Nature v459 June 2009), with the proportionality constant being 1.5 C per trillion tonnes of carbon. (5-95% confidence limits are 1.0-2.1 C/TtC)."

OhhhK. So by your best estimate, it would take 1 trillion tons of carbon to increase by 1.5 deg C...or 1.46 trillion tons carbon to get to 2.2 deg C.

Here are the A1F1 scenario emissions in GtC (the emissions are ridiculous, especially after 2050, but I digress):

2010 = 8.65; 2020 = 11.19; 2030 = 14.61; 2040 = 18.66; 2050 = 23.1; 2060 = 25.14; 2070 = 27.12.

If I integrate that to the year 2073, I get 1.2 trillion tons carbon, which is less than the 1.46 trillion tons carbon to get to 2.2 degrees Celsius. So you *do* agree with me that it would take at least 60 years. :-)

But the bottom line here is that will take a really long time to even get to the point where humanity is not in positive territory with respect to global warming. And by that time, humanity is likely to be much better off...e.g. malaria eradicated, TB eradicated, artificial pancreas perfected (eliminating diabetes), hearts grown from a patient's own stem cells, etc.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
They're wrong:
http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2004/10/3rd_thoughts_on.html


Really? You have an ability to discern our economic future that many professional economics do not?

Excuse me if I don't buy that.

The economic data of the last decade or two is not kind to your thesis.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
The currently global per-capita GDP is $11,600. Not only is a global per-capita GDP in excess of $500,000 (in year 2012 dollars) possible, it's likely it will be achieved by the end of this century.

This would require a real growth in per capita GDP of 4.4% per year, for 87 years.

That has never happened in the history of the world, or in any country, or in any state or region.

You can postulate all the numbers you want. That doesn't make them real, or believable. Yours aren't.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
"Well, I guess we'd have to agree on what "squat" means."

10% of global cumulative emissions certainly isn't "squat." It's the 2nd largest of any nation on the planet.

Yes, I agree that per capita emissions are a better metric. By that standard, the US is a climate crimnal, and has a moral obligation to lead the way to a solution.

David Appell said...

MattL wrote:
"But, if growth slows then so, presumably, will development of stuff that can be affected by a disaster. So why would the normalized rate necessarily get worse just because we aren't growing?"

It's basic arithmetic. If GDP growth is below the global average, we fall behind the curve on this post.

David, if you think you're polluting by emitting carbon dioxide, by all means, pay for it.

That is no reasoning at all; in fact, it's basically throwing in the towel.

David Appell said...

bernie wrote:
"I live near Plum Island in Massachusetts. The last couple of Nor'Easters destroyed 12 houses. They are tearing them down as I write this. Should I assume some moral responsibility for these losses?"

Yes.

MattL said...

-120- David Appell,

It's basic arithmetic. If GDP growth is below the global average, we fall behind the curve on this post.

I've heard that prediction is hard, especially about the future. Your "basic arithmetic" assumes an awful lot about the future.

(I said...) David, if you think you're polluting by emitting carbon dioxide, by all means, pay for it.

That is no reasoning at all; in fact, it's basically throwing in the towel.


Huh? I'm just not trying to tell you what to do with your money, and I wish you'd return the favor. I'm sure there are things I spend it on that you'd consider frivolous and unnecessary. But I like it, and I don't mind if you do the same with yours.

Once you've managed to inflict the rest of us with your climate tax insanity, what sort of action will you take to deal with your moral responsibility for making the world worse?

Mark Bahner said...

"Really? You have an ability to discern our economic future that many professional economics do not?"

Yes, I think I do. Most professional economists have not considered the likely impacts of artificial intelligence on economic growth. For example, Nobel laureate Robert Lucas Jr predicted world per capita GDP in the year 2100 would be approximately $94,000 (in year 2000 dollars).

http://longbets.org/194/

But he did not consider the effects of artificial intelligence on economic growth. In contrast, Arnold Kling and Robin Hanson *have* considered the impacts of artificial intelligence on economic growth. Arnold Kling's predictions are similar to mine:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2004/10/3rd_thoughts_on.html

Robin Hanson predicts that world economic growth circa the mid-2020s could be an astounding 45% per year:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Hanson-Economic-growth-given-machine-intelligence-early.pdf

"The economic data of the last decade or two is not kind to your thesis."

The economic data of the last decade or two are completely consistent with my thesis. According to my calculations, computer intelligence won't even add 1 million human brain equivalents (HBEs) until circa 2015. And 1 million HBEs is nothing, compared to ~7 billion human brains already available.

It's not until 2025 (1 billion HBEs added) or 2033 (1 TRILLION HBEs added) that artificial intelligence will really impact economic growth.

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2005/11/why_economic_gr.html

Mark Bahner said...

I wrote, "The currently global per-capita GDP is $11,600. Not only is a global per-capita GDP in excess of $500,000 (in year 2012 dollars) possible, it's likely it will be achieved by the end of this century."

David Appell responds (#118): "This would require a real growth in per capita GDP of 4.4% per year, for 87 years."

Yes, that's right.

"That has never happened in the history of the world, or in any country, or in any state or region."

When in world history have 1 billion human brain equivalents (HBEs) been added in a single year? I expect that to happen by 2025. How about 1 TRILLION HBEs? I expect that to happen by 2033.

Of course the economic growth will be unprecendented if:

1) Economic growth is primarily a function of the number of (free) human brains available, and

2) The number of (free) human brain equivalents will grow in an unprecendented manner.

In all of human history, the world population has never grown by more than 2.19% per year (in 1962-1963...not coincidentally approximately the same time as peak per-capita economic growth). And we have never added more than 87 million people per year (in 1989):

http://www.npg.org/facts/world_pop_year.htm

I'm talking about *doubling* the number of HBEs roughly every year, and adding 1 billion or 1 TRILLION HBEs in a single year. Don't you think that's going to have an impact on the rate of economic growth?

David Appell concludes with, "You can postulate all the numbers you want. That doesn't make them real, or believable. Yours aren't."

Oh, well, that settles it, then. If you've spoken, that's the Final Word. So what is *your* estimate of the most likely world per-capita GDP growth rate (adjusted for inflation) in the 21st century?

David Appell said...

Mark, you can talk about all the human brain equivalents you want.

When, exactly, is this 4.4+%/yr GDP growth supposed to start?

Every year itr doesn't start means the required trend is higher.

Why hasn't it started now?

Why, therefore, should it start in the future?

You are simply making numbers up, without regard for history.

Anyone can do that. That doesn't make them real. Your numbers aren't real at all, and that makes your arguments meaningless.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
>> Most professional economists have not considered the likely impacts of artificial intelligence on economic growth.<<

Blah blah blah. You aren't some great future teller who forsees the next hundred years. Maybe AI will have an impact, maybe it won't.

The fact is, so far it hasn't.
And so far, it shows no signs of doing so.

Do you want to discuss reality, or science fiction? I like SciFi, but I know it belongs in the realm of fiction.

David Appell said...

MattL wrote:
>> Once you've managed to inflict the rest of us with your climate tax insanity, what sort of action will you take to deal with your moral responsibility for making the world worse? <<

I don't consider damages that already approach $120 B/yr to be "insanity."

That's the lower bound of the damages found by the National Academy of Sciences in their 2010 report HIDDEN COSTS OF ENERGY: UNPRICED CONSEQUENCES OF ENERGY PRODUCTION AND USE
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?recordid=12794

They considered that a lower bound, and hardly included climate change at all.

Why shouldn't the producers and users of fossil fuels pay these costs? Isn't that a basic principle of free market libertarianism?

MattL said...

-127- David Appell,

Sure, change the subject to actual pollution. AT least here you have a reasonable argument, though I think there are good reasons to be skeptical about the actual health effects. And from a policy perspective, it might be reasonable to attack that from other angles (e.g., reducing health care treatment costs vs moon shot level alternative energy boondoggles).

The question isn't why we shouldn't do something about pollution, but why we should do something about non-pollution. I understand that you have a different perspective on pollution, and this latest post does no favors to your argument.

Consumers of energy have paid to clean up their act. Think coal scrubbers and catalytic converters.

Mark Bahner said...

I wrote, "Most professional economists have not considered the likely impacts of artificial intelligence on economic growth."

David Appell responds, "Blah blah blah."

Clever response.

"You aren't some great future teller who forsees the next hundred years."

Do you think there is anyone who can accurately foresee the next 100 years? What about the next 50? When the IPCC makes its "projections" out to 2100, do you dismiss them as "fortune telling" or do you consider them to be legitimate science?

"Maybe AI will have an impact, maybe it won't."

Are you saying that maybe AI will not have any impact on economic growth throughout the entire 21st century?

Here is Robin Hanson's analysis of the likely effects of AI on economic growth:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Hanson-Economic-growth-given-machine-intelligence-early.pdf

From page 6 of the paper:

"To see how different the growth rates are, consider some conservative parameter values.
Let the product shares be α = .25, β = .5, and γ = .02, let annual growth rates be 1.5% for
the human population H and 1% for general technology A, and let computer prices P halve
every two years. Without machine intelligence, world product grows at a familiar rate of
4.3% per year, doubling every 16 years, with about 40% of technological progress coming
from ordinary computers. With machine intelligence, the (instantaneous) annual growth
rate would be 45%, ten times higher, making world product double every 18 months! If the
product shares are raised by 20%, and general technology growth is lowered to preserve the
4.4% figure, the new doubling time falls to less than 6 months."

"Such rapid growth may seem so far from historical experience that it should be rejected
out of hand. However, an empirical projection of historical trends in world economic growth
makes a median prediction that the economy will transition to a doubling time of one to
two years around 2025 (Hanson, 1998). While this prediction has large uncertainties, it
suggests that we not reject out of hand the predictions of this model of machine intelligence. (Coincidentally, 2025 is also roughly when long-steady computer hardware price trends give cheap computers with hardware as powerful as the human brain, and so is a favorite date for predicting when machine intelligence will arrive for those who believe hardware is the
limiting factor (Moravec, 1998).)"

David Appell further writes, concerning the effects of AI on economic growth, "The fact is, so far it hasn't. And so far, it shows no signs of doing so."

Yes, and that is completely predictable. Go to my graph of the number of human brain equivalents added every year:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2005/11/why_economic_gr.html

There aren't even 1 million human brain equivalents (HBEs) added each year until the year 2015. It is sometime between that and 2025, when 1 billion HBEs are added, or even 2033, when 1 TRILLION HBEs are added, that we can expect to see significant impacts on economic growth.

David Appell concludes with, "Do you want to discuss reality, or science fiction?"

I want to discuss reality, not science fiction. Robin Hanson has done an economic analysis of the effects of AI on economic growth. Do you think he's wrong? If so, where? I have done an analysis of the number of "human brain equivalents" added each year. Do you think that analysis is wrong? If so, where?

David Appell said...

MattL wrote:
>> Consumers of energy have paid to clean up their act. Think coal scrubbers and catalytic converters.<<

Who says those two items have curtailed all pollution?

I seriously doubt they have. The 2010 NAS report certainly suggests they haven't.

I think producers of pollution should pay its costs. This ia a basic principle of free market libertarianism.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
o you think there is anyone who can accurately foresee the next 100 years?

I certainly thing that science, based on well-established laws of radiation and thermodynamics, has a far, far better chance of projecting the next 100 years than do people prognosticating about the development of nebulous concepts like "artificial intelligence."

AI has always been 30-50 years in the future, and there's every sign it always will be.

David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
Here is Robin Hanson's analysis of the likely effects of AI on economic growth:

I've never heard of Robin Hansen, and the paragraph you quoted strikes me as science babble: dressed up to sound like science, but relying on enormous assumptions and conjectures.

In other words, basically useless.


David Appell said...

Mark Bahner wrote:
Robin Hanson has done an economic analysis of the effects of AI on economic growth.

Baloney. Robin Hansen has no more idea of the long-term future of AI than does my 8-yr old nephew.

You are confusing sci-fi for science.

MattL said...

-130- David Appell,

Who says those two items have curtailed all pollution?

I don't know of anyone who says that. Do you really want to demand that we curtail all pollution?

I think producers of pollution should pay its costs.

Yes, this is a reasonable principle with which I agree.

This ia [sic] a basic principle of free market libertarianism.

It's also important to have a good accounting of costs and to find a proper trade off between costs and benefits. This is a basic principle of common sense.

Mark Bahner said...

I asked David Appell: "Do you think there is anyone who can accurately foresee the next 100 years?"

He responds, "I certainly think that science, based on well-established laws of radiation and thermodynamics, has a far, far better chance of projecting the next 100 years than do people prognosticating about the development of nebulous concepts like 'artificial intelligence.'"

David, you really need to read more. Especially about artificial intelligence, but even about technology in general. You write, "...science, based on well-established laws of radiation and thermodynamics, has a far, far better chance of projecting the next 100 years..."

But that "science" knows nothing about the next 100 years--as far as climate is concerned--without knowing what the concentrations of CO2, methane, CFCs and HFCs, sulfur dioxide, black carbon, and organic carbon are going to be over the next 100 years. Or what the sun's strength is going to be like 100 years from now. What do you think "science" says about the atmospheric CO2 concentration in the year 2113? For example, what does "science" say is the most probable value for CO2 concentration in 2113? What is the value for which there is less than a 5% chance the CO2 concentration will be below that value? What is the value for which there is less than a 5% chance CO2 concentration will be above that value?

"AI has always been 30-50 years in the future, and there's every sign it always will be."

Heh, heh, heh! David, you don't need to just read more, you need to get out more! If you don't own an iPhone 4s or 5, or Android competitor with voice recognition, you need to borrow one from a friend. I don't know how anyone could possibly have experience with them, and not see that they are intelligent (aka, "smart"):

http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0808/Review-Siri-versus-Google-Voice-Search-versus-S-Voice

If you asked a parrot, "How tall is Taipei 101"? And the parrot told you the answer in meters and feet, you'd think that the parrot was brilliant! Artificial intelligence is already *here*, and is growing exponentially. The results will be profound.

For example--to return to the discussion at hand--extrapolating the linear regression Roger did in the graph above 20-40 years into the future will likely significantly OVERestimate damages as a fraction of global GDP. Extrapolating his linear regression 20 years into the future projects damages of about 0.14% of GDP (down from 0.21% of GDP in 2010). This is likely an OVERestimate (due to the economic growth likely to be caused by artificial intelligence).

Mark Bahner said...

I wrote, "Robin Hanson has done an economic analysis of the effects of AI on economic growth."

David Appell responds, "Baloney. Robin Hansen has no more idea of the long-term future of AI than does my 8-yr old nephew. You are confusing sci-fi for science."

David, it would really help in any discussion if you would actually read the links I provide:

1) It's Robin Hanson (with an "o"). He's an associate professor of economics at George Mason University, and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Hanson

2) His analysis of the effects of artificial intelligence on economic growth deals with the very near future. He's analyzing for circa 2025, not 2525 (ala Zager and Evans).

3) If you really want to contribute positively to the discussion, find someone who knows something about economics (e.g., has a degree in economics) or artificial intelligence (e.g., has a degree in an area related to artificial intelligence, such as computer science) who thinks his analysis is way off, and point me to them.

Mark Bahner said...

I see I never addressed this question David Appell had in comment #113: "If it's not moral to sacrifice for the sake of the future, why clean up any type of pollution?"

The answer is that important types of pollution hurt people in the *present.* Examples include:

1) Indoor air pollution from cookstoves is estimated to kill 2 million people per year, worldwide.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/10/indoor-pollution-from-cooking-fires-causes-2-million-deaths-each-year.html

2) Air pollution in China (predominantly from coal combustion) is estimated to cause 1.2 million premature deaths per year, and 25 million years of healthy life lost each year:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/world/asia/air-pollution-linked-to-1-2-million-deaths-in-china.html?_r=0

3) Particulate pollution from coal-fired power plants in the U.S. is estimated to cause 13,000 premature deaths per year:

http://www.catf.us/fossil/problems/power_plants/existing/

These are the types of pollution on which we should be focusing...not CO2 that can be expected to produce a net benefit for many decades into the future.

Joshua said...

Roger -

Thought you might find this interesting:

==]]] The Climate Prediction Center's Halpert said scientists foresaw the onset of the 1997-98 El Niño event six to nine months in advance. That gave Californians time to prepare by cleaning out storm drains and gutters. Those steps, he said, saved the state $1 billion in damages, compared with what they experienced during the 1982-83 extreme El Niño. [[[===

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/be-prepared-extreme-el-nino-events-double-study-says-2D11947406?cid=eml_tdb_20140119

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-138-Joshua

Thanks, Here is my evaluation of the 97-98 ENSO forecasts (including for California):

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2000.08.pdf

There were benefits in CA, yet at the same time the forecasts were a bust in southern Africa, leading to costs, e.g.,:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1477-8696.2001.tb06492.x/pdf

And in N Brazil ENSO forecasts have been used as a tool of political power:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.200.3696&rep=rep1&type=pdf

ENSO predictions did now show skill in 97-98 (other than in the sense that economists have predicted 9 of the last 5 recessions):

http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0477(2000)081%3C2107%3AHMSWTI%3E2.3.CO%3B2

So until skill is shown systematically, I'm pretty doubtful about ENSO predictions. Thanks!

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