Tuesday, 30 June 2009

When economists go bad

Paul Krugman used to be an economist I enjoyed reading. He was sensible, logical and most importantly even handed with hypotheses and data. He made well founded arguments that didn't rely on fallacies of authority and he treated all data with the caution and respect it requires.

But something has happened. Something has changed. Paul seems different. A bad case of Nobelitis? Or maybe, just maybe, Paul sees a political future for himself rather than an academic one.

This is only the most recent comment from Paul on the issue of Dangerous Climate Change. In it he displays none of the reason that I enjoyed in the past. He is instead a shrill voice waving papers, citing some extraordinary claims (without providing details of the supporting data) and most importantly making a political case rather than an economic one. Read it for yourself and make your own judgement, but I would provide one illuminating sentence:

I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against
the planet.

Yep. Treason.

And what could prove this is such a disaster in the making?

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Facts apparently. Something a Nobel Economics prize winner should be pretty hot on and was until recently. But in this case it is worse than even pessimists expected and occurring at a terrifying rate, but he doesn't even identify what these data are or where they can be found.

What data is being analysed suggests that climate change, as measured by everyone's favourite metric of mean global temperature anomalies, is occurring more slowly than thought. Look here for a fact-based appraisal of temperatures to date compared with the "scenarios" produced in 1997 and 2001 by the IPCC, which had become increasingly alarming. It indeed appears that the more pessimistic the "experts" - like those modellers at MIT Paul mentions - become, the more benign the outcomes appear to be. Actual changes in temperature are falling well below those expected. Paul would serve himself well to familiarise himself with such analysis, which I would be inclined to call genuine science.

Such failure isn't surprising, because in other areas the reality of climate is falling short of the predictions of the doomsayers. Claims that tropical cyclones (hurricanes) were increasing in number and intensity - which was all the rage around the time of Katrina - are now scarce because there has been very subdued activity.

And of course the worst sin of all for an economist, in particular one I regarded so highly until recently, is the blind support for complex modelled forecasts - something I talk about here. I know that will cause him such immense embarassment among his peers at some point in the not to distant future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You idiot. It is flat earthers like you that are destroying the earth for their own greed.

I hope you will be happy when your children are starving and have lost thier home to rising seas.