Every political movement is a broad church: no ideology can capture the shifting subtleties of a range of policy prescriptions. As a fellow traveller in the Transition Network movement, I see this truism vividly revealed when it comes to nuclear (and perhaps also GM, but that is another story). Transition attracts many former New Agers who have an anti-science bias coded into their DNA. Yet is also appeals to highly educated free-spirited techies who prefer Wired Magazine to healing crystals. The New Agers don’t take kindly to articles such as this in the New York Times advocating the case for nuclear, but personally I think nuclear should play an integral part in protecting the planet—surely the core New Age belief.
On my bookshelf is a text on economics and forecasting by Robert Pindyck, a famous MIT economist. Pindyck recently stepped into the fray on climate change by publishing an NBER working paper called “Climate Change: What Do the Models Tell Us?” In the article, he attacks 1) climate sensitivity models for their inability to grasp the uncertainties in feedback loops (I don’t really agree with this) and 2) the poor state of damage functions that model climate change economic impacts (I almost completely agree with this). At first glance, this plays to the climate skeptic meme of “the models are useless, so we shouldn’t take any action” (and I am sure this is how they will spin the paper). Yet Pindyck’s conclusion is that we should still enact a carbon tax since the cost of adverse outcomes could be unacceptably high—even if, as he states, this is based on a subjective evaluation. The journalist Robert Samuelson gives a short commentary on Pindyck’s arguments here (if you don’t want to wade through the original NBER paper).
The Financial Times had an excellent series of articles at the beginning of the week on the job prospects of the new cohort of graduates called “Class of the Crunch”. It makes chilling reading, with new graduates facing a combination of fewer graduate level jobs, lower starting salaries for the jobs that do remain and, of course, a big debt burden even before entry into the workforce.
That said, the job prospects of those without tertiary qualifications are far worse. The OECD’s flagship report on educational statistics across member states, “Education at a Glance 2013” starts with an editorial documenting the growing gap between those with high and low educational attainment between 2008 and 2011–although systems with a vocationally orientated secondary education systems such as Germany have managed to control this gap to a certain extent.
The Independent newspaper led its front page on Monday with “Exposed: The Myth of the Global Warming Pause“. For reference, the original article that underpins The Independent‘s reporting can be found here. Personally, I am highly sceptical that any one paper will suddenly transform our knowledge and understanding of a particular phenomenon overnight (although this does on occasion happen). That is why the regular “New Paper Disproves Global Warming” type headline favoured by Watts Up with That and its climate skeptic ilk is of such low intellectual worth. Quite probably, measurement error accounts for some of the temperature hiatus, but I think it more likely that we have a number of layered factors causing the pause. I could be wrong, but I would prefer to make my mind up on the strength of more than one paper (and one newspaper headline).