Open Thread, April 2013

What’s on your mind?


  1. Along with knowing what one does not know, I've been thinking a lot of curiosity and science lately. Quoting myself:

    It is truly sad that at this point there are vast numbers of people so incurious as to what almost the entire scientific community is trying to learn and communicate ...

    Your clever, polite, sophisticated fake skeptics miss this altogether. There appears to be a fixation on not finding out, while accusing scientists of being the incurious ones. I am still baffled at the amount of noisemaking the process of hiding from the truth requires.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  2. Firstly, thank you!

    The moderation question is an impossible one. There is no winning answer. Even after all this time I still by instinct read good faith into comments and have to work hard to convince myself otherwise. I still question my own biases with every comment which questions them and I still wonder, when these claims are made, whether I really am unusual on our 'side' in hoping for genuine debate whilst everyone else is looking for ... I don't know what really, the comfort of despair perhaps.

    Nullius in Verba and Tom Fuller are both commenters I've paid attention to and judged over time. They seem adept at leaving open the possibility that they are reasonable and I/we have to graft at judging their contributions in the wider context of their words over time. I conclude with high confidence they are not reasonable but of course any such conclusion can so easily be played as unreasonable. There is no winning answer.

    Real scepticism on these issues is probably ephemeral.

    I do wonder though how it is that so many others can not read through and see what we are seeing in these comments, and so of course I then question my view. Not enough people are engaging for us to build confidence in our perceptions, and I think this is a deliberate, though not necessarily conscious, tactic by at least one species of 'sceptics'. Many people are driven away from blogs where open discussion is allowed, disgusted by the nature of humanity on show. At places like the Mail and the Telegraph here in the UK, and I know many other places elsewhere, they have essentially succeeded. Is it worth continuing to comment in these venues, even in those which haven't been overwhelmed - though the balance is often still towards 'scepticism' even then? There is evidence, I think, that comments on an article do influence views, so it is presumably worth our efforts. But we need more people, the reasonable majority, to act as referees, to bring perspective.

    How can this be achieved? Even just a small shift might be enough to change the balance. Should we be working to get more of those people who recognise they have a stake in this to do that refereeing? Just something as simple as clicking the recommends when it is deserved (though there is immediately an imbalance even there, if only one side considers if it is deserved or not) makes a difference. Taking the time to point out inconsistencies, asking for evidence and highlighting when it hasn't been given, pointing out empty assertions, particularly of false balance, all would make a difference yet require no deep understanding of the topics being discussed.

    I wonder if there is a case for something like the Debunking Handbook at Sceptical Science, but on a much more basic level to advise people how to get involved in, and cope with, the debate without needing a deep familiarity with the topics.

  3. An unrelated question from that Tom Fuller thread: he states "Current climate and notable weather events are not the result of the 0.8C rise in temperatures experienced over the past century. That’s not my opinion. It is the opinion of the IPCC and the scientists who provide the results of their studies to them." This appears unreasonable to me and is not my reading. Surely the reasonable point would be that we don't yet have clear evidence of attribution, though even that may be becoming less reasonable? Am I wrong to think the confident assertion that they are not the result of the 0.8C rise is unjustifiable?

  4. Two questions relating to sustainability I've seen raised recently, which I don't have confident answers to:

    1) How exaggerated, or not, are claims of peak phosphurus?

    2) Could the steel industry move away entirely from the use of coal? How significant is this in terms of emissions if they cannot?

    I'd be grateful for any thoughts.

  5. It would be interesting what opinion Mr. Fuller has on crazy stuff like Quantum Mechanics or General Relativity. Will he ever accept the "discovery" of the Higgs boson - which is a matter of statistics of needles found in the haystack of CERN data?

    The question of "attributing" weird weather to a warming planet only requires some intuition about the fluctuations in the skies above and a qualitative grasp of steam engine physics.

    If you want to go all sciency you also need to have a look at the Gaussian distribution: The climate dice are significantly loaded. According to some mathematicians' opinion on the Gaussian, just small shift of mean and/or variance suffices to imply quite noticeable shifts in the extremes.
    So, not attributing extremes to the 0.8°C shift implies a very peculiar opinion on basic probability theory.

    Alas things aren't that simple anymore. Some extremes (cold March 2013, Frankenstorm Sandy 2012) meanwhile have a more direct causation via changes in the circumpolar jet stream due to Arctic warming. It would be interesting what opinion Mr. Fuller has on northern albedo change.

    Well, interesting at least for the psychopathologist...

  6. Pingback: If You Only See Half The Debate, You’re In Church Listening To A Sermon | The Lukewarmer's Way

  7. Moving this outside the Fuller/NiV discussion, which gets boring and complicated fast, perhaps one could pose the question differently.

    What is authority, and how do we learn to recognize it?

    I've been complimented on being a layperson who "gets it", but that's just an accident of birth, having been brought up on a steady diet of real skepticism and hunger for real knowledge. More directly, I had the good luck to teach drawing to some really intelligent people, though they're not much different from the rest. It took a while to acknowledge my own authority and abandon false modesty. I could not help them unless I pushed them to give up safe but false knowledge and seek the real thing, no matter how stupid it made them feel. You'd think people would value intellectual honesty the way they do the other kind. But it would surprise you to find out it's a foreign concept to people of great goodwill and apparent integrity.

    Spreading a manure load of fancy verbiage is all too common.

  8. Having spent quite some years immersed in the study of philosophy, and a bit of art too, I suspect there is a lot of parallel in these. It's clear that philosophy consists of about 90% unlearning what you think you know, and art similarly is in large part unseeing what you think you see.

    I think having gone through that process makes it easier to be confident I'm not blindly following a dogmatic position, but it also makes me wary that I might be doing so. That's a big part of what I want Planet3 to do, to keep challenging that confidence, but in a constructive way. I want authority to be challenged, but so that genuine, justified authority is stronger because of it. Watching it being challenged is perhaps how we learn to recognise it.

  9. Correction, at what is mainly discussed is the use of hydrogen as iron oxide reductant.

    The hydrogen could be from water electrolysis, or could come from a thermochemical process such as the sulphur-iodine process.

  10. Tom Fuller says essentially the same as I say below about what Planet3.0 should be doing. It's interesting to see how, to my mind, his own blog fails to achieve this even more than we do here. It reminds me of Collide-a-scape, though that had more promise. However I don't think Keith Kloor achieved the moderation balance needed to allow for a meaningful or worthwhile converstaion. For that to happen intelligent and diligent moderation and/or intervention seems essential.

  11. I suppose you are aware of the IPCC SREX right? You can go look at trends for hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. The only justifiable attributions looks to be increases rainfall events so far. The rest are either a wash or are trending the wrong way.

    It's simply not that hard to examine trends for these past events and detect correlation. If the correlation isn't there, the debate is over. You aren't going to invent new historical trend data for the past 100 years.

    Even when the extreme event has a correlation to CO2, the hard work has just begun. Proving causation of an extreme event trend is a much harder problem.

    There is almost a uniform consensus that attribution of specific events such as Sandy is unwise and unfounded. Beyond Hansen, you won't find many scientists making these claims. The NOAA just stated the recent midwest drought is of natural origins, an event much blamed on AGW by advocates.

    Will they increase in the future? Maybe. We can't answer that. Have they increased already above a statistical threshold and random variation? No.

  12. If there were a serious "debate" at the level the naysayers suggest, there would be intelligent, informed and considerate opposition that could play by the rules of scientific as opposed to political discourse.

    I would be thrilled to see such opposition and P3 would welcome it here.

    As far as I can tell there isn't anything of the sort anymore, because basically the evidence is in.

    These guys refuse to believe me when I say how fervently I wish they were right, how fervently I wish they could convince me. But, alas, they aren't even close.

  13. A simple refutation:

    Well, if that’s what the climate concerned have got over at P3, no wonder they don’t want to debate.

    Really, really weak.

    Identifying what it refutes is left as an exercise to the reader.

  14. Tom Scharf, by my reading you repeat what I said but appear to think it shows something different.

    "It’s simply not that hard to examine trends for these past events and detect correlation. If the correlation isn’t there, the debate is over."

    This though I think is wrong. By their nature it is hard to detect statistically significant correlation in extreme events, so if there is no clear evidence of correlation that certainly doesn't mean the debate is over.

    Your claims about attributions of events like Sandy and the NOAA study seem to bulldoze over the nuances of the discussions. In fairness this may also be the case in some media reporting of the discussion, but that is a separate issue.

  15. You have to ask yourself why people come to your blog. If a person was convinced of CAGW it would be because they are seeking fellow believers, possibly with help convincing recalcitrant sceptic relatives. The bulk of consensus supporters feel no need to seek information beyond government or MSM output. Other visitors to your blog would be the doubtful or the sceptical. How you respond to them will influence whether they come back.

    Guess which of those is prepared to sign up for a login and which would wander off if they don’t see their comment appear promptly and be responded to thoughtfully? You lose the debate without even noticing there was one.

  16. What power (it appears to extend into the highest echelons of science, all the way to the American Academy of Science and The Royal Society) is so unique and seemingly omnipotent that we are stopped at every turn from discussing extant science regarding the human population? Is there not "cultural bias in science" that ultimately determines the boundaries of our thought, analysis and discourse when human beings are the subject of investigation? Perhaps St. Augustine was correct after all when noting, "Men go forth to wonder about the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the vast compass of the oceans, the endless courses of the stars: and yet Men pass by themselves without wondering."

  17. There are plenty of other places to fulfill that function. It's long since gotten rather dull and pointless for many of us. We have a lot to discuss amongst ourselves, and we are developing this site for each other.

    You can read or comment as you choose, but if you get boring or rude or tendentious you'll be moderated out (except in open threads).


    I continue to note there is a strong lack of perspective and curiosity among the people who call themselves skeptics, but give skepticism (which in fact almost all scientists practice) a bad name:

    "Do climate change sceptics give scepticism a bad name?
    There is a crucial difference between scepticism and non-belief in the face of overwhelming evidence"

    Yes, we are bored with the repetition of false information, and distressed that such falsehoods hold sway in our halls of power.

  19. Speaking of intelligent opposition, there actually is some at Stoat's, not on the physics but at the next line of defense, at the impacts level. The stuff about economics is old trodden ground - William is probably not far from Nullius on this matter, and at least it's easy to understand where he's coming from. I have some more optimism for this conversation because William at least responds to arguments rather than repeating his own position, and has taken the position of "semi-regulated" commerce, which leaves a great deal of room to argue about the details of implementation.

    The part that has me a bit astonished is this "I don't see the evidence for your assertions of vast damage". On the one hand I'm trying to convince my friends that we aren;t already doomed, that there's a way out. On the other we have WIlliam, who has been thinking about this as long as any of us, saying there isn't a huge risk at all!

    So what shall we say to optimists like him about the downside of climate change in particular and the human prospect in general, and what shall we say to pessimists who imagine that immense suffering is already inevitable?

  20. TinyCO2, I've given one of my reasons for coming to Planet3.0 above and it does not match any of your supposed reasons. I do look for help convincing recalcitrant 'sceptics', though help in terms of new ways of expressing the arguments and details of the science and its impact on policy.

    I also come here in the hope that it will persuade me things are better than I fear. I could go to 'sceptic' blogs and get all of that I want, it may even be that there are true reasons for lowering my concern being expressed there, but I would have no real way of knowing, given that those 'sceptic' blogs do not moderate their arguments (moderate in the sense of choosing which arguments have value).

  21. 1. New York Times has a feature article on Koch press acquisition bid. Worth a looksee:

    (seems still open for comments, but not sure how useful an activity that is).

    2. WRT my hope for P3, I think the policy focus, if it can be emphasized, is useful. I join mt in hopes about Stoat's opinion, but fear that along with Obama and Revkin too many in power think this is something we don't need to act on just yet ... not a good idea.

    3. I think P3 needs a Table of Contents (perhaps there is already a site map?). There are a lot of good articles, but we all focus on the active discussions. This goes to my earlier comment about the wealth of material here. Since each article is given equal weight on the page (except that some are on top) I still long for some topical organization. This may be difficult in the blog platform.

  22. What's on my mind right now? I have resolved this very hour to never ever eat sea food again: It would be an obscene act of disregard of the oceans past. (Exceptions possibly (modulo research) sardines or anchovies or jelly fish. And except it would get thrown away if I wouldn't eat it).

    It's not because of the horror of ocean acidification. (Hi there skeptics!). No, the horror is long here, even without acidification. I've just come across Jeremy Jackson's Brave New Ocean lecture...

    Before you watch, start at the last 5 minutes and the last audience question about what scientists can do:

    I feel one thing that scientists have become really wimpy about ... is to stick to what you know, and defend it.

    One wimp he mentions was David Keeling.

  23. Hurricane Sandy had two distinct climate change aspects - the immense extent of the storm (which cause the large storm surge) and the intensity of the trough coming in behind it (which caused the unusual sharp veer to the west). The connection of either of these to anthropogenic forcing is not clear, but the trends are clear and clearly unusual. I would say both of these aspects are part of the newly disrupted climate and simply shrug about the attribution part.

    If you're injured in a car wreck that is someone else's fault, their lawyer may try to make you prove you wouldn't have broken your nose at that instant anyway.

    Admittedly the example exaggerates the coincidence. We know how often noses are broken, but we don't know much about storm surges in the past.

    Still, the lawyer's position is not a very compelling argument from where I'm sitting but I could understand that others would see it differently. But mostly if they had skin in the game, not if they were being reasonable.

  24. Seems that Groundskeeper Willie has returned. He now introduced a novelty, an appeal to spite:

  25. Better version of a similar talk (with visible slides):

    Of special note:

    "Before I came here I ran an oil spill study. It cost three and a half million dollars. It was paid for by your tax dollars. And in that study I discovered that about 90% of all the corals and the reefs that were oiled died. I was immediately labeled as an 'environmentalist', 'untrustworthy' and 'an advocate' because I spent your money to do a scientific study and measure something.

    "Paul Dayton measured the disappearance of large fish in the kelp forests out there. For that, he is an 'environmentalist' and 'and advocate' and 'untrustworthy' because he measured the decline in big fish.

    "And Dave Keeling, right? First of all, who discovered how to measure CO2 in the atmosphere and then discovered that it rose has been labeled as an 'advocate', because he did brilliant science.

    "So the dark side has labeled information as 'advocacy', and it's your job as citizens to understand that, and it's your job as citizens to not allow people to tell you that information is anything other than information. What you want to do about that's up to you, but it's information.

    "And in the last five years what we've seen is the scientific information unashamedly removed from the discussion."

  26. "Surely the reasonable point would be that we don’t yet have clear evidence of attribution"

    So if we just get more data the trend will be clearer? 🙂

    Unfortunately in the real world it doesn't work that way. If the trend isn't clear with a few hundred measurements, thousands more won't make it any clearer.

    But that's just my experience as a scientist. I'm not sure that matters in the climate debate, where the conclusions come first and then we work tirelessly to find a way in which the data might reflect them.

  27. Claims of peak phosphorous are totally bogus. A 2010 estimate indicated a whopping 49B ton resource (not reserve) in the US alone.

    Another study (Center for International Strategic Studies) gives a worldwide resource of 249B tons.

    Annual consumption is about 160m tons and is more or less flat since 1980. So in 100 years we'll consume half of the current estimated resource.

    But, of course, like all mineral commodities, if the price of P rises, explortion will delineate more reserves and resources.

  28. It's my experience that anonymous people claiming to be writing "as a scientist" aren't. I have several data points to support this.

    Of course, stated as an absolute principle like that, it only takes one data point to refute. So prove me wrong. Who are you?

  29. Jeez! Some guys can't even multiply their tens!

    Above I wrote:

    "Annual consumption is about 160m tons and is more or less flat since 1980. So in 100 years we’ll consume half of the current estimated resource. "

    (160m t / year) x 100yr = 16B tons, and 249B ton / 16B ton / 100 yr = 1500 yr.

    So we have 1500 years of P if all resources are converted to reserves and mined.

  30. Jimmy, if you were a actually a scientist you would have seen that your response was obtuse, rude and altogether in bad form. You would also have seen the answer to it without me having to explain in tedious detail, because the very sentence you snarked at included the answer to your snark already. Go back and read it carefully in the event that you are serious.

    I don't doubt that you are bright and have had a few mathematically challenging classes. I'm guessing you're an engineer or an engineering student. I don't think you get to claim to be a scientist without evidence. If you prefer to remain anonymous, fine, but then you can't claim any authority other than the sophistication of your reasoning, which frankly isn't knocking anybody's socks off so far.

  31. If scientific knowledge cannot be discussed, can we so much as speak of morality? What kind of moral atmosphere is possible when people willfully choose to deny uncontested science regarding what could be real with regard to the human species? If people are presented with scientific evidence and say, "Well, I cannot refute what is before my eyes but still, I consciously and deliberately refuse to acknowledge it because it is unbelievable." In such circumstances is it even possible to speak honestly or honorably of a moral atmosphere? Can there be morality in any meaningful sense without truth, that given to us according the lights and scientific knowledge we possess?

    The arc of moral order in the world must follow the 'trajectory' of what is true and real about ourselves and the planetary home we inhabit, I suppose.

  32. I'm a big fan of Jeremy Jackson, but share this opinion of it (dated 2007; recommend sticking with mt's version as he suggests; I believe the content is pretty much the same)

    "OK, readers, please, whatever you do, do not watch this talk if you are at all prone to plunge into real depression. Just skip it, please."

    Found at
    (Tenney Naumer's blog, an invaluable collection of varied literature)

  33. Depression? Ha! Hahaha! Not looking at reality for fearing fear and depression is one heck of a lame excuse. And it might fire back later when things have grown worse. (OK, perhaps the advice might be right for sufferers of severe clinical depression and other mental illness.)

    Hm, well, actually I was tempted to reply to Stephen above to have some empathy and compassion with those poor deniers. Often they are poor souls caught in and manifested by samsara and vicious circlings of ego and omphaloscepsis. The moral problem is less about individuals being "guilty" of disregarding reality and preferring ego-masturbation. The moral problems start when they are treated as serious and get encouraged.

  34. Seems that voluntary disclosing donors' list does not work:

    > On April 16, we mailed letters to the top executives of 16 think tanks asking them to voluntarily disclose a list of any corporations, corporate foundations, and foreign governments that donated in the past five fiscal years, and how much these entities had given the think tanks. We will provide updates on their responses.

  35. A small world:

    The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group group financed by the biggest coal mining and coal-based utility companies in America, spent more than $92 million during the first two years of the Obama administration, much of it on lobbying and advertising against bills like Waxman Markey. The group gained infamy when one of its consulting firms was caught forging over a dozen letters from local NAACP groups and senior citizens to key lawmakers, asking them to oppose the bill.

    One of the recipients of the ACCCE’s largesse was none other than one of Blue Line’s two partners, Michael Meehan. While Meehan led Blue Line’s pro-cap and trade effort, he also served as vice president to an online marketing firm called Virilion. Disclosures show that Virilion, which also rented office space to Blue Line, helped ACCCE manage its anti–cap and trade marketing budget in exchange for $19 million during the two years in which the legislation was debated.

  36. Not that it matters more than non-centering in the Forest 2006:

    Past global climate changes had strong regional expression. To elucidate their spatio-temporal pattern, we reconstructed past temperatures for seven continental-scale regions during the past one to two millennia. The most coherent feature in nearly all of the regional temperature reconstructions is a long-term cooling trend, which ended late in the nineteenth century. At multi-decadal to centennial scales, temperature variability shows distinctly different regional patterns, with more similarity within each hemisphere than between them. There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between AD 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century. The transition to these colder conditions occurred earlier in the Arctic, Europe and Asia than in North America or the Southern Hemisphere regions. Recent warming reversed the long-term cooling; during the period AD 1971–2000, the area-weighted average reconstructed temperature was higher than any other time in nearly 1,400 years.

    (Via Fan @ Judy's.)

  37. The Canadian Association of Mining Industrialists is pleased to report:

    > Aceh has the most forest cover of any province in Sumatra, which lost 36 per cent of its forests in the past 20 years,'' the release says. ''The new spatial plan would grant nearly 1 million hectares of land for mining, 416,086 for logging and 256,250 hectares for palm oil.

    Read more:

  38. Willard, thanks!

    As a site member you are welcome and encouraged to submit links and brief comments to the "Beyond Planet 3" section.

    Sign in, click on "+New", draft your post, and save. Then change the status from "draft" to "pending review". We'll get an email about it. If things are, in your case, impenetrably francophone we'll negotiate a rewording, else we'll go ahead and post it.

  39. Steven, you may be interested in this paper by Partha S. Dasgupta and Paul R. Ehrlich, in last week's Science. From the Editor's Summary:

    A textbook example of an unaccounted-for consequence (externality) of commercial or industrial activity is the production of pollutants where neither the producer nor the buyer bears the cost of using common environmental resources. Dasgupta and Ehrlich (p. 324) offer a theoretical analysis of externalities in two other areas of modern life—human fertility and material consumption. For example, when fertility decline lags mortality decline, the consequence could be environmental crash, the likelihood of which is greater if the environmental effects of consumption or population growth are external to the market.

  40. Demographic issues are very much on topic for this website. As far as P3 is concerned, nothing at all is stopping you.

    However, we are told by demographers that the population is likely to peak in a few decades. So we tend to worry more about more troubling trends. The reason impact is going up is partly because much of the world is emerging from poverty, and partly because our economic system commits the rest of us to excess. The population increase is not unimportant, but by itself it is not the crucial issue for the present day.

  41. "Climate Hunger Strike"

    My typo would have been "Future" strike, which I think expressed my opinion:

    (Written on day 26 of hunger strike on location outside of the American Petroleum Institute at 1220 L Street NW in Washington, D.C.)

    I am on hunger strike, quite simply, because I can think of no action which could adequately express the urgency of humanities present situation.

    There are more than a few trends which, left unchecked, are likely to make life impossibly difficult for future generations. Global Warming, of course, seems to be the one that we have the least time to fix.

    As an exercise in understanding the urgency of this situation, it is well to zoom in on a small aspect of this crisis: snow pack, glaciers and drinking water.

    The rate of global warming in high mountainous regions tends to be much higher than the global average.

    In the Himalayas, the rate is higher even than the average in mountainous regions.

    Just four of the nine rivers fed by the Himalayas, collectively, provide drinking water for more more than half a billion people in Asia.

    Glaciers and snow pack all around the world, which provide the drinking and irrigation water that sustains billions of people, are set to melt and decline, respectively, as a consequence of global warming.

    This will, at first, cause devastating floods, but years later a brutal new reality of water scarcity will descend upon regions which have traditionally relied upon snow pack and glaciers for subsistence.

    To the point: if the snow pack decline and melting of glaciers in just this one region will affect hundreds of millions of people, glaciers will be melting (and snow pack declining) all around the world, and the melting of glaciers/decline of snow pack is but one of many equally devastating consequences of global warming, it seems we’re in a bit of trouble.

    That is why all of us must do every last thing in our power, from hunger strikes, marches, and civil disobedience to letter writing, phone calls, and one-on-one education in our communities.

    Given the urgency of what is coming, every one of our lives should, first and foremost, be dedicated to preventing this coming catastrophe.

    To deliver that message to every last one of us is why I am on hunger strike

  42. Posted at Watts on this thread

    What a fine example of "begging the question" in the original sense.

    You cannot sensibly use the your belief that the problem is too hard for any meaningful consensus, in a demonstration that any such consensus is not legitimate. It's obvious that the former implies the latter, but you're not any more done than you were before you made the point, because the premise is just a matter of undefended assertion.

    Your belief is not the belief of those holding the consensus. So it is just another way of saying you doubt it. Yeah, we got that.

    What is the consensus? That's a good question.

    I suggest that the consensus is:

    1) that contemporary climate change on earth is overwhelmingly caused by inadvertent side effects of human activity,

    2) that the forcing is cumulative, and therefore would increase even for stable emissions

    3) that the expected and observed effects have recently become statistically unambiguous not to say painfully obvious to the casual observer (especially those attuned to one or more natural environments),

    4) that there are large global-scale risks associated with foreseeable climate change,


    5) the longer we delay an adequate policy response the greater the risk and the worse the final outcome will get for a given level of response effort and expense.

    I believe it is fair to say, based on the substantial sample with whom I am best acquainted, that 97% of the 20,000 people, say, with the best claim to understanding of physics of climate agree with all that, and further that they are all supported by extensive and clear evidence.

    In short, the parent article is wrong. There are solid policy-relevant conclusions in climate science on which there is a legitimate consensus.

  43. What? Watts! As if Fuller isn't enough.

    Ceterum censeo: Forget Lomborg. This clown even deserves less attention: 1) He is not funny/crazy/perverse enough. 2) Other clowns take him serious. 2) Attention = reputation

  44. Less Is More: Rogue Economists Champion Prosperity without Growth

  45. One gets the sense that something has been lost in the translation, but an interesting and encouraging link nonetheless.

    The steady state economy would be achievable except for the deep-seated integration of "growth" into how we manage our "finances". This is a harder problem, even, than the zero carbon economy. But I agree that we'd be much better off working less and spending less, and that the commitment to "growth" is a stupid way to offer average the working person a good chance of a comfortable retirement even when it works, which of late it apparently does not. But that's what it's about. Without what we call growth there is no reasonable expectation of return on investment.

    Whether such growth is possible while environmental impact decreases is the question, but the decline in impact intensity has to be pretty spectacular, to the point where nothing of any actual utility has much economic value and we're mostly playing purely symbolic games. Arguably that future has arrived in an unevenly distributed fashion already.

  46. Have any of you been in close quarters with somebody of lower socioeconomic status anytime recently? A very large segment of our population is on a treadmill, working multiple jobs just to pay the rent and take care of their children (which they are massively producing).

    None of these people has a second to think about making any substantive changes in the way goods and services are delivered to them. They have enough trouble being allowed to vote.

    The marketing/infotainment nexus provides them with that old uck, the "opiate of the people." They also are deeply faithful and progressive as to politics, but I'm not talking about religion here, rather the religion of short-term gratification and slick cosmetic emotionalism.

    This is why I think we mostly need the miracle of reestablishing the family of mankind if we're to reverse our headlong cliffiness.

  47. Michael, methinks you nailed it: The requirement of exponential growth comes from finance. But why does compound interest arise? It seems to emerge automagically with the introduction of abstract money, be it gold or paper. (Here's a 1200p German book that seems to have some clues: Karl-Heinz Brodbeck, Die Herrschaft des Geldes. I haven't managed to read much of it, but somewhere I got some English excerpts.)

    Yes, methinks gold is fiat money, too: Gold is about as worthwhile as paper (except for the classic psycho/sociopathical aberrations of western civilization...)... Now, what about carbon-based money?

  48. K.H. Brodbeck, Die Herrschaft des Geldes, Wiss. Buchges. 2009, p. 2/3. Transl. by M.G.:

    Money is not a thing. Money is a universalized form of thought. (...) Modern economic science, which wants to be a science of barter and money, has not achieved to explain money - to elucidate the essence of its very subject. And precisely this void (which to uncover critically and to fill with a positive explanation is the task of the present book) is the basis of money's supposedly self-evident rule which as the "free market" overwhelms the planet with "forces of circumstance" every day. One thing economic science has certainly achieved: It has succeeded in composing a hymn of praise of the market in many tunes, and as reverberation and rear guard psychology, sociology and philosophy add further tones. The world is thinking in a form which governs it and can exert its power precisely because it goes unrecognized. Money is the apriori of the forms of thought that fail at the attempt to explain it because they always presuppose what makes up the subject of consideration. Money can rule human action only because its empty nature and odd pretence is not recognized.

    p. 1137:

    Nobody who still has a shade of knowledge about his complete dependence from the cradle to the grave on other humans and thus an obligation to them will refuse to attempt to minimize the global suffering consequential on the errors of the forms of thought of the monetary subject. Not compassion is crazy - compassion is the translated insight of mutual dependence - the crazy is the egotism of homo oeconomicus.

  49. Unless we establish at least a minuscule tax on financial transactions, the fake money universe is going to continue to drain all the blood out of the body politic. Rewarding the ability to make trades in less than 15 seconds, over and over, makes some people very very rich and the rest of us very very poor, if not in actual daily life, in potential for the future.

  50. Obama gets the message, it seems (though I wish he'd stop thinking like a lawyer about evidence and science on climate, and realize this should be put front and center):

    (I'm sourcing this from Tenney Naumer's blog because there are several other interesting items there, well worth a look; scroll down to get to the article)

    "Obama gives Aussie researcher 31,541,507 reasons to celebrate"

    Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald

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