An example of the mad climate change debate, showing America’s dysfunctionality

Summary: In 2008 I first wrote about the climate change public policy debate as an example of the increasing dysfunctionality of America’s ability to see, understand, and act upon our changing world. Despite the attention of our most intelligent and educated people, the problem has grown worse. This post provides yet another example, ground-level reporting about how our politics make us stupid.  {1st of 2 posts.}

“Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.”
— From Robert A. Heinlein’s novella “Gulf” (1949), later published in Assignment in Eternity.

Logical contradiction
Embrace the truth!

Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg explains that “Even Skeptics Can Profit From Climate Change“. He’s an investment expert (trained as an attorney) whose work I’ve followed for years (his website is The Big Picture).  Opening…

A new Mercer research report, “Investing in a Time of Climate Change,” is fascinating for what it is (and isn’t): a pure investment thesis, not a screed on science or politics.

… I don’t want to debate the science, but rather to focus on the investment risks the report discusses. As we have noted before, this is a question of industry market share, corporate profits and investment performance — not science. In the real world, climate-change deniers are and will be giant money losers.

I replied on Twitter that although the future is unknown, bets on climate change during the past decade or two probably would not have been profitable — as explained by the IPCC in their 2012 report “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” (SREX), and in AR5, the most recent IPCC report — from which I quoted…

Overall, the most robust global changes in climate extremes are seen in measures of daily temperature, including to some extent, heat waves. Precipitation extremes also appear to be increasing, but there is large spatial variability, and observed trends in droughts are still uncertain except in a few regions. … There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century.  {AR5, WG1, chapter 2}

This is an unambiguous conclusion, supported by a wide range of data. The fraction of a degree in warming during the past few decades provides no basis for successful “bets”. As for other forms of extreme climate, there is no trend in global tropical storm numbers and intensity, in global sea ice area — and in the US, in tornado and wildfire numbers and intensity (as shown by Prof Botkin and in this post).

The response reveals much

Ritholz’s response was also unambiguous: he blocked me on Twitter, a typical reaction of people getting their truths from climate activists. They pay little attention to the IPCC but freak when confronted with its conclusions that disagree with theirs. The IPCC was the “gold standard” description of climate science research — the most reliable statement of climate scientists’ consensus. By 2011 activists were saying it was “too conservative”, which became a widespread response to the release of AR5 in 2013 (e.g., see Inside Climate News, The Daily Climate, and Yale’s Environment 360).

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In Friday’s job report you’ll see early signs of the robot revolution!

Summary:  Employment growth has been the slowest of any post-WW2 recovery. But a greater problem lies ahead — the robot revolution. The next wave of automation, affecting both manufacturing and the far larger population of service workers.  Here’s a status report on its early phase, already in motion.  At the end are links to other chapters.

By Karen Leo, The Fiscal Times, 12 July 2011
By Karen Leo, The Fiscal Times, 12 July 2011. Click on the image for the interactive display.


  1. Another person discovers the Robot Revolution
  2. Examples of automation coming now
  3. The challenge for every developed nation
  4. Other posts about the Robot Revolution
  5. Actroid Sara

The animation above comes from “The Robot Revolution: Your Job May Be Next“, The Fiscal Times, 12 July 2011.

(1) Another person discovers the Robot Revolution

Another person discovers the coming next wave of automation: Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture:

As the chart {of labor participation} above shows, this peaked in 1999, and has been trending downwards ever since. There are several reasons why this is:

  • Demographics of the aging baby boomers, who are retiring, living longer, and impacting this ratio;
  • Technology/DotCom collapse eliminated lots of malinvestment driven Tech jobs;
  • Financial/Credit crash eliminated lots of malinvestment driven banking/real estate jobs;
  • Ongoing outsourcing, globalization, etc.
  • Robotics

That last item doesn’t get discussed nearly as much as it should, but the single biggest future trend in the labor force is going to be the ongoing replacement of humans by smart machines.

(2)  Examples of automation coming soon

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How big is the bailout (aka “world’s greatest heist”)?

Before we go to the main event, please ponder this quote of the day from The King Report (subscription only):

Paul Volcker’s chief purpose {in the Obama Administration} is to give the appearance that he will persuade Obama to remove the excess credit at the appropriate time. … Resurrecting Volcker during the most wanton monetary policy in US history in order to inveigle global investors into believing that Volcker will convince Obama and US solons to halt their debauchery at the precise time is like Caligula enlisting Saul of Tarsus to advise him on the precise time to go celibate.

With that in mind, how big is the “bailout” — the flood of acronyms and money attempting to solve this financial crisis?  The New York Times shows the totals:  “Tracking the bailout: the government’s commitments” (26 November 2008), and the grand sum.

That gives just dry numbers.  Barry Ritholtz shows us what this really means in “Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks“, posted at his website The Big Picture, 25 November 2008:

Whenever I discussed the current bailout situation with people, I find they have a hard time comprehending the actual numbers involved. That became a problem while doing the research for the Bailout Nation book. I needed some way to put this into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

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“Idiots Fiddle While Rome Burns” – comforting and facile rhetoric

Now that the housing crisis is visible to all, let’s do what 21st century Americans do best:  point the fickle finger of blame at someone else.

Idiots Fiddle While Rome Burns“, Barry L. Ritholtz, posted at The Big Picture, 16 July 2008 — Bold emphasis added.  Excerpt:

The collection of ne’er do wells, clueless dolts, political hacks, and oh, let’s just be blunt and call them what they are — total Idiots — expands into an ever larger circle.

While the Republic burns due to the unsavory combination of incompetence, ideological rigidity, and crony capitalism, the fools and assclowns seem ever more determined to avoid any personal responsibility for the damages they have wrought. Instead, they flail about blindly, blaming everything and everyone — except their own horrific negligence.

This is financial incompetence writ on a scale far grander than anything seen for centuries.

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