Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. Andre Gide

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Climate Science Hanky Panky

The scientific community is buzzing over thousands of emails and documents -- posted on the Internet last week after being hacked from a prominent climate-change research center -- that some say raise ethical questions about a group of scientists who contend humans are responsible for global warming. Read more here: WSJ

Interesting development: Phil Jones, Director of the Climate Research Unit at University of East Anglia, is stepping down pending an investigation into the ethical conduct of his and perhaps other climate scientists' work on historical global temperature research; see here.

And now for something truly appalling (I sincerely hope that this is not true): Uh Oh -- Raw Data in New Zealand Tells a Different Story than the Official One.

An interesting piece in today's WSJ: The Climate Science Isn't Settled (by Richard S. Lindzen, professor of meteorology at MIT). See also: Climategate.

Thank goodness that the science of macroeconomics is settled and free of any politically-motivated hanky panky!


  1. David,

    I've been thinking recently that Keynes' main book, the general theory, was awfully well timed. I got to thinking that it is less a book about economics, and more an apologia to excuse, in fact encourage, governmental interference in economics.

    Since macroeconomists are the ones hired into governmental, and quasi-gov't positions, public policy stuff, the incentive to find evidence or develop models that encourage governmental involvement is quite high.

    This observation, to me, lends creedence to models that indicate no governmental involvement is necessary to solve a particular problem.

    Anyway, just like the climate change business, so it is with macroeconomics - like my Pappy always said, follow the money.



    Prof J so you do not believe in any market failure at all?
    Well, it is frightening how little we know in general but on climate I think it is only prudent to put at least some probability on the very bad outcomes. Doing that justify some measures that probably will not prevent anything because it is too late but perhaps we will be better prepared to survive the bad outcome once it happens. According to David Deutsch (physist) problems are inevitable but problems are solvable. He is definitely an optimist.

  3. D,

    Define market failure first. I hear that alot, but when I ask what specific failure someone is talking about, I usually see that the reason is interference by some nitwitted, but possibly well-meaning, regulator. But, I also didn't say I think markets don't fail. I think that a lack of reliable information can lead to coordination problems. That's a type of market failure.

    But, take pollution. One reason we have a pollution problem now is because of the shift in how it was legally dealt with. In the U.S. in the 19th century, it was a property rights issue. If some factory belched black smoke onto your stuff, and you could show damages, that was an actionable offense. This is a market solution. But that's not how the legal system treats it anymore, at least down here. Market solution has been removed.

  4. "In the U.S. in the 19th century, it was a property rights issue. If some factory belched black smoke onto your stuff, and you could show damages, that was an actionable offense."

    Was it really like this? I ahve some doubts but
    assume it was. In case of CO2 probably it is much more difficult to identify the effect and connect it to the actual polluter. The effect is gradual, some of it happens in the future. Also there is a long chain of causation. The damages could be huge and whom you gonna sue?
    General Motors? Dubai?
    I doubt that property rigths can solve the issue.

    I am not sure that there is anything we can do at this point to stop the warming if it exist
    but taxing oil or CO2 (like Mankiw suggests) would have some other beneficial effects even if it turns out that there is no global warming.

    If global warming is real than the current recession will be a trivial problem from the point of view of the future.

  5. I agree that it would be difficult to point out who contributed what to current pollution, and net effects on climate change. That's all the more reason for open and rigorous research in the area, including environmental forensics.

    I get a chuckle out of taxing CO2. I gotta pay to breathe now? I think not. Why not have a tree planting subsidy? Those suckers are expensive.

  6. You gotta pay to drink or to eat. Why breathing is different?

  7. Is there a problem with benevolent scientists fudging the data for the good of mankind?

    Does it increase the cost of public environmental policy debates in democratic societies? Or do people need to be fooled into doing what is best for themselves?

    I suspect that natural scientists have been committing scientific fraud for a long time and nobody really noticed until the climate change debate.

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  9. I feel relief whenever I hear that the relationship between human activities and global warming is not reliable 

    What is the incentive for lying about temperature? Financial matters?!

  10. @fatemeborhani - the incentive for lying is very clear. Would a climate scientist get a multi-million grant by saying the climate today is stable and we should just carry on as normal?
    David's last comment sums it up - before they were predicting global cooling, then global warming, but now they nailed it forever with 'climate change'!

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