What I’ve been browsing

A lot of my reading time has been absorbed by job market papers (some of them covered here on MR) and CWT prep, in the meantime I have been browsing these with profit:

Alexandra Popoff, Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century covers what the title promises.

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.  The title aside, a very good and very well-written book on the basics of climate change.

Sophus A. Reinert, The Academy of Fisticuffs: Political Economy and Commercial Society in Enlightenment Italy, is the best English-language book I know of on the Italian Enlightenment.  Everything you wanted to know about Pietro Verri but were afraid to ask.

Margaret C. Jacob, The Secular Enlightenment, again delivers good coverage of what the title promises.

Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti, Love, Money & Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids.  Note this book is sober rather than actually telling you how to raise your kids.  And it has sentences like: “In earlier times, men and women had sharply distinct roles.”

Michael Tomasello, Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny does not quite intersect with cultural economics and Joe Henrich, but someday somebody will write a book like this and start making the connections.


About half of the blurb writers for the book on our climate future (alleged climate future) are, ahem, literary types: to wit, writers. What does this mean?

Be prepared for bad poetry that makes you long for the less hysterical predictions of the Book of Revelations?

I'm going to be generous and suggest that perhaps Tyler didn't actually read David Wallace-Wells' book.

Don't worry, anything even mildly uncomfortable is "fake news."

It is the foundational worldview, and the "get out of jail" card for literally any "problem."

The opening of the first review at Amazon:

""David Wallace-Wells has produced a willfully terrifying polemic... "

Sounds like a thoughtful, science-minded book.

I am not talking about the book, but about the automatic knee jerk.

It happens on every mention Tyler makes of climate chage. Every single one.

Maybe because Tyler is praising a book based on a 2017 article that Wallace-Wells wrote that is so alarmist that even run-of-the-mill alarmist climate scientists such as Michael Mann have criticized it.

M. Wallace-Wells is himself 'a writer living in New York'. It means his homies are...other writers living in New York.

It means he's now in a kick-boxing match with Chris Hedges to occupy the niche left vacant by the death of Jonathan Schell.

Emergent Ventures, however, does not seem to be a major distraction.

None of the books are self-recommending. I think we all know what that means. Speaking Straussian of course.

Tbh, I always get Straussian and Klingon mixed up. Unless the utterances are reasonably clear:

Straussian: “this book is self recommending.”

Klingon: “Your planet now belongs to us.”

It isn't surprising that someone with Tyler's level of understanding science and technology would judge Wallace-Well's climate change hyper alarmist 2017 article turned into book favorably.

I am surprised there is a market for another fear-mongering climate change polemic.

How many times do you need to read about the purported end of the world.

I wonder how many people are reading this on business class flights

We must have this fear mongering how else can you get people to agree to give up their power and tax themselves into poverty? AGW is a far left (socialist/communist) plan to seize power and assets. They desperately want it to work and have no qualms about lying through their teeth to get it. It all hinges on dumbing down a few billion people, but no problem, they weren't too smart to begin with.

Climate warming is a Chinese hoax!!!!!

But you, Anonymous Blog Commenter, have seen through the con, and assure us that climate change is not a matter of concern.

How fortunate we are to have perspicacious individuals such as yourself to point out massive, worldwide, scientific fraud.

But why so modest as to conceal your identity? Surely that makes your case less convincing, as does the complete lack of anything resembling facts or logic in your comment.

A lot of money has been made available to stoke climate hysteria - whether you are a writer, politician, or grant seeking academic.

The financial return may be from sources other than book sales.

Of course. Wallace Wells needs the book to go on his speaking tour this year, which is where the money is.

And even more to stoke denialism.

I expect a chair at GMU to be endowed soon.

2. I'm wary of buying books about climate change, because they're almost always dated within several years of their release. Articles and essays are better.

I think the most underrated result of climate change will be migration. We might have mass migration on a scale never before seen. CO2's influence on climate is due to its feedback. Anyone who has ever worked with feedback systems should know how sensitive they can be and how easily they can destabilize. The "science" of GCC isn't 'well established'. I think if it were, the science community would be a lot less hyperbolic in their warnings. The potential is real that GCC could lead to loss of billions of lives, but that's unlikely. Tens to hundreds of millions is much more likely. As a policy matter, a small risk of a serious event is difficult to prioritize, especially when the cost of correction is high. So here we are.

There is no risk of billions or millions of people dying from climate change.

Why mass migration? First this assumes little technological change out to 2100 including C02 sequestering, inexpensive renewable and widespread use of highly sophisticated vital reality by 2035 to say nothing of 2075 or 2100.

Is it mass migration if a lot of people move over a 40 year period?

Even short-term weather events have killed millions of people throughout history: Little Ice Age, temporary cooling from a large volcanic explosion, prolonged drought, etc.

Economies have greater food and income surpluses now and better technology for responding to such changes. If all economies were highly developed this would be just another problem to deal with.

But not all people live in such economies.

If it's simply another drought in Somalia or a few thousand Polynesians whose island is being inundated, the world can easily deal with that. Large-scale climate or even just shorter term weather events? Where the developed nations' are experiencing economic recession and there are millions of wannabe migrants, disputes over not just oil but water and arable land? The difficulties that Europe has had with dealing with even just a few tens of thousands of migrants do not encourage optimism. The outcome would almost certainly be walls, literal or virtual, to keep out immigrants.

And the millions and billions that Li refers to will have to largely fend for themselves. Will they have enough resources, economic and technological, along with a trickle of aid from the developed countries, to cope? Perhaps, but we have seen plenty of examples even in very recent years of humane disasters. Put that on a larger scale and we're in the scenario that Li describes.

Pinker's observation about generally improving human lives still stands, but even he doesn't claim that it's been a monotonic upward rise; there have been downturns.

No, short term weather has never killed millions. Can't you take 10 minutes to look this up?

"Pinker's observation about generally improving human lives still stands, but even he doesn't claim that it's been a monotonic upward rise; there have been downturns."

For the most part, not since 1750. If so, name them.

The obvious exception was The Big Downturn of WWI, the flu of 1918 followed by WWII along with the Holocaust, which were horrible, but even that downturn was followed by strong growth and far more tolerance for each other around the world - the most important phenomena of the 20th century - a close second is continuing exponentially increasing computer power.

"Anyone who has ever worked with feedback systems should know how sensitive they can be and how easily they can destabilize. "

On the contrary - systems dominated by negative feedbacks are stable - and can be incredibly stable. Airplanes are stable because of negative feedback, and a properly designed airplane can be nearly impossible to put in an unstable configuration. Negative feedback is what keeps ecosystems stable. It's what keeps cars going straight down the road.

In the case of the climate, the real uncertainty in climate change theory is in identifying and quantifying all the feedbacks. But we do know the net feedback has to be negative, or climate would run away the second it was destabilized.

The Earth has seen much higher concentrations of CO2 in the past. It has seen massive volcanic events that lowered the temperature for years. It's taken meteor impacts that heavily modified the climate for years, and it always returns to a fairly narrow range.

That doesn't mean global warming is not a problem. But it does mean that global warming isn't going to wipe out life on the planet and make the Earth uninhabitable.

If we want to stick with what the science says, the IPCC is the clearinghouse for global warming science coordination. And the IPCC has a range of models, the absolute worse of which has an absolute worst outcome of about 8.5 degrees of warming in the next century. However, that's extremely unlikely, and their most likely models put the value of global warming more in the range of 2-3 degrees of warming over the next hundred years. That may cause various problems, but it's simply not an existential threat to mankind or the ecosystem in general.

"And the IPCC has a range of models, the absolute worse of which has an absolute worst outcome of about 8.5 degrees of warming in the next century. However, that's extremely unlikely, "

No, it is not "extremely unlikely" but a complete bullshit Mad Max Hollywood scenario and the assumption used in the book Tyler recommends.

Dan, good post but you wrote:

"That doesn't mean global warming is not a problem. "

What do you know about energy related technology in the year 2047 and 2092? Just jot down your knowledge below. Thanks in advance!
A friend wants to know.

Like everyone else, I have no idea what the energy technology of the future would look like. But I also don't assume that future tech renders climate change moot.

We already know that cost of solar power has continued to exponentially decline from the 1950s and that should continue until at least 2030. It is also very likely that storage will notably improve by the 2030s if not sooner. The cost of sequestering CO2 has also dropped significantly in the past several years and that will continue to come down if that is necessary to use on a large scale.

The cost of solar panels has come down. The cost of solar at grid scale has not. Every jurisdiction that has moved to more solar power has seen their energy costs go up substantially.

In addition, there's an absolute floor to how low solar prices can go because solar is very material intensive. And in northern climates solar can only provide perhaps 30% of power at best, and even that is doubtful. Germany has enough solar power to give it greater than 100% renewable energy on sunny summer days, but solar still only makes up about 6.5% of its annual energy budget because solar is unreliable and available in much smaller quantities in winter, and none at all when it's dark.

Sorry for the unrelated subject but I know no one else to ask … Our library has a chess exhibit and I saw this book: Jonathan Rowson, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins. I know nothing about chess, but the philosophy of this book (how to avoid error) feels solid. Can anyone here confirm or refute this? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20651.The_Seven_Deadly_Chess_Sins

The Secular Enlightenment: From the Amazon summary: "Human frailties once attributed to sin were now viewed through the lens of the newly conceived social sciences." In his immediately preceding blog post, Cowen writes about forgiveness "in the context of the #MeToo movement". Is forgiveness compatible with enlightenment? Cowen addresses forgiveness and the #MeToo movement by referencing the Christian emphasis on forgiveness. In this era, shouldn't forgiveness be considered in the context of the social sciences, namely what modifies anti-social behavior? If past offenders are forgiven, will that modify not only their behavior but the behavior of future offenders? Or must we rely on the supernatural (religion, faith, and miracles) because the social sciences cannot solve the most perplexing questions facing society?

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. The title aside, a very good and very well-written book on the basics of climate change.

IIRC, Christopher Hitchens' agent had a circular which said something along the lines of "Mr. Hitchens is willing to write to space and deadline on any topic other than science and mathematics", a bit of prudence with which David Wallace-Wells ("a writer living in New York") cannot be bothered.

Question for Tyler: What's the most convincing argument you're aware of that contradicts the warming theses of The Uninhabitable Earth?


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