William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Effectively destroy planet Earth as we know it

That quote is from the economist Martin Weitzman from Harvard. I said Harvard. So you know he knows what he’s talking about.

Reader Raven suggested we glance at Paul Krugman’s New York Times op-ed piece today where that quote can be found. That’s right, I said the New York Times. So you know they know what they are talking about.

Apparently, Weitzman, who Krugman says, “has been driving much of the recent high-level debate, offers some sobering numbers.” Numbers which I plan on reading after I return from Fitzgerald’s tonight (it’s steak & kidney pie day). Anyway, Economist Weitzman has been “researching” climate models and has discovered that we are doomed.

Which is probably why The Onion had this headline yesterday:

Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

Gore Al saves his son

We’re not actually doomed because Weitzman/Klugman says that electing Barack Obama will save us. That’s good news, but it does come too late to save Gore’s kid.

Timing is everything!


  1. well he actually said that Weitzman said there was a 5 percent chance of warming of more than 10 degrees celsius and that that was worth insuring against…

  2. Here you go, Bill: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/weitzman/files/REStatFINAL.pdf

    This might help you to distinguish between Weitzman, Krugman and Obama.

  3. “Societies and ecosystems in a world whose average temperature has changed in the geologically-instantaneous time of two centuries or so by 10C-20C (for U.S. readers: 10C=18F and 20C=36F) are located in terra incognita, since such high temperatures have not existed for hundreds of millions of years and such a rate of global temperature change might be unprecedented even on a time scale of billions of years. However measured, the planetary welfare e¤ect of climate changes that might accompany mean temperature increases from 10C up to 20C with probabilities anything remotely resembling 5% down to 1% implies a non-negligible probability of worldwide catastrophe.”

    Excuse me, but that’s nuts. There is NOT, I repeat NOT, a 1 to 5 percent chance that global temps will increase 18 to 36 F. That kind of Chicken Little alarmism is so far outside the realm of rational thought as to be galactically absurd.

    The AGW wackos have gone completely bonkers. That this kind of crap pseudoscience is paid for by the taxpayers, or anybody for that matter, is an obscenity.

    “The economics of fat-tailed catastrophes raises difficult conceptual issues which cause the analysis to appear less scientically conclusive and to look more contentiously subjective than what comes out of an empirical CBA of more usual thin-tailed situations. But if this is the way things are with fat tails, then this is the way things are, and it is an inconvenient truth to be lived with rather than a fact to be evaded just because it looks less scientifically objective in cost-benefit applications.”

    Weitzman’s fat tail nonsense conclusions are NOT, I repeat, NOT scientific in any sense of that word. They are beyond subjective to utterly bizarre.

    I suppose it is unecessary to add that Economics is NOT a science, that economists are no closer to being scientific than voodoo witch doctors, and that we throw away $billions every year on the gibberish scam that is Economics. Weitzman et al produce nothing of redeeming value to this world and never will.

    There is as much likelihood (which is to say none) that the globe will freeze 18 to 36F in Weitzman’s fat tail universe. Fat tail is the same as saying that anything at all could happen, even if it has never happened in the entire history of this planet. In his absurd Fat Tail Universe the planet could split in half tomorrow and going spinning off in two different directions.

    We need insurance against that? From who, Prudential? Lloyds of London? Tell you what, I’ll sell him the insurance. My new business: selling suckers ten million dollar policies for $2.95 where you get spanking rich when the planet starts careening off Jupiter and Saturn like a pinball.

  4. Mike D.

    I agree with most of what you have written. As a Bayesian by inclination, in fact, I would conclude that there is no reason to adjust my priors based on a study so preposterous.

    However, your attack on economists is off-target (alright, I am one, but still…). This study is not an example of how economics fails, because it is not economics. Weitzman and Krugman are making non-economic arguments, and we should accord them no more respect for these arguments than we should for linguists who offer gratuitous opinions on imperialism. This, however, does not mean that either economics or lingistics have no value.

    In fact, the study of economics has provided a great deal to the well-being of mankind and has the potential to provide much more. There is an enormous number of economic issues on which nearly all economists agree, and having great predictive power, is far from voodoo. It might help their (our) credibilty, however, if practictioners like Paul Krugman would stop spouting off about things they know nearly nothing about. But then, the same is true for lawyers, chemists and engineers.

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