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« Money talks, & without the bias of cultural cognition: so why not listen? | Main | On the science communication value of communicating "scientific consensus": an exchange »
Friday
May242013

More market consensus on climate change: 97% of insurance companies agree (& hedge funds too!)

This is by no means the only example of "market consensus" on climate change.  

 
At the same time that members of the insurance industry are taking action to mitigate their losses (by promoting adaptation; the "mitigate"/"adaptation" distinction is one of the many infelicities of climate-change speak) other commercial actors are eagerly leaping at the chance to profit from new economic opportunities, including ironically exploitation of oil reserves that can be accessed more readily as polar ice caps melt.

Why isn't this activity exploited more aggressively for communication by those trying to promote public engagement with climate change? Those who doubt the scientific consensus--either because they think it is being calculated incorrectly by social scientists who use one or another method to measure it or because they think climate scientists are biased by ideology, group think, or research-funding blandishments--presumably ought to find the opinion of market actors, who are putting their money where their mouth is (actually, they don't talk much; they are too busy investing), more probative?

The answer, I conjecture, tells us something about the motivations--mainly unconscious, of the cultural cognition sort--of those on both sides of the debate.

Too many climate-change advocates have a hard time seeing/using evidence of this sort because it involves mining insight (as it were; new mining opportunities are also being created by metling permafrost) from the rationality of market behavior, not to mention recognizing that climate change does in fact involve a balance of positive and negative effects, even if on balance it is negative.  

At the same time, too many climate skeptics are unwilling to acknowledge evidence of any sort--even the truth-corroborating price signal of self-interested market behavior!--that lends credence to the scientific underpinnings of those who are making the case for effective collective action to avoid the myriad welfare-threatening upshots of a warming earth. So this evidence doesn't register on them either.
Click me!
Might this be it?

If so, I suppose we should look on the bright side: the two sides are agreeing on something, even if it is simply to ignore one and the same piece of evidence on account of it not fitting their respective worldviews.

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Reader Comments (78)

Sigh. Yes, investors seek ways to profit from global warming. Investors have no doubt sought ways to profit from phrenology when that was the rage, and I'm sure there are some who seek ways to profit from astrology now. Some of these ways, in other words, rely upon the foolish credulity of others, and we see that re: global warming in the enrichment of Al Gore and his fellow profiting doomsters or tax-payer funded boondoggles like Solyndra. Other ways are more genuinely speculative, taking at least some risk that warming is a real, long-term phenomenon regardless of its cause. But the vast majority of skeptics understand and accept that as plausible as well, as a number of commenters here have stressed repeatedly. Their objections primarily arise not from the "scientific underpinnings", but rather from the phrase "effective collective action" which is so often merely a euphemism for "drastic, global, forced carbon emission reduction, beginning immediately", and which is a non sequitur, to put it mildly.

I mean, I take your point that there is some blame or blindness on the part of "both your houses". But the basis of the dispute here isn't affected by the sorts of real-world, practical examples you mention -- the heart of the matter comes down to conflicting ideological/political agendas. In that context, it's more than a little ironic to see "the market", so commonly abused in the EC quadrant for its failures, being upheld as a model of rationality only when it suits that predisposition.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

@Larry:

The mkt actors here aren't profiting off of others' climate change beliefs -- rational or otherwise. That would be so if we were talking about people investing in alternative-energy sources or other products or services generated in response to regulation of carbon emissions.

I'm talking of (a) people buying (or investing $ to try to being able to assure that they can buy or sell) risk protection (insurance) and (b) people investing in business ventures that they expect to become possible as a result of warmng.

Are you saying *they* are irrationally betting their own money?

That's possible, of course. But generally, free mkts absorb the best evidence available and filter out cognitive bias. So the mkt behavior I'm citing is evidence that there's *evidence* that future warming will occur (and also that govts' won't do anything about it!). Evidence is evidence, to be combined w/ other sources, including contrary evidence, in making a rational determination of what the facts are.

If you are saying the debaters don't won't to recognize the evidence b/c their stake is ideological/cutlural -- yes, that's my surmise too.

But if we were advising a "true" science communicator -- one who didn't care what belief people formed, or what action they took; whose only objective was to be sure that they be as successful in using their power to recognize the best available evidence as they usually are -- wouldn't we counsel her to tell members of the public about mkt activity that reflects crediting of scientific evidence of global warming?

May 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Are you saying *they* are irrationally betting their own money?

No, that wasn't what I said -- to quote myself: "Other ways [of profiting from global warming] are more genuinely speculative, taking at least some risk that warming is a real, long-term phenomenon regardless of its cause." But here's the important continuation:

"But the vast majority of skeptics understand and accept that as plausible as well, as a number of commenters here have stressed repeatedly. Their objections primarily arise not from the "scientific underpinnings", but rather from the phrase "effective collective action" which is so often merely a euphemism for "drastic, global, forced carbon emission reduction, beginning immediately", and which is a non sequitur, to put it mildly."

I understand that you consider market activity here as evidence of practical, as opposed to ideological, belief, and I largely agree. But, as I say, this kind of practical belief -- that there's a reasonable enough possibility of enough warming, for whatever reason, to warrant a bet, or hedging a bet, on it -- is not at the heart of the ideological dispute. So I would advise a "true" science communicator to understand that, and to avoid getting sidetracked about market activity lest she appear to be merely pandering to certain cultural predispositions.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Of course the insurance companies love it - it's an excuse to ramp up premiums!

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

@Larry:
I see. You are right

I think it is hard to pin down modal "skeptic" argument. Many proclaim "everyone agrees X! the only issue Y," when in fact many skeptics do dispute X. X includes that there will be the sort of impacts from sealevel rise that are freatured in the article on insurance. X also includes that there wil be the sorts of surface temperature increases contemplated by much of the investment activity described in the linked stories

In the Nov. 2011 post, I discuss how an index of investment instruments that reflect "belief in climate change" could be used to test whether disputed scientific information is believed by the mkt. If the price shot up w/ publication of a new article or w/ issuance of IPCC assessment etc., that would be helpful to those who are trying to decide whether the scientific research at issue is sound -- not to mention whether the scientists doing the research and those trying to communiate it to the public are "biased" in one way or another

May 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Paul
The ins companies are not happy. They are very very very very unhappy. But if any of them were raising the price w/o reason, another firm would undercut them

May 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Larry -

But, as I say, this kind of practical belief -- that there's a reasonable enough possibility of enough warming, for whatever reason, to warrant a bet, or hedging a bet, on it -- is not at the heart of the ideological dispute.

It seems to me that is very much at the heart of at least part of the ideological dispute.

When I say that a "probability" that "most" recent warming is attributable to ACO2, and that said probability merits a careful examination of costs/benefits of compensating policies, I get much vitriol directed my way.

Sure - some of the ideological debate is purely w/r/t the cost/benefit analysis of those policies, and some of the ideological debate is from "skeptics" disagreeing with "realists" who are completely certain that damaging climate change merits the implementation of policy immediately, but I have encountered many, many "skeptics" who are quite certain that the very notion of climate change is a "hoax" dreamt up to line the pockets of academics and perpetuated by shysters seeking to profit from perpetuating the myth and ideologues who see climate change as a means to implement statist policies that will crush capitalism.

Seems to me that the "skeptics" who argue along the lines of what I described at the end of that paragraph would very much question, and quite adamantly, "that there's a reasonable enough possibility of enough warming, for whatever reason, to warrant a bet, or hedging a bet, on it."

I don't understand what evidence you use to cleave off the one sort of debate from the other to determine what is at its heart. Could you elaborate?

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Well, it's no doubt hard to pin down the "modal" advocate argument too, isn't it? They typically go from human caused climate change -- which can and often does lead to a "so what?" response -- to "tipping points" and disasters of biblical proportions (boiling seas, cats and dogs living together, as in Ghost Busters) unless we change our wicked ways. As for the insurance companies, in the current climate they do indeed have a problem simply because of the climate of fear and uncertainty that's been fostered, that makes their risk calculations more difficult. Still, it's heartening to see your faith in the self-correcting mechanisms of the market, which I think you're right about given time.

But here's a thought -- why don't we try to highlight the aspects of the global warming argument where skeptic and advocate modalities overlap, to whatever degree, and then also highlight the aspects of the argument that are political, ideological, and/or expressions of one's particular cultural predispositions? That wouldn't end the disputes, of course, but it might make it all just a bit more honest.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

@Larry:

You know that I find many of the advocates' arguments puzzling -- as expressed in this very post.

The insurance companies won't have incentive to stop issuing policies if the fears of climate change are irrational. They'll have reason to sell more insurance & make $billions.

But forget the insurance companies. Surely Goldman Sachs wouldn't do anything irrational.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

A couple of comments. First, we have to be careful we don't concatenate risk benefit/avoidance of a long term threat with short term adaptation without first assessing what the appropriate phenomena is. An example is the local sea level rise and adaptation with risk avoidance by insurance policies and physical structures that do not meet the life expectancy of the phenomena; or actions which are useful whether such a long term change is real or not. These are not the same.

Second, we cannot ignore legal precedents, hmmm Dan?!?, that it pays to be the first in with claims and structures in a new mineral exploration/extraction opportunity. Nor can we ignore that such a payoff means we are dealing with a skewed risk/benefit situation that cannot be rationally argued with what is presently known to match the criteria for ""making the case for effective collective action.""

Third, the case for exploration/extraction is a fact, and can be measured economically by profit or loss. The effective collective action, outside of local activities such as insurance rates, structures, or mineral rights, does not generally yield a measureable profit or loss now, except for such as loss of profits by denial of use. The global action would result in a counterfactual that is even harder to measure economically by profit or loss in the future, if implemented. We do not have the tools to measure the effect of this counterfactual discretely enough to even have a baseline since claims of measurable increases in extreme weather and extreme sea rise are contested with the statistics indicating it is either untrue or an artifact of assumptions made in the projections of the future.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

I think I would see it as evidence that many people with money to invest do genuinely believe in approaching climate catastrophe. In a way this is not news. That's what they've been told. Persuading people of that has been what the activists have been working on for many years. It would be surprising if they had had no success at all, and indeed every sceptic has met and argued with many people who genuinely believe - we know they exist. We know that they're bound to invest accordingly.

It's actually quite a good measure of how many genuinely do believe, as opposed to merely saying so for PR purposes. In much the same way as the continued investment in and use of fossil energy is an indication of private disbelief in those who preach the loudest. Sceptics have used the latter argument, they cannot easily avoid admitting that such investment is by the same argument evidence of non-hypocritical actual belief. They would instead point to how little of it there is.

It is true that free markets absorb information from many sources, and filter out certain biases, although possibly not the cultural/motivation biases you're talking about here. Economists talk about "revealed preferences", in which how much people like or dislike a thing is revealed by how much they're willing to pay for it, as opposed to what they say. The two are often quite different, and it's even the case that revealed preferences can surprise people when compared to what they themselves thought they believed, by introspection. Human beliefs are not simple, one-dimensional things.

I have for some years advocated a free-market approach to fund-raising for climate mitigation, which is loosely based on the idea of a futures market. What you do is to create a market in negotiable bonds that pay differential rates depending on climate change outcomes. For example, one bond might pay out at a handsome rate of interest on the day sea level rise passes one metre, but be voided in 2100. If you think that sea levels will rise dramatically in the coming century, the bond is worth a lot of money. If you don't believe, it is worth nothing. If you assign some probability, it has an intermediate value.

Similarly, you can issue bonds that operate the other way - for example, paying out in 2100 at a handsome rate of interest, but being voided if the sea level rises past one metre. I dub the former 'up-bonds' and the latter 'down-bonds', based on what they say will happen to temperatures, and what their value will do if temperatures rise. You can of course place bets on different levels (2 metres, 6 metres, 50 centimetres etc.) or different climate outcomes (hurricane numbers, global mean temperature anomaly, global sea ice extent, etc.).

So to start with, different people will value them differently, and will therefore be willing to buy and sell them to one another until the perceived risks balance. The market price at which they do so will reflect our collective belief in climate change. Not just what we say in public, but what we truly believe, weighed individually against all our other priorities, objectives, and beliefs. This therefore tells us how much the free market says we should spend on it.

So then you charge your carbon taxes in up-bonds. You pay renewable energy subsidies in down-bonds. You buy insurance against future disasters in up-bonds. You raise money for R&D in renewables to be paid in down-bonds. You compensate energy-intensive industries for the costs of switching to renewables in down-bonds. The market distributes these charges precisely and individually to those who most want what they deliver, in proportion to how they value it. You can't cheat it. You can't over-value or under-value it. And nobody can argue with it.

For those who believe in the coming apocalypse, the up-bonds have a high value - they cannot argue that the polluters are not being charged heavily. If they manage to shift the charges, it can only be to someone even deeper in disbelief.

For those who believe it's all a load of nonsense, the up-bonds have no value at all - they cannot therefore argue that they're being made to pay a cent for something they don't want. The economic burdens of going Green won't fall on them - quite the reverse - and they can therefore do so with a happy grin.

As time passes, and more information becomes available from climate observations, the price will rise and fall, as people invest more on a rising product, or bail out when the perceived risk gets too high. And thus the eventual price of all the changes will be distributed to those who were most wrong, in proportion to their beliefs and how they prioritised it. The costs will fall precisely on those who most deserve it, in precise proportion to their guilt. It is the ultimate in fairness and justice - you decide your own sentence automatically by your own actions.

I wouldn't want to claim that it is perfect. I can see a few problems, like the possibility of cash-strapped governments investing heavily (and badly) in such markets on our behalf. (It's called the 'principal agent' problem.) But they're doing that anyway, and at least this way we'd get some of it back. The problems are mostly not with the proposal itself, but with the fact that it interacts in a non-free market environment. But if you really, truly want to get free-market types on board, a proposal like this stands a far better chance with them than yet more taxes and regulations and coercion.

In the few climate-activist forums I've floated the idea, when they were talking about how they could tailor their message to appeal better to free-market types, absolutely no interest was shown in adopting it. They spent all of their time instead arguing why the free-market ideology was wrong. So just as regulatory authoritarian solutions will never appeal to free-market people, I suspect free-market solutions are never going to appeal to regulatory authoritarians. C'est la vie.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Sorry - got that slightly wrong. "You pay renewable energy subsidies in down-bonds." should be up-bonds, of course. Renewable energy companies want to be paid in something they think is going to go up in value, and sceptics want them to be paid in something they think is going to go down.

Apologies for any confusion.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I have encountered many, many "skeptics" who are quite certain that the very notion of climate change is a "hoax" dreamt up to line the pockets of academics and perpetuated by shysters seeking to profit from perpetuating the myth and ideologues who see climate change as a means to implement statist policies that will crush capitalism.

On the Internet you don't have to try very hard to find people who think 9/11 was an inside job, the moon landings were a hoax, GM food is a Monsanto plot to poison us all, or climate change denial is purely the result of a massive "disinformation" campaign by Big Oil determined to roast us all. And if it feels like your life is too long, you can certainly waste some of it battling with them -- similarly re: those who may think the very notion of climate change is a hoax. Most people who could legitimately called climate change skeptics, oth, simply question the myriad uncertainties and exaggerations around the use of models that seem to need perpetual "recalibration", various predictions of doom, and the suspicious obsession with a single policy of mitigation. That's what the real political and cultural battle is being waged over, as I see it, but call it just my conjecture if that helps at all. Otherwise, feel free to continue to tilt at the conspiracy theorists on whatever side suits you.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

What about the market in carbon trading? How's that going?

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

@Paul:
I'm not sure. But value of what is traded there isn't tied to whether global warming is expected to occur. It reflects incentives created by govt policies, which are driven by political forces, not natural ones

May 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@NiV: I will have to study your comment on impending transatlantic flight; will need about that much time, I suspect, to absorb it. thx

But for now: Do you think Warren Buffett takes his investment advice from Al Gore? I seriously doubt that.

May 24, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Larry -

Most people who could legitimately called climate change skeptics, oth, simply question the myriad uncertainties and exaggerations around the use of models that seem to need perpetual "recalibration", various predictions of doom, and the suspicious obsession with a single policy of mitigation.

What is your evidence for determining who is a "legitimate" "skeptic" and who isn't? Many of the best known and most powerful "skeptics" fall into the category I described. How do you determine how to differentiate your "most" from the others?

I realize that you find them to be inconvenient, but they certainly do exist, as do "sky dragons" and many "skeptics" who may have other differentiating characteristics than those I described above.

I spend a lot of time in the "skept-o-sphere." I see many "skeptics" like I described are many, indeed.

Otherwise, feel free to continue to tilt at the conspiracy theorists on whatever side suits you.

I'm not "tilting" at anyone. I am pointing out that I think that your distinctions are arbitrary, in the sense of based only on your subjective criteria. Please, show me wrong. Show me some evidence that the hoaxters and the "sky dragons" are as maginalized as you describe. I mean I don't know, but you do. You are sure. I mean you must have evidence, right? Because as a "skeptic" you wouldn't draw conclusions and be so certain without evidence, and I mean validated evidence.

That's what the real political and cultural battle is being waged over, as I see it,

Here I would say you are almost certainly wrong. Who has more political power in the climate wars, on the "skeptical" side, than Inhofe, Limbaugh, and the like?

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Do you think Warren Buffett takes his investment advice from Al Gore?"

Does Al Gore?

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Geez, Larry - didn't you read Smokey's post downstairs? : - )

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua: "I realize that you find them to be inconvenient..." Not at all. What's your evidence for making that assertion? "Here I would say you are almost certainly wrong." And your evidence for that would be?

Not that I care, Joshua. Frankly, I consider these sorts of challenges to be typical of Internet food fights, and I rapidly lose interest. I accept that there are some who relish (so to speak) those aspects of the climate wars, and you may be one, and, as I say, good for you -- tilt or "point out" or whatever you like. My own concern is with the issues as I've described them, and I would say that's true for the bulk of the commenters here, as well, as far as I can see, as for the host (though of course he can speak for himself). I would say, furthermore, that those are the real issues for advocates as well as skeptics, and that it distracts from any serious discussion to focus obsessively on the fringes. But, ymmv.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Larry -

Not at all. What's your evidence for making that assertion?

My evidence is that you minimized their size and weight, in ways I think are inaccurate, without presenting evidence to support your statements. And not qualified statements - certain statements. Why else would you do that? Perhaps there is another reason? If so, what is it? Obviously, you think my assessment is wrong. Then explain why it is.

And your evidence for that would be?

Obviously, Inhofe has great political power as a "skeptic" and Limbaugh as great persuasive power through being a media giant. Is that arguable in any way? Do you really need me to provide evidence of Inhofe's political power? Of Limbaugh's influence?

Which of your "legitimate" "skeptics" approaches either man along those metrics? And there are plenty of "illegitimate? "skeptics" who, while perhaps not quite at their status are close.

You described the "real" political and cultural battle. By what reasoning do you separate the most powerful and influential "skeptics" from what is "real?"

, I consider these sorts of challenges to be typical of Internet food fights, and I rapidly lose interest.

IMO, you threw down the gauntlet with the "tilting at conspiracy theorists" line at the end of your post. I wasn't "tilting" at anyone, I was questioning your reasoning.

Perhaps I shouldn't have responded in kind, but it seems a bit inconsistent to me for you now to act as if your comment wasn't food fight worthy.

So seriously, what is your evidence? What objective criteria do you use to determine which "skeptics" are legitimate and which aren't? And what is your evidence that you use to measure the qualities of "most?"

I'd certainly agree that we'd be better off if your descriptions were accurate. I'd much rather see the discussion focused on the issues you discussed. But as I see it, part of the problem is that combatants filter the actual debate through arbitrary lenses - such as you did in your earlier comment - to shape the reality in ways that they'd prefer rather than the ways that they are.

I'm asking you to be accountable for having done that or not, by presenting the evidence for the distinctions and definitions you used. If you see that as a food fight challenge, so be it.

But IMO, we can't approach what should be if people don't acknowledge and reach mutual agreement about what is.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Why is is that people who advocate AGW strongly are so determined to isolate people who do not agree with them and make them out as social lepers who should be culled from the herd?

Look around, we're all human. We're all here together. And unless I'm mistaken, nearly every single sceptic (or "denier" if that's how you address them) does actually believe that humans have at least SOME impact on the planet and that we should consider options to reduce it.

We are ALL working for the same goal, a clean healthy planet for our grandkids. Instead of isolating us, engage us. That's how this whole thing SHOULD be working.

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDale

On this thread:

And unless I'm mistaken, nearly every single sceptic (or "denier" if that's how you address them) does actually believe that humans have at least SOME impact on the planet and that we should consider options to reduce it.

On the previous thread:

As for the 'consensus' claim itself, it is false. More than thirty thousand professional scientists, all with degrees in the hard sciences [including more than 9,000 PhD's] have co-signed a statement that more CO2 is harmless, and that it is beneficial to the biosphere... These scares routinely appear. The difference with the AGW scare is the fact that money — $BILLIONS in annual grants — continues to flow into the pockets of individuals and institutions that promote the AGW scare. But scientifically, AGW is no more real than the ALAR apple scare, or the killer bee scare, or the ice-free Arctic scare, etc

May 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

...and that it distracts from any serious discussion to focus obsessively on the fringes.

And btw, Larry - just to clarify, I was not suggesting that anyone "focus on the fringes." If you think that I am, then you are mistaken.

However, I don't think that we should just try to wish them away because we'd prefer they weren't there. They are a part of the debate, they are a big part of the political battle - on both sides.

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Dale:

I think you overstate (" ... all people who advocate AGW ...). Your plea is the premise of the enterprise of the conception of science communication that animates this site (" ... same goal ... engaging ...").

What do you recommend? As a means of creating a set of conditions in which people w/ different positions on climate or other science-informed issues, & w/ different understandings of the best way to live (individually, collectively), engage each other? & can avoid the pathologies that impede the normal, and normally reliable faculties that they rely on for figuring out what's know collectively through science?

Or if you want to tihnk about this more concretely, why isn't the proposed index -- of securities, the value of which reflects investors' expectation that global warming will occur -- a step in that direction? The motivation for it is this:

1. A reflective person could understandably be uncertain how to assess the weight of scientific evidence on climate change and its practical impact (indeed, anyone who professes not to understand this proves only that he or she is not reflective).

2. Such a person can't reasonably be expected to see a social scientist's opinion survey of natural scientists or literature survey of peer-reviewed journals as settling the matter. In constructing the sample for such a survey, the social scientist has to make a judgment about which scientists or which scientific papers to include in the sample. To identify the sample-inclusion criteria, the social scientist will end up making judgment calls the evaluation of which turn on many of the same issues that a reasonable person could be uncertain about in trying to assess the weight and significance of scientific evidence on climate change.

3. However, a reasonable person would see mkt behavior as helpful evidence in such circumstances. Market actors are economically, not ideologically motivated. Moreover, cognitive biases are likely to cancel out, leaving only the signal associated with informed assessments, by multiple rational and self-interested actors, of the weight and practical importance of the best available evidence on climate. Indeed, such a person could observe movement in the value of such stocks in relation to the publication of scientific papers or the issuances of reports like the IPCC assessments, as relevant to the soundness of those assessments.

BTW, while the post on which we are commenting cites news reports on mkt activity that assumes global warming is occurring, if one is serious about this approach, then one shouldn't rely on such reports. One should look for or construct the index I describe in the earlier post --otherwise he or she relying on the observations of news reporters who might be consciously or unconsciously biased.

I don't know what such an index would reveal -- either as applied retrospectively to past IPCC reports or past scientific papers or as applied prospectively to future sicence publications. I'd be surprised the value of the securities embodied skepticism of climate science. But if it did, so be it: I'd treat that as evidence for treating the prospect of consequential global warming as smaller than I do now.

I'm hoping that by proposing such a test, and declaring my intention to give it serious weight in my thinking (and in whatever opinions I might express), you'll recognize my intention to engage this issue, and you, seriously.

If you declared the same, that would help me & others to recognize that you harbor the same intentions.

We could build on that, perhaps, in pursuing what you describe as our common interest to figure out what's going on & what to do.

May 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@NiV:
I've read your post. Your propsed bonds are interesting.
But they don't exist; the investments referred to in the news stories do. I think your points about imperfect rationality of mkts is fine, but doesn't detract from the point that in general price signals are really really really strong evidence of the best understanding of the best avaialble evidence (assuming that one correctly identifies the factual propositions on which the relevant mkt behavior rests). I dont think anying in cultural cognition theory suggests that we should expect to see it biasing such a price signal.
Consider my proposition to Dale. Would you be willing to commit to treating evidence of mkt behavior -- if there were an index to rely on & not just news reports -- as probative of the weight and practical importance of evicdence on climate change?
If not this, then I'd like to hear what you'd propose that a reasonable person who is uncertain what to make of evidence on climate change-- and who recognizes that political arguments (ones made for the sake of engaging and persuading other citiazens) are actually based on judgments on the things that he finds hard to assess -- rely on instead

May 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

"I've read your post. Your propsed bonds are interesting."

Thank you! That's better than I got at the last place I raised it!

"But they don't exist"

True. And we can ask what we can deduce from that.

Authoritarian regulation is proposed as a solution to a particular problem, but free-market types don't like that. A discussion ensues as to how to persuade them of the seriousness of the problem, so we can move together towards solutions. A free-market solution is proposed - I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who could have done so, financial people are far cleverer at this sort of thing and far better connected than I am. But such schemes don't exist. Why not?

One possibility of course is that there's some flaw I haven't thought of. But a lot of people think it's for a different reason - either that using such approaches would reveal how little belief in climate catastrophe there actually was, or that authoritarian regulation is not the means but the end, and that a method that does not increase government control of industry and the population and redistribute accordingly would not achieve the real purpose for doing this, and is therefore of no interest.

A lot of people regard the latter as rather paranoid, and it's not a theory I subscribe to, but all you have to assume is that some people desire power over other people, and that the political/activist classes tend to attract such people.

Nevertheless, the near total absence of practical non-coercive schemes and measures for addressing climate catastrophe is an anomaly in need of explanation. As is the unwillingness to switch to nuclear power. As is the peculiar selectivity about emissions restrictions insisted on in international negotiations.

I agree they don't exist, but I think the reason they don't exist is that they're disliked by the pro-regulation cultural group in the same way that regulation is disliked by the free-market culture. As such, it's an interesting example for study. Researchers might have a better intuitive insight into the reasons for it than they do into free-market motivations.

"Would you be willing to commit to treating evidence of mkt behavior -- if there were an index to rely on & not just news reports -- as probative of the weight and practical importance of evicdence on climate change?"

No. I'd consider it a more accurate index of public opinion. I'd expect that savvy people investing their own money would take more care over checking the evidence, but it's essentially just another form of the ad populam argument. There are lots of things that lots of people have invested in big-time that have turned out to be massive flops.

The free market does not magically make people more intelligent. It works more like evolution - by rapidly eliminating bad ideas. It delivers what people want, not what's good for them. It efficiently integrates in parallel what billions of people know and believe, but that doesn't make it true or right, except to the extent that it has been tested by its commercial success or failure. We won't know if people investing in high ground for fear of sea level rise are right until the seas rise, or don't, and they either make a fortune or go bust.

To argue that it must be a good idea because the market chose it is like arguing that a particular feature of animal design must be a good idea because it evolved by natural selection. There are enough examples of clearly bad design in nature to put paid to that idea. It's incredibly powerful and far more effective than the alternatives, but as Darwin said of evolution: "What a book a Devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature!" The same may be said of free markets.

I'd also note that several of the ideas would be valuable even if the climate doesn't change. Putting a green tag on is seen as good marketing.

"If not this, then I'd like to hear what you'd propose that a reasonable person who is uncertain what to make of evidence on climate change [...] rely on instead"

As I've said before, we have no better way of determining truth than the scientific method, and there is no substitute for science other than doing the science.

You can ask if a subject is considered controversial. You can ask if data and code are available for checking, and have been independently checked. You can assess their devotion to quality and the care taken over methods. You can ask if predictions made have all come true. You can ask if there are unexplained elements or observations that don't fit the theory. You can ask how many free variables there are. You can ask whether alternative explanations and proposals have been excluded by the evidence.

But there are of course a wide variety of non-scientific heuristics that can help. You can assume correlation implies causation. You can look for charts and equations and data, rather than waffle and handwaving. You can follow the money. You can watch out for one-sided assessments. You can look out for emotional manipulation and other advertising techniques. Do they seem to be trying to persuade, or to inform? You can check what they say on topics that you do know about. And you can ask people you trust to tell you, that you have found in the past to give reliable advice, that you think would be motivated to tell you if there was anything wrong, and that you believe have sufficient expertise to be able to tell.

But I also think it would be a wise person who was able to say: "I don't know. I don't have the expertise to judge with sufficient confidence, so I'm not going to take either side." This, too, is a perfectly scientific position, and indeed the only one available to those who can't do science. It is essential that this option remains open to people, and that society considers it an acceptable one for people to take.

Nevertheless, I don't actually have any problem with people accepting the consensus position on climate science. I don't think it's unreasonable, for non-scientists. I think it's good that we have a diversity of views to debate. And I don't have a problem with them spending their own time and money doing something about it.

So while I think it would be better for non-scientists to use more scientific approaches, I don't see unanimity and consensus as such a high priority. We need theories to be continually challenged and questioned to keep them current, so people holding different beliefs is a good thing. Society still benefits because each of them can act in accordance with their own beliefs, we get to try out all the ideas and approaches and solutions in parallel, and may the best ideas win.

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

I suspect that I don't have quite the same faith as some others here in the wisdom of the market (I see that "wisdom" as being mostly focused on short-term return, not infrequently at the expense of long-term return), but it is certainly interesting that there don't seem to be more people shorting the climate change market. I haven't thought about that before, and it is interesting to consider how "skeptics" with great faith in the wisdom of the market can explain that lack thereof.

If the discussion would be pro forma, it seems to me the answer would lie with the corrupting influence of the government?

Are there more people shorting the climate change market than I know about?

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

Show me some evidence that the hoaxters and the "sky dragons" are as maginalized as you describe.

I'm not sure what you count as evidence.

But Doug Cotton-- a sky dragon, has managed to get himself banned at my blog and also at WUWT, The Air Vent. He's been bad enough that comments linking principia-scientific.org are moderated. (That's the Sky Dragon Slayers 'peer reviewed' 'journal'.) Monckton seems to be going at it hammer and tongs with John O'Sullivan over the Sky Dragon's view about the non-existence of back radiation.

Of course the Slayers exist. I know they do have followers. At least one person did come across as supporting Claes in my post discussing his theories here http://rankexploits.com/musings/2011/slaying-the-sky-dragon-muddled-confusing/ It seems someone was supporting Claes over at Judy Curry's too. So: some people do support the Slayers. The number cannot large.

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

Lucia -

Yes, you are certainly right when we are speaking about bonafide Sky Dragons. I should have been more explicit, as was referring to them as a type - "skeptics," who for one reason or another believe (with certainty) that AC2 could not have a significant effect on our climate, or any effect at all. Although "skeptics" like Larry say they are not legitimate, and consider them to be small in number (with certainty), I believe that I have seen evidence otherwise. I see many "skeptics" in the "skept-o-sphere" espousing similar views even though they may not be "official" sky dragons - and many of them, like the sky dragons seem to me to have a very sophisticated scientific backgrounds (making a determination that they are not "legitimate" arbitrary in my view). In the wider blogosphere, I see many "skeptics" make similar arguments, even if less sophisticated, such as that the "trace gas" nature of ACO2 means that it could not affect the climate.

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

I thought the claim you was criticising was that sceptics thought "Other ways are more genuinely speculative, taking at least some risk that warming is a real, long-term phenomenon regardless of its cause"?

Nothing in there about believing "AC2 could not have a significant effect on our climate, or any effect at all".

While I don't think there's any evidence that the investors Dan was talking about are climate sceptics, I think we're getting confused here over what is or is not being claimed. Is any of this relevant? Surely the point is that even hardcore sceptics could see the point of climate change adaptation, (and therefore investment in adaptation is not evidence that sceptics are wrong), not whether there is a consensus of sceptics who do so?

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Joshua,

I can't argue about what your impression should be. I also don't know which blogs you visit and can't know whether your impression of the number of unofficial Slayers that might exist nor whether they are accepted somewhere. But the official Slayers are marginalized.

Certainly, the official Slayers do have some followers and you will find them posting comments here and there. What does that mean? I don't know. After all, I'm posting here and I suspect that Dan Kahan and I agree on some things and disagree on others. His moderation practices seem somewhat similar to mine: People are for the most part, permitted to post. Equally, some "Slayer" types do post at my blog. But I would say they are marginalized. Most the regulars tell them they are wrong, and lenghthy conversations explaining why their theories are wrong ensue.

On the other hand, if your point is to say that we can't know who the adjective "legitimate" applies to: s I agree. There is no agency handing out skeptic credentials. So I not only don't know which skeptics are "the" legitimate ones, I often don't even know which beliefs or traits are those supposedly shared by "skeptics". The label is flung around so much that it seems some use it to describe people who believe AGW, but are willing to occasionally criticize some paper as having been either pointless or sloppy but is also applied to "full on Dragon Slayer" types. Which of these are "legitimate" skeptics? I have no idea.

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

Yes, you're right, lucia, there's "no agency handing out skeptic credentials", so anyone's free to apply the label to anyone. In referring to "people who could legitimately be called climate change skeptics" (note emphasis), I didn't mean to imply I was a certifying agency, but was rather referring to the simple meaning of the term -- i.e., those who are skeptical of climate change claims as distinct from those who reject them outright. I don't doubt you can find some prominent examples of the latter, but focusing on them, especially by climate policy advocates like Cook et al, has the unfortunate -- though maybe intended -- effect of distracting attention from the weaker or at least more political/ideological areas of the advocate position. And those are the areas where the real, in the sense of meaningful, conflict is taking place.

May 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

@Lucia, @Larry, @Joshua:

Why should we expect the project of quantifying what pct of "skeptics" believe one thing or another or engage in one style of argumentation or another to get any further in advancing knowledge or extending constructive conversational engagement than surveys of "scientific consensus"? the same conceptual issues that constrain the latter will apply to the former.

why not trace your way back to the trunk from which this branch of exchange sprouted? Would it help reasonable people trying to make sense of what the weight & significance of sicentific evidence is to be able to have an index of the perfornabce if stocks the value of which depends on the expectation that global warming will occur?

Those people can't make sense of all the science issues themselves (no scientist can either'; even they have to rely on the ability to know who knows what they are talking about, although of course the nullius in verba worldview impedes them from seeing this!).

They also can't be expected to rely on social science surveys; they methods reflect judgments about which reasonable people who are uncertain are not sure to accept (it's odd that the social scienitsts don't see this).

They know that advocates on both sides, even when they are conciously motivated by food faith, are vulnerable to unconscious biases in their processing of evidence.

But they will recognize that market behavior conveys the opinion of economically (not ideologically) interested actors -- lots & lots of them -- on what the weight & significance of the science implies. They'll get that a price signal amplifies informational signal b/c mistakes based on bias of any sort (computational, ideological etc) cancel out. They'll find it interesting, then, to see how an index of relevant funds has performed hisrtoriclly, and does perform prospectively, in response to release of new papers & reports, etc.

What's more, if they see that other resonable people, including ones whose priors are different from theirs, are also willing to see such an index as a relevant source of evidence that gives them reason to adjust their priors in one way or another (& who don't make the science-illiterate mistake of thinking that 'evidence' "proves' things as opposed to supply reason for treating a hypothsis as more or less likely to be true than one otherwise woudl have estimated), they'll be able to observe evidence of how many people are willing to proceed in this open-minded way.

That evidence not only allows them to adjust their priors about how many people are like that; it also supplies them, as emotional and moral reciprocators, w/ reason to contribute to the common good of being a person of exactly that sort, modeling for the rest of humanity how sensible people w/ different perceptions about a matter subject to empirical investigation should proceed. Maybe this would catch on?

May 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@NiV:

I'm not "sold" entirely on all the extravagant claims made about the potential for "prediction markets" to enlarge our understanding of complicated matters.

But it is clear that a price signal is a very very very different thing from a "another" measure of "public opinion," as you suggestsed. There are differences in motivation, conscious & otherwise: ordinary people-- and experts too- who "predict" things are subject to various incentives that are unaligned w/ "getting it right"; not so for econoically self-interested actors. There are differences too in selection & filtering-- *different* sorts of people "emote" in public opinion from invest in mkts; mkts cancel out certain types of biases, whereas public opion amplifies them.

There is, as you know, an extensive literature on this.

Again, I think that ltierature overclaims. But it's not really satisfying to say the a mkt measure of assessment of climate science is just another "public opinon" measure.

May 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Dan some points:

1. Agree entirely that quantifying % of skeptics holding any of a myriad different, nuanced positions is as silly and unhelpful as doing the same re: scientists, which is why I declined to get into a long back and forth over it.

2. Your idea about a market in global warming is interesting, but it has two problems as I see it:
2a) How would it actually or practically work? Prediction markets typically involve a prediction about a particular event -- election or some other measureable occurrance on or by a particular date -- and that's what people are betting their money on. What is it that would induce people to put their money into a global warming market or index -- i.e., how would they actually get paid? Well, NiV's bonds suggest one possibility.
2b) Such a market would certainly be an interesting phenomenon in its own right, but I too wouldn't consider it evidence of anything other than the monetary beliefs of its participants. If you think otherwise, consider the following hypothetical: such a market has been set up, and it falls, i.e., it shows a growing disbelief in global warming however defined and measured -- would that affect your priors? What if the fall seemed to be correlated with a campaign against AGW? Or just correlated with a trend in center-right media against AGW? Or correlated with a similar shift in center-left media? Would your own sense of the science behind global warming, even though it's non-expert, really be changed in such cases?

3. I'm puzzled by your dogged efforts to belittle Nullius in verba. It's a motto at the very heart of the culture of science (notwithstanding the obvious point that it's not meant to be taken literally in everyday life), and it stands in contrast to the prescientific, and now anti-scientific, appeal to Authority. Clearly, you're not anti-scientific, but it's disheartening to see how the appeal to Authority, now in the form of questionable "consensus", nevertheless seems to override a major cultural/historical breakthrough.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

I don't know, maybe I'm an outlier, but in the world politics course I teach, when we discuss climate change, I do highlight the fact that the insurance and other industries are already factoring significant climate change into their risk models as yet another strong indicator that the science and evidence regarding climate change is pretty overwhelming.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Why should we expect the project of quantifying what pct of "skeptics" believe one thing or another or engage in one style of argumentation or another to get any further in advancing knowledge or extending constructive conversational engagement than surveys of "scientific consensus"?

I wouldn't. I only commented becase the discussion of what different groups of skeptics believe came up. I agree this has gotten off track from the main point of the post.

Would it help reasonable people trying to make sense of what the weight & significance of sicentific evidence is to be able to have an index of the perfornabce if stocks the value of which depends on the expectation that global warming will occur?

I do, though I think it's still difficult to actually do unless the time frame for testing the question is rather long. For example: Do you include real estate plays involving lake front properties in the Mid-West vs. that in Florida? If I believe the sea level will rise, temperatures will rise and hurrican threats will increase, I might very well prefer to buy property on rivers in Tennesee or Arkansas, on small lakes in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesotta, Michigan or on the Great Lakes than buying property on the keys? How do things like green energy count? Or investing in Tesla? There's an awful lot of government intervention in those technology fields.

With regard to government intervention: you must always consider this issue with any industry that is heavily regulated. I have no idea how government intervention may distort insurance investments because I have little familiarity. But I know that the field is regulated, and that could affect some investment and business decisions. So for example: Insurance agencies reactions to court rulings after Katrina could easily have a confounding effect with their assessment of the increase in actual damages. Similarly politicians pressing for different ratings of Sandy could have an effect. So the degree of economic build up (and to some extent overbuilding) along shorelines. There were fewer hotels and condos right up against the shorelines when I was a kid. Some view this build up unwise even if AGW were not occuring. And whether or not AGW is occuring, the build up does affect insurance companies hurricane damage policies.

To prevent bias in the index, it would be best if someone defines the index first and then watches the performance. Otherwise, I suspect, the choice of the goods in the basket might be biased by someone's notion of the "right" answer. If there is any appearance of this sort of selection bais, pointing to the change in price of the index might do little good.

But this is always a problem for evaluating climate change.

For what it's worth: I think the people jumping to invest in exploting polar caps do anticipate the caps will continue to melt and not refreze. I anticipate that also. To a large extent, the reason I anticipate it will continue to melt is that I do think AGW is warming the planet. If I believed it was totally non-anthropogenic, I'd expect more or less a coin toss. But I think those investing in plays that benefit from additional melting are doing so wisely. If there is some clean way to develop a metric that quantifies this and which those who wish to doubt the metric don't see as cherry picked, that might convince them. At least mentioning it ought to sway people. It is mentioned less often than it should be.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

@Larry:

I don't belittle nullius in verba. I worship it.

1. Anyone who belittles will get nowhere in communicating w/ the citizens of the Liberal Republic of Science. Nullius in verba is their worldview -- whther they are "hierarchical individualists," "egalitarian communicatarins," "egalitarian indivdiaulsits," or "hierarchical communitarians."

2. Anyone who believes that nullius in verba describes how what's known to science becomes known will also get nowhere in communicating. That model of science communication is absurd.

So please tell me how to reconcile 1 & 2. Please?

May 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Jason:

Where do you do this? And what happens?

I've not done any sort of rigorous investigation of the extent to which the "give me some money' strategy (let's call it) is used.

But I know that I've never heard it mentioned once in dozens of events featuring earnest, urgent, discussion among various actors who want to improve public engagement with climate science. The likelihood that it's a strategy among such communicators but was neverhtless left out of all these discussions strikes me as very low.

I really would be very excited to learn about real-world use of GMSM -- & unembarrassed to discover that once again I've overlooked something I should know about.

Thx!

May 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan--
I think Jason says that he mentions insurance in the courses on world politics he teaches.

I think you are saying you don't see people explaining how one might better communicate science don't suggest doing what Jason does and they don't suggest including this sort of information when discussing with the public.

Both could be true. I tend to think that you are correct that those explaining how to communicate with the public don't suggest this strategy. Instead we read things like admonitions to "frame" or explain that people questions have false premises. (Both these things can seriously back fire especially if done in public and bloggers point out the obviousness of the tactic. )

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlucia

Not on the "bright side" but definitely competent and relevant is the Carbon Tracker Initiative (to whom I have no affiliation) at www.carbontracker.org

I think they're on to something and wish them well.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewF

@Lucia-- thanks. You are right that @Jason did say in his "course."

I'd still be curious to hear what the reaction is when the topic comes up. Not to mention happy to learn that the GMSM strategy is in use already.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

@AndrewF:

Thanks. That is quite interesting -- & new(s) to me. But CTI seems more in the nature of "consumer politics" approach to climate-change activism: msg is, If you are convinced, & want to do something, then channel your investments away from the myriad firms that are investing in exploiting fossil fuel reserves. But what if you aren't convinced?

Actually, I think keeping track of the stocks on this exchange would help you to form a sense of how likely any sort of govt action to constrain carbon emissions is. The value of these stocks will go down if investors become convinced that serious regulatory action is going to occur.

I see no rational evidence of that -- in the price signals of these securities or anywhere else.

May 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Lucia:

On design of the index:

a. Funds that reflect value of business ventures exploting govt regulation to avert or repsond to climate change should be excluded. Those reflect expectations about politics, not nature.

b. In an index that included only securities & other instruments the value of which depends on global warming occurring, the prospect of effective intervention to forestall climate change would definitely drive the price down. Drops in the price could thus reflect either the perception that the 'science' isn't convincing or that int'l govt action is becoming more likely. The two effects could likely be disentangled through good "event studies" that included measures of both sorts of events (science-information ones & regulatory-action ones). But I suspect no rational investor believes govt action will genuinely constrain the pace of global warming (I suppose Goldman Sachs could short all the instruments in the index & then engage in massive world-wide lobbying/bribery campaign to get govts to ban fossil fuel use! If that happens, then the high-scoring "conspiracy theorist" subjects in Lewindowsky's study will be proven to be the only people who really understood how the world works after all)

May 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan, have you considered indexing those businesses who cater for the citizen who likes to be prepared?

If stock suddenly started going up, would you believe?

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV:

No.

But you see the difference, don't you?

The value of firms that cater to "survivalists" reflects investor expectations about the consumer behavior of survivalists, which is driven by their understanding of events, however accurate or inaccurate.

The value of securities & other instruments the value of which depends on global warming occurring reflects investor expectations about the temperature of the earth, which is indifferent to anyone's understanding of anything.

Show me an index of funds the value of which depends on civilization actually coming to an end. What to make of changes in its price will present us w/ a nice philosophical puzzle.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdmk38

So please tell me how to reconcile 1 & 2.

Would that I could, Dan, but I think you have to be open to the possibility that they're irreconcilable. And I think that's what makes your question of "What is to be done?" fundamentally unanswerable, within the terms of the problem as you've framed it -- it's as though you've painted yourself into a corner. One way out, of course, would be to do what you've denied doing (and I welcome that) -- belittle that irritating motto "Nullius in verba", and encourage a reliance on Authority once again, regardless of how that conflicts with the worldview of "Liberal Republic of Science", and simply hoping that Science (big-S) will assume the role of that Authority rather than something worse. I think (I certainly hope) that you too would regard that as abhorrent. So the better way would be to re-examine 2, the notion that "Anyone who believes that nullius in verba describes how what's known to science becomes known will also get nowhere in communicating." Granted, it may not describe the standard methods of teaching science in textbooks, say (though there are criticisms of that fact), and it doesn't describe the way people commonly pick up scraps of scientific information they make use of in the course of their day, though that merely negates the trivially literal version of the motto. But what I think it does describe is an ideal kind or style of communicating that becomes important precisely when it's needed -- when there are public and significant disputes about what's "known to science". Here is where science communicators have a real opportunity to place as much emphasis on the motto as is practical, laying out facts and evidence on all sides of the dispute, and distinguishing rational argument from hype and emotion, even when the latter are coming from scientists. They can encourage, in other words, a critical engagement of the public with the science as far as possible, and provide a path whereby individuals who wish to investigate further can do so, without being channelled. Or, of course, they can be passive transmitters of whatever emanates from whichever side of the dispute they think represents consensus, aka Authority. Even worse, in my view, would be to become active amplifiers and enforcers of mere Authority.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Lucia -

I know folks have (rightfully) moved on, and I really don't want to get bogged down in repeating - but I just want to clarify:

On the other hand, if your point is to say that we can't know who the adjective "legitimate" applies to: s I agree.

That was part of my point. My larger point is that people (of all climate persuasions) create self-serving definitions of terms and in doing so, merely perpetuate same ol' same ol.'

I often don't even know which beliefs or traits are those supposedly shared by "skeptics".

I think that no one knows that exactly, but many claim that they do. IMO, I often see definitions that are contorted to the point of being limited and inaccurate. I see those contorted/limited/inaccurate definitions as being produced by motivated reasoning and in the end, just more same ol' same ol' and counterproductive (but then again, just what is "productive" in the climate debate?). I think that when "skeptics" shape the definition of the term in inaccurate ways it is no less counterproductive than when "realists" do it (e.g., by equating all "skeptics" to "deniers").

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Dan -

Why should we expect the project of quantifying what pct of "skeptics" believe one thing or another or engage in one style of argumentation or another to get any further in advancing knowledge or extending constructive conversational engagement than surveys of "scientific consensus"? the same conceptual issues that constrain the latter will apply to the former.

I think it would be a problem to expect significant advancement. I do think, however, that movement is possible in very small increments - if only my own movement and not that of others.

why not trace your way back to the trunk from which this branch of exchange sprouted? Would it help reasonable people trying to make sense of what the weight & significance of sicentific evidence is to be able to have an index of the perfornabce if stocks the value of which depends on the expectation that global warming will occur?

IMO, stocks often move based on short-term interests, related to share price as an end in itself (say, because it increases stock options of execs), and isolated from more rational underlying considerations. CFOs not so infrequently make financially unsustainable decisions (long-term) merely to attract investors. And then there is just plain old herd mentality, and the ways that economists are increasingly finding themselves challenged to understand "irrational" economic behaviors (those seemingly not consistent with maximizing utility).

I am having a hard time fully understanding what you're going for here generally, but from what (I think) I get, I'm wondering how you are including what I just described in your speculation. Perhaps that is because I'm not fully grasping what you are describing - but it seems to me that you are assuming too much rational decision-making?


What's more, if they see that other resonable people, including ones whose priors are different from theirs, are also willing to see such an index as a relevant source of evidence that gives them reason to adjust their priors in one way or another (& who don't make the science-illiterate mistake of thinking that 'evidence' "proves' things as opposed to supply reason for treating a hypothsis as more or less likely to be true than one otherwise woudl have estimated), they'll be able to observe evidence of how many people are willing to proceed in this open-minded way.

That evidence not only allows them to adjust their priors about how many people are like that; it also supplies them, as emotional and moral reciprocators, w/ reason to contribute to the common good of being a person of exactly that sort, modeling for the rest of humanity how sensible people w/ different perceptions about a matter subject to empirical investigation should proceed. Maybe this would catch on?

Again, I'm left with the question of whether you are assuming too much rationality in economics-based behavior.

May 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

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