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|Neither Levitt, an economist, nor Dubner, a journalist, has any training in climate science—or, for that matter, in science of any kind.|
|The only reason Levitt and Dubner are known was a mistake. Their
abortion/crime correlation was based on their failure to adjust for
population growth. Nevermind that, though: it was provocative and they
became unjustly famous. They are, jointly, a mental abortion.
Named one of Time magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World," Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, is generally assumed to be a harmless, quirky pop economist for trivia nerds. However, Levitt has a history of attacking teachers' unions, advocating for the privatization of prison labor, defending online gambling and occasionally crossing over the fringe-right line by promoting climate change denialism and, some have argued, racial eugenics. A dyed-in-the-wool Milton Friedman neoliberal from the same “Chicago Boys” network that brought you the "shock doctrine," Levitt’s idea of economics Utopia is a world in which "the market" solves all our problems and government is restricted to protecting property rights.
-- SHAME project
Named one of Time magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World," Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, is generally assumed to be a harmless, quirky pop economist for trivia nerds. However, Levitt has a history of attacking teachers' unions, advocating for the privatization of prison labor, defending online gambling and occasionally crossing over the fringe-right line by promoting climate change denialism and, some have argued, racial eugenics. A dyed-in-the-wool Milton Friedman neoliberal from the same "Chicago Boys" network that brought you the "shock doctrine," Levitt's idea of economics Utopia is a world in which "the market" solves all our problems and government is restricted to protecting property rights.
Paul Krugman links to an excellent take-down by Elizabeth Kolbert of the notorious climate change chapter in Superfreakonomics.what's most troubling about "SuperFreakonomics" isn't the authors' many blunders; it's the whole spirit of the enterprise. Though climate change is a grave problem, Levitt and Dubner treat it mainly as an opportunity to show how clever they are. Leaving aside the question of whether geoengineering, as it is known in scientific circles, is even possible-have you ever tried sending an eighteen-mile-long hose into the stratosphere?-their analysis is terrifyingly cavalier. A world whose atmosphere is loaded with carbon dioxide, on the one hand, and sulfur dioxide, on the other, would be a fundamentally different place from the earth as we know it. Among the many likely consequences of shooting SO2 above the clouds would be new regional weather patterns (after major volcanic eruptions, Asia and Africa have a nasty tendency to experience drought), ozone depletion, and increased acid rain.
Kolbert's closing words are, however, a little unfair.To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction. This is the turn that "SuperFreakonomics" takes, even as its authors repeatedly extoll their hard-headedness. All of which goes to show that, while some forms of horseshit are no longer a problem, others will always be with us.
Not unfair to Levitt and Dubner, mind you, but to science fiction. After all, two science fiction authors, Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, had their number down way back in 1953 with The Space Merchants (Pohl, amazingly, is still active and alive).The Conservationists were fair game, those wild eyed zealots who pretended modern civilization was in some way "plundering" our planet. Preposterous stuff. Science is always a step ahead of the failure of natural resources. After all, when real meat got scarce, we had soyaburgers ready. When oil ran low, technology developed the pedicab.
musical mountaineer 11.11.09 at 12:45 am
One other thing from that article caught my eye:
Neither Levitt, an economist, nor Dubner, a journalist, has any training in climate science-or, for that matter, in science of any kind.
Hail to "The Space Merchants"! That book should replace Orwell's "1984" as "TSM" is about the United States, and "us." It is not a book about "them" and "Oh, are THEY bad!"
Pohl, an ex-Red from the 1930s, had a fairly unique perspective about the absurdities of the Cold War, and far more faith in American capitalism to prevail over communism than the Red Scare mongers. That is a true irony. The book is clever, funny and above all profound in anticipating a corporatized culture.
Bravo for mention that wonderful book.
There's nothing like a global warming post to bring out people anxious to demonstrate the Dunning–Kruger effect, particularly in the comments to Krugman's piece.
If we are in fact at the point of peak oil production, as some are now alleging, it will be interesting to see how the global warming dialogue changes.
I find the geo-engineering approach as somehow an alternative to slowing carbon emissions to be bizarre. If we were going to attempt geo-engineering at any level, the first essential foundation would be vastly better models of the effect on the atmosphere. After all we have empirical evidence to check our CO2 models against, it took us thirty years to get where we are today. How do we predict what happens when SO2 is being spewed out?
Its not just the global warming you have to get right, you have to make sure that you do not cause another environmental catastrophe that you hadn't expected.
There is a reason we no longer favor using introduction of non native species to control some pest. Too many histories of habitats destroyed introduced species by well meaning types who trusted that no bad results could come of good intentions.
It really isn't that difficult to meet the C02 targets, wind power is capital intensive but dirt cheap to run. We currently have an economy that has huge amounts of unoccupied capital. If worst comes to worst they can always shut down on fifth of the Pentagon and the redirect the resources to renewable power. How many wind, solar power stations can you build for $150 billion/year? More than enough I suspect.
Why is the idea of returning the military budget to the same level it had before the neocon crazies took over somehow more ludicrous than the idea of constructing 18 mile hoses?
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