FM newswire for 21 January, articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis…

  1. An important comment about our psychology, explaining in part the increased fear of terrorism since 9/11:  “Recency Effects in Geology & Financial Markets“, Paul Kedrosky, Infectious Greed, 1 October 2009 — The studies to which he links are also worth a look.
  2. An example fo the clear thinking that can save America:  “The End of Magical Climate Thinking“, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Foreign Policy, 13 Janaury 2010 — “One year ago, America’s president said he was going to start a green-energy revolution. Here’s why the Obama administration failed — and what needs to come next.”
  3. Good news about global warming and fresh water supplies:  “How the IPCC Portrayed a Net Positive Impact of Climate Change as a Negative“, Indur M. Goklany,  Cato Institute, 18 September 2008
  4. Update to the previous article, more good news!  “The IPCC: Hiding the Decline in the Future Global Population at Risk of Water Shortage“, Indur M. Goklany, Watts Up with That, 18 January 2010
  5. Ugly news:  “Unfunded Benefits Dig States’ $3 Trillion Hole“, Orin S. Kramer (Chairman, NJ State Investment Council), Bloomberg, 20 January 2010
  6. It’s not as easy as many right-wingers believe:  “Profiling: Sketching the Face of Jihadism“, Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 20 January 2010
  7. Con Artists“, Daniel Gross, Slate, 20 January 2010 — “Oh, no! Scott Brown has incoherent and appalling economic ideas — just like almost all of his congressional Republican colleagues.”

Quote of the day

By Roger Pielke Sr (emminent meteorologist, see Wikipedia), a preface to this interesting interview “Copenhagen, Europe, Africa and a Vulnerability Paradigm“, posted at OurClimate, January 2010.

As a clear message from the Haitian earthquake, there is a need to assess vulnerabilties of society to the entire spectrum of natural and human caused risks, and to develop policies to reduce these threats. The available financial and other resources need to be optimized in order to most effectively minimize these risks.  A focus on funding CO2 reductions which result in a reduction of funds for other actions, such as developing more earthquake resistant urban areas, is not a wise expenditure of financial resources.

Interested readers can view more of my perspective (and that of other AGU Fellows) in our article “Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases,” Eos (of the American Geophysical Union), 10 November 2009.

This is exactly what I have recommended in posts like this: More shockwave events to worry about, in addition to peak oil and global warming — Excerpt:

About shockwaves

As said on this post many times (originally here) Studying them individually tells us little, as the correct public policy response is “so what?” Shockwave analysis is useful only with analysis of the scenario’s impact AND probability. Otherwise these are just nightmares.

Today analysis of shockwaves is done almost exclusively by special interest groups (often academic or non-profits). We allocate resources to shockwave scenarios based on several factors:

  1. the group’s access to elite opinion,
  2. the group’s ability to raise funds,
  3. their degree to which their shockwave resonates with the public.

Many studies have shown the people have little grasp of these kind of issue, and less understanding of the relevant statistics (probability and risk). There is a better way to do this. Allocation of our limited resources towards these require sketching out (as best as can be done) the full universe of such dangers.

A modest suggestion about applying the precautionary principle to prepare for shockwaves

The precautionary principle is usually applied in an irrational manner to individual threats, such as climate change. There are many high impact – low probability threats, which I call “shockwaves”. Also, the US and world have many mundane needs that deserve funding. Since resources are finite, we must access their relative importance — which few of these special interest groups around each shockwave bother to do.  I discuss this in greater length at this post; here is my suggestion…

Commission a group to collect as many shockwave scenarios as possible, with a brief analysis of each. Fortunately there are thousands of interest groups willing to pitch in and help! Then apply a common analytical framework to rate them on both dimensions: probability and impact. The results would prove quite interesting, and allow more rational public policy discussion about which to act upon.

8 thoughts on “FM newswire for 21 January, articles for your morning reading

  1. I hope I’m seeing the beginning of the end of the great global warming scare, or at least the end of the beginning of it. Reading the stories about it, especially the ones I find posted here, gives me a feeling of deja vu. I think to all of the other scaremongering stories I’ve read down through the years. Missing children, heterosexual AIDS, various mass child abuse witch hunts, etc., etc. All of these, and many others, did strut and fret their hour upon the stage, and then were heard no more. And life went on much as it always had.

    Global warming has lasted longer than most of these, but now may finally be imploding just like all the others. My fear is that moneyed interests may keep it going for some time yet. A lot of people have made business and investment decisions based on expectations about government policy, and the hope of growing rich off rent seeking and pork. There was never much money to be had on missing children or the fear of mass child abuse in dungeouns under the day care center. Trading carbon permits would make for a very nice living, as would manufacturing uneconomical and impractical energy systems on government contracts.

  2. From #1: “Missing children, heterosexual AIDS, various mass child abuse witch hunts, etc., etc. All of these, and many others, did strut and fret their hour upon the stage, and then were heard no more.”

    Hetereosexual AIDS is a not at all uniportant portion of total AIDS cases: (“Total Statistics on AIDS“, CDC website, “Transmission Type” subcategory). Look at the lower graph that includes all cases from the beginning of the epidemic to those found in 2007. You can see that the total # of known AIDS cases, to 2007, is: 1,009,219. The number of AIDS cases due to “high-risk heterosexual contact” is: 176,157. That is a full 17.5% of all known AIDS cases up to 2007.

    If you want the cases only from 2007, that total: 35,935. The cases, only from 2007, from heterosexual contact: 11,111. That’s 30 % of the total in 2007 only. Heterosexual AIDS is not a myth or a “scare”, its a reality.
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    FM reply: I believe you’re missing the point. It’s not that missing children or hetro-AIDS don’t exist, or even that they’re not serious problems. But that their scale was grossl exaggerated. You mention 11 thousand cases in 2007. Many experts were warning of a full-fledged epidemic — hundreds of thousands, as it spread through the general population. As in the NYC tabloid I remember reading from that era: “The human race is doomed.”

  3. Just a quick link: “The War against Suburbia“, Joel Kotkin, The American, 21 October 2010

    to an admittedly skewed analysis of how geography is still important when thinking about many policy issues. Our physical reality is powerfully determinative of every aspect of our lives. As we move toward what I perceive to be increasingly self governance by internet, or what Glenn Reynolds calls dis-intermediation of our governing systems, we will do well to remember this.
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    FM reply: The author gives no evidence for the foundation of his thesis, which might be true — or just fiction. Since its become obvious how gullible we are, political discourse has become largely lies.

    “A year into the Obama administration, America’s dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown’s huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston.”

  4. Yes to your reply in 3 above. It occurs to me that the transition to internet dominance of our political discourse might be coming quicker than I ever imagined. At one rate, site reputations for circumspection, veracity, and accuracy are being established right now. Unfortunately, reliance upon these same sites and pundits for guidance is galloping forward at what seems like a higher rate. If we are to self govern, this sorting process yielding a pecking order of trustworthiness for voters will be critical. The recent Supreme Court ruling will, I predict, render the paid media even more irrelevant. More than ever, voters will go to trusted internet sources for guidance. In the valley of the blind, the one eyed man really is King. It’s good to be the King FM.
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    FM reply: Perhaps. I don’t see any signs of ” internet dominance of our political discourse”, or at least in any significant way different than that of the “Federal Papers.” Faster, yes. But today’s discourse runs at a grossly lower level. The Fed Papers were written for a popular audience — merchants, farmers, craftsmen. Today it’s read only by (worse, understandable only by) government majors. More likely, students for Masters and PhD degrees.

  5. From #2: FM reply: I believe you’re missing the point. It’s not that missing children or hetro-AIDS don’t exist, or even that they’re not serious problems. But that their scale was grossl exaggerated. You mention 11 thousand cases in 2007. Many experts were warning of a full-fledged epidemic — hundreds of thousands, as it spread through the general population. As in the NYC tabloid I remember reading from that era: “The human race is doomed.”

    Oh, I see, sorry about that Burke Sheppard. I didn’t realize that hetero AIDS was portrayed that way. I think my response came from the adjective ‘heterosexual’ before AIDS in your comment #1. I thought you were saying that, while hetero AIDS was nothing, homosexual AIDS really was a huge problem, or something like that. When actually the scale of both problems is comparable, if not equal.
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    FM reply: I disagree, somewhat. Government and medical experts warned that heterosexual AIDS might spread through the hetero population to the same degree that it has thru the homosexual community. That’s the “equal scale” being discussed. This was done without much supporting data, as propaganda to enlist support for fighting AIDS — as we ‘we’re all threatened.’ Like AGW, it was exaggerations in a good cause — trading away American’s trust in scientists for some short-term funding.

  6. Incidentally, worldwide it’s a little different. I don’t expect anyone to read all of this report: (“2009 AIDS Epidemic update“, UNAIDS – Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) as it is 100 pages long. But if you download it, look at p. 29, where it says “Key Regional Dynamics”, sub-head “Heterosexual Transmission”… esp. in Sub-Saharan Africa, heterosexual AIDS is really large. (Though, earlier it says worldwide prevalence appears to have peaked in 1996, so once again, in some areas its a much bigger issue than in the US, but it is looking manageable.)
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    FM reply: Thank you for posting this! And that’s a good point. Although I believe (from casual reading) the difference is due to well-understood cultural difference. Two examples:
    * Higher levels of sexual partners vs. US or Europe.
    * Preference among men for dry sex.
    I have also read (not sure about the degree to which this is true) the variants of AIDS in Africa are less lethal than in the US.

  7. There be a number of reasons why something did or didnt happen . ( or , didnt happen-yet ) . One possibilty is that the strategy worked .

  8. atheist wrote: “I think my response came from the adjective ‘heterosexual’ before AIDS in your comment #1. I thought you were saying that, while hetero AIDS was nothing, homosexual AIDS really was a huge problem, or something like that. When actually the scale of both problems is comparable, if not equal”

    I don’t know how old you are. I am old enough to remember the press coverage of AIDS back in the days, and the hysteria about the spread among heterosexuals was something you had to see to believe. Likewise the stories about missing children. These problems were real enough, but they were blown outof proportion. After a time, most heterosexuals noticed that they weren’t getting AIDS, and that their children weren’t disappering, and the hysteria that had been stoked gradually faded away, to be replaced by fresh terrors such as AGW.
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    FM reply: This is an important point. Our major media is playing out in real life the “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” One grossly exaggerated panic after another. And they wonder why their credibility — and profits — disappear.

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