Tuesday assorted links

1. Dictionary of gestures.

2. Silent book club.

3. Eli Dourado geoengineering schemes (speculative, literally).

4. “Dragons, they say, should survive on wild deer and pigs, not chickens and goats tossed from the back of a truck by a ranger.”  (NYT link)

5. David Perell on Detroit.

6. Against petitions (NYT).


Good links.

The El Durado (sic) piece on geoengineering was particularly good. I like the olivine suggestion, sounds almost too good to be true. Olivine is actually found in abundance in the mantle, under the crust of the earth. I think it's mostly olivine down about 35 km from the surface, at the Mohorovičić discontinuity.

1) "Olivine" is like "feldspar"--a suite of minerals, all of which have slightly different properties. Where the mineral originated and passed through in P-T Space is going to have a major impact on this.

2) We can't drill to the Moho. We've tried, and failed. So anything that involves the mantle is a non-starter right there. (Mantle material does seep up in places--olivine is actually pretty common, some is even considered gems--but it's stuff coming OUT, not a way IN.)

geoengineering is goethe's sorcerers apprentice...we will stuff it up guaranteed and there will be no merlin to bail us out

I'll agree with you about our potential success rate. In nearly every case where we've tried to intentionally alter ecology our errors can only be described as catastrophic. To claim 'But THIS time we have it all figured out!" is mere hubris.

The only saving grace I can find here is that this plan isn't likely to shut down photosynthesis and thereby cut the legs out from the entire food chain (hydrothermal vents don't make up a significant portion of it and wont' save us from a second wave of mass extinctions).

Can you really say the world is a worse place for humans than say 200 years ago? There are many more of us, living longer and better lives than ever before. Pessimism is always fashionable but in this case is also risible.

I certainly do not say that the world is worse for humans. I said that when we intentionally set out to alter the ecology of a location the results are catastrophic. These are two very different concepts.

For an example of what I'm talking about, see Australia--multiple species were introduced in attempts to control local pests, and by every measure they have failed. The cane toad is a particularly noxious example.

That NPR article is wrong. Silent reading parties were going on in Seattle—and still are, at the same place—since at least 2009. San Francisco seems to be almost as parochial as NYC in thinking something couldn't exist until it happens there.

#4 Dragons don't want to be fed, they want to hunt. You can't suppress 20 million years of evolutionary instinct. Feed them tourists!

#5 16.) ...Also a huge Indian population. The largest and most elaborate Indian wedding I've ever been to was in Troy, MI.

No wonder the city's gone down the tubes, then.

Actually the Indian majority suburbs I've seen there have been quite lovely, but then it should be understood that the Arab and Indian migration to the majority of that area was from another immigration period, mostly the 90s and early 2000s. The Arab and Indian community there had more resources when they moved there.

Detroit proper has gone down hill from chronic mismanagement, macroeconomic factors, and yes - demographics.

3. The suggested cost of using olivine to sequester CO2 is very optimistic. If you want to buy sand that has been transported by a ship it will cost over $20 per tonne. So I don't think olivine could be mined, crushed, loaded onto a ship and then unloaded onto a suitable beach for under around $30 a tonne. But if CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere for around $25 a tonne, that's still great.

The great CO2 scam. Why is it every "solution" to the yet to be found global warming requires taxes and regultaions and a lot of money to change hands??? That's how scams work!

You sound like a young man I know. He won't go out on a date because it involves buying dinner.

I am not opposed to buying dinner if it is my choice and I get to eat it. The AGW scam wants tax payers to buy them a lifetime of dinners but none of the taxpayers get to sit at the table.

It is curious that when all the AGW scam co-conspirators predict gloom and doom by some specific year and that year comes and goes with no sign of global warming and hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural weather related disasters are declining that none of the useful idiots who have climbed on the AGW bandwagon figure out that they are being scammed.

What’s more likely

An entire field of climatology scientists is wrong/conspiring to trick the world’s population to marginally increase grant money. You, a lone anonymous economics blog commenter hold the truth.

You’re wrong, and it’s not a conspiracy. They’re just terrible at math, the data is messy AF, and the 95% confidence internal includes a sign change on the coefficient and they somehow have to write papers that obfuscate this. But the underlying science is obvious and you’re wrong.

"the underlying science is obvious"
So why did they create so much fake data? Why did they go back and revise historic data to make it appear that there was AGW? Why do the threaten, fire and ostracize scientists who disagree with the AGW scam? Why do they refuse to debate it? Why are the ONLY solutions to AGW higher taxes and giving up human rights? Why did the increase in CO2 begin before any substantial fossil fuel was ever used? Why is it that in the last 100,000 plus years we are in the coldest period and the AGW scammers insist it is warming and it wend life as we know it? There are many more questions that the AGW scammers won't allow to be asked, why???

If you truly believe that I am alone in questioning the AGW scam than you are sadly uninformed.

Post-moderns, so scientific, are atheists but must believe in something. Their religion is AGW. Like most religions, their main tenet is that everyone must believe and follow the sacraments or everyone will perish. Same scenario as Sodom and Gomorrah.

Well, clearly at some point only gibberish can save us.

At the end of the day, climate science is science (FACT: temps and sea levels are rising) while economics never rises beyond propaganda aimed at the middle class to make them forget their self-interest.

Yes, and has been since before AGW.

And what? If you take the A out of AGW then everything's fine and dandy?

The great "humans respond to incentives" scam. Why is it every "solution" to people not having what they want requires taxes and regulations and money to change hands??? That's how scams work!

Why do we have to have regulations that fine people for dumping untreated sewage into the water supply? Can't we just not have any regulations and simply rely on people never doing that?

And why do we have to fine people for littering? If environmentalists are so keen to have a trash free environment why don't they pick up my garbage after I drop it on the ground? But instead, I get fined! It's pure hypocrisy and clearly a scheme to extract money from hard working wealth creators like me.

5. From futurist Peter Thiel to . . . what, there is no antonym for futurist, so I create pasturist. . . pasturist Detroit. Mr. Perell gets around - up, down, and all around. I've spent some time in Michigan. It's more rural than urban, which comes as a surprise. About Terell's comment on the formal attire in Detroit, I recall going through the Detroit airport the first time and seeing everyone wearing a dark suit - no shorts, no Hawaiian shirts, no tights - and white shirt and tie. That's right, no tourists.

I didn't spend any time in Detroit because nobody did business in Detroit: Bloomfield Hills is the place to be. Another thing about Michigan: the car industry is (or was) spread throughout the state. Small towns with enormous factories. What those small towns did to lure the car companies (and keep them there) was to give away the tax to the car companies - and you thought Trump was profligate - which meant that the public facilities in those places were decrepit. But everyone had a high paying job. Or did at one time. Michigan is the sad tale of what happens when a place tries to spend its way into prosperity, not by investing in public goods, but by giving away its tax base, much like what the Republicans do in Washington when they control the national government. I suspect the nation will have about as much to show for it as Michigan.

Yeah, government incompetence is killing Michigan...

The uaw and those with a similar mindset in government hammered Detroit and Michigan. With an assist from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and the American consumer.

"It's more rural than urban, which comes as a surprise."

Isn't every state more rural than urban? Even New Jersey, with the highest population density of any of the 50 states, has large areas of undeveloped land or at least heavily forested land.

I've only been to Michigan once, drove across much of the state to the Upper Peninsula. As you say it's mostly rural but I didn't find that surprising.

"I didn't spend any time in Detroit because nobody did business in Detroit"

I didn't spend any time in Detroit either. This was purely a vacation/travel trip, originally I thought I might visit Detroit but I generally prefer scenic backcountry so I spent most of my time in the UP. Plus overnights on Mackinac Island (to avoid the worst of the crowds, go just before Memorial Day and pray for good weather; I imagine fall might be good too) and Ann Arbor.

I find it hard to continue reading an article after a claim like "it turns out electric cars are simply better than conventional ones." After that who knows what else the article takes as a given without actually going into the trade-offs of these schemes.

If you've sat in a Tesla, like I have, you might know what he is referring to. Or maybe you have driven electric cars and weren't impressed. That happens. People have different tastes. But many car buyers like high performance and something like a Tesla Model 3 can provide higher performance around town than any conventional vehicle of similar price around. Sure, there are pros and cons, but Model 3s were 3.6% of US passenger car sales last quarter so clearly a lot of people favor the pros.

Tesla Model 3s must be approaching 0.3% of the US passenger car fleet. That's already enough to have an effect on US fuel consumption.

I'm supposed to be test driving a Model 3 in the next couple of months here in Australia. It'll be one with the steering wheel on the right side which is the right.

I don't think we have nearly the electrical capacity to replace gasoline with electric batteries.

1. Dictionary of gestures.

What is the first gesture we look up?

I'm against petitions too, where do I sign?

#5. Unfortunately, I think the Detroit rebirth is a bit fool's gold. A lot has been rehabbed recently, but this only makes financial sense with huge tax breaks (to the point in some cases where owners of new condos are paying a few hundred bucks a year in property taxes). There really isn't any new or rehab development that isn't based on those special tax deals.

The underlying problems remain -- standard property tax rates are 3.5% of market value, there's a city income tax of 2.4%, and auto-insurance rates are the nation's highest by a wide margin (though a recent state reform bill may help a little). Crime and poverty rates remain at or near the bottom, the population is still shrinking (though at a much reduced rate), and corruption remains a concern.

I'm not a complete pessimist. There are good things going on in Detroit, and we do enjoy going down and spending a day there now and again (Eastern Market on a weekend is pretty great, for example). But I'm afraid the recent progress isn't really built on a solid foundation and won't prove to be sustainable.

johns hopkins marxists!
its throw off the chains
we think you gott it backwards!

You must be a typical white suburbanite.

"I issue a warning to all those pushers, to all rip-off artists, to all muggers: It's time to leave Detroit; hit Eight Mile Road! And I don't give a damn if they are black or white, or if they wear Superfly suits or blue uniforms with silver badges. Hit the road!"

The Detroit police force, "predominantly white and racist and lived in the suburbs, acted like a foreign army of occupation."

Little Red Book with more quotations: https://www.amazon.com/Quotations-Mayor-Coleman-African-American/dp/0814332609

3) Pleistocene Park: Typical nonsense. Everyone focuses on the big, sexy animals--the dinosaurs, the elephants, the rhinos--but that's only part of the equation. What about the microbes? The worms? The insects? Many are plant-specific (what about plants themselves?), and many don't fossilize. It's a non-starter, due to taphonomy.

Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to see it. I've risked life and limb to find the bones of these things; I'd gladly give three limbs and an eye to see one in the flesh! But as for geoengineering? Wishful thinking at its worst.

Project Vista: See my comment above.

Prometheus Fuel: Not a horrible idea--I especially like that it's a profit-making project, meaning it's actually economically sustainable--but this sort of thing has been tried before and failed. They don't seem to scale well. This is particularly true if they want to use "green energy". I've helped build industrial wind and solar farms, and let's just say that they are not as advertised. (Nothing makes you cynical as fast as a career in environmental compliance/remediation.)

Oysters: Interesting. We know that reef-forming critters have changed over time (sponges, worms, bryozoan, corals, all sorts of things have made reefs), and oysters are certainly among them. One sign of the K/Pg mass extinction is the loss of a certain kind of oyster reef, in fact. Could be interesting to see this one in action. I'm not so much interested in the carbon dioxide issue as I am the issue of how humans will build ecology in the future. Ecology is going to adapt to humanity somehow (see Peter Ward's "Future Evolution"), the question is how. If we can control that adaptation, we can make sure the impact on our species is positive rather than catastrophically negative. The Anthropocene WILL be different from the Pleistocene, and it's interesting to see people taking the reigns. Bonus points for being something that's potentially marketable, too--again, profitability means it's economically viable and therefore may actually continue past the next election cycle.

Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, etc., don't do "downtown" well anymore. But they they are still the champs of suburb.

Each of these cities is ringed with bedroom communities of dreamy, tree-shaded homes of true architectural distinction. These towns are little heavens - wonderfully walkable, offering every amenity to support a happy family life.

They are easy places to live, with convenient stores, short commutes and abundant nature nearby (the Great Lakes are magnificent). The residents are conscientious, community-minded and supportive of the arts. The climate is temperate and interesting.

Those of us who are baby boomers couldn't wait to flee these paradise communities to test ourselves in the big cities. What fools we were! And the children who are born there now can't wait to do the same.

I suspect that the Rust Belt suburbs offer the best quality of life, at the lowest cost, of almost anyplace on earth.

Interesting point. I grew up in a Buffalo suburb. It was LeaveItToBeaver-ville in the 70s and 80s before demographic decline. Now, inner ring suburbs seem to have an average age (and BMI) of about 60.

So I don't think you're right about Upstate NY being the best places to live. They've been to hollowed out by insane taxes and demographic change.

Given a choice people will often move from the horrible weather in the Northeast and upper Midwest to the South and West.

how much of the perceived lack of productivity growth in the sciences at Johns Hopkins is due to sociologists chaining themselves to the lab bulding in order to stop productivity! shut the building to the scientists! &getting the professor fired!
this is back of bourke & beyond absurd

#3 Eli Dourado dismisses electric aviation without a second thought. He assumes the development of batteries has hit a wall precisely at the moment when there's a lot of resources to push this research forward. Researchers research, so far...twice the capacity Mr. Dourado takes as an upper limit ;) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S037877531930182X

I don't know if it's greenwashing or not, but Easyjet has been selling the idea of electric flight between London and Amsterdam the 2nd busiest flight route in Europe. They are only 500 km apart. The company plans to fly an electric plane with the capacity of an Airbus A320 by 2027-2030. The UK longest domestic flight (London-Inverness) is little above 700 km. The busiest flight route in Europe is an UK domestic flight between Dublin and London which are less than 500 km apart. Electrifying a significant fraction of flights in the UK and EU seems not crazy, just ambitious.

#3 has a math error in the second part (1/10 of $15T is $1.5T or $1,500B not $150B):

And how about if we wanted to offset cumulative anthropogenic emissions since 1751? As of 2017, that was close to 1.6 trillion tons of CO₂. 1.6T × $9.04 = $14.46T through 2017. Adding $360B for each of 2018 and 2019, we arrive at a one-time cost of $15.18T for offsetting all human emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

Another just-for-fun estimate: If the world wanted to solve climate change once and for all over the next 10 years through olivine weathering, it would need to spend $360B on each year’s emissions plus an extra $152B for one-tenth of the cost of offsetting past emissions, for a total of $512B/year for 10 years. This would restore Earth to pre-industrial CO2 levels without assuming any change in energy mix or other behavior.

I spent a week in Southeastern Michigan and it was obvious to me that there was still a ton of talent, population, and money in the Detroit region, it was all just in the suburbs. Seems like just everyone who isn't dirt poor or ideologically committed to urbanism packed up and moved to the suburbs.

If you agree with me go to Joe303030303030303003030

Another thought regarding #3: What temperature should the Earth be?

This is no small question. We're in an ice age, which contains rather wild temperature extremes (OIS 11 is used to calibrate climate change models because it closely mimics the worst-case scenarios). Should we be aiming at keeping the Earth on the cold side? Say good-by to Canada, Russia, and most northern-latitude cities and countries! On the warm side? Sea levels can be significantly higher than they are now, drowning many coastal cities.

But it gets worse. We're in an ICE AGE. Normal global temperatures (in as much as the term has any meaning) are significantly warmer than we currently experience. This is non-controversial; see Zachos et al., 2001 for a classic paper on the topic. While later works have refined the data, none have contradicted it. So the question becomes: Why should we naïvely assume that ice age temperatures are what we should aim for? There's no evidence that ice ages are better for the biosphere, and there is some evidence that they are harmful (the Permo-Triassic Extinction was preceded by cyclothems, rocks that record the glacial/interglacial periods of an ice age).

As for CO2 levels, they've been higher. There's this whole thing about C3/C4 plant dominance. That's why the limit of ppm CO2 in the atmosphere was selected: it's the threshold at which dominance shifts. Far as I'm aware, no mass extinctions are associated with any such shift; they happened a few times in the Cenozoic and while there were faunal shifts they were not catastrophic.

"Pre-industrial" simply isn't sufficient justification for selecting any temperature range. It's egotistically human-centered, in the way that an emo kid who thinks the world is out to get him is egotistically self-centered. And just like acting on his distorted world view will cause harm to the emo kid's associates, acting on the view that human progress is inherently evil will harm the biosphere. We have to look at what's good for the biosphere as a whole, not just what's bad for us!

#5. Lotsa comments here seem to be either by folks who've not been to Detroit.

Anywho, an interesting thing to ponder is that the Detroit Metropolitan Area never really lost population. Yeah, the city plummeted, but most of these people moved "over the line" so to speak and proudly proclaimed that they lived in a rainbow of small communities just down the road. It's been really fascinating living here and seeing how attitudes have changed towards Detroit and the bedroom communities over the past decade. Now if only I'd bought in Corktown...

3. Online I found olivine in Australia with a railway line going through the location about 100 kilometers by train from a port. So we could mine the olivine, transport it by train to the port and then take it from the port to suitable beaches. We could also use the same railway line to transport bailed up chaff and other agricultural waste and dump it just off the edge of the continental shelf where sedimentation will presumably keep it sequestered long term. It locks up about the same amount of CO2 per tonne, but agricultural waste generally has some value while the olivine has no other use at the moment. Also, olivine dust could be spread around locally rather than exported to a beach. It just won't work as fast but saves on transport costs. Might have to pay for some sort of catapult though.

First, olivine has uses, particularly in the metallurgical industry. Its high melting point makes it useful, and it can be used in place of dolomite in some cases.

There is a more substantial issue, however. What will this dust do to the ecosystems into which you propose introducing it? Even locally we're talking about a very large influx of nutrients, which is very dangerous in most ecosystems. This is, for example, the proposed cause for the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Too high an influx of nutrients can kill coral reefs. Iron in particular (one of the byproducts of this enhanced weathering) can cause major changes in marine ecology, with potential catastrophic results. You are, in short, proposing to significantly alter the nutrient load of nearly three quarters of the planet. What will the impacts be? How will we mitigate them?

The olivine at this particular location is just sitting there and has no use.

The main effect of spreading olivine dust on land is to increase magnesium levels. This is fine in many places as we have a lot of magnesium deficient pasture.

Remember: If wattles grow calcium low. If only gums low magnesium.

It tends to break down into clay minerals which is also considered good here as it aids in water retention.

It's effects on beaches and oceans is something I don't know about and will definitely need to be relatively benign in order for its use there to be practical.

"The olivine at this particular location is just sitting there and has no use."

Is it not useable, or is it not economically viable to use it right now? These are very different questions. Without providing a mineralogical analysis, I don't think we can answer this.

"The main effect of spreading olivine dust on land is to increase magnesium levels."

And in the history of agriculture extra fertilizer has never had negative consequences, right?

"It tends to break down into clay minerals which is also considered good here as it aids in water retention."

As they say down South: Oh, bless your heart.

Clay minerals are a suite of silicates, some of which are good, some of which are not. You can't simply say "It's clays" and walk away! To give one example: Expanding clays. My point isn't that olivine will form expanding clays (highly unlikely that clays will be generated, given my understanding of the process); rather, it's to highlight the lack of understanding of the consequences of this. From a geological perspective, what you said is a cop-out, not an answer.

I swear to get a geology degree before discussing anything in an internet comments section about the ground or anything that may have come out of the ground.

You're being sarcastic, but honestly, what I consider minimum requirements for this sort of conversation are a degree in geology and a damn strong foundation in paleobiology. This is complex stuff, not something you can learn from reading a few articles--or even taking a few Rocks For Jocks classes at a university. You're talking the intersection of chemistry, physics, meteorology, climatology, oceanography, and biology here; at minimum we can expect this subject to be as complex as any of these fields.

CONSEQUENCES MATTER. I shouldn't have to say this on an economics blog, but apparently I do. If we don't understand the byproducts of this process--on a very deep level--we run the risk of catastrophic ecological shutdown. That's not hypothetical; that's what demonstrably has happened in the past, at local and regional levels. "Playing with fire" is not an adequate analogy; we're playing with nuclear warheads. Given the potential consequences, I should think mapping out the consequences--in detail--would be an obvious action item.

This is why I am in favor of rapid reductions in CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Premature. My question above has yet to be answered: What temperature should the planet be at, and why? Without answering that, anything we do is akin to a doctor trying to treat a patient without knowing what disease, if any, the patient has.

For my part, I'm not sure we CAN answer that question. For several reasons. First, I don't think there's any inherent reason to prefer any one temperature regime over another--ice ages are what we as a species evolved in, but they are abnormal in Earth's history. Second, every ecosystem we've studied via biology has been in flux (paleontology has studied long-term stable ecosystems, but necessarily in broad strokes), so simply going back to an earlier period isn't going to do us any good--it's still unstable. And 99% of the proposed solutions ignore humans if they don't openly vilify us, which makes them suspect (imagine a doctor trying to treat the man who abused his daughter; the term "conflict of interest" is putting it mildly).

Regardless, any plan to change the temperature must, as a basic and logically necessary requirement, be able to say 1) What temperature regime our planet should have, and 2) Why we should prefer that regime over any other. As yet, after nearly 20 years of watching these debates, this has not yet been done.

Understood. I will continue to eat at McDonalds every day until someone determines what my optimal weight should be. Just eating healthier would be premature. After all, you can't treat morbid obesity if experts can't agree on what the perfect weight is. Yet with more than 100 years of debate, this has not been done.

I see. Obviously trying to engage in actual conversation with you was futile.

Dinwar, if we were having a conversation you would try to find out what we agree on, where we differ and why we disagree. That's not what's going on here.

If you don't think we should do anything to reduce CO2 emissions then no one wants to have a conversation with you about the best ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it. What could they possibly gain from it? No matter what their thoughts are you will disagree because you have a strong prior that makes conversation on the topic pointless.

Maybe your position is not that nothing should be done to reduce CO2 emissions, but I don't know that because we are not having a conversation.

3. Bringing back mammoths is a stupid idea. What they need to do is breed kangaroos that have wool so their jumping will pound down snow. I'd go as far as saying that in Siberia woolly jumpers are a necessity.

Comments for this post are closed