China-Icelandic markets in everything

I’ve been waiting for a story like this.  If I were a Chinese tycoon, this is exactly what I would buy:

A Chinese tycoon plans to buy a vast tract of Icelandic land for a $100m tourism project which critics fear could give Beijing a strategic foothold in the North Atlantic.

Huang Nubo, a real estate investor and former Chinese government official, has struck a provisional deal to acquire 300 square kilometres of wilderness in north-east Iceland where he plans to build an eco-tourism resort and golf course.

Opponents have questioned why such a large amount of land – equal to about 0.3 per cent of Iceland’s total area – is needed to build a hotel. They warned that the project could provide cover for China’s geopolitical interests in the Atlantic island nation and Nato member.

While home to just 320,000 people, Iceland occupies a strategically important location between Europe and North America and has been touted as a potential hub for Asian cargo should climate change open Arctic waters to shipping.

Mr. Huang is ranked as China’s 161st richest man and he considers himself a poet and an adventurer.


I can't access that FT link (no subscription), but I think you're implicitly acknowledging that climate change is real, which is sure to piss off a decent chunk of your readership. Whether or not you think climate change is the result of man's actions, I cannot tell from this post.

I've always felt sympathy for Tyler in the sense that he seems to be an ideological ally for a particular economic viewpoint, which, unfortunately, can only gain support by allying itself with the anti-science crowd of the far right. He seems to try to distance himself from this. Surely he has supporters who feel the same way, but it's sort of sad to see a smart person only gain traction in the public's eye by gaining the support of such a crowd.

But hey, if I'm wrong, use the reply of this comment to declare that you are both a Libertarian and a believer that anthropogenic climate change is real.

I'll just assume that anyone who sidesteps the issue doesn't, or at least isn't brave enough to admit so. A simple yes or no should suffice.

Cowen, 2006:

1. It is by now pointless to deny that global warming is man-made to a considerable degree.

2. It is a very real problem. If you don’t believe me, go visit the deltas of East Bengal or Bangladesh and think about it again. Sweden I am not worried about and Greenland may become valuable, but where do we put the losers and no this isn’t just a few small islands in the Pacific.

The enraged comments were all lost with the blog software shift, though.

Oh wait, the comments are still there, they just hadn't loaded... they're comedy gold. As expected, much of libertarian crowd is aligned with the anti-science crowd of the far right. I expect many of those who wave the banner of libertarianism are actually cultural conservatives who find libertarian rhetoric much more palatable.

What are you people actually predicting? Proposing?

And your 'stand' for science is what? Stop doing it because it's "settled"? What does that even mean?

Stop arguing whether climate change is happening.

Stop tarnishing climate scientists as socialist conspiracists.

Start arguing what the correct policy is.

I accept "doing nothing" as potentially a legitimate policy position, but I'd want to hear reasoned arguments for it.

Climate scientists being, you know, scientists, they may well be convinced that a libertarian/conservative policy response is the best/most politically feasible option.

Stop arguing whether climate change is happening. - What you are talking about is magnitudes, rates, and early adoption and degree of skepticism of scientists and experts and their models. I think it is a strawman that there are people out there claiming humans can't effect their environment. It's one of the things that makes humans special.

Stop tarnishing climate scientists as socialist conspiracists. - I rarely see this unless it is at least somewhat true. To say that research has a positive results and funding bias is a statement of fact about a system, not an indictment of individuals responding to their incentives. Because this debate has been going on for 20+ years, that means we are dealing with non-obvious weak signals. This makes small variations in magnitudes extremely important.

Start arguing what the correct policy is. - This depends on the magnitudes and how confident you are in them, and what the correct policy is. See above. Science doesn't care about arguments. If noone is willing to do anything about it, then that means there is a tacit agreement between people to tolerate changes to the commons in exchange for being a party to those changes. It is interesting that the undeveloped countries have the lowest recognition of AGW, and those are the ones some people think are left out of the tacit agreement. But, that means that it is even less obvious to them in their daily lives, because being aware requires taking the word of a handful of climate scientists with computer models of weak signals.

It means that the emission of greenhouse gasses, mostly through the burning of fossil fuels, but from some other stuff too, is impacting the climate now and in the future to an accelerating degree. Whether that impact is "a lot" or "a whole lot" is within the margin of error of our ability to predict. Given that uncertainty, and the uncertainty as to whether we'll develop any currently unknown ways to mitigate the damage caused by climate change, there are a wide variety of potential actions to take.

Pricing in the negative externality of carbon emissions would seem to be a textbook way for free-market types to deal with the issue. There's also the "do nothing and just deal with it" plan. I propose the former, but there's a reasonable debate to be had on that, and over the details of what the price should be and how it's implemented.

Good point. The problem with libertarians and some other extremist groups in the Republican fold is not that they are against science. They're against taking action based on scientific evidence, when that action infringes on their idea that personal freedom comes without responsibility. It's "only" a matter of priorities: ideology outweighs science. On other matters, extreme left-wingers are equally guilty of this.

I expect many of those who wave the banner of libertarianism are actually cultural conservatives who find libertarian rhetoric much more palatable.

No, but if I am honest I must ask myself If we are cultural conservatives who know we are no longer the majority and so we can no longer push people around so now we want a truce where people are allowed to live as they wish but where we do not need to pay for their mistakes.

Example protestants used to control the Government schools and so the schools had prayer and a protestant christian bent but now agnostics have become the majority of voters and have taken over the system and made the schools reflect their values and so the protestants want out of paying for Government schools. In this case Libertarianism is a great compromise, you have your schools we have ours. The weak minority will usually gravitate to Libertarianism when all hope of victory is lost.

It is hard to overcome your natural biases.

"agnostics have become the majority of voters"

Where? Surely not in the US? The change in public schools is possible because many religious people and non-religious believers know how important separation of church and state is. The US voting public is completely dominated by believers.

Tyler has developed a significant following despite quite clearly not holding to right-wing orthodoxy on a number of issues. I think you are making the supposed ideological conformity of the right much greater than it really is.

As far as the issue itself, it might be worth thinking more about why people believe what they believe. As noted by Alan below, most people are not qualified to actually evaluate the science. In light of this, being "anti-science" doesn't mean they see the data for themselves and deny what it says. Instead, "anti-science" means questioning the authority of the scientific community. Over the last 50 years or so there have been a number of environmental doomsday predictions that didn't pan out. Further, there have been a lot of exaggerated claims about global warming, as well as overconfidence in various models. Both political advocates and scientists have been guilty of this. When people make predictions that don't come true, it undermines their credibility.

The biggest issue, though, is that predictions of global warming have been completely tied to advocacy for a particular solution: reducing worldwide carbon emissions. There is plenty of reason to oppose this policy: it has massive costs, and it is nearly inconceivable that it will succeed, because developing nations won't join in. Meanwhile, all of that money could be used in so many other ways, say, preventing malaria deaths. Because the problem and solution have been so closely tied together, those who oppose the solution tend to oppose the science itself.

My point is that those who don't believe in global warming aren't necessarily knuckle-dragging morons. I personally am not really interested in denying the scientific consensus on climate change. However, I think the drive to reduce carbon emissions is quixotic and misguided.

Right. Perhaps Mr Huang should also buy some mountain real-estate in the Himalayas which has been predicted with greater than 90% certainty to be glacier-free in less than 25 years (maybe even sooner):

Personally, I don't think there's any doubt the climate has warmed considerably since the end of the Little Ice Age, but I am skeptical that things are warmer now than during the Medieval Warm Period, and I'm also skeptical of declarations of certainty regarding the relative contributions of natural and man-made causes. I believe, too, that climate science is highly politicized and that the pressures are in the direction of publishing results that indicate things are "much worse than we thought" (as in the Himalayan glacier example--which claims certainly would not have been withdrawn by the IPCC if there were *any* science whatsoever behind them). I believe, too, that efforts to limit carbon emissions are doomed to be extremely expensive failures--but with prime opportunities for sweat-heart deals and rent-seeking by the politically connected. The ruinously expensive, apparently unkillable disaster (that also starves poor people as a side effect) that is the corn ethanol program is exhibit A, but add in the Chevy Volt and massive (and massively subsidized) wind-farms as well. On balance, I'd prefer to take my chances with adaptation and, if necessary, climate engineering when the time comes.

Slocum, the Himalayan glaciers prediction was admitted to be a mistake by the very agency that came up with it, see

Michael and David above are conflating the entire pro-libertarian spectrum with the "anti-science crowd of the far right". Just someone saying there is global warming is hardly going to piss of many from the right. At least among the educated circles leftists are far more intolerant and vituperative than rightists, case in point pharyngula.

Liberals are also, in some sense, anti-science : our school text books are full of bad science and even bad mathematics, yet the only issues liberals care about fixing are evolution and global warming. That is *against* the spirit of science.

Ten years ago (!) I was at a libertarian get-together, and the topic came up and it was like "global warming, okay, fine, we should think about the costs and benefits." In a lot of ways a lot of libertarians are already beyond it, and in a lot of other was we just don't care. The true believers keep wanting to drag the debate back 10 years and tell us we should care so that we can use the issue to so we can beat down people who are supposedly anti-science because they simply don't care, perhaps because there are issues that are going to matter on less than the decade/century scale.

Slocum, the Himalayan glaciers prediction was admitted to be a mistake by the very agency that came up with it, see

Yes, they admitted their mistake once it was clear they no choice. But how did something so completely bogus get so far in the first place? That speaks to politicization, the confirmation bias, and even corruption:

I'm certainly not saying, "It's all a big sham", but I do believe that the political pressures distort this field in ways that don't happen in other politically-neutral fields.

When people like me and Slocum say the research is biassed toward positive results, that is not necessarily a political stance, it is very nearly an identity of all research...the "science" that I am supposedly 'anti'. Yes, I am very 'anti' certain aspects of what some people call science.

I have not ever had one of these commenters actually explain anything to me other than "consensus" nonsense, and usually that poorly and incorrectly.

Try the following things at home:
1) build two identical greenhouses. Fill one with air and the other with co2. Measure heir temperature over a sunny day.
2) attach a giant balloon to the tailpipe of your car and turn on the engine. Measure how more co2 is in the balloon than in the air. (also do his with other exhaust chemicals and particles. Alternately, look up the combustion reaction).
3) extrapolate.
4) measure temperature and chemical effects on climate. See Venus through a telescope.

I'm really not sure why liberals fail to present the argument this way. Except for step four, this is high school science. And the only thing really questionable at all is step four. Climate change is possible, it is man-made, and it has real effects. Those exact effects are unpredictable, as the future tends to be. The rest isn't rocket science at all.

Since the industrial revolution, CO2 has risen from about 280 ppm to 390 ppm, or about 1 extra CO2 molecule for every 10,000 other molecules in the atmosphere. And while this is stating the obvious, the earth's atmosphere is more complicated than a simple greenhouse.
I actually favor a carbon tax, but I also think reasonable people can believe that the affects of CO2 going from 0.028% to 0.039% of the total atmosphere is overshadowed by countless other factors affecting the earth's climate.

"The biggest issue, though, is that predictions of global warming have been completely tied to advocacy for a particular solution: reducing worldwide carbon emissions. There is plenty of reason to oppose this policy: it has massive costs, and it is nearly inconceivable that it will succeed, because developing nations won’t join in. Meanwhile, all of that money could be used in so many other ways, say, preventing malaria deaths. Because the problem and solution have been so closely tied together, those who oppose the solution tend to oppose the science itself."

Exactly. On the liberal side global warming is seen as a reason to support all sorts of Gian initiatives of hippies. If you point out that they don't have to address the problem that way the response is something along the lines of, "oh won't someone please think of the children!? Why do you hate children!?" More sophisticated debaters don't let themselves get dragged down in the mud by such childish appeals to emotions, but many people decide to roll around in the filth with equally emotionally charged reactions.

There are plenty of instances of liberals ignoring science when it contradicts their political ideology (say, HBD). The truth is science is just a tool/obstacle for most peoples political hobby horses and the people smart and emotionally dispassionate enough to understand and use science in political argument are both an extreme minority and largely irrelevant to policy making.

They never seem to, at least in mixed company, talk about exactly what they mean by AGW, the implications, exactly what is meant by being "pro" science, etc. It's just a litmus test, and a very impatient one at that. Whenever I want to talk philosophy of science...crickets.

Yeah! Fuck liberals and their massive anti-sophistication conspiracies!

Am I right, folks?

I'd love to talk philosophy of science with you any day, Andrew, but as Gnostic says above, this isn't really about science. What this is is about governance in the face of uncertainty, and that's a debate we already have every day.

By the way, if I were to go around saying that there was no way a growing budget deficit is a problem, despite 98 out of 100 economists saying it is, despite you being able to prove using small scale experiments (eg a household budget) that you can't run budget deficits forever, despite historical surveys of deficit problems showing the subsequent baknkruptcies caused by budgets, would you talk about exactly what you mean by 'budgets' or would you say I'm willfully ignorant? Just a thought. Not everything is a liberal conspiracy.

You still can't get out of the binary mentality.

"Tyler has developed a significant following despite quite clearly not holding to right-wing orthodoxy on a number of issues."

Tyler's his own drummer, beating out a voice of sanity.

Additionally, whether something is or is not a problem and whether it is worth worrying about are BOTH related to the magnitude of numbers of the forecasts, which also impact the inputs to the models, and until these are nailed down, then no, the science is not settled in anything other than a cynical political litmus test sense.

So fund the science?

At the expense of what? To show what?

As we recently learned, we are close to curing viruses. All viruses.

Lou Gehrig's disease has been shown to conform to one of Aubrey De Grey's 7 deadly things, protein junk buildiup, making it just a manifestation of aging (along with probably Alzheimer's disease and likely many other singular degenerative diseases) making it vulnerable to focused anti-aging research.

As goes the energy problem, so goes global warming.

This doesn't mean that there can't be some funding left for global warming, but proportionally, I think global warming research is just people dicking around.

"The biggest issue, though, is that predictions of global warming have been completely tied to advocacy for a particular solution: reducing worldwide carbon emissions. There is plenty of reason to oppose this policy: it has massive costs, and it is nearly inconceivable that it will succeed, because developing nations won’t join in."

It seems to be a common view that reducing carbon emissions would have "massive costs," but I have no idea where this idea comes from. If we simply eliminated, say, all corporate taxes and replaced the revenue with a carbon tax, how would we suffer massive costs? I get that there would be some adjustment process to energy becoming more expensive and everything else becoming cheaper, but how can you argue we'd be much poorer overall?

"I personally am not really interested in denying the scientific consensus on climate change. However, I think the drive to reduce carbon emissions is quixotic and misguided."

Awesome. Cognitive dissonance usually requires that you keep the two ideas pretty separate. You don't seem to need to do that. How do you manage it? If you believe the scientific consensus, you believe that human-originated carbon emissions are an important component of the climate change. You presumably realize that the disastrous consequences of rapid, unpredictable climate change present a challenge that humanity may not be able to meet, or at least that it will severely damage our standards of living for centuries to come.

So you don't think that it's possible to avoid climate change, so we might as well pile onto it and make it as bad as we can? Or you believe that the US will be able to better withstand the consequences, leaving it better off than the rest of the world (although of course still vastly worse off than now)? Or do you think we should just wait for some miracle discovery of a way to avoid climate change without affecting the way we live? God or Science will provide, so full steam ahead?


allying itself with the anti-science crowd of the far right

The Republicans to which you refer are not anti-science. They are anti-AGW science and anti-human evolution science. As far as I know they believe in most of the other science. BTW most Americans, and surely most leftists, are anti genetic science (and that might be a good thing). (We all have our biases.) Being anti-human evolution science has very little costs and we will see if being anti-AGW science has much cost.

BTW If you talk to some union democrats about AGW you will come away knowing that the median voter is not yet ready to take on AGW in a constructive way, which IMO would be with a carbon tax and a payout for removing co2 from the air.

Calling republicans ant-science is way to broad!

The climate is indeed warming, but the causes are debatable. What a great bet for only $100m.

Does anyone know what kind of land use laws Iceland has that might inhibit future development of the property?

yada yada yada: Zephyrs and unicorn farts to the rescues.

I'm not a libertarian and I don't believe in your latest liberal cargo cult. I am old enough to remember: In 1979, it was "we is gwine ta fre-e-e-e- eze to death." And, the world was going to run out of oil by 1984.

So, yes, I oppose destroying the economy to save the world from my SUV exhaust and a couple trillion bovine farts.

Here's how good your liberal hysteria worked elsewhere.

I didn't keep the author's name: “Pipe dreams eventually are revealed for what they are – unrealistic, wishful thinking. It didn’t take long for Spain’s touted green-job revolution to be revealed as a financial disaster, siphoning taxpayer subsidies and destroying 2.2 real jobs for every green job created. Domestic green-job pipe dreams similarly drain U.S. taxpayers’ money into economic sink holes. The millions of so-called green jobs promised by President Barack Obama and other champions of taxpayer-subsidized energy schemes not only haven’t materialized, many that did, already are disappearing. It’s truly a bad sign for the green-job revolution when failure becomes obvious even to acolytes.”

And, besides if these idiot savants set out to save it you had better short the world. Besides it's not about saving the world it's about making billionaires out of bloody morons like Al Gore and about controlling everything and everybody.

PS: GW is generated by sun spot activity.

Most of the most senior of China's leaders have technical/engineering training. They know how to evaluate data. They know that burning coal and oil is causing the atmosphere and oceans to heat up. They can see how this is going to change the world and they are going to be ready for the geopolitical changes coming.

So does the man charged with "Maritime Domain Awareness and Space" for the U.S.Navy,

Hear what he has to say about Arctic sea lanes.

Last time climate change came up on MR, I asked commenters to demonstrate that they had the scientific know-how to make their own evaluation of the competing claims about global warming. No-one did.

The Chinese are smart, no doubt. But how smart do you have to be to realize we're still coming out of an ice age. The Chinese think long term. They know not to judge hurracaines by the last 20 - 30 years when they run in 70 year cycles. They do not fear human carbon induced warming as the past has experienced all this long ago before we were burning oil.

I wonder if the Admiral was around in the 1800s when those same lanes were also open.

"Vast?" If it were square, that'd roughly be 10 miles across. That's a large ranch maybe.

From what I can tell, the area that he is buying is desolate, remote, beautiful, and quite far from the coast. It seems unlikely that it would ever be strategically important. It also is the coldest area of Iceland, and seems an unlikely major vacation spot, even with significant warming. Most likely, a rich guy from a crowded country just likes the idea of owning a huge amount of land.

Sounds like a great place to park your collection of soviet era ICBM's.... :)

I foresee a chain of resorts dotting northern Russia, Canada, Greenland, and Iceland, open 6 months a year in summer, called "Club Arct". The antidote for carbonization...

Think simple things like radar posts, telecommunications interception and so forth. Tyler is well within the usual bounds of military paranoia here, and it's in fact something that has been done before (think Echelon). It's unlikely to be a staging point for raw military force, which China is not capable of projecting that far away and seems not interested in.

I love the irony of buying parcels of wilderness in order to develop them for eco-tourism.

"a strategically important location": aren't they all, dear?

(Copyright, my dear old Mum.)

i wonder if tyler was waiting for this story like an octogenarian waiting on their lab results or like a kid at Christmas waiting for a BB gun.

"300 square kilometres of wilderness in north-east Iceland where he plans to build an eco-tourism resort and golf course."

Why would anyone build a golf course in Iceland? The winters are long and dark, it is always windy, and rains are frequent. There is only one place in the world that is worse for golf, and that is Scotland.

Sounds like a great place for a links course then.

Two old Scots were playing golf in horrendous weather, after a very slow final hole they came in and sat by the fire in the club house drinking a whisky. After about a half hour the ice melted from their beards and they'd warmed enough to coverse. One asked the other, "same time next week?". To which the other replied, "Aye, weather permitting."

We all know how individual market actors are completely rational which is synonymous with correct, Chinese real estate developers especially.

"A Chinese tycoon plans to buy a vast tract of Icelandic land for a $100m tourism project which critics fear could give Beijing a strategic foothold in the North Atlantic."

Are people so lacking in imagination or starved for metaphors that the only way they can talk about politics or economics is in the language of warfare?

I think they are talking about an actual strategic foothold, not a metaphorical one.

i love the misdirection almost every strong AGW proponent engages in: they assume that if you agree there's AGW, you almost must agree that we should do something about. but for most smart/informed opponents of the global warming cult, the issue is not whether there's AGW (even if it's unclear how much), but whether it's worth doing anything about it. it's not clear we can as a technical matter, it's almost certain we can't as a political matter, and it's not clear it's worth bothering to try where even a fraction of the money needed to try to limit AGW would save many, many more lives through simple things like clean water in africa, malaria treatment, etc. i have yet to see any definitive, comprehensive study on the net harms/benefits of a warmer world consistently cited by strong AGW proponents (every one cries about the poor folk in bangladesh, but a warmer world obviously has great benefits for others). and that's a little surprising, because there are far more people who can review and understand such an economic study (and thus be swayed to believe it's worth making the pascal's wager that we should do what we can to avoid further warming) than the underlying climate science. i take this as evidence that the economic case isn't nearly so strong as the cult would like, so they focus on the science (ignoring that, in the relevant risk/benefit calc, we need to know not merely whether there's any AGW, but how much, what we can feasibly do about it, how much that costs, how many lives (how much money) that saves, and whether those resources might more efficiently be used elsewhere).

i could have put this far more simply: nothing necessarily follows from proof of AGW. also, tyler may be making, or demonstrating, the point that there are benefits to warming, whether AG or not (lots of very cold places become hospitable).

It's interesting how quickly we are getting to stage three of the denialists game plan.
I guess the first few stages are getting hard to maintain with a straight face.

Just to remind people, the abbreviated script goes something like this:

1. the climate is not getting warmer
2. the climate is getting warmer, but the warming is not caused by human activities- it's sunspots or cosmic rays or something
3. the climate is getting warmer, it is caused by human activities, but it's not worth doing anything about it
4. the ice sheets collapse, sea levels rise, droughts, floods, fires and storms become more severe, the ocean acidifies, agriculture productivity is negatively impacted. hey, who knew?

perfect example: my script was never 1 or 2, but instead directed to 3, as was the script of many who aren't AGW cultists. if you can cite me to anything definitive on the cost/benefit issue (rather than some pascal's wager rationale (possible harm too great to not act)) i'll take a look, but i've done my homework. i also find funny how sure the true believers are that they're the smart ones, rather than the ones wearing blinders that make sure they don't disagree with their fellow cult members (you can't risk questioning the group think, you might get kicked out of the lefty tribe).

You don't get credit for joining the crazies in the later stages of their illness. If you take climate change seriously but think there's nothing to be done about it, you're still disputing the scientific consensus. After all, the consensus is that while climate change is no longer avoidable, reducing emissions now can seriously reduce the damage. Estimates of the damage are tough, because the dollar costs of a long-term unstable climate depend on the details, but the scientific consensus is again pretty clear: it varies between a semi-permanent ("foreseeable future") reduction in productivity and growth if we manage to keep climate change to a minimum and cataclysmic destruction on the other end (if the climate change becomes self-accelerating and moves to fast for us to respond to effectively for a couple of decades).

You're acting like a deer caught in headlights. It's neither rational nor broadminded.

Are the anti-nuclear, anti-pesticide people anti-science? Not only is the science clear the history in practice is too. Are people who buy organic food or buy local anti-science? Again not only is the science clear the history in practice is too.

Anti-science is way too broad a term for people who do not believe that AGW will be catastrophic and or who do not believe in human evolution.

No, they are risk averse. You can argue that they overstate the risk, but they don't deny the consensus views that, say, exposure to certain pesticides raise your risk of cancer.

Now that you mention risk aversion perhaps that s the difference on AGW. Republicans are more likely to be willing to take the risk and Democrats are less likely to be willing to take the risk.

weird that the former are supposed to be "conservatives", and the later "progressives", because that trend seems to hold for a lot of issues

Iceland's management of its financial crisis/national bankruptcy ought to be of immense interest to economists and and econowannabes.

Jeff Carter: "Iceland couldn’t bail out the banks. They went broke. Was that the road to total financial ruin? I dunno. It appears Iceland is in better financial condition than the rest of the eurozone."

Ugh! I can't believe I am quoting a NYT editorial: "In the go-go years leading up to the financial crisis, Iceland's banks were hugely irresponsible, luring foreign depositors with high interest rates and putting the money into risky loans. ... The government of Iceland failed to rein in bankers' excesses," but "its refusal to take on bank debts, forcing creditors to take losses and share in the pain, looks increasingly smart as Iceland's economy begins to recover. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund -- their bailouts of Greece and Ireland were designed to make creditors whole -- should learn from Iceland's example."

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not to worry: Chiner won't nuke its largest market.

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