L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

06 April 2009 Blog Home : April 2009 : Permalink

A Good Idea For a Bad Reason

Saul Griffith who is a gentleman I've never heard of before, but seems fairly smart, is giving the following advice to young people:

"Son, you should refuse to pay into my health care system. You should refuse to pay into my Social Security system. Encourage the rest of your generation to refuse to pay into the benefits systems of their parents and previous generations."

Unfortunately the reason why he wants the young people to do this is:

"Unless you can convince us, the Madoff generation, to immediately heed your demands on climate change action. You shouldn't be expected to support our future if we are not supporting yours."

Which is where Mr G & I have to disagree, You see Mr G is convinced that

Every generation so far has expected the next generation to absorb its carbon investment into the atmosphere. Speaking not just as a scientist but as a new father, I'd wager that the next generation--my son's generation--faces a Madoff-like moment when the system collapses, the environment collapses, and very likely we'll have a whole load of civil unrest and other nasty consequences.

Furthermore, and this is where I was glad I wasn't actually drinking my wine as I read it, he beleives that:

Funn[il]y enough, we understand the global climate system better than we understand financial markets. We can see this eco-Madoff moment coming, but it doesn't look like we are willing to take measures to ward it off. Much like Madoff's investors, we're soothed by numbers backed by scanty auditing and happy to soak up the "benefits" of continuing our CO2 heavy lifestyle. We're not eager to pay the cost of say, additional regulation or restrictions that might rein in the excesses and stop this Ponzi scheme from running amuck.

Let me quibble with the "understand the global climate system" bit. I do not beleive we properly understand the global climate system. Why? Because we have no models of the global climate system that are accurately representing reality. The link shows  a selection of models used in the IPCC's AR4 and the actual GISS reported temperatures for the last 100 years. It is blindingly obvious that the models a) disagree with each other and b) fail miserably to predict the actual temperature. Should that link be a tad confusing, the same blog has numerous other posts such as this one, which illustrate just how badly the models are at predicting reality. Since 2001 the actual global temperature trend has been flat to (very slightly) negative whereas all models predict rises. This difference cannot be blamed on volcanism as there have been no major eruptions since Jan 2001 so there is no "excuse" for the models to be overshooting so far that statistical tests of confidence fail miserably. Hence I am forced to conclude that the models are wrong. If the models are wrong then it seems unlikely that we understand the global climate system because one good way to demonstrate understanding is to make models that predict the future.

Now it is, I suppose, possible that we understand financial markets less than we understand the climate but if so this is very very worrying because as I've just shown it doesn't look like we understand global climate at all. Intuitively one feels that 200+ years of economic and financial modelling from the time of Adam Smith ought to make it more likely that we understand the financial system than the climate given that that people have been trying to study the latter for no more than 50 years or so but maybe I'm wrong.

Hence (QED) if we do not understand the climate system we do not know the sensitivity of the earth to CO2 and hence whether or not continuing to create it is a bad thing. Hence we have no idea whether the environment will "collapse" or not.

Anyway whether or not the environment collapses I'm pretty sure that the Ponzi scheme that is government funded pensions, healthcare etc. is indeed headed for a collapse and I think we probably ought to stop paying for it all now. So therefore, for the wrong reasons Mr Griffith is right, Rather than pay taxes to support another few trillion dollars of spending on a broken financial system and unsustainable social security IOUs the young people of today ought to refuse to pay any and all taxes and let the government wither away. The old people will have to either rely on their existing savings or work (as child minders for their grandkids perhaps) or starve.