Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

13 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. If Dan Tehan’s university cuts weren’t so focused on the class war front of the culture wars, they might have raised an interesting question about labour economics. As it is, they were rightly interpreted as a way of keeping poor kids out of subject areas that are used as networking hubs for the post-private school, pre-workplace rich. However, if Tehan had simply used quotas to limit the number of students in certain areas and incentivise others, it would have raised an interesting question about how we, as a country, decide how many people to allocate to any task, rather than just who does which task.

    There are two obvious approaches to the job of determining success in allocating our labour resources:
    1) We decide what needs to be done and figure out how to give enough people the skills to get it all done.
    2) We figure out what people want to do with their time and figure out a way to allow them to do it while satisfying our needs.

    I didn’t study much labour economics as an undergraduate at UQ, presumably because it’s so obviously not a perfectly competitive market and thus is deemed inappropriate content for students. Is there anything I could read on the question of making sure that there are enough arts jobs for the people who want to be artists, rather than there being enough marketing officers for all the firms that need to sell stuff?

  2. Damning article on WHO, and…
    “So why not just mask up for a few weeks, just in case?”

    “239 Experts With One Big Claim: The Coronavirus Is Airborne

    “The W.H.O. has resisted mounting evidence that viral particles floating indoors are infectious, some scientists say. The agency maintains the research is still inconclusive.
    . ..
    “There is no incontrovertible proof that SARS-CoV-2 travels or is transmitted significantly by aerosols, but there is absolutely no evidence that it’s not,” said Dr. Trish Greenhalgh, a primary care doctor at the University of Oxford in Britain.

    “So at the moment we have to make a decision in the face of uncertainty, and my goodness, it’s going to be a disastrous decision if we get it wrong,” she said. “So why not just mask up for a few weeks, just in case?”

    Epidemiologists, virologists, and now physicists – particle and aerosol experts. Professor Lidia Morawska at QUT, (JQ a world renown expert of aerosols on campus) is one of the lead authors of above letter, to be published soon in Clinical Infectious Diseases authored by Lidia Morawska, and Donald Milton + 237 experts.

    Professor Lidia Morawska
    PhD (Jagiellonian University), MSc (Jagiellonian University)

    Professional memberships
    and associations
    Consultant, World Health Organisation
    – Member – Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand
    – Trustee – International Society for Indoor Air Quality (ISIAQ)
    – Member – American Association for Aerosol Research

    Knibbs L, Cole-Hunter T, Morawska L, (2011) A review of commuter exposure to ultrafine particles and its health effects,Atmospheric Environment p2611-2622Morawska L, Ristovski Z, Jayaratne R, Keogh D, Ling X, (2008) 

    Ambient nano and ultrafine particles from motor vehicle emissions: characteristics, ambient processing and implications on human exposure, Atmospheric Environment p8113-8138He C, Morawska L, Taplin L, (2007) 

    A Review of Dispersion Modelling and its Application to the Dispersion of Particles: An Overview of Different Dispersion Models Available.,Atmospheric Environment p5902-5928

  3. If seqaugur wants to look at the work of Professor Jeff Borland and associate Professor Michael Coelli, especially their article “Labour Market Inequality in Australia” Economic Record 2016; they are both from The University of Melbourne. There is also Dr. Diana Warren and Maggie Yu from the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Maggie Yu wrote a submission in 2019 entitled “Shaping futures:school subject choices and enrollment in STEM”. Finally there is Professor Alison L. Booth.

  4. Coal phaseout – rather long

    Via CoalWire, the Rocky Mountain Institute et al add to the pile of reports saying how easy it is to get off coal: It’s a solid piece of work with one catastrophic mistake. The whole case is to show that legacy coal generation is increasingly uncompetitive with new wind and solar plus storage, which won’t come as news to readers here. The calculations here are very sensitive to the predicted pathway of renewable costs. But RMI fail completely to discuss these, as every other modeller does (IPCC, Jacobson, Blakers, etc.)

    All we get is a plausible but unsourced obiter dictum (page 14) about the USA – “solar costs of $20/megawatt-hour (MWh) to $30/MWh are likely to be the norm by 2025, even after the expiry of the federal tax incentives”. Oh, there is also a reference (page 48) to the GCPEM model built by one of the co-authors, the Carbon Tracker Institute. I’ve looked at the methods page for this, and it’s no more helpful. This unprofessional gaffe makes the report about half as useful as it otherwise could have been. Somebody please tell me my reading skills are going senile.

    Still, it says some interesting things on China.
    “We estimate that 43 percent of Chinese coal is already uncompetitive with renewables plus storage today: the Chinese power system could save $18 billion annually by retiring this portion of the fleet in 2020. […] However, by 2025, the percentage of uncompetitive plants will rise to 94 percent, their retirement offering $98 billion in annual savings. The remaining 6 percent would cost $1 billion to replace in 2025.”

    This analysis clashes with reported Chinese plans to build 40 GW of new coal plants as part of the Covid recovery. If RMI are right (and their case agrees with previous work by Lauri Myllyvirta of Greenpeace), China is wasting a truly staggering amount of money in building useless, expensive and planet-killing coal plants.

    Much of the report is devoted to ingenious Paretian ways of using the large net savings from early retirement to keep everyone happy – consumers, investors, workers. Example: conditional debt forgiveness by reverse auction. Technically this looks feasible. Politically? I doubt it. There are two very big snags.

    One: as coal dies, control passes into the hands of vulture disaster capitalists like Jeff Hoops (Google him). These have no more interest in the welfare of other investors than of workers. They won’t play along with the Pollyanna deal, which gets in the way of the looting.

    Two: any phaseout deals will be largely in the hand of progressives. They – we – are disgusted by the lying and corruption that have protected fossil fuels for decades, and want these genocidal bastards to pay a price. Ideally, the children of the coal barons should beg for bread in the gutter, and let’s not get into detail about their fathers. We aren’t going to see any such Mad Max revenge fantasy enacted – just as well. But it will be very hard to stomach a deal that lets coal investors and managers entirely off the hook. Germany, with a slow compensated phaseout planned by a conservative-led coalition, is an exception rather than a model.

  5. Is the Coronavirus airborne? Yeah, a bit but not much. Does this mean people in Victoria should wear masks? Yes. If the Coronavirus wasn’t airborne in any way and was only spread by droplets should Victorians wear masks? Yes.

    Not a lot of change in practice.

  6. If the Coronavirus wasn’t airborne in any way and was only spread by droplets should Victorians wear masks?

    If it were true that the virus were spread by droplets and only by droplets, it would still not be true it wasn’t airborne in any way: droplets do get airborne.

  7. J-D, droplets can be carried by wind a long way, but in still air they aren’t “airborne” as they fall out of the air and aren’t “borne” by it. Droplets that are small enough to float around in the air for a long period of time get called a different name — an aerosol or particles.

    Does everyone agree where the line is drawn? No. But it’s still a useful distinction. Fortunately, very little COVID-19 appears to be caught from very small airborne aerosols or particles. Cloth masks are better at stopping droplets than tiny particles of dried phlegm. But the good news here is when you sneeze or cough the droplets won’t have time to dry out and get tiny before they hit your mask — provided you happen to be wearing one.

  8. Yes, I understand that there is a difference between large droplets and aerosols, and I understand that large droplets are not airborne in the same way as aerosols, but they are airborne in some way.

  9. Iko: your link shows very clearly what Morrison is trying to do. The trouble is that the RMI analysis is basically sound, and the level of subsidy and regulatory bias needed to keep coal, oil and gas afloat is rising all the time. Elon Musk’s net worth is now three times that of Gautam Adani. Trump abandoned his coal bailout in the face of opposition from business Republicans to the costs and political damage involved; he is trying to divert covid recovery funds to bail out bankrupt gas frackers, with no clear success – but his efforts won’t be big enough. How long can Morrison defy economic gravity?

  10. James Wimberley,

    Unfortunately, Morrison can stay irrational long enough to gift his fossil fuel backers a lot more money.

    The top climate scientists are saying:

    “Collapse of civilization is now more likely than not.” – resilience

    “Australia’s top climate scientist says “we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse” of civilisation, which may now be inevitable because 9 of the 15 known global climate tipping points that regulate the state of the planet have been activated.

    Australian National University emeritus professor Will Steffen told Voice of Action that there was already a chance we have triggered a “global tipping cascade” that would take us to a less habitable “Hothouse Earth” climate, regardless of whether we reduced emissions.” – resilience

    “Given the momentum in both the Earth and human systems, and the growing difference between the ‘reaction time’ needed to steer humanity towards a more sustainable future, and the ‘intervention time’ left to avert a range of catastrophes in both the physical climate system (e.g., melting of Arctic sea ice) and the biosphere (e.g., loss of the Great Barrier Reef), we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse.” – emeritus professor Will Steffen.

    The problem of course is not only the momentum in our current systems but the inertia in our political economy. Politicians like Morrison, and his backers for whow he makes policy, simply refuse to change. But we have left real change so late that due to the momentum in the earth system and real economy system, even if we changed as rapidly as possible we probably won’t avert some level of disasters. That is not an excuse for inaction. We should still ameliorate as much as possible.

    Some “eucatastrophe” could still save us. “A eucatastrophe is a sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensures that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible and probable doom. The writer J. R. R. Tolkien coined the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe,…” – Wikipedia.

    Of course, Tolkien being a Catholic sees it theologically, but physically or biologically a “eucatastrophe” could still occur: slim chance but it is there. COVID-19, while a human pandemic catastrophe, can be regarded as an ecological eucatastrophe. The rest of the ecology of the planet gets a partial reprieve while we can’t pollute at our usual rates. If we could leverage the pandemic to change our economy to low fossil fuel use and low consumption of inessentials that would actually give humanity a higher chance of maintaining some kind of civilization long term.

    Another lesson in all this, to my mind, is that capitalism has a poor “look-ahead” system. Capitalism is like a computer chess program with poor heuristics and an inadeqaute ability to calculate moves ahead. By the time it calculates it needs to avoid certain moves (like making more coal fired power stations) it is too late to avoid ecological checkmate. Science warned first, and well before markets (actually about 50 years earlier). Markets are useless for “look-ahead” decisions involving the natural world. Markets are also distortable by politics, making the situation for markets even worse. This tells us to regulate according to science and NOT wait for markets. Waiting for markets to react is the recipe for reacting too late.

  11. I’ll let this one through. But my rule is that you should post only in the Sandpit thread. That way I don’t have to check what you are writing – JQ

    I do not understand what is going on. I have stopped writing comments about the corona pandemic.
    But I have written at least 20 comments if not 25 comments about the situation in Africa between Egypt and Ethiopia and not one of them have been allowed to be seen by the public after the moderator has looked at them. One might be tempted to say that this African conflict has nothing to due with Austraiia.
    OK that might true in a direct sense. But the story about what is going on in Africa is related to energy and it is related to China. Those subjects tie it in with Schellenberger and lots of other articles that have been posted in the not to recent past.
    Things are also seem to be getting quite interesting in Montenegro. Or, quite terrifying depending upon ones geographical location. Yet only Al Jazzera seems to have had any coverage of it. From what I have seen it is very difficult to know what side one should be cheering for because all the sides in the conflict in Montenegro, like in Syria, like in the USA, like in Russia, like in the UK, like in the Ukraine, like in China, like in Iran, like in Brazil, like in Turkey, like in France, like in Venezuela, like in Saudi Arabia, like in Columbia, like in Israel, like in South Sudan, like in Iraq seem to have been discredited.

    I once taught that you can not trust anyone but you must trust someone. But is there ANYONE IMPORTANT ANYWHERE that can say that they have earned the right to have trust placed in them? If the answer is no then that might be because no one paid any attention to my lesson in the first place.

    Note: Cuba does not count as important because it is to powerless to be considered important. Therefore none of its leaders can be considered important.

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