Wednesday assorted links

1. The economics of border walls.

2. “We find that [occupational] licensing reduces equilibrium labor supply by an average of 17%-27%. The negative labor supply effects of licensing appear to be strongest for white workers and comparatively weaker for black workers.”  Link here.

3. Are there more witches than (American) Presbyterians?

4. How economics works (a parable of capital taxation, recommended).

5. Is carbon capture now more feasible?

6. The origins of the Schelling segregation model.


How can TC multitask? He's watching the chess world championship and reading and blogging...amazing.

So border walls work and actually have an economic benefit for the working class, wow. Plus if you simultaneously reduce trade barriers then any costs of the wall are more than made up for.

Not really, the analysis did not take into consideration the disruption of wildlife at the border, causing long term population decline due to isolated gene pools. You do care about the South Texas ocelot don't you?

" You do care about the South Texas ocelot don't you?"

I'm pretty confident that 10's of thousands of illegal immigrants crossing the border do far more damage than a wall would.

I doubt trash and vandalism along migrant routes compares with a 18' high wall in isolating populations.

"The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that illegal aliens dumped more than 25 million pounds of trash in the Arizona desert between 1999 and 2005—that is almost 2,100 tons of trash each year."

"According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, mass illegal immigration is a likely contributing factor in the dramatic 79 percent decline in the U.S. Sonoran pronghorn population between 2000 and 2002."

Why can't you just reduce trade barriers without building the stupid wall? What does one have to do with the other?

Well, 36c per year worth of working class benefit over 3 years, at a cost of 7 dollars for each American citizen.

And the reducing trade barriers was the counterfactual. Basically, you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

Yes. It is a brief abstract, but I'm pretty sure the "each American citizen" paying 7 dollars includes the workers who gain 35 cents. The net loss is left to the reader.

Let's be honest, the working class does not pay federal taxes

Yeah... they certainly don't have those pesky social security taxes taken out of their paycheck.

They get much more back than they pay in

That may be, but that was not your statement. You said they don't pay any federal tax. In fact, they do. Given the range of values placed on Medicare, it's likely that most middle class individuals in retirement also take out more than they put in. And given the large deficits the federal government has been running for the past ~15 years (especially with Bush and Obama's bailouts of banking, auto, etc.), it seems likely that just about everybody is taking out more than their putting in (the likelihood of this being the case increases when you factor in the federal governments role in the existence of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage).

So you are saying that taxpaying Americans should pay 10? 14? dollars so that the working class can get a benefit of 1.08 dollars over three years?

Why not cut out the wall building, save the 10? or 14? dollars per American taxpayer, and give the working class 2 dollars extra in EITC over three years?

Seems like a win for everybody except the wall builders.

And all of this is overwhelmed by the cost of illegal immigration to the US - $130 b or $388/capita US per year.

This is contested of course, and considered by some to be mostly false.

And this is their criticism? "The report has drawn criticism for some of its assumptions, such as a higher-than-usual estimate of immigrants in the country illegally (12.5 million, higher than the typically reported 11 million) and for excluding tax contributions made by U.S.-born children to parents here illegally."

Try 22 million

Strangely enough, these people disagree - 'The findings are unsupportable. Accepting that there are 22 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. also requires accepting that every Census Bureau survey missed huge numbers of people and that most administrative data from the federal government is woefully incomplete. There is no body of research that corroborates such a claim.


"No matter how carefully a theoretical model may seem to be calibrated, it is not useful unless it is consistent with the real world," said Steven Camarota, the Center's Director of Research. "It is incumbent upon the authors to explain how their estimate can be reconciled with other data. It seems extremely unlikely that the Census Bureau, the Department of Education, and other records of vital statistics miss so many people year after year."'

You are welcome to read the examples, of course. However, here is an interesting example - 'About 4 million women in the American Community Survey (ACS) each year reported they had a child in the prior year. This nearly matches the number of births reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (NSHC) based on birth certificates, which suggests the ACS is not missing large numbers of mothers. If there were 11 million more illegal immigrants in the country, then NSHC data would need to show roughly 300,000 more births, which it does not.'

Of course, the Center for Immigration Studies is obviously a hard left organization, as you can tell from what they write about themselves - 'The data collected by the Center during the past quarter-century has led many of our researchers to conclude that current, high levels of immigration are making it harder to achieve such important national objectives as better public schools, a cleaner environment, homeland security, and a living wage for every native-born and immigrant worker. These data may support criticism of US immigration policies, but they do not justify ill feelings toward our immigrant community. In fact, many of us at the Center are animated by a "low-immigration, pro-immigrant" vision of an America that admits fewer immigrants but affords a warmer welcome for those who are admitted.'

Sure it was presented as a counterfactual but the two are obviously not mutually exclusive, unless the "lowering trade barriers" means literally tearing down border walls so that smuggling can increase, which I find doubtful.

No, in this particular case, based on the actual fact of the wall being built, but no reduction in trade barriers, you can not have your cake and eat it too.

That it might be possible to build physical barriers while reducing trade barriers is a separate question. One not supported by European history between say 1961 and 2011, where the trend was to remove the physical presence of what was once referred to as the Iron Curtain.

I will gladly pay you 35 cents in the future, if you pay me 7 dollars today.

How about someone else pays you $7 and you pay me 35 cents every year for the rest of my life?

That makes even less sense. The $7 is an average, a " construction cost of approximately $7 per person in the United States."

There are many fewer narrowly no-tax working class (per your post above) than "persons" in the United States. I would think persons includes every retired man, stay at home mom, and non-working child.

A narrow segment gets a 35 cent increase, and *everybody* (probably including them, sooner or later) pays 7 dollars.

Is your reading comprehension that poor? Both the $7 and the $0.35 are per capita, and you don't have to multiply by an affected group size.

I think you made the error. Look again. The $0.35 is for "U.S. low-skill workers."

They even say ", we estimate that the border wall expansion harmed Mexican workers and high-skill U.S. workers."

Would you pay $7 to ensure we don't get a president like Trump again? Because his promises on illegal immigration were a significant reason many people chose to vote for him. If you dislike him, you ought to consider $7 a worthwhile investment to deny him support in the future, no?

Are you kidding me?

Trump got people to go nuts for a wall in a time of net negative illegal immigration.

Given that proof of concept, a future Trump can make people scared about anything.

You've mis-used the term 'proof of concept,' for one, and secondly, if Trump's election really did come when there was net out-migration, that would indicate to me that a certain segment of voters felt very strongly about the issue, not that they were in some sense deceived. After all, these migration rates vary substantially over time, and most people are probably sharp enough to understand that the negative rates would likely reverse at some point in the future, so long as the US remained substantially more productive, economically and less violent.

So it still makes sense to pay the $7, in other words.

Well, people don't really like to go there, but there is significant evidence that Trump and his team were not simply opposing illegal immigration, but we're trying to reduce non-white white immigration in general.

The "shithole countries" episode thumbnailed it neatly.

Now if you are telling me there is a base for that kind of thing, oh I know there is. It is sad, but there is.

Well, that's true, but just how big this base is seems like a matter of conjecture. From what I can tell, the Steve Sailer crowd, which seems to be the most visible anti-immigrant group out there that actually makes coherent arguments, is actually pretty anti-white immigration, in addition to every other kind, too. They don't seem to be at all fond of all the Russian/Polish immigration to the West since the Soviet Union broke up, which seems odd and surprising to me, but I guess maybe they subscribe to a brand of nationalism the rest of us just don't get.

What's hard to understand about not wanting flat labor supply curves or the constant disruption of local cultures that really does lead to us being a nation of (internal) migrants.

Hey, remember the ad so racist Fox wouldn't run it?

If you can't believe me, here is a completely other guy talking about hysteria:

"I will gladly pay you 35 cents in the future, if you pay me 7 dollars today."

Your reading comprehension is poor. It was $0.35 per year (increase in per capita income) for low skilled immigration.

It was a Popeye joke, remind people that $0.35 is small compared to $7.

It looks very much worse, if you consider the $7 as the net tax from many many people, and $0.35 as a low taxed income to a smaller group of other people.

Did the libertarians just forget that they were supposed to be against this kind of coercion, again,?

"It was a Popeye joke,"

So you were trolling again. That figures.

I might be having a little fun.

Don't you think it is funny that the right is defending a pretty big boondoggle for nothing more than their own ego at this point?

I mean, isn't the only reason anyone is for the wall is that Trump wants it, and you are afraid of shattering the populist coalition?

I am certainly seeing no one on this page chart out a rational return on investment, and actual net benefits, for the wall.

It's not like those toddlers were actually able to storm the gates in San Diego this week.

I see a troll, trolling.

I must be a good one, if that's the best answer you can come up with.

I asked someone to "chart out a rational return on investment, and actual net benefits, for the wall."

You didn't take that up because you know you can't.

It is also odd that you call me a troll while I agree with Tyler blog posting.

What does that make all you guys who show up to disagree with such common sense?

1. Actually, the economics of an America-Mexico border wall, no plural.

Which is a shame, because reading about the economics of the anti-fascist protective wall (antifaschistischen Schutzwall) would have been interesting.

Not to mention other boarder walls in history--Hadrian's Wall, the Great Wall of China, even city walls would make an interesting study from a sociological and economic standpoint. I mean, a number of towns (maybe some cities) have their origins in armed camps at the base of the walls, where the army and the population they were defending against merged.

4. It depends on the meaning of "capital". I know that's not the view at this blog (capital is capital), but the proliferation of complex financial instruments and the creation of various schemes to either convert labor (ordinary) income to capital income (gains), or to avoid taxes entirely by shifting income to tax havens, has resulted in the avoidance of a large share of taxes that would otherwise be payable by the wealthy (an estimated $8.7 trillion of the wealthy is held in tax havens). But I favor a zero tax rate on productive capital.

Capital is only marginally tradeable, contrary to the claims of Wall Street rent seekers.

Consider the stupid proposals of free lunch economists on the left, Bernie Bros, to tax wealth of the 1%. Who will the 1% sell their capital aka wealth aka FANG stocks to? Workers? The retirees living on Social Security and selling their meager IRS stock holdings?

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, etc, can't convert their "wealth" to cash without ceasing to be the leaders they are.

When such people do give up control, say by death, or by force due to Wall Street rent seekers "liberating wealth" or "unlocking value", the wealth is destroyed.

Jeff Bezos noted this when he said Amazon wasn't too big to fail, triggered by the original Amazon declaring bankruptcy. Sears started as a mailorder watch seller, and at the time of its founders exiting, was seen as the world's unstoppable retailer with interests in every aspect of commerce: insurance, banking, manufacturing, logistics, transport, real estate,....

Sam Walton dying let the rent seekers take control off Wal-Mart and start running it into the ground, but his family, passive owners, clearly intervened, sacrificing money for legacy, and the tradional "wealth".

And the idea that Wall Street can replace Social Secruity if every worker is 1000% rational without the problems of 2 workers supporting 1 retiree, the reason SS is a pond scheme is absurd. It's zero sum. The stock market has gone up mostly because workers have been pushed by government to buy a scarce asset, stocks and bonds, which ceased paying dividends as the did before SS made the retiree clipping coupons to pay bills a thing of the past, along with taking in boarders, and taking in laundry, or being a companion aka nursemaid to the rich and old.

Zero sum. Cash in equals cash out. No free lunch.

#4 - good one, how economics works: full of bogus assumptions like tax of capital is good for an economy in the long run, since it encourages Peter to work harder today since he cannot pass on his wealth to his heirs tomorrow, when in fact government wastes money (robs Peter, the value-adder, to pay Paul, the deadbeat).

Speaking as a trust baby.

You want governments to stop buying stuff from your companies so you won't need to pay takes?

Why not repeal the 13th amendment so you can own the workers, and then sell all they produce to the rest of the 1% who own the 99% as slaves.

I think is was in the 70s when a worthwhile MBA explained to US engineers that our customers were a slice of the economy, just a smaller slice than IBM which we were "not competing with". We (DEC) had crossed the threshold where we had to sell to everyone, all governments, all industries, so, just as government (federal) was 20% of Gdp, it was 20% of our revenue, and IBMs.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, et al all have "Federal divisions" dealing with GAO accounting rules, I'm sure. Government is just too big a part of the economy to ignore. And always has been.

President Captain Bolsonaro has oficially decided to support Mr. Trump's presidential run in 2020. He sent his son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, to AMerica to close a historical deal with Mr. Trump.

Here he can be seen wearing a Make America Great Again hat:

you like tote bags?
we send you a lotta tote bags

"Are there more witches than (American) Presbyterians?"

There always have been. Though it's not often that one has run for President.

4. Powell blinked: he issued a statement today that interest rates are about right (neutral), sending the stock market soaring. It's the Fed's dilemma: facilitate rising asset prices and risk bubbles or tame the bubbles and risk the wrath of Trump (no, not really the wrath of Trump, but the wrath of markets).

In my view the greater concern is falling housing prices. Logically, Powell's statement should further depress housing prices, at least in the short run, as buyers get the impression that mortgage rates will likely come down and will wait. Rising mortgage rates should motivate buyers to act today since rates will be higher tomorrow, but that isn't working. Why? After ten years of historically low rates, and rising rates quickly followed by falling rates (as the Fed blinked again and again), buyers have come to expect rates to fall back after an initial rise.

But interest rates are about right.

I agree. Mortgage rates are still below 5%, which historically is a low rate. My concern is that unrealistically low mortgage rates have become the norm, and housing prices will continue to fall. That's not a terrible thing, unless one is a seller rather than a buyer and one isn't so much concerned about the wealth effect on consumption.

Please explain #4 to who is smart but not immersed in econ jargan.

#4: how to use twitter to write a blog post.

"Thus full expropriation of capital in long-run is optimal." That's just as well since it's what happens in the long run.

#1 There are so many other difficult to measure costs that are directly the result of not having a wall or allowing so much un-regulated migration to this country that simply having the debate around the "cost per-capita" of the wall is obtuse. The wall is a serious item up for serious debate because it's the costs of NOT BUILDING IT that has put the item on the agenda. I think that if you went to most people who advocate the wall's construction and told them "that'll be $7" most of them would probably be shocked at how cheap that is. I know I would be prepared to pay that and much much more just for my end, and I'm one of those high-skilled> workers that would be disadvantaged.

#5 No. No it's not. It never will be. The cost of each 2% reduction either on the front end or on the back end is still $5,000,000,000,000/2% reduction then, now, and will be and that is likely to be the case with subsidies, not without them. Carbon recapture is going to be incredibly expensive and the buy in would need to be global, which amounts to an insurmountable political challenge, as any effort to terraform your own planet would be.

#1 what's obtuse is treating an annual $3.8 billion Border Patrol budget as nothing, an absence, open desert, just empty, just waiting for "the wall."

Not to mention the whole post-9/11 border security infrastructure overhaul. Where I used to be waved back from fishing in Canada there is now a strong point bristling with every kind of sensor pointed at my car.

To use a phrase that I’m certain Ever is familiar with, the entire thing is security theater and a giant waste of money.

ICE is $7.8 billion alone.

So total we’re at about $11.6 billion. A year.

Border patrol is pointless anyways, since migrants have a legal right to ask for asylum. And no, the Orange clown’s antics aside, we are not going to lock up a million migrants a year (flow not stock) while they wait for their court dates.

Asylum is the law, whether they cross illegally or not. And the law is not going to change.

So we’re paying $11.6 billion to hand out blankets and water and do inprocessing. Not to mention the court expenses.

So not only are we burning money, we’re shooting tear gas cannisters at 9 month old children for no reason. The second they cross they’re entitled to stay.

What. A. Waste.

"The second they cross they’re entitled to stay ... And the law is not going to change."

Has this always been the precise reading of the law? Was it kept mum for some reason? Why did no one tell the Mexicans this, all these years? Who in crossing would not utter the word "asylum"? Are you telling me the dozens of people who every so often turn up dead of heatstroke in the back of a big rig, in my state, have too much respect for the international asylum process, and would rather stick with the status quo?

It’s been the law for decades. In the past, Mexican males had little recourse since they had difficulty claiming asylum. Mexico was stable enough, and they weren’t bringing families. “Credible fear” was harder to show, and even if doable it wasn’t publicized.

Now everyone knows what the law is (internet) and it’s easy to claim.

Additionally, now you have dozens of legal aid groups willing to work pro bono to ensure the families aren’t deprived of their legal rights.

I concede that it is natural and appropriate and right, that it should be lawyers who bring about the end of this particular country.

brown people are the end of the country?


Why shouldn't they be? Do you ascribe no agency to brown or otherwise people?
Is this some sort of fabled land outside of history? The Founders were as gods? Yikes (!) back atcha.

The yikes is at the implication that brown people immigrating to the US would somehow be the end of the US.

There’s a group that always says this about the latest batch, just the nation of origin has changed.


Somehow we keep chugging along, and odds are that you’re a descendant of one of these groups that were going to bring “an end of the US.”

So yes. The Know Nothings of the 21st century deserve a “yikes.”

No, empires don't tend to "keep on chugging." Countries sometimes do. You know them by tangible things, though, not because they are, in TC's phrase or borrowed phrase elsewhere today, an "imagined community." But rest assured - lest your theatrical yikes-ing go unrewarded - I believe you're in the most worthy, creditable, and orthodox intellectual company, if tangibles do not concern you in the slightest.

How much do you think an America that was 80% Russian be much different from Russia, do you think? Particularly if this happens over 3 or 4 generations. In its meaningful institutions particularly. Just trying to get a ball park idea of how you think here.

The median sensible position is that huge demographic change will probably not be the "end" of the USA (in the sense of "suddenly Fallout"), but will mean the end of it as the culture it has been, and probably significant transformation of its institutions, and in the short term, some power shift to the "Woke" set that facilitate transform (even if they are marginally representative of immigrant communities).

The influence of the Germans, and more so the Jews, significantly transformed US institutions. Italians are a bit too demographically light to have much effect that way, and Irish are close enough to British to assimilate easily. The US that arose after those great migrations was still a strong nation, just as the European nations that were seed for those migrations were, and a nation strong enough to be worth allying with.

No doubt the US will be after mass migrations of Chinese and Indian Middle Castes (Mexicans somewhat more doubtful) but it would be a very different nation than it is, if it survives in one piece at all.

80% Russian? In three generations?

You’re asking me what I would think if tens of millions of Russians moved to the US and ... what...killed off > 50% of the population ?

Sure, there would be some cultural changes. Probably mostly from the Holomodor 2, American Boogaloo.

To a more reasonable question, how has the culture shifted with the influx of Hispanics, I’d say not much. Within 1-2 generations they’re watching American football, laughing at soccer, and at most can struggle bus through Spanish when speaking to their grandparents on the phone. More Budweiser and less Sol.

Not to mention the intermarriage rate is so high the entire question seems ridiculous. The hard lines don’t even exist in 2018.

Regardless, there’s no stopping the influx. We need the gray market labor to keep wages from rising. And the impacts will be localized to those who cannot afford to buy a house in a high priced area.

More capital gains please.

Surely Trump's Wall is the biggest security theater of all time. Or economic theater. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

You’re off by a few trillion dollars.

Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the ultimate security theater.

Neither of those hold a candle to the Vietnam war.

First, yes, security theater is a real thing, but not all security is security theater.

Second, "The second they cross they’re entitled to stay ... And the law is not going to change.", that is absolutely NOT true.

Third, Border Patrol is not pointless. If it was there would not be a giant S. American cottage industry that serves a population that has a raised opportunity cost to get into the USA because BP actually apprehends about 1/3 of border crossers (higher at more highly patrolled sectors). Building the wall is another part of raising that opportunity cost marginally, something that walls have been historically very good at doing.

Lastly, you're right that we're spending money anyway. A lot of it. If we're going to spend money, I vote to spend it to continue to raise the opportunity cost to get into this country and to continue to raise it to stay here if they do get through. Incentives and dis-incentives matter. I'd rather pay nothing, but if I have to pay, I'd like to pay as much as possible to keep them where they are.

Sure, they can apprehend them.

Then they say “asylum.”

Then they’re released.

So what am I paying for?

That is a vast oversimplification.

You make some good points. I suspect that t's not quite that easy, but could it be close?

If so, and assuming you've got plenty of "legal aid groups willing to work pro bono", then effectively the US will have gone to an Open Borders situation, for anybody who can travel here from a violent third world country.

We'll see how it plays out in court.

There is no legal "right to seek asylum" under international law or US law. Foreign nationals have the right to apply for asylum once they are in the country or at a port of entry, but standing at the border or outside a port of entry and shouting "asylum" doesn't give you any legal rights under any existing legal system. As for "the law is not going to change", our existing asylum law is barely 35 years old, it's not in the Bill of Rights; if it is being used as a bad faith shortcut to gain entry to the country, it can and will change, or even simply be "reinterpreted" by the executive immigration agencies and the federal judiciary.

This is why we're shooting tear gas at people: because once they're in, they do have rights, but before they get in, they have no rights. Look forward to more and more of this in the future until the law or its interpretation changes.

No, the law isn’t going to change.

Everyone with money and influence wants things exactly the way they are. De jure closed borders, de facto open borders.

It gives the Dems cover on both their flanks and the Repubs cover on their right flank, until Trump.

We need the labor, and it’s better that it’s under the table. It allows us to keep wages from rising for unskilled to semi skilled labor. Lower wages mean higher profits, which translates to capital gains and increased passive income. It also raises the price of real estate in selective areas in which housing prices determine who attends the local schools. It allows Dems to feel self righteous about human dignity and Repubs to feel furious at the browns. The side effects of immigration will be borne entirely by the lower to middle class. So who cares?

Bottom line, you don’t get to decide. The Clown can rage and spittle and rant, but he doesn’t call the shots.

Vote for whomever you want. I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

#5: The cheapest way, by far, would be to use ocean sequestration through iron fertilization. Odd that there is no mention of that in this article. Perhaps the problem is not sufficiently acute yet.

There have been major problems in implementing this sort of solution. The whole idea is to cause an intentional algae bloom and subsequent die-off, the hope being that the dead critters will go into the bottom of the ocean and stay there. Unfortunately, you have to get the right KIND of algae to bloom (diatoms, mostly), and the conditions where those algae are likely to bloom and iron fertilization can work don't always coincide. Second, you are assuming that the majority of organic matter goes to the ocean floor and stays there. This is an assumption. We don't know if it's true or not--or at least, I've not seen any definitive study one way or the other. Then there are international laws that must be navigated--an anthropogenic alteration of the largest biome in the world raises eyebrows, to say the least. Then you have to get the right kind of iron, something we're getting better at but aren't exactly good at yet.

There are still a LOT of technical and biological problems to work out with this approach. As with introducing predatory species, this could go horribly wrong. Only this time, instead of destroying an island ecosystem, we could destroy the OCEAN'S ecosystem. "Catastrophic" would not begin to describe the outcome of such an event. While I am not a fan of the Precautionary Principle in general, I'm also not really a fan of taking actions that a reasonably high probability of producing a mass die-off style mass extinction.

Meh, we will never need to do something crazy like that anyway. We will just use solar, wind, hydro and nuclear all the way and we will allow warming to go up by another degree, it's already over one degree so it's not like another degree is going to destroy civilization or anything.

The practical problems involved with wind and solar energy make this solution dubious at best. Industrial-scale solar power production requires industrial-scale facilities, which are measured in square miles. You can imagine what the environmental folks say about THAT. Wind power is even worse--you have to re-arrange a truly remarkable amount of topography to install enough wind turbines to make wind power generation viable, even with subsidies. The destruction of habitat involved in that is tremendous.

Note that this is just for construction. Manufacturing, shipping, maintenance, and decommissioning present their own not-insignificant problems. I'm also assuming the best-case scenario for you, which means I'm not getting into the inherent geographic limitations of these technologies.

This is what annoys me about global warming: everyone treats it as the be-all, end-all of environmental concerns. The reality is that it's only one aspect of a much, much larger problem, and ignoring the other aspects is incredibly dangerous. I'm not saying that wind or solar are necessarily bad; what I'm saying is that people have been trained to ignore these issues.

I remember in college we were discussing pollution from wind turbines. Folks were saying that there was no pollution. I pointed out that between mining, smelting, manufacturing, constructing, maintaining, and demoing, there's going to be a fair amount--perhaps not as much as coal, but not zero! Not a single person--including the professor--had ever considered these issues. Once I got out of college I spent four years working environmental compliance for renewable energy projects and got to see these issues first-hand. They're pretty significant.

James: By "dead critters" you mean "dead plants." This is plant life that is being created. Those plants eat CO2. When those plants die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, taking the CO2 with them in the form of dead cellulose. Studies confirm that this dead plant material stays on the bottom of the ocean for about 10,000 years.

These are not "predatory species." Essentially, you are fertilizing potential plant life that is already in the water, waiting for the right mix of nutrients to permit growth. And this is very bottom-of-the-food-chain plant life. It's stuff that will grow for a week or two, and then die, because without a continual source of iron, it cannot survive. We would be doing this, obviously, in places where there is no current "ecosystem," to ensure that the fertilized plant matter dies. Most of the ocean is a desert. That's why there are not algae blooms all over the place.

Certainly there are logistics to iron out. But your nuclear threats are vastly overblown. And if global warming by CO2 emissions is really such a problem, the logistics of developing this extremely cheap and effective method of sucking huge amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere are far less daunting than the alternative.

"James: By "dead critters" you mean "dead plants.""

No, not really. First, diatoms aren't plants; completely different kingdom. Second, it's not just diatoms that are affected by these fertilizing efforts. Short bursts of other life are also associated with the short burst of diatamacious life. That's assuming best-case scenario, by the way; some attempts to do this have failed because other organisms grew instead of diatoms.

As for how long they stay down there, any study is necessarily going to be incomplete. We don't have most of the ocean floor mapped, for one thing. For another, the various gyres and circulation currents mean that regional differences are pretty strong (yes, I know gyres are surface flow, but they affect things below them). This adds a layer of complication to fertilizing attempts.

"We would be doing this, obviously, in places where there is no current "ecosystem," to ensure that the fertilized plant matter dies. "

And you're going to prove this how, exactly? You can--just possibly--find somewhere that there is little ecology at the surface (obviously you will change that when you fertilize it). What about below the surface? It takes a while for things to fall through the ocean, particularly small things, and a LOT of critters below the surface that specialize in eating things that fall from above. That's rather how several underwater ecosystems work--hydrothermal vents get top billing, but "eating stuff that falls through the water" is a very common foraging strategy for animals. You are proposing to add a few million tons of food to this ecosystem. And you expect this to not change it. That's wildly irrational, particularly given the outcomes of intentional human intervention with ecosystems in the past.

"Certainly there are logistics to iron out. But your nuclear threats are vastly overblown."

First, I don't think you understand my concerns well enough to adequately evaluate them. The fact that you're hand-waving away everything but the target zone is evidence of that.

Second, I was speaking more generally. Many proposed methods for addressing global warming would be catastrophically bad. I have heard of plans to deflect a certain percentage of sunlight, for example. Deflecting sufficient sunlight to cool the planet would require as much deflection as occurred at the K/Pg boundary; I call that a bad idea.

Uou can believe what you want about how much I understand. Your position that ocean sequestration is so unfeasible that it should not even be studied as an option speaks for itself. Your concerns are "what-ifs." Conjecture. The fact is, you don't really know whether ocean sequestration will have deleterious effects on, say, ocean floor ecosystems -- or even a beneficial one (free food!). There are certainly places where there isn't much, or any, ecology on the surface and on the ocean floor, precisely because of a lack of the requisite nutrients to sustain life. Most of the ocean is like that. It's the parts that are teeming with life that are the exception.

There is nothing wrong with pointing out potential logistical hurdles with a proposal. But rejecting it out of hand before it has even been tested is knee-jerkism. Or, perhaps more, reflects a belief that global warming really isn't all that bad after all, if we can afford to not even explore potential avenues to combat it.

"Your position that ocean sequestration is so unfeasible that it should not even be studied..."

That is not my position. My position--as I have clearly stated--is that there are major technical issues to be overcome, and that our analysis of the ecological impacts of this process are subminimal to non-existent. Given the outcomes of past ecological intervention, I see this as a tremendous risk, one that is not being acknowledged much less adequately addressed.

My concerns are not "What ifs". They are objective, measurable concerns that any reasonable ecologist would ask.

"There are certainly places where there isn't much, or any, ecology on the surface and on the ocean floor, precisely because of a lack of the requisite nutrients to sustain life."

See, this sort of ignorance is what I'm talking about. Ever hear of whale fall communities? Much of the ocean floor isn't known to have much life (every time we say that we find more, though, so I'm not willing to accept this at face value); however, there's a plethora of POTENTIAL ecology. Whole ecosystems exist by communities developing in spurts due to increased food, then dying out when the food goes away. The fact that they can arise when a whale carcass hits the ocean floor demonstrates that the members of these communities are pretty prolific down there, ready to come out of stasis (or whatever they do; we don't know yet in many cases!) as soon as food is available. What effects will this have on these ecosystems? On thermohaline circulation (specifically oxygen levels therein)? How will those effects propagate through the ocean ecosystems? You have provided no answer.

Further, you're ignoring everything between the surface and the subsurface. That's not how the ocean works; there are multiple unique ecosystems between these. How will plankton blooms affect these? No answer.

This is a serious data gap. The whole problem with the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico is that plankton blooms cause massive decay of organic material, which causes tremendous ecological disruption. For one thing, it uses up all the oxygen, creating "dead zones" where nothing can live. What evidence can you present that doing the same thing will produce different results? Thus far, you've presented NOTHING.

At this point, I will point out that while I have presented easily-verifiable data (I'm not doing your homework for you, you have a web browser, you can find the references yourself), your counter arguments do not. From a tactical standpoint, you want to fix this.

"Or, perhaps more, reflects a belief that global warming really isn't all that bad after all, if we can afford to not even explore potential avenues to combat it."

I have not made any statements about my opinions on global warming. My policy is to not do so until the other folks in the discussion demonstrate a deep knowledge of paleoecology. To put it bluntly, discussions about global warming generally consist of people with no idea what they're talking about passionately defending positions they don't understand. I'm a paleontologist; paleoecology, warming, cooling, and the like are part of my training. My views wouldn't fit into your nice, neat "believer" vs "denier" bins. And I refuse to discuss them with anyone other than other experts in these fields.

My concerns are limited to the effects of iron fertilizing on present and potential future ecology. I will not address anything that does not relate to that.

As for this being a knee-jerk reaction, so what if it is? I have presented data supporting my arguments. If the best you can do is attempting to hand-wave away my arguments, you've got nothing.

Your interpretation of "data" is an odd one. You have not actually provided any. You point to "data gaps," but that's the point -- you fill data gaps by actually testing the approach. Testing ocean sequestration would lead to data. You appear to expect the data to turn out a certain way. For example, you point to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico as examples where plankton blooms create "dead zones," but that's the point: ocean fertilization isn't going to be done in the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico. It's going to be done where the water is deep enough to avoid that outcome. You raise the prospect of multiple ecosystems between the surface and the ocean bottom. That's interesting because you haven't even considered a single site where ocean fertilization might be employed. Yes, certainly, there will be many areas where ocean fertilization should not be done. But that does not mean that there are NO areas where it can be feasible. You are trying mightily to short-circuit the process and prevent the accumulation of the necessary data to accurately weigh, improve, and perfect the approach.

It's a shame that the knee-jerk reaction is to be anti-experimentation. But oh well.

"Your interpretation of "data" is an odd one. You have not actually provided any."

A fair complaint. Allow me to clarify: I have referenced a number of issues (Dead Zones, ocean ecology, anthropogenic alterations of the ecosystem) in support of my skepticism about this method. Any of these can be easily found online, and you can investigate them for yourself. This is the typical reference method for informal communications, such as conversations in a bar (yes, I've had conversations like this), and I consider it a sufficient method of citation for a comments section on a blog. If you'd like specifics....well, use Google. I've given you all the search terms necessary to find this information yourself.

"It's going to be done where the water is deep enough to avoid that outcome."

You have presented precisely nothing in support of this. It remains at the level of mere assertion. In contrast, I have pointed out that 1) whenever we've thought this in the past our attempts at altering ecosystems have gone horribly wrong, and 2) there are many, many problems in finding areas where this is even a possibility. I'm not convinced it's possible.

"That's interesting because you haven't even considered a single site where ocean fertilization might be employed."

Okay, hot shot--where on Earth are you going to deploy iron fertilization such that it ONLY affects the top of the ocean and an absolute dead zone, outside of the thermohaline circulation AND outside of ocean gyres, AND outside of the other currents? I haven't considered such a possibility for the same reason I haven't considered the possibility of Puff the Magic Dragon eating the CO2; I see no reason to engage in fantasy when we're discussing practical problems.

"You are trying mightily to short-circuit the process and prevent the accumulation of the necessary data to accurately weigh, improve, and perfect the approach."

Unlike you I have pointed to specific data gaps I consider to be critical to fill prior to implementation. If you think doing so is somehow preventing us from discovering this data, you know nothing about how science works in the real world. How do you expect to discover these data when you react with hostility to someone pointing out where to look for them?!

"It's a shame that the knee-jerk reaction is to be anti-experimentation."

More personal attacks. More ignoring the data.

I'm through with this discussion. You obviously have no interest in an honest discussion of these issues, and equally obviously have no intention of reading what I write.

Yes, you have mentioned a set of "issues" that fuel you "skepticism," but you have relied on those as a reason to label it as "catastrophic" and "horrible." That's where you went too far.

As for locations to try it, a little bit of Googling on your end would reveal that people have already been looking into precisely that, and have proposed specific areas where the ocean is deep enough to prevent re-circulation of the dead material, and the currents won't move the blooms to where they are not wanted. Keep in mind, the blooms don't even have to be large.

Quite frankly, none of the concerns you have raised are new. The issue is whether we actually start testing those concerns. Are you for, or against, that?

Part of me wonders whether fertilization on land was met with similar reactions . . . thousands of years ago.

Why don't we bury newspapers in well-run landfills where they won't decay? That seems like carbon sequestration to me. In Seattle, we drive trucks around to pick up our old newspapers and recycle them.


How the fuck is $0.35 a year even a significant number to list for income? The sampling method's variance is probably 1000x stronger than the value.

Because most people will read it as $0.35 an hour. To be discussing any policy that will raise wages by $0.35 a year is insane. If it's three bucks an hour, for people making $10, I'll start to get interested. The sampling method's variance is probably a lot more than 1000x the value.

#5 Plant life is impossible at about 150 ppm CO2. We are only at about 400. At 650 ppm the CO2 climate forcing essentially levels out. And no one really has a good grasp on what the natural climate variability due to changing water vapor concentrations due to oceanic cycles has been.
And no one can say what the optimal earth temperature is other than to assume it must be whatever approximation they derive of the late Little Ice Age "pre-industrial" era. I really don't trust these clowns to not suck too much CO2 out of the atmosphere and destroy all life on the planet. "Scientists" are much more dangerous to humanity than a steadily improving quality of life for most people on earth.

Because we all know how easy it is to accidentally pull one trillion tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. I mean, who hasn't done that at some point?

Snarky but worthless

The atmosphere weighs 5,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes. By volume 0.04% of that is CO2. By weight it's 0.027% so there are 1,350,000,000,000 tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere. To go from 0.03% to 0.01% concentration by volume would require the removal of 675,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. If it costs $50 a tonne to remove it from the atmosphere we'd have to spend $33,750,000,000,000 to remove it. That's about 34 trillion dollars. That's probably not something that's going to happen by accident.

+1, I do think Crikey is fundamentally correct here. It would take an extremely large and concentrated effect to budge the amounts of CO2 very much.

In the last 70 years all of human activity have raised the amount by roughly 100 ppm.

5) We were discussing journalese fudge-words here a few weeks ago and I mentioned be wary of "increasingly." Notice the heavy lifting that word has to do right there in the intro to that carbon-capture piece.

"5. Is carbon capture now more feasible?"

That's the wrong question. A much better question would be:

What's cheaper on a CO2/$ basis;
Wind/solar with power storage Or CO2 capture?

This portion does bring up a good point:

"Imagine a scenario where you fly over to Germany and burn aviation gas on the way over, but we have a direct air capture machine that for $100 a ton takes CO2 out of the atmosphere and puts it in the ground to compensate. And the question is, how much did that cleansing of the atmosphere cost in terms of the fuel? The answer is an extra dollar a gallon. So it’s going from say, $2.50 to $3.50 a gallon. "

It might be hard to convince people of the economics, so in some cases direct CO2 capture might be less economically efficient but more effective. If people want to voluntarily pay a Carbon fee to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, then hey go for it.

“Imagine a scenario ... where we have a direct air capture machine...” Talk about assuming a can opener! There is nothing of substance in this piece.


There's a picture of one in the article. Not sure how practical or efficient these things are, but they apparently do exist, at least.

This is the plant in question:

To be fair, while it is a carbon capture plant, it does not sequester the CO2. They sell it to a local firm for use in greenhouses. So it's questionable how much actually ends up sequester.

But, yes, to the larger point, solar/wind + power storage is probably much more economical and a better long term solution.

#5: I suspect that there will be a distinct lack of interest in these technologies moving forward, since hydrocarbons have become a weird sort of moralistic matter where people on the right seem to think they're almost good for their own sake and people on the left treat them like concentrated evil.

#2. The wording a bit ambiguous. Are they saying that licensing laws prevent more white workers from entering a field than black workers? Or is it more that licensing is more common in white-dominated professions? I kind of suspect the latter is more likely, and that licensing may pose a greater barrier to African Americans because they are less likely to have the resources to obtain the credentials needed for the license. So it could be that over time, professions that require licensing tend to become "white" occupations. But that would conflict with the alternate interpretation - the somehow licensing has more of a negative effect on white workers in that occupation.
The paper is for a fee but I'd love to know if that is broken down by occupation or what to explain what they mean.

#5 yep enhanced weathering, biochar and deep ocean iron fertilization. He is looking at $100/ton seems not too bad.

I think this is a case where both sides are wrong. CO2 wont't destroy us and neither would a CO2 tax that would put use at net 0.

"neither would a CO2 tax that would put use at net 0."

What? You want an Ice Age, because that's how you get an Ice Age. (j/k) But more seriously, Let's consider stabilizing atmosphere CO2 as the lower bound for now. Since you have natural CO2 absorption, you can stabilize atmosphere CO2 and still have net positive emissions.

"Earth's oceans, forests and other ecosystems continue to soak up about half the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by human activities, even as those emissions have increased, according to a study by University of Colorado and NOAA scientists to be published August 2 in the journal Nature."

If Harry Potter waved his magic wand and the world suddenly switched to zero net CO2 emissions the levels in the atmosphere would decline but then level off as CO2 sinks became saturated. The new equilibrium would still be quite high. We might go from 410 PPM to 380 PMM. This would be an excellent result compared to what we are currently doing but there would still be a significant amount of warming.

"as CO2 sinks became saturated."

That's silly. The oceans have been a CO2 since algae appeared billions of years ago. The amount of CO2 that man has put in the atmosphere is trivial on that scale.

"but there would still be a significant amount of warming."

No, if the atmospheric CO2 levels started dropping there wouldn't be any further warming. Instead there would be cooling.

Can you tell me the main way at the moment in which the oceans remove CO2 from the atmosphere? If you have to look it up that's fine. After you do that if you still think it's silly you can explain why.

"Can you tell me the main way at the moment in which the oceans remove CO2 from the atmosphere?"

I don't need to look it up. The basic process is that lifeforms (think gigatonnes of algae) soak up CO2. Many are eaten by higher order life forms but a significant amount does not. Some of the surplus inevitably dies and drifts to the ocean floor. (The same process happens on land, but the Earth's surface is mostly ocean, and the top soil of the land gets re-used much more frequently.)

Indeed, there is so much carbon trapped under the oceans that it's possible to use giant drills to tap it and extract pools of concentrated hyrdocarbons.

"Recent estimates have calculated that 26 percent of all the carbon released as CO2 from fossil fuel burning, cement manufacture, and land-use changes over the decade 2002–2011 was absorbed by the oceans. During this time, the average annual total release of was 9.3 billion tons of carbon per year, thus on average 2.5 billion tons went into the ocean annually."

"as CO2 sinks became saturated.

Yep that is still silly. To specify, the oceans soak up an estimated 2,5 billion tons of human produced CO2 annually. Much of it ends up trapped on the sedimentary layer and will become oil in a billion years.

That process is not going to become saturated. It does have an upper annual rate limit of course.

That's not correct. The correct answer is in the link you provided. CO2 is in a higher concentration in the atmosphere and so moves from the higher concentration gradient to the lower. A biological process is not required.

"A biological process is not required."

I didn't say it was required. However it clearly is an ongoing and vast process.

Where do you think oil and coal deposits come from?

And directly from my link:

" the growth of phytoplankton, which store carbon in their tissue as a product of photosynthesis. The sinking tissue takes the carbon with it to the deep ocean when the organisms die. It’s another way that carbon can be removed from the ocean surface."

To be fair, the 2,5 billion tons the oceans absorb annually probably exceeds what is directly deposited by biomass, but it doesn't effect the critical point. The carbon sinks will not become saturated, they'll keep depositing carbon on the ocean floor as they have done for aeons.

Indeed, as the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere grows, algae will grow faster and the rate will increase.

We're clearly talking past each other, but I'll express my thoughts very simply:

If you pour yourself a glass of carbonated water you can see the carbon dioxide that is dissolved in the water form bubbles. If you leave a bottle open it will go flat. This is because the carbon dioxide moves from the water into the atmosphere until the concentrations are equal. If you then took that water and put it in a chamber full of carbon dioxide then it would move into the water until again the concentrations were equal.

So as long as we are increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere it will continue to move into the water. But if we stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere eventually the CO2 in the atmosphere and the surface waters will be equal and and the process will slow down as the surface waters become "saturated" with CO2. This would mostly happen within a few decades. The process will continue as the surface waters mix with deeper waters but at a slower rate.

Biological material depositing on the ocean floor is another process that occurs much more slowly. It is a cycle as ocean floors are slowly being created and destroyed so carbon in the ocean crusts is recycled.

"This is because the carbon dioxide moves from the water into the atmosphere until the concentrations are equal."

Not quite true. The reason a carbonated beverage goes flat is that the beverage is under pressure (try squeezing an unopened bottle of Coke vs one that's been opened and you'll see that), and because the dissolved gasses in the liquid. Ignoring the pressure, the dissolved gasses don't try to reach equal concentrations; they try to reach an equilibrium of some sort. CO2 is moving into the drink at all times; when you open a soda it's moving out so fast that the intake is minimized. At some point, flow out equals flow in, and the system is in equilibrium. Different systems have different equilibrium states. This becomes significant in discussing using the ocean as a carbon sink, because several processes by which the ocean acts as a carbon sink (phytoplankton are only one such process, and not necessarily the most significant) rely on this process.

Even thinking of this in terms of CO2 is false. The oceans don't absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as CO2; they absorb it as carbonic acid. Any water exposed to the atmosphere becomes very, very, very dilute carbonic acid. This is useful in paleontology because it's extremely gentle and safe, and therefore good for dissolving rocks without damaging delicate fossils (if you have the time to do it). I mean to play around with that sometime next month. CO2 bubbles from soda, in contrast, are dissolved in the liquid phase--meaning that they are CO2 molecules in the water. I mean, obviously there's some carbonic acid formed, but not a significant amount compared to the amount of CO2 in the dissolved phase.

There are two big questions with regards to oceans and CO2: 1) What are the clatherates doing? (if they release, any attempts to halt or reverse CO2-driven global warming are futile) and 2) What are corals doing? The interaction between CO2, oceans, and biogenic limestone is a major factor in global CO2 concentrations. Other critters have used limestone (calcite, aragonite, or other related minerals) to form reefs as well--sponges, bivalves, bryozoan, brachiopods, and a few others--but right now the biggest reef producers are humans and corals, so we can reasonably ignore the rest for a first-order assessment.

Thank you for that clarification.

3. My great grandfather was a Presbyterian minister, as was the father in A River Runs Through It. I've appreciated this line from the novella/film: "They were Methodist, a denomination my father always referred to as Baptists who could read." As for witches and warlocks, they are a part of the Baptist theology.

6: The article cites an article by Stauffer et al that mentions Ising's model, but fails to point out a notable fact: Schelling model was anticipated decades earlier by a physicist, Ising, who used a checkerboard framework to model phase transition in ferromagnetic substances.

Yes, it's a completely different application and we can't blame Schelling for being ignorant of a physics model that most of us haven't heard of. But the model was (and maybe still is) a fairly big deal in physics, and it has the same basic elements of Schelling's model.

As best as I can tell (I haven't done a deep literature search) it was around 1980 that some social scientists became aware of Ising's model, and around 2000 that there was greater awareness that Schelling had re-invented the wheel (or checkerboard); Stauffer's 2007 article may've been the culmination of this growing awareness.

So, a downvote for the article due to its failure to cite Ising; it did cite Stauffer but didn't really use the insight that Stauffer provided. OTOH an upvote to the article for noticing Sakoda, who like Ising was a person who'd I'd never heard of, and for researching the reasons for the obscurity of his work compared the Schelling's.

Counterfactual policy?

5. I'm surprised this wasn't noted, but the interview's by Elizabeth Kolbert, author of "The Sixth Extinction."

I noticed that it was her. I'm not crazy about her, but if the reporting is accurate, it's interesting information.

4. how economics works?
hey new yorker, npr etal
notta girl
don't wanna tote bag
wanna more objectivity
also the genetics stuff is really good this time of year

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One might note that in addition to the 1.4M mainline presbyterians, there are 0.5M presbyterians in the PCA and EPC. There are probably another 100,000 in various smaller presbyterian denominations as well. So the real count is likely ~2M - still beating the witches, but just barely!

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