Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Could be as much as (enter own exaggeration)

This is one of the themes from Bjorn Lomborg's infamous book. It is not lying - It isn't even necessarily an exaggeration, but it encourages people to only talk about alarming figures that are at the far edge of expectations. It doesn't help that the media only reports the alarming "Coulds" and ignore the opposite (eg. any economist which states - there could actually be no net cost to the world due to global warming.) Basically, the outside chance of avertable complete global catastrophe should at least be considered against the possibility that global warming could prevent something that would otherwise cause complete global catastrophe. Basically, putting my scientist hat on, 1)we should concentrate the most on the middle of expectations, 2) note that global conflict, trade and other dynamics will greatly influence trend lines and 3) Make sure the myriad other environmental risks are given sufficient priority and scrutiny.

4 comments:

Dr. Clam said...

Read 'Freakonomics' yesterday. Have you read it? It is the book that popularised the legalised abortion = less crime argument. It is a slighter volume than I expected, padded out with appendices. One appendix is a merciless economic dissection of one of those 'Peak Oil' doom and gloom articles.

Unfortunately nothing about something I've been pondering lately- is there a pricing structure possible for things like electricity that rewards the supplier for not generating and selling as much electricity as they can manage? Any ideas?

Marco said...

I haven't read it yet, even though it really is a must read for me. I have read several reviews and they all make my mouth water :). For instance that merciless dissection of Peak Oil would be entertaining bedtime reading for me.

As far as the electricity goes, pricing, almost accross the board has tended to be regulated at the retail level, and subsidised (or occasionally taxed) at the wholesale level. The economic pricing structure is generally broken down into base load and peak demand. The only real way to keep demand within capacity is to charge more at peak times. To some extent, suppliers would prefer to increase the prices overall to remain well within capacity, but to still have differential pricing for peaks and troughs. Like with any energy commodity, it is the pressure from the demand, and the public sensitivity to increased prices, which forces the hand of the suppliers to generate more, and to use all their capacity before rationing supply.

Dr. Clam said...

Keep up the good work at realclimate.org! Maybe one day I will be bold enough to join you :)

Dr. Clam said...

Though not for some time. My mind seems to be more than usually slow and vague these days.

'Could be as much as...' is the driving force of the utter lack of proportion in these arguments.

1 degree rise, 1850-2006: 20 cm rise in sea level, none of which is attributable to melting of Greenland or Antarctic Ice. I haven't found anyone quoting values sigificantly higher than 20 cm anywhere.

1 degree further rise, 2006-?: "Could be as much as" 'Gondolas in the streets of London and New York'