Greg Craven’s Grid Extended

Greg Craven published a series of Youtube videos claiming to give a stark a simple choice for any non-scientist to rise above the “shouting match” a beliefs to reach a decision, with confidence as what to do about climate change. By understanding the flaws in his argument it is possible to develop a more sophisticated grid that enables us to make a more rounded assessment of the climate change problem.

Craven’s Grid

Greg Craven is a high school science teacher in Oregon, who has produced a series of Youtube videos (and later in a book), asking:-

“Which is the more acceptable risk?

  • Do nothing and accept the potential catastrophe of global warming?
  • Take action now, potentially harming the economy, but averting potential catastrophe?”

He puts this into a simple grid, with whether to take action along the horizontal axis and whether the global warming hypothesis is true or not on the vertical axis. Recognising that there are costs to combating climate change he allows for the worst case scenario. The cost will be global depression. However, this is as nothing compared with the worst case scenario the scientists are telling us will happen if we do nothing. The choice is stark. We do not know whether the global warming hypothesis is true or false – that is a shouting match that we will get no sense out of – but we should not take a chance, for our own sakes, the sake of the world’s poor and the sake of our children.

Craven’s Grid

Action?

Global Warming?

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

Global Depression

All Smiles

TRUE

Global Depression – BUT no catastrophe

Mega-Catastrophe

Someone then pointed out a gaping hole in Craven’s argument. This grid could be applied to anything that could potentially happen, no matter how unlikely. He uses the example of an invasion of giant mutant space hamsters. The outcome of everyone on the planet being eaten by such creatures is far worse than the costs of building the necessary defence shield to repel them. We must therefore look at the credibility of those who hold the hypothesis against those who do not. If the backers of the hypothesis are the vast majority of leading scientific organisations, and the opponents are few and far between, then we can give much greater weight to the global warming hypothesis. So the grid becomes like this:-

Craven’s Weighted Grid

Action

Global Warming

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

Global Depression

All Smiles

TRUE

Global Depression – BUT no catastrophe

Mega-Catastrophe

Craven’s Grid with numbers

Craven’s argument becomes much clearer if we put in some numbers. Let us say that the cost of action is 20, but the impact of the catastrophic warming is 400, or 20 times worse. The basic grid becomes:-

The basic grid, with numbers

Action

Global Warming?

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

-20

0

TRUE

-20

-400

AVERAGE RETURN

-20

-200

The figures are all negative, as the planet is worse off if catastrophic warming occurs, and the people on this planet are worse off if action is taken. The figure of twenty times worse is the upper limit of cost-benefits from the Stern Review (Tol & Yohe 2006). I chose 20 as a base to save on too many decimals when the grid becomes more sophisticated. (Twenty times of benefits over costs is the upper limit of the Stern Review?) Note that there is now an average return, with equal weighting given to whether the hypothesis is true or false. We end up with an expected cost of not taking action of 10 times greater than if we did. We can now incorporate Craven’s argument is that we should give much greater weighting to the consensus scientists than to the sceptics. Let us say the chances of the hypothesis being true are 4 times that of it being false. The weighted grid becomes:-

The weighted grid, with numbers

Action

Global Warming?

%

Lots Now

Little or None Now

FALSE

20%

-20

0

TRUE

80%

-20

-400

RETURN

 

-20

-320

So the expected outcome of not taking action is 16 times worse than of not taking action.

Major issues with Craven’s Grid

There are a number of issues with this basic decision-making grid. Most fundamentally, it relies on opinions of opinions. That is of the expert climate scientists convincing the scientists from other fields that they have a convincing case, then getting this much larger group to pass a resolution. If the vast majority of the membership can be shown to have studied this and agreed that the climate science is as strong as in their disparate fields and used for a basis of voting, then this might be a reliable, secondary, source. However, if there is evidence that the resolution is promulgated by a small number of the membership (and the majority not interested enough to oppose); or that there has been outside pressure to pass a resolution; or that there have been efforts to silence critics through abuse; or that pressure groups try to undermine the research grants on which critical scientists depend – then the resolutions should be at a minimum be viewed as worthless. This is along similar as the verdict of a jury in a court of law is viewed as worthless if there is any evidence jury tampering. If there is considerable evidence of this undue influence, then the balance of opinion should swing the other way. If the argument relies on secondary or tertiary opinions, then one should look very carefully at the scientific and policy argument. As Craven does not offer up this argument (just mentions a paper by Richard Lindzen, to then neglect this issue entirely), I shall leave this as argument as just invalid and ignore it entirely. The alternative – to take as circumstantial evidence that the underlying case is weak – would cloud the analysis. Instead I shall concentrate on the science and policy issues. These can be divided into four areas:-

  1. The climate models do not just predict huge rises in temperatures. Rather, they offer up a range of scenarios. The UNIPCC’s scenarios show a greater than 90% chance of temperatures rising between 1.1oC and 6.4oC this century (UNIPCC 2007.1 p8). Both extremes are fairly unlikely. However, if these scenarios were taken to their peak then the distribution of final temperatures would be skewed towards the top end. That is the cut-off of 2099 is likely to be a matter of timing
  2. The consequence of such temperature rise, the models predict, will not simply be higher temperatures, but severe disruption to weather systems. Extreme weather events, like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become far more frequent. Although impossible to predict the extent of climate disruption with each rise degree in temperature, the impacts are more likely to be more towards the exponential than the linear.
  3. Craven appears to assume that the policy proposed will be entirely successful in combating warming. The UNIPCC recognise that this is not realistic. They propose of target of limiting CO2 to 550ppm (twice the pre-industrial levels) warming to 2.0oC. If this policy successfully contains the warming to 2.0oC, then there would still be some adverse consequences to that warming. Further, this proposal must be signed up to by all the nations of the world and then translated into actual policies.
  4. There are also two broad approaches to policy that need to be considered. The most frequently advocated is mitigation – stopping global warming by stopping the rise in anthropogenic greenhouse emissions, or even reducing them. The other is adaptation – adapting to the climatic changes that occur, such as improving coastal defences; changing crop production; improving irrigation systems; and changing house design.
  5. The policy targets then need to be implemented, recognising that often large, and ill-defined government projects poorly managed, tend to over-run on costs and under-perform on benefits. Further, governments may sometimes get freeloaders, who generate costs but do not contribute anything towards the desired outcome.

This gives four areas that can be analysed separately, under the acronym FCPO.

Forecast – How much temperatures are predicted to rise and in what time period.

Consequences – The forecast change in the weather patterns (droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc.), along with the impacts on crop yields, forestation, sea levels etc.

Policy – The adopted remedy recommended to combat the consequences, along with actual legislation enacted and structures created.

Outturn (of the policy) – The actual policies enacted, along the results of those actions – both intended and unintended.

There is a clear dividing line between the climate science (Forecast and Consequences) and the social sciences (Policy and Outturn). The sub-divisions between the Forecast and Consequences and between Policy and Outturn maybe less distinct, but, as later analysis will demonstrate, are useful for purposes of clarity.

Extending the Grid for FCPO

The grid can now be extended include the four elements discussed in a series of stages. We start with Craven’s scenario were a mitigation policy is 100% successful in combating the adverse effects of global warming.

  1. The costs of action

Extending Craven’s Grid by:-

  • Keeping the costs of mitigation to 20.
  • Extending the True / False Scenario to five categories of warming. (None, lower, median, higher & extreme).
  • Including an extra option of “Adapt”. This is split into two parts. First are low cost contingency plans, given a value of 5. Then there are the reactive costs. These costs rise steeply with more extreme climate change.

This gives a revised grid below.

Costs of Action

Category

Extent

Mitigate

Adapt

None

A

None

-20

-5

0

B

Lower

-20

-10

0

C

Median

-20

-15

0

D

Higher

-20

-25

0

E

Extreme

-20

-45

0

RETURN

-20

-20

0

  1. The Climate Change Impact

This shows the impact of taking action. Points to note

  • The extreme case of not taking action is still twenty times the impact of not taking action.
  • Adapting to climate change is only half as effective as mitigation.
  • The likely catastrophic impacts are likely to be non-linear. I have assumed that it will double with each category rise.

    Climate Change Impact

    Category

    Extent

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    0

    0

    0

    B

    Lower

    0

    -25

    -50

    C

    Median

    0

    -50

    -100

    D

    Higher

    0

    -100

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    0

    -200

    -400

    RETURN

    0

    -75

    -150

  1. Net Costs of Action

    Adding 1. and 2. together.

    Net Costs of taking Action

    Category

    Extent

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    -20

    -5

    0

    B

    Lower

    -20

    -35

    -50

    C

    Median

    -20

    -65

    -100

    D

    Higher

    -20

    -125

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    -20

    -245

    -400

    RETURN

    -20

    -95

    -150

     

  2. Weighted Returns – UNIPCC Scenarios as a basis

    The UNIPCC gives a 90% chance of temperatures rising between 1.1oC and 6.4oC this century. Using this pattern, I assume that the most extreme cases have a 5% probability and the median case as the most likely with a 50% probability. This gives a 20% probability to the lower and higher cases.

    Weighted Net Costs of Action

    Cat

    Extent

    %

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    5%

    -20

    -5

    0

    B

    Lower

    20%

    -20

    -35

    -50

    C

    Median

    50%

    -20

    -65

    -100

    D

    Higher

    20%

    -20

    -125

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    5%

    -20

    -245

    -400

    RETURN

     

    -20.0

    -77.0

    -120.0

     

  3. Weighted Returns – Based on Peak Scenario Warming

    As noted above, the final peak temperatures from the models are likely to be more skewed towards the upper end, as some of the peaks are likely to be well after 2010.

     

     

    Weighted Net Costs of Action

    Cat

    Extent

    %

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    5%

    -20.0

    -5.0

    0.0

    B

    Lower

    5%

    -20.0

    -35.0

    -50.0

    C

    Median

    40%

    -20.0

    -65.0

    -100.0

    D

    Higher

    40%

    -20.0

    -125.0

    -200.0

    E

    Extreme

    10%

    -20.0

    -245.0

    -400.0

    RETURN

     

    -20.0

    -102.5

    -162.5

  4. Weighted returns – restricting CO2 to 550ppm

    The policy to mitigate climate change does not have the unrealistic aim of stopping any future warming. Rather it seeks to stabalise CO2 at 550ppm or double pre-industrial levels. This will equate to a temperature rise of around 2 oC. This is around the lower level impacts.

    The climate change impact grid becomes

    Climate Change Impact

    Category

    Extent

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    0

    0

    0

    B

    Lower

    -20

    -25

    -50

    C

    Median

    -20

    -50

    -100

    D

    Higher

    -20

    -100

    -200

    E

    Extreme

    -20

    -200

    -400

    RETURN

    -16

    -75

    -150

    Note that the lower levels have some benefit from the climate change. But mitigation prevents the most catastrophic scenarios.

    The final grid becomes

    Weighted Net Costs of Action

    Cat

    Extent

    %

    Mitigate

    Adapt

    None

    A

    None

    5%

    -20.0

    -5.0

    0.0

    B

    Lower

    5%

    -40.0

    -35.0

    -50.0

    C

    Median

    40%

    -40.0

    -65.0

    -100.0

    D

    Higher

    40%

    -40.0

    -125.0

    -200.0

    E

    Extreme

    10%

    -40.0

    -245.0

    -400.0

    RETURN

     

    -39.0

    -102.5

    -162.5

     

The FCPO Grid

The grid derived simply, but effectively summarises the “Consensus” case.

  1. There is a high degree of likelihood that we will have some serious global warming with huge consequences for the planet and the human race.
  2. The best policy is to limit CO2 to double pre-industrial levels. Re-active adaptation strategies are risky and ineffective compared with mitigation.
  3. The expected average costs of doing nothing are far greater than any costs of mitigation.
  4. More importantly than any expected average impact, there is a very real possibility of a massive catastrophe.

What is more it is a way of effectively gauging some of the arguments, underpinned with some risk analysis. By trying to turn the uncertainties into our best-guess risks we can get a more balanced and rigorous assessment of the science than Greg Craven’s. Further, we can also bring into the same analysis the potential effectiveness of any policy, and the project management aspect of delivering the planned results.

However, the ability of this grid to evaluate the science is limited. It can only be used for most top-down or broad-brush aspects. It is a way to get the relative importance of various aspects of science and policy within the totality of the subject, when they are vastly different in degree. If used for splitting hairs, then this will just be another tool to advance the “shouting match”. To focus and clarify the evaluation, a new question is required. “What is the worst that can happen?” is too loaded towards thinking of extreme, but highly improbable, events.

The New Question

To focus and clarify the evaluation, a new question is required. “What is the worst that can happen?” is too loaded towards thinking of extreme, but highly improbable, events. The FCPO Grid looks at both the future scenarios projected by the science and at our collective ability to provide a remedy. There the new question becomes

By taking action, is there, on the balance of the evidence, an expectation that the future state will be improved?

The climate change consensus would contend that this is clear-cut – something that my FCPO grid replicates.

 

References

Craven, Greg 2007 Jun – Youtube video “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See

Craven, Greg 2007 Oct – Youtube video “How it all ends

Craven, Greg 2009 – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Craven, Greg Website – http://www.gregcraven.org/

Tol & Yohe 2006 – A Review of the Stern Review – WORLD ECONOMICS • Vol. 7 • No. 4 • October–December 2006

UNIPCC 2007.1 – Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report – Summary for Policymakers (Dec 08 format)

Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney

     /  23/10/2010

    Forget global warming, what about these mutant space hamsters? ~ I have it on unreliable authority they are annoyed we are all driving 4 x 4’s not giant hamster wheels.

    Reply
    • There is the “slight” change in the prgraom. It’s actually not global warming anymore, since earth is cooling down since 2005 it’s now called climate change instead. There is also the slight misshap of the temperatures rising a few years prior to the rise in the levels of CO2.I’m not going to go into details on a high school question but you might want to look into climate gate (it’s true, the mails presented by what is American party in the US was taken out of context but I’ve read the mails decided fo myself and the pro-climate change propaganda is based on B.S. and even the ones spreading it know it) and you might have a look at articles google-schollar finds.IMO: it’s a politically based nonscientific topic. A war between American republicans and democrats that spread over the rest of the world with Al Gore. The people have been frightened into believing a bunch of blury idieas that were later discovered not to be true. The evidence is there but the public belief is slow to change.BUT ! The consequence of the hole anti carbon propaganda are really good. More renewable energy is being used.

      Reply
      • manicbeancounter

         /  08/06/2012

        Hi Gaby,

        The problem is how do you know your arguments are true, or at least better than Al Gore’s, the vast majority of climate scientists and most politicians in the US and Europe?
        The reason I believe Greg Craven was wrong was due to his not thinking through his ideas. A similar case is made for much of climate science. The ideas are blury at crucial points. What is more, the efforts made to shore up the science are the reverse of what you would find in a court of law – that it shutting out alternative voices, denying cross-examination of the evidence, and the preference of hearsay evidence (“scientists believe” etc.) over hard evidence.

        Reply
  2. manicbeancounter

     /  23/10/2010

    Craven’s solution here is to rely on opinions of opinions, such as relying on the resolutions passed by the Royal Society. This argument is undermined is there is signs of pressure and vested interests. The only alternative is to look at the science.

    What I have tried to do is replicate then “consensus” UNIPCC case in terms of likelihood. Future postings will look at how credible the science and policy are when you take into account counter-arguments or the uncertainties in the evidence, or the limitations of the policies to deal with the issue.

    Reply
  3. Abrianna

     /  28/12/2010

    You have forgotten the positive aspect of choosing to take action. While we could face monumental economic harm, in the end (maybe in a while) action will most likely have positive effects.

    The fact is we can’t survive off of fossil fuels forever. The world is over populating more and more every day. Sometime we’re going to have to make the switch. If we do it sooner rather then later, we could benefit from halting global warming at the same time.

    Sort of like killing two birds with one stone.

    Reply
  1. Did Wivenhoe dam operators SEQwater swallow the CAGW hype on Australian Droughts? « ManicBeancounter

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