What I’ve been reading

I finally got around to The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, which I’ve had on my shelf for ages. I was happy to see I got a brief mention, pointing out the misleading way that model simulation results from MEGABARE on the cost of Kyoto were presented in public debate.

Overall, the book is impressive but depressing. It seems clear that lots of species are doomed to extinction even if we move rapidly to stabilise CO2 concentrations, something which the denialist lobby is doing its best to prevent.

An interesting (and alarming) sidelight was the observation that the destruction of the ozone layer would have gone much faster, potentially leading to catastrophic damage, if we’d used chemicals based on bromine rather than chlorine-based CFCs. It was only a matter of chance that the economics turned out better for chlorine. It’s worth recalling at this point that many of our leading climate change denialists (such as Pat Michaels, Sallie Baliunas, Fred Singer, John Brignell and Steve Milloy) were also ozone hole denialists and some still are.

Bin Laden dead ?

French Newspaper L’Est Republicain has published a report, citing sources in the French security services who claim that Osama bin Laden is dead of typhoid, having been unable treatment by virtue of his isolation.

« Selon une source habituellement fiable, les services saoudiens auraient désormais acquis la conviction qu’Oussama Ben Laden est mort. Les éléments recueillis par les saoudiens indiquent que le chef d’Al-Qaïda aurait été victime, alors qu’il se trouvait au Pakistan le 23 août 2006, d’une très forte crise de typhoïde ayant entraîné une paralysie partielle de ses membres inférieurs. Son isolement géographique, provoqué par une fuite permanente, aurait rendu impossible toute assistance médicale. Le 4 septembre 2006, les services saoudiens de sécurité ont recueilli les premiers renseignements faisant état de son décès. Ils attendraient, d’obtenir davantage de détails, et notamment le lieu exact de son inhumation, pour annoncer officiellement la nouvelle ».

Via ABC News

A good year

I’ve been checking my publications and I’ve had 15 refereed journal articles published (in print or online) so far this year, which is the most ever for me (though I’ve read that Harry Johnson had 18 articles in press at the time of his death). There are a few more that have been accepted, and might make it through by the end of the year.

Thinking about there are a few factors that contribute to this happy outcome. One is random fluctuation. Last year was a little below average, and some papers that should have been published then slipped into 2006. Similarly, I expect 2007 to be a bit light.

Another is that, with the Federation Fellowship, I’ve tended to do more applied policy stuff, particularly on water. That’s easier to write and publish than theory pieces aimed at international journals (though I’m still doing those).

Finally, I’ve cut back on travel. While some travel is necessary, I think most academics would benefit from less time on the road and more in front of the computer.

What’s really good about this is that it allays the fear that blogging will have a bad long-term effect on my productivity. I think it probably takes time that I might otherwise have put into a book or two, but books are a high-effort, low-payoff exercise for economists, unless you have something you really need to say at book length.

Free the Tripoli Six

This Nature editorial reports the alarming news that six international health workers face execution in Libya on bogus charges of spreading HIV. As the editorial points out, despite the absence of any real improvement in its human rights record, Libya is being treated as a Beacon of Light by both the US and EU because it has backed off its previous support for terrorism and WMDs. It should be made clear to the Gaddafi regime that murdering aid workers is on a par with terrorism as a crime against the international community.

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