Posner dumps (on) Repubs

The intellectual trend away from the political right in the US[1] has been going on for some time, reversing the trend in the opposite direction that dominated the 1970s and 1980s[2]. But this NPR interview with Richard Posner who says

there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking

is probably the most notable single example so far, for several reasons.

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Blame the ECB

Opening paras of my latest at The National Interest

As the euro zone stumbles towards a seemingly inevitable collapse, it is easy to blame the politicians involved or the whole idea of a common currency. The outcomes of the latest top-level meeting, including a pledge to create a single euro-zone banking supervisor and a relaxation in conditions for lending to Spain, are welcome enough but seem, yet again, to be too little, too late to save the common currency.

In reality, the real problem is not with the euro but with the institution set up to manage it, the European Central Bank. The idea behind its creation—a central bank completely independent from government control—is detached from economic reality.

The ECB’s disconnectedness was evident in the decisions by President Jean-Claude Trichet to raise interest rates twice during the course of 2011, at a time when the danger of complete collapse was already evident. Although these decisions were subsequently reversed, they killed any chance that Europe would grow its way out of the debt crisis.

Moderation problems at the Bolt blog (updated)

In my previous post, I noted that, while Andrew Bolt had correctly calculated the impact of the carbon tax for the year 2020, he hadn’t completed the analysis by evaluating the impact over the relevant policy timeframe. While I was working on this, Bolt produced another post, linking to this piece by John Humphreys, which suggested errors in my original analysis. I submitted comments to both sites. John noted the error in Bolt’s analysis, but advises me that he is not going to publish comments, and hasn’t yet corrected his own post[1]. I assume he’ll get around to this soon.

I submitted the following to Bolt’s blog

John Humphreys has updated his post to note “John Quiggin has pointed out that there is also a significant problem with the Bolt estimate, since it only calculates the benefit from reduced emissions for one year (2020) instead of adding up the cumulative reductions over multiple years. Good point. This means the Bolt methodology just got a while lot more complicated since it now requires an expected future emissions time series and an expected future emissions time series counter-factual. That task is too big for me at the moment, but [b]it’s fair to say that such a number is going to be quite a bit higher than Bolt’s original estimate[/b].”
(emphasis added) I give a corrected estimate here

Sadly, the comment didn’t make it through moderation, presumably due to an error, so I’m publishing it here.

Update: Another go-round on moderation Andrew Bolt has posted again, indicating that the non-publication of my comment was indeed a moderation error, and acknowledging the need to use cumulative effects rather than those for a single year. As he will see when he does this, his sensitivity estimate is consistent with mine.

Unfortunately, Bolt didn’t follow the link I gave, and therefore repeated the already-refuted claim that my estimated was out by a factor of five, relative to that of Roger Jones. As I’d already pointed out here, the error was due to Michael Bachelard, who applied Roger’s sensitivity analysis to an emissions reduction of 5 per cent, when the reduction relative to BAU is 25 per cent. That obviously explains the factor of 5 divergence. I’ve posted a comment to Bolt’s blog pointing this out, but that comment too is awaiting moderation.

fn1. In the meantime, John H. has noted the erroneous estimates by Michael Bachelard, corrected here, and also some estimates by Christopher Monckton, presumably as a reductio ad absurdam

Quiggin and Bolt agree

As I mentioned a little while back, I’m going to refrain (or at least try to refrain) from polemics on the subject of climate change in the future. As a first step, I’m happy to say that I’ve found a post by Andrew Bolt which I can recommend. Bolt links to this estimate by Damon Matthews that each tonne of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere changes the equilibrium temperature by 0.000 000 000 0015 degrees, that is 1.5*10^-12 in scientific notation. Noting that the carbon price is expected to reduce emissions by 160 million tonnes per year by 2020, Bolt makes the straightforward calculation that the emissions avoided in the year 2020 will reduce equilibrium temperature by 2.4*10^-4 or 0.00024 degrees.

Bolt stops there, perhaps having run out of time, so I’ll complete the calculation for him. Obviously to compute the impact of the carbon price we need to estimate the effect, not just for the year 2020 but for the entire period the policy is in place. That’s a complicated task, but let’s simplify by supposing that the policy stays in place until 2100 and that the 2020 reduction in emissions is maintained over this period. That gives a reduction in equilibrium temperatures of about 0.02 degrees, which coincidentally or not, is exactly what I estimated using a different method in a recent comments thread.

Of course, as we all know, this is a collective action problem – any one jurisdiction acting alone is not going to achieve much. Fortunately, most countries are doing something, even if they have adopted inefficient approaches like direct regulation in the US. So, let’s calculate what would happen if everyone adopted measures with effects comparable to those of the carbon price.

Australia accounts for about 2 per cent of the global economy, and about 2 per cent of total emissions (the latter depends a lot on which emissions are imputed where, but these estimates are imprecise anyway). So, if Australia’s effort with the carbon price is about average for the world as a whole, and these policies are sustained without change, Bolt’s calculation implies that the reduction in equilibrium temperature would be about 1 degree.

Bolt invites comments on whether such a reduction is worthwhile. Anyone who has looked at the impact of 1 degree of additional warming ought to agree that reducing warming by 1 degree yields a benefit far more than is needed to justify global adoption of policies like the current carbon price policy.

What this calculation shows is that we need to do more. Depending on your projections we need to reduce equilibrium temperatures by 2-4 degrees relative to Business as Usual. That will imply a carbon price at least twice as high as that implemented on Sunday. Comparing this week to last, I think we can probably bear the associated pain.

Bolt also links to this article by Michael Bachelard which states that the carbon price would reduce emissions by 5 per cent, relative to 2000, and gives an estimate by Roger Jones that this would reduce equilibrium temperature by around 0.004 degrees. As I’ve pointed out quite a few times now, the relevant comparison, and the one I’ve used in my calculations is between the carbon price and business as usual. That comparison yields a reduction of 25 per cent, and an impact of 0.02 degrees using Roger’s sensitivity assumptions. So, it looks like agreement all round.

(H/T John Humphreys)

Hacked again

Hello all, your friendly Ozblogistan Tyrant here, abusing my multisite posting powers.

This morning I received two independent reports of trojan warnings being given for two different Ozblogistan websites.

After investigation, I have determined that the server was automatically compromised, presumably by a brand new attack (since we just 2 days ago updated to WordPress 3.4.1), and a trojan inserted into various parts of WordPress.

I have identified and replaced the affected files with clean copies, and you should see no more warnings.

Those who want the gruesome details can learn more.