Six Questions

…for Jim Manzi. An interesting interview over at the Economist:

The current UN IPCC consensus forecast is that, under fairly reasonable assumptions for world population and economic growth, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is expected to cause economic costs of about 3% global GDP in a much wealthier world more than 100 years from now. This is pretty far from the rhetoric of imminent global destruction.

Because (not “though”) the science is uncertain, the rational concern is that impacts could be worse than expected. This has been the subject of intense scientific research for decades, and the IPCC has published probability distributions for various levels of projected warming over the next century. There is no such projected level of warming with materially non-zero probability for typical economic scenarios that would justify what I would estimate to be the actual costs of an emissions mitigation regime, and there is certainly no odds-adjusted case (ie, in which we handicap the odds of more and less severe possible impacts) which could justify such costs.

The only real argument for rapid, aggressive emissions abatement boils down to the point that you can’t prove a negative. If it turns out that even the outer edge of the probability distribution of our predictions for global-warming impacts is enormously conservative, and disaster looms if we don’t change our ways radically and this instant, then we really should start shutting down power plants and confiscating cars tomorrow morning. We have no good evidence that such a disaster scenario is imminent, but nobody can conceivably prove it to be impossible. Once you get past the table-pounding, any rationale for rapid emissions abatement that confronts the facts in evidence is really a more or less sophisticated restatement of the precautionary principle: the somewhat grandiosely named idea that the downside possibilities are so bad that we should pay almost any price to avoid almost any chance of their occurrence.

But if you want to use this rationale to justify large economic costs, what non-arbitrary stopping condition will you choose for how much we should limit emissions? Assume for the moment that we could have a perfectly implemented global carbon tax. If we introduced a tax high enough to keep atmospheric carbon concentration to no more than 1.5x its current level (assuming we could get the whole world to go along), we would expect to spend about $17 trillion more than the benefits that we would achieve in the expected case. That’s a heck of an insurance premium for an event so low-probability that it is literally outside of a probability distribution. Of course, I can find scientists who say that level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is too dangerous. Al Gore has a more aggressive proposal that if implemented through an optimal carbon tax (again, assuming we can get the whole word to go along) would cost more like $23 trillion in excess of benefits in the expected case. Of course, this wouldn’t eliminate all uncertainty, and I can find scientists who say we need to reduce emissions even faster. Once we leave the world of odds and handicapping and enter the world of the precautionary principle, there is really no principled stopping point. We would be chasing an endlessly receding horizon of zero risk.

To put a fine point on it, replace “global warming” in your question with “planet-killing asteroid impact”. Earth-impact asteroids are a non-imaginary threat, and there is already significant government expenditure devoted to this problem. They hold the potential to all but exterminate the human species. By the logic of your question, why would you not invest, say, 2% of global GDP per year into perpetuity (roughly equal to about $1 trillion, or the total annual collections from the US income tax), to develop and deploy an interdiction system for earth-impact asteroids? If not, how do you distinguish between your fear of climate change impacts beyond the consensus scientific forecast, and a fear of asteroids?

In fact, we face lots of other unquantifiable threats of at least comparable realism and severity. In addition to asteroids, a regional nuclear war in Central Asia, a global pandemic triggered by a modified version of HIV, or a rogue state weaponising genetic-engineering technology all come immediately to mind. Any of these could kill hundreds of millions of people. In the face of massive uncertainty on multiple fronts the best strategy is almost always to hedge your bets and keep your options open. Wealth and technology are raw materials for options. The loss of economic and technological development that would be required to eliminate all hypothetical climate change risk would cripple our ability to deal with virtually every other foreseeable and unforeseeable risk, not to mention our ability to lead productive and interesting lives in the meantime. The precautionary principle is a bottomless well of anxieties, but our resources are finite—it’s possible to buy so much flood insurance that you can’t afford fire insurance.

Bold emphasis mine. It’s crazy to pauperize ourselves now for potential economic benefits decades from now. Particularly when the actions don’t even address the problem (e.g., the current cap’n’tax bill that passed the House).

This is really an issue that cries out for a rational, regret analysis.

More Thoughts On “Right-Wing” Nazis

…and on Michael Tomasky’s schizophrenia on the subject:

…in what conceivable universe is this a “right-wing” program in the Anglo-American sense? Sure, Hitler hates the Bolsheviks, but that’s like saying because the Crips hate the Bloods, they’re on the side of law and order.

Hitler’s party may have been considered “right-wing” within the universe of radical-socialist parties at the time—especially in Soviet parlance because as Hitler notes, Trotsky has ordered the KPD to ally with the Social Democrats to stop the NSDAP at this point—but this is entirely relative and to a great degree a product of Soviet black propaganda. Hitler’s own taxonomy of the NSDAP (later in that speech, for example), placing the Center Party as an arm of World Bolshevism, is just hyperbolic demonization of everyone not him, not a rational construction of a political spectrum anyone should accept.

To imply, as Tomasky does, that the economic program of a socialist, authoritarian, corporatist party is analogous to that of the Anglo-American, small-government, rule-of-law, economic-liberty “right wing” is lunacy. (Especially when the American “Progressive” “left wing” has recently attempted to socialize the medical system, opined that it’d like its opponents to “shut up,” and effectively corporatized most of the auto industry.)

As Goldberg pointed out in his book, fascism was considered glamorous, Progressive, and modern, and a close cousin of Communism, just without the latter’s fetish for state ownership of the means of production. These ideas—and the emotions upon which they’re based—have deep roots in human nature.

Yes. Collectivism is the oldest game in the world, because it appeals to human nature, while simultaneously denying it. It is that “right wing” individual liberty that is the upstart ideology, and truly progressive.

[Afternoon update]

This is pretty funny (the latest in a series): Hitler finds out that Americans are calling each other Nazis.

Just Send Money

This FL Today piece supports the ongoing mythology that there’s nothing wrong with NASA that adequate budgets won’t fix, and that the current debacle is all the fault of the Bush administration because they wouldn’t fund their own vision:

NASA last went through an overhaul shortly after former President George W. Bush outlined his “Vision for Space Exploration” in a January 2004 speech.

His plan to send Americans back to the moon and ultimately to Mars has since been widely criticized because he consistently failed to finance it.

There is no discussion of the impact of decisions and choices made by NASA management that contributed to the fiasco. I agree that the Bush administration was at fault, but not because it didn’t fund the program properly. It was at fault because it essentially ignored NASA after hiring Mike Griffin, and refused to rein him in when he completely ignored the Aldridge recommendations and set off on the disastrous Constellation path. Marburger apparently saw what was happening, but didn’t have the clout within the White House to do anything about it.

But you never see anything about that in the papers, even the ones that are supposed to cover this stuff closely, like FL Today. The narrative is always about the money.

[Update a few minutes later]

I’ve added the link, which comes via Clark Lindsey.

[Afternoon update]

Will McLean points out in comments an interview by Eric Berger of Mark Sirengelo of Sierra Nevada and Larry Williams of SpaceX on prospects for commercial support of exploration.

An Interesting Comment

…in a post by Victor Davis Hanson over at PJM:

The kind of thoroughgoing liberal orgy of corruption and incompetence that has followed the Obama coronation has been seen only once before in American history: in the carpetbagger/scalawag/freedmen radical Republican governments in the South during the early years of Radical Reconstruction following the THE War.

The Obamites should take the lessons of Reconstruction seriously. Not the ones that modern historians who say it was not radical enough try to draw, but the lessons that (1) the only thing that supported those governments was the presence of lots of Federal bayonets, (2) the excesses of Reconstruction were real, and were major factors in shaping Southern responses ranging from the initial Ku Klux Klan to Jim Crow, (3) it ended badly with serious political violence in 1876, and (4) after 1876, it was three or four generations before any respectable Southerner could even think about voting for a Republican.

In this situation, we have a military that is mostly conservative and has generally stayed out of law enforcement in the US since the Compromise of 1877. Even though changes to the Posse Comitatus Act probably would now permit Obama to use the military in the US to enforce his measures, I doubt there would be much enthusiasm for that in the officer corps or the ranks.

Unlike the post-War situation where the North had not only active Army units in the South but a vast body of veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic who could have been called out had the South actually risen again, today the Left that supports the Obama agenda is almost devoid of veterans or even men and women trained to arms at all.

Not only is the majority of the entire country center-right, the overwhelming majority of men of military age and trained to arms are decidedly on the Right.

I think we are reaching a point where the current Congress and Administration behave like a combination of the Radical Republicans in 1866 and the contemporary Carpetbagger/Scalawag/Freedmen governments in the South at their peril.

The next year is going to be very interesting.

Two Grim Fairy Tales

come to an end:

Forty years have passed since Chappaquiddick. Immediately after the accident, Mr. Kennedy scrambled to organize the best and brightest to save his career, rather than to save the life of 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne.

Before the facts were gathered, as her family was being prepped for a cash payoff, the Massachusetts voter – in “shock” and “denial,” the beginning phases of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s grief cycle – was asked by the senator in a carefully constructed televised speech to look away from his misdeed in the name of his family’s recent tragedies.

In a time of grief, the young senator framed his future as a referendum on Camelot. And the media didn’t call him on it. The fix was in.

The result was Mr. Kennedy needn’t do more than show up for work to atone for his calculated selfishness. Without apology or contrition, Mr. Kennedy crafted a public career in which he spent taxpayers’ money – certainly not his own – to make up for his unspeakable behavior.

As long as he toed the liberal line, this trust-fund Robin Hood was protected by the liberal masses and the mainstream media. Hollywood did its job by not putting his story on the big screen.

Doing to the reputations of Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork what he did to Miss Kopechne only reinforced his value to the Democrat Media Complex as the memory of his brothers’ more authentic Camelot began to fade.

It is interesting that Hollywood never made a movie about Chappaquiddick. You can bet it would have happened if it had been a Republican. Actually, it could make an interesting project for some brave filmmaker out there.

Putting The Fox In Fox News

Man, the Fox Report is pretty hot tonight. Julie Banderas is on a honeymoon, and Patti Ann Browne is sitting in as anchor. And all the stories are being covered by women tonight, including Molly Line and Laura Ingle (who graduated to there from KFI in LA a few years ago — she definitely doesn’t have a face for radio).

Also, I noticed that Shannon Bream sat in for Brett Baer Friday night. She’s another one of those beautiful smart lawyers, like Megyn Kelly, that they’ve picked up. Are they grooming her for bigger things?

The Political Battleground

shifts:

After the conservative electorate took legislative control when they handed Congress to the Republicans in 1994 to break the single-party rule of Bill Clinton’s election to the Presidency, the conservative ideology began to stagnate, and the promises of the Contract With America — the prime motivation of grassroots conservatives — quickly began to lose importance among Republicans, who were taking great delight in the comforts of their new prestige. Once George W. Bush was in the White House, and a comfortable gridlock of ideology existed within the Supreme Court, all three branches of government fell under control Republican ideology, and the aggregate conservative movement grew dangerously complacent. To Sun Tzu’s line of thinking, conservatives were on dispersive ground.

Read all.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!