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The sages are divided

By Owen Paine on Thursday June 4, 2009 11:12 AM

Gulliver's third voyage is by far the best:

[The inhabitants of Laputa] are under continual Disquietudes, never enjoying a Minute's Peace of Mind; and their Disturbances proceed from Causes which very little affect the rest of Mortals. Their Apprehensions arise from several Changes they dread in the Celestial Bodies....

They are so perpetually alarmed with the Apprehensions of these and the like impending Dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their Beds, nor have any Relish for the common Pleasures or Amusements of Life. When they meet an Acquaintance in the Morning, the first Question is about the Sun's Health; how he looked at his Setting and Rising, and what Hopes they have to avoid the Stroak of the approaching Comet.

This conversation they are apt to run into with the same Temper that boys discover, in delighting to hear terrible Stories of Sprites and Hobgoblins, which they greedily listen to, and dare not go to Bed for fear."

Here's an account of a weekend spent at "an excellent NBER Conference on Climate Change: Past and Present", written by one Mike Roberts (close to a Comintern nom de guerre, that):
"A highlight was a fantastic exchange between two proverbial giants on the Big Climate Change Question."
The two giants in question were amusingly named Pindyck and Weitzman. Pindyck! How that poor man must have suffered in third grade or thereabouts. But now he's a giant, so that's all right, then.

P & W were engaged in the high-scholastic endeavor, it seems, of putting an economic price on global warming. Here's a sample of Roberts' ruminations on the fine-spun Chalcedonian reasoning that filled the air. "Fantastic", indeed:

Robert Pindyck['s] model had welfare as a function of output and output growth as a function of temperature change.... he assumed temperature change could not affect utility in any manner other than output.... [C]hanging this assumption alone could increase willingness to pay to 99 percent of income.

I noted Pindyck’s graphs omitted from consideration very large levels [of] risk aversion .... For relatively small amounts of risk aversion and uncertainty, greater risk aversion reduces willingness to pay to stop warming. But for very large levels of risk aversion, this reverses, and willingness to pay explodes with risk aversion [E]mpirical finance says risk aversion is crazy large... This assumption alone would seem to push everything to infinity or zero depending on the other assumptions.

There you have it, folks. Infinity or zero. Take your pick.

Mr Roberts' sum-up:

"We should worry a lot about what the future might hold."
Because if we didn't...?

Comments (4)

Al Schumann:

Oh, hell. I already know what the future will hold. Over the next ten years, there'll be an endless series of fatuous pseudo-market fiddles. Pampered crackpots will piously intone their sponsors' pet Great Ineluctables. This will be followed, very shortly, by radical migrations and equally radical attempted expropriations, most of which will be contested so violently that they make direct address of climate change impossible.

I'm happy to say we're doomed, and not a moment too soon.

Son of Uncle Sam:

The fad will fade when no one has green dreams for the pockets. Unless we can start to genetically engineer an entire generation where majority would want veal to be old milk making land scapers and spouses to be of their own genders, thus, rapidly cutting population and emissions while making fertilizer for vegetables. A world where being resourceful really means P-town Sallie. Needle dick!! Needle dick!!


"Because if we didn't...?"

then we'd never tired of it and try something else?

Peter Ward:

Not only do we have Climate Change to contend with we now have "solutions" for climate change to contend with as well. Current proposals have the following important characteristics:

a) Fail to meet targets scientists recommend (obviously)
b) Will plunge us even deeper into poverty by driving up energy costs, thereby the costs of just about everything--as always, the poor will have to pay the price for the irresponsibility of the rich
c) A new speculative bubble will result from the carbon credit market

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