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Commentary

Readings: Warming, Bonds, Book Writing

Krugman blames global warming for "popular rage" from lack of food. Sadly, this is really shallow. We’ve had food crises for ages, and we only had a relatively nice period in the last 10 or so years. That we’re warming is a fact, but it’s not that humans are influencing it, regardless of the so-called consensus. Rage against food prices is usually the straw that breaks a camel’s back – people are usually pissed off about other things, like corruption (and Egypt *is* a prime example).Blaming a "vast leftist conspiracy" is just a strawman.

12 steps to get things done. (The Kirk Report)

A great post on Bonds: Bond Trading 101 (Pragmatic Capitalism)

Food has 50% weight in the New CPI, and housing, 10%. Releasing 18th Feb (CPI)

James Altucher on writing books with details. (The Altucher Confidential) Incredible – just 14,000 of his "Trade like a hedge fund" sold. Books don’t seem to make much money.

  • abhikush says:

    >Deepak,

    I generally like your analysis and I understand your skepticism on Climate Change. However, It would be better if you could provide some hard data.

    I followed the the link in the statement "That we're warming is a fact, but it's not that humans are influencing it, regardless of the so-called consensus"

    I found this statement: "In a 2003 interview with National Public Radio about the 2003 American Geophysical Union (AGU) statement, he said he is "a strong critic of scientists who make catastrophic predictions of huge increases in global temperatures and tremendous rises in sea levels.". He added, though, that "it is scientifically inconceivable that after changing forests into cities, turning millions of acres into irrigated farmland, putting massive quantities of soot and dust into the air, and putting extra greenhouse gases into the air, that the natural course of climate has not changed in some way.""

    The guy admits that humans have influenced the climate (it is inconceivable to him how humans could not have changed the climate).

    I think we have to agree that humans have had an impact on climate. Where we may disagree is on how we should respond to it. "Leftists" may want to protect environment to the extent that it harms the economy. "Rightists" on the other hand would do the opposite.

    You may be justified in your skepticism of the dire predictions based on models but please do not confuse it with whether humans can have an impact.

    Having said that I agree with you that the Krugman's analysis is shallow.

  • Deepak Shenoy says:

    >Abhikush: I am a strong believer now that humans have an insignificant impact on the warming process. We have an impact, no doubt, but it is not in any way close to being significant. More CO2 is emitted by soil and plant decay than by humans – by a factor of 15! Thats just one point. We would have warmed anyway, and nothing we did has ever influenced warming in a way that a tiny blip of natural change wouldn't reverse.

    I have written more (but obviously not enough) at http://blog.investraction.com/2009/11/off-topic-global-warming-emails-reveal.html.

    I am being quite honest – I do not think humans have influenced warming significantly. I write categorically that we don't influence it, in the sense that an ant climbing the leaning tower of pisa doesn't make it lean more. Mathematically, there is an infinitesimal impact, but er…no.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Deepak,

    I've only recently started reading your blog, but I must say you bring some excellent insight into investing and economic matters. In fact, this is one of the most worthwhile Indian blogs that I've come across in quite a while. (just my humble opinion!)

    So I'm even more disappointed to hear you say "humans have an insignificant impact on GW" and leave it at that. For the implication of that position could be "let us humans just continue industrializing and consuming the way we have been for the last century…the planet is too vast for us ants to have any significant
    impact!"

    Well, the fact is that by continuing all the human activities that are "supposedly" causing warming we humans are UNDENIABLY,and perhaps irreversibly, polluting our planet's air, water and soil, and killing off countless species of animals and plants who also have a right to life on this planet.

    And conversely, all the measures that climate & environmental scientists recommend to mitigate global warming will also mitigate the poisoning of our planet, and benefit not just "the environment," but also current and future generations of human beings.

    The BIG PICTURE is crystal clear…unless current human development models are significantly transformed, life on our planet is eventually doomed. It makes no difference whether we burn to death or poison ourselves to death.

    -PB

  • Deepak Shenoy says:

    >PB, firstly thanks for the compliments!

    My position isn't that we should pollute – pollution is bad regardless.

    But CO2 is not a pollutant. The policy of stopping co2 emissions is bad, because the amount of CO2 we emit is hardly worth mentioning in comparison. CO2 based strategies to "counter" global warming will destroy our planet. Yes we should stop deforestation, and pollution, but we should get off the CO2 horse. And we should work strategies for warming, which will happen anyway.

    Yes, we must continue to industrialize but not in the old polluting way. Nat gas for instance is great – it doesn't pollute (very little, but it does do CO2, which is not a pollutant). Nuclear is fantastic (it is the greenest form of energy). The problem is the anti warming camp does NOT suggest those alternatives – they do crap like carbon trading and CO2 reductions, which are terrible.

    I've done some serious work on this so it's not just me spouting away – been researching it for two years now. The field is full of shady statistical inferences, stuff that would get them thrown out of the class if they did it in any other rigorous field. But it's my right to be skeptical too.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Thanks for your reply, Deepak.

    I haven't researched GW studies as extensively, but some questions I'd pose to skeptics would be:
    a) do they have conclusive evidence of their own that greenhouse effect is non-existent? Or that carbon emissions play absoutely no role?
    b) When they tabulate total human CO2 contribution, are they also accounting for the impact of human destruction of forest & plant cover over the last couple of centuries?
    c) Is it a coincidence that some of the heaviest polluting industries of the world (and their beneficiaries like the influential Koch bros. in the US) are among the strongest opponents of climate change mitigation policies?

    Misrepresenting or fudging data sets is absolutely inexcusable. But I find it hard to believe that the vast majority of climate scientists are conspiring to destroy the planet (or its economies) by misinterpreting research findings. What is their vested interest?

    Though of course, being skeptical and demanding rigour are valid rights, Deepak. (Wasn't questioning that…was only wishing that you had initially acknowledged that human patterns need to change for the better)

    -PB

  • Deepak Shenoy says:

    >PB:

    a) They first need conclusive evidence that man made warming exists. The data is very inconclusive to even someone who has a rudimentary idea of statistics. The "adjustments" they do to tweak things is very shady, and more importantly, note this: The total temp differential in the last 140 years is some 0.6 degrees. Just one volcano eruption in the early 90s – just one single volcano – took the average surface temp down over 1.5 degrees worldwide. Plus, we are in a warming cycle, the earth will warm anyway (10,000 year data sets show that). Finally, did you know we were hotter than this a long time back? That's the stuff they don't tell you.

    b) The funda is this: CO2 contributions by plants are MUCH greater. Deforestation is bad for other reasons (soil erosion, air quality etc). But in the context of global warming, there is no conclusive proof it has increased temperatures (other than the Urban heat island effect but that is more to do with concrete and density and local weather rather than climate)

    c) How does that matter? The climate change thing is a business now – tens of billions are spent on research. They will protect their turf also. So will oil companies. The point is that we need skepticism and while there are a few voices, there aren't enough. Oil money can still fund good research.

    The vast majority of climate scientists aren't explicitly "conspiring" – but if you look at the emails leaked out recently, you will find instances of how much they supressed info, how much they hated the skeptics and how they protected their turf. When your career and reputation is at stake, scientists, like most humans, will resist change – and with the current levels of funding, the game has economic repurcussions. In that context, I don't take anyone at face value anymore; which is why I reach my own conclusions.

    Human patterns always need to change for the better. But we are doing ourselves a huge disfavour by concentrating on CO2. We need to focus on adaptation, geoengineering, using more natural gas and nuclear fuels and learning to live with warming. Polluting industries should be controlled for pollution, not CO2.

  • Anonymous says:

    >Deepak, I hope your skeptics' camp is right. I am not convinced just yet, but thanks for your information and views…will make me look at this issue in more depth.

    Just some last few closing points:
    a) That volcano temperature effect sounds like a temporary occurrence, as opposed to the more persistent temperature increase from global warming.
    b) It would be helpful if those in the global-warming-is-a-natural-cycle camp offered an explanation for the cyclicality.
    c) I mentioned destruction of forests since they serve as natural carbon sinks, making them relevant to the issue of containing global warming too.
    d) No doubt research on adaptation is important too. Would be nice if oil money or the American right-wing helped achieve substantive progress on that front.

    -PB

  • Deepak Shenoy says:

    >PB: I would definitely recommend you look at the various camps out there and come to your own conclusions as well.

    a) Volcano wise – we have had a very nice calm period in terms of big volcanos for the last 18 years. Things had gone much worse in the first 30 years of the 20th century. What I'm trying to say is the effect of nature is THAT much more than anything else.

    b) You don't need explanations for cyclicality, just that it exists. Like there are ice ages and warm ages, and we are coming out of a little ice age around 1800 (and you always warm more to catch up after blips like that)

    c) Forests are good – I'm all for more of that. But they don't do quite as much for warming because the reduce sunlight reflection. Plus, there is a scale problem – forests don't do well uncontrolled, and when you control them you end up being carbon neutral (though I think this is a good conclusion – forget the carbonality, keep the forests)

    d) I don't know about American right-wing or oil-money, but I hope so too. There are people working on solutions, but policy at nations pushes them towards a carbon agenda, and the currently influential scientists aren't helping by ignoring other solutions. But in the end, science will prevail.