Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pope Francis on Climate Change

As a Catholic, I cringe when the Church wades into scientific debates.

The cynics and skeptics start shouting about Galileo and Copernicus.  I hate that.

Those of us who studied "hard" sciences can get very snarky about "Economics".  Here, too, the Church waded in during the height of the Reagan years and published a document that is very liberal when viewed from a political lens.

The climate, like the economy, is an extremely complex system with multiple feedback loops, lag times and other intricacies that make prediction impossible.  The whole meme on chaos, "A butterfly in China causing a hurricane in Miami a month later." is based on diverging solutions from infinitesimally small differences in the initial state-space.

In the economy, consider the fact that tripling the wages of the lowest 50% of the workers would cause price inflation from the supply side thereby eliminating any gain in purchasing power.  It would also disqualify workers for any means-tested aid and also increase their income taxes.  The ripples would spread from there.  Warping and twisting the economy to serve some external, political agenda makes it less efficient and almost always generates perverse consequences.

Agreeable people

Agreeable people find common ground that they can agree upon.  I will try to be agreeable in the next few paragraphs.

The sub-Saharan region is a slow moving train wreck, much of it for political reasons.  Pastoral peoples find themselves unable to follow the forage (rains) as they are unable to move freely across national borders.  A rainfall fifty miles north or south of a national boundary may as well be on the moon.  The herds devastate local ecosystems because they are unable to follow their natural patterns.  What appears to be a climate problem is a political problem, therefore the solution can be found in the political arena.

Two major trends in the third world are urbanization and industrialization.  Cities and factories are built on alluvial flatlands near the sea.  Population density increases to incredible levels.  For example, the average population density in Manilla is 38,000/square mile.  These lands are vulnerable to tsunami, flooding, storm-surge.  They are also exquisitely vulnerable to earthquakes as the alluvial deposits that overlay the cup-shaped underlying rock formations focus the waves like the proverbial "bowl full of jelly."  And finally, these incredible population densities are prime breeding grounds for epidemics....which are often attributed to climate change and habitat intrusion.

Hurricane Katrina was not an accident nor was New Orleans a victim of global warming.  Hurricanes have been endemic to the region for as long as weather has been recorded.  HK and NO were the collision of a natural event and a really bad idea....building a city below sea level.

Jevon's Paradox

In economics, the Jevon's paradox (/ˈɛvənz/; sometimes Jevon's effect) is the proposition that as technology progresses, the increase in efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.  -Wikipedia
One player's reduction in usage of a resource will reduce demand which will lower the price of that resource.  Those lower prices will cause other players to invest in devices/technologies that will consume those "conserved" resources as the "conserved" resource will be more attractively prices vis-a-vis the alternatives.

That is why my kids do not save pizza for breakfast.  They know that anybody else who opens up the refrigerator will eat it in preference to anything else in the 'fridge.

Political solutions

Carbon consumption quotas will be gamed and cheated on.  Jevon's Paradox tells us the only thing these quotas will change is the point of consumption.

Speaking from the perspective of an elevation of 900 feet above sea-level, the obvious solution is to immediately cease all Federal aid, incentives, guarantees, insurance and investment on all property and municipalities that are less than 6 meters above sea-level.

Similarly, all Federal aid that enables communities with a population density greater than 25,000 people per square mile should cease.  As a frame-of-reference, the population density of a few well known areas are listed in thousand people per square mile:
  • Manhattan, NYC......  70K/sq-mile
  • Queens, NYC..........  21K/sq-mile
  • Hollywood, Ca........  22K/sq-mile
  • Watts, Ca.................  17K/sq-mile
  • San Fransisco, Ca.....  18K/sq-mile
  • Eaton Rapids Township, Mi...  0.01K/sq-mile
Turning down the thermostat to 68 F might make us feel noble but it will not solve the problem.

One of the first rules of gunfighting is don't stick your head in the window if you know that a bullet will be coming through it.

We must make a fundamental decisions:  Is our goal to feel noble or to minimize catastrophes?

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