A Bet Won on the Warming Standstill

Congratulations to Dr David Whitehouse of the GWPF for winning a bet with Dr James Annan.

The bet, made in 2007, was that by 2011 that HADCRUT3 temperature record of 1998 would not be beaten by 2011. The bet was made at the instigation of the BBC Radio 4 program “More or Less”. Annan then provided data analysis to show why he was odds-on favourite to win the bet here and here. Both RealClimate and Mark Lynas had earlier weighed in with articles giving the mainstream viewpoint. I post on Dr Annan’s blog the following comment

The mark of good science is not to predict the obvious, but to predict the unlikely.

Dr Whitehouse has stated that it was going beyond the obvious that enabled him to take on the bet. His full analysis can be found at both the GWPF and wattsupwiththat.

Of course there are those who will point to the biased GISSTEMP to show that the warming is continuing. See my analysis here about why that dataset looks to be a little biased. There are of course those who will still maintain the warming is continuing (such as Roger Black of the BBC), but the true measure is the predictive ability.

Adelaide – a decline in extreme heatwaves?

Joanne Nova has posted data from Ian Hill on extreme heatwaves in Adelaide, Australia. To quote

It’s another mindless record used to remind the public to “keep the faith” and recite the litancy:

“Adelaide had it’s hottest start to the year since 1900 Sky news

Picking three particular days out of 365 and comparing them over a century is about as cherry-pickingly meaningless as it gets. But Ian Hill went back through the records to find that not only have there been 79 heatwaves in Adelaide since 1887, but there have been 51 heat-waves that were hotter since 1887.

I have done a bit of number crunching of my own, that is quite revealing. Higher temperatures are meant to lead to more extreme heatwaves. Using Ian Hill’s figures Adelaide is providing an exception. Hill’s definition of a heatwave is 3 or more consecutive days where the maximum temperature exceeds 38oC. I have downloaded the figures and categorised by decade. There are two ways I have analysed this data. First is by the number of heatwaves per decade. Second is the number of days per decade.

There are a number of points.

  1. The temperature data only starts in 1887, so the 1880s are probably more significant.
  2. The current decade might be more significant.
  3. Last decade, beginning 2000 was no more significant than the decades 1890s, 1900s, or 1930s.
  4. The 1990s was no more significant than the decades 1910s and 1920s

Is there, however, a revival of extreme heatwaves in the last twenty years?

Nope. Just a couple of extreme years in 2008 and 2009.

Joseph Stiglitz on the causes of the current crisis

Roger Pielke Jr. takes a critical look (here and here) at a novel theory of the recession from Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair, the eminent economics journal. This is an extended version of the comment that I made on the second posting.

The Stiglitz theory would make a bit of sense if it were not for what he misses.

  • Your evidence that other countries, like, Germany, have similar increases in productivity but not the endemic problems.
  • That output per capita is identical in National Income Accounting with income per capita. Therefore, the long term rise in per capita income is a result of increased productivity per capita.
  • Since the start of the industrial revolution, real per capita output has risen (in the wealthy economies) more than 200 times. If there has been no corresponding increase in per capita income, unemployment would be greater than 99%.
  • Stiglitz quite rightly points to the rise in personal debt. He makes no mention of public sector debt. In the USA and in Britain in the period 2000 to 2007 government finances swung from a small structural surplus to significant structural deficit. If deficit-financed investment is expansionary, it was not just the low interest rates that kept the boom going but the fiscal stimuli. Similar structural deficits were present in many European countries like Greece, Portugal and Italy.
  • In the 1990 Japan entered a prolonged slump. In the following decade the economy stagnated despite huge public works investment like Stiglitz advocates. The Japanese national debt spiralled to 300% of GDP, with nothing to show for it, except a lot of fantastic roads to nowhere.
  • Japan was fortunate in that its borrowings are at near zero interest rates. The European economies are not so fortunate. Those European economies with large deficits reached a crisis tipping point when interest rates exceeded 7%. To save the economy, radical contractionary policies have been implemented.

I would therefore contend that Keynesian fiscal expansion in the USA or elsewhere would not only be ineffective (coming on top of other fiscal expansion), but carries a huge risk of making matters dramatically worse. Morally I believe that economic policy-making has a powerful analogy to medical practice. It is not just a matter of diagnosing properly the type and extent of the ailment. It is providing, at a minimum, a remedy for which there is a reasonable expectation that the patient will be better off being treated than not. Like with a GP, an economist has a duty of care in what they advocate, particularly when there are very clear and evident risks. Joseph Stiglitz seems to take no such care.


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