Quiggin and Bolt: One last try for agreement on the numbers

I was at the Australian Conference of Economists earlier in the week, and had a chat with Roger Jones, who has occasionally commented here. I asked him about his estimates of the impact of emissions mitigation policies in Australia, and was able to confirm that our estimates, although reached in very different ways, are in quite close agreement. Roger is cited here and here, estimating that a 5 per cent reduction in Australia’s emissions would result in a reduction in equilibrium global temperature of 0.0034 degrees. In a blog comment, I made the estimate that a 25 per cent reduction, relative to business as usual (the official target of the carbon price policy and also of the Opposition’s ‘direct action’ alternative) would result in a reduction in equilibrium global temperature of 0.02 degrees.

Unfortunately, Andrew Bolt did not observe the reason for the difference, and suggested that we disagreed by a factor of five. For the second time, a comment I sent correcting the mistake was lost in moderation. I was inclined to give up at this point, but given that Bolt did admit an error in his own estimate that I had pointed out to John Humphreys[1], I thought it would be worth one last try.

Policy disagreements are inevitable, but it would be helpful if we could avoid unnecessary disputes over arithmetic. I’m always happy to check for, and if necessary correct, errors in my calculations. If Bolt and others could do likewise, we would have a better chance of making progress in public debate, or at least of avoiding regress.

Update I appear to have misinterpeted my conversation with Roger, though I need to check on a number of issues before making a final assessment. So, I’m going to withdraw my claim that Bolt and John Humphreys in error on this point, and discuss the estimates with Roger in more detail. I’ll report back when this is complete.

Further update Unsurprisingly, Andrew Bolt has enjoyed a bit of a gloat on the subject, and some of his fans have joined in. So, it’s worth reminding everyone that he was out by a factor of 100 in his own calculations, presenting the impact of one year’s emissions reductions as if it was the total effect over the next 100 years.

Tribalism and locavorism

Salon today reprints an article from Alternet by Jill Richardson, defending local food against an attack by Pierre Desroches and Hiroku Shimizu, who are associated with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and whose work is based, she says, on neoliberal economics. Richardson runs with a fairly standard critique of neoclassical economics, starting with the standard joke about the chemist, physicist and economist stranded on a desert island.

What’s interesting about this debate is that in intellectual terms both parties are on the opposite side to the the one they imagine.

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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.