22 May 2014

A Rising Tide Lifts All Interventionists

Climate Change, Steve Landsburg 5 Comments

I agree with the substance of his post, but only Steve Landsburg could start a piece like this: “So the Obama administration has released a climate forecast, according to which Miami could be under water by the end of the century. Apparently we’re supposed to be very concerned about that.”

(Here are my thoughts on the Obama Administration’s National Climate Assessment.)

Landsburg is such a cool customer. I’m picturing some nutjob reader bursting into his classroom, taser in hand, expecting Steve to panic. But instead the professor raises an eyebrow and says, “Oh dear, I see someone never learned Gauss’ Law.”


5 Responses to “A Rising Tide Lifts All Interventionists”

  1. Silas Barta says:

    Yeah, this is the kind of stuff where I have to hold my nose. Yes, cures for GCC will almost certainly be worse than the disease, but that doesn’t mean you should be so cavalier about a major city being displaced…

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom)) says:

      “Major cities” have continually been displaced throughout the entirety of human history. Why should today be any different?

      • Silas Barta says:

        The difference is that successful movements didn’t make progress by saying, “yeah, so Rome’ll fall. Who cares? I was planning to move out to Gaul anyway.”

        • Matt M (-Dude Where's My Freedom-) says:

          I thought the increasing historical “consensus” was that Rome didn’t really “fall” overnight due to a barbarian invasion or some such thing – that it was a gradual process that took place over numerous generations. There was no one dramatic event where people went to bed at night as the dominant military and cultural power in the known world and woke up the next morning in some relative backwater.

          And the same is true for climate change. Scaremongering about “Miami being underwater” is designed to get people to picture in their minds how devastating it would be if they woke up tomorrow and Miami was underwater. Except that isn’t how it’s going to work. It’s going to be a slow and gradual process that happens over generations. You won’t go to bed at night with a dry house and wake up in the morning with 6 feet of standing water in your living room.

          People will have time to adapt to the extent that by the time Miami actually IS underwater, nobody will be surprised by it. The adaptation will have already occurred. And that is why we can be cavalier about it.

          As a side-note: As far as I can tell, land values in major cities near the ocean are still climbing. The people with the most to lose due to sea-level rise don’t seem to be taking it all that seriously. So I won’t be taking it seriously until they do. So long as people are still buying, selling, and constructing multi-million dollar office buildings in Miami, I see no reason for *me* to start worrying about it…

  2. Harold says:

    Too cryptic for me. How does Gauss’ Law fit in?

    Related to this, I have never had an answer to the question of how we should evaluate damages over long time periods. Everyone here accepts that some discount rate must be applied, but how do we select that discount rate? This is serious question, as all methods seem to have problems. Many economists apparently think using market rates underestimates the way we value distant events. Hyperbolic rates assume we become more patient over time. As Bob says, this is something of a philosophical question, but we cannot duck it. Should we just stick to market rates?

Leave a Reply