Thursday, December 27, 2007

The "400": Economists for the climate high jump

What better way to end 2007 that a good old fashioned rant against "Economists" by "real" scientists.

This relates to a previous post on this blog:

Inhofe fights back: Sceptics Christmas message

In this article I suggested that what needed to be done was to have a good look at exactly who these 400 scientists were and attempt to debunk them. This has been done but the results were somewhat surprising.

It is "ironic" and more than a little amusing to find that the biggest criticism that the debunkers can come with is that there are too many "economists" on the list and given that economists are rank somewhere around the primeval swamp level this means Infofe's famous 400 can be instantly dismissed.

We are now in the strange position of having to debunk the debunkers. As far as I can see at a quick glance there are 8 economists (out of 400). Consider this when reading the following post:

This article is from the gloriously named "Crooks and Liars".

Don’t believe Inhofe’s hype [Crooks and Liars]

Late last week, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) released a so-called “report,” pointing to hundreds of alleged independent scientists who agree with him about climate change — which is to say, they deny the reality of global warming.

More than 400 scientists challenge claims by former Vice President Al Gore and the United Nations about the threat of man-made global warming, a new Senate minority report says.

Far-right blogs pounced, heralding Inhofe’s “expose.”

There is, however, one small problem: Inhofe’s report plays fast and loose with the facts.

“Padded” would be an extremely generous description of this list of “prominent scientists.” Some would use the word “laughable” (though not the N.Y. Times‘ Andy Revkin, see below). For instance, since when have economists, who are pervasive on this list, become scientists, and why should we care what they think about climate science?

There’s been a lot of great coverage of this, highlighting Inhofe’s many errors of fact and judgment, including items here, here, and here.

It is the Climate Progress article that the economists get singled out for attention.

Inhofe recycles unscientific attacks on global warming, NYT’s Revkin gives him a pass


Who are these mythical economists?

Here are the economists that signed up (I may have missed some). Can 8 be considered pervasive?

Hans H.J. Labohm, PhD, economist, former advisor to the executive board, Clingendael Institute (The Netherlands Institute of International Relations), The Netherlands

An economic historian. NO peer reviewed papers according to desmogblog (link above).

The Rt. Hon. Lord Lawson of Blaby, economist; Chairman of the Central Europe Trust; former Chancellor of the Exchequer, U.K.

Right-winger who writes populist articles in the press. Peer reviewed papers limited (or none).

Alister McFarquhar, PhD, international economist, Downing College, Cambridge, U.K.

PhD 1962. Not prolific. Peer reviews articles limited.

Ross McKitrick, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. of Economics, University of Guelph, Canada

Some decent papers in some good journals.

1. McKitrick, Ross R. (2006) Why Did US Air Pollution Decline After 1970? Empirical Economics , DOI:10.1007/s00181-006-0111-4.
2. McKitrick, Ross (2006). The Politics of Pollution: Party Regimes and Air Quality in Canada Canadian Journal of Economics 39(2), May 2006, 604-620.
3. McKitrick, Ross (2005). "Decentralizing a Regulatory Standard Expressed in Ratio or Intensity Form." Energy Journal 26(4) 1-9.
4. McKitrick, Ross and Timothy Shufelt (2002). "Environmental Impacts of Enhanced Property Rights." Environment and Energy 13(3) pp. 367-382.
5. McKitrick, Ross R. and Robert C. Collinge. (2002) "The Existence and Uniqueness of Optimal Pollution Policy in the Presence of Victim Defense Measures." Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 44, pp 106-122.
6. McKitrick, Ross R. (2001) "The Design of Regulations Expressed as Ratios or Percentage Quotas." Journal of Regulatory Economics 19(3), pp. 295-305.
7. Weersink, Alfons, Ross McKitrick and Michael Nailor (2001). "The Economics of Voluntary Shared Cost Programs" Current Agriculture, Food and Resource Issues 2/2001:23-36. (CAFRI)
8. McKitrick, Ross R. (2001). "Mitigation versus Compensation in Global Warming Policy" Economics Bulletin, Vol 17 no. 2 pp. 1-6.
9. McKitrick, Ross R. and Robert C. Collinge, (2000) "Linear Pigovian Taxes and the Optimal Size of a Polluting Industry" Canadian Journal of Economics 33(4) pp. 1106-1119.
10. McKitrick, Ross R. (1999) "A Derivation of the Marginal Abatement Cost Function." Journal of Environmental Economics and Management May 1999, pp. 306-314.
11. Helliwell, John F. and Ross R. McKitrick, (1999) "Comparing Capital Mobility across National and Provincial Borders," Canadian Journal of Economics 32(5) pp. 1164-1173. additional results
12. McKitrick, Ross R. (1999) "A Cournot Mechanism for Pollution Control under Asymmetric Information." Environmental and Resource Economics October 1999, pp. 353-363.
13. McKitrick, Ross R. (1998) "The Econometric Critique of Applied General Equilibrium Modelling: The Role of Functional Forms." Economic Modelling 15 pp. 543-573.
14. McKitrick, Ross (1997). "Double-Dividend Environmental Taxation and Canadian Carbon Emissions Control" Canadian Public Policy December 1997, pp. 417-434.

Frank Milne, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Economics, Queen's University, Canada

An excellent economist with a string of top papers although nothing in environmental economics journals unfortunately. Not sure where his skepticism comes from.

# Frank Milne and Klaus Ritzberger, "Strategic Pricing of Equity Issues", Economic Theory, 20, 2002, pp. 271-294.

# Dilip Madan, Frank Milne and Robert Elliott, Incomplete Diversification and Asset Pricing in K. Sandmann and Plilipp Schonbucher (eds.) Advances in Finance and Statistics, Springer, Berlin, 2002.

# Frank Milne and Xing Jin "The Existence of Equilibrium in a Financial Market with Transaction Costs," in Quantitative Analysis in Financial Markets: Collected Papers of the New York University Mathematical Finance Seminar ed. Marco Avellaneda, Jeffrey D. Phillips, World Scientific Pub Co., 1999.

# Frank Milne and David Kelsey, "Induced Preferences, Non-Additive Probabilities and Multiple Priors," International Economic Review, 40(2), May 1999, pages 455-478.

# Frank Milne, "Liquidity and Control: A Dynamic Theory of Corporate Ownership Structure: Comment," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 154(1), March 1998, pages 212-15.

# Frank Milne and David Kelsey, "Induced Preferences, Dynamic Consistency and Dutch Books," Economica, 64(255), August 1997, pages 471-81.

# Frank Milne and David Kelsey, "The Existence of Equilibrium in Incomplete Markets and the Objective Function of the Firm," Journal of Mathematical Economics, 25(2), 1996, pages 229-45.

Alan Moran, PhD, Energy Economist, Director of the IPA's Deregulation Unit, Australia

An interesting article can be read here:

How on earth did Alan Moran get a PhD in “public transport economics”?

Academic papers limited.

Andrei Illarionov, PhD, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, U.S.; founder and director of the Institute of Economic Analysis, Russia

Andrei Illarionov, former chief economic adviser to Russian president Vladimir Putin, is a Senior Fellow of the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Illarionov has been an assistant professor of international economics at St. Petersburg University, where he received a Ph.D. in 1987. In 1992 he became deputy director of the Center for Economic Reform, the Russian government’s think tank. In April 1993 he became chief economic adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, a position he resigned in February 1994. Illarionov has written three books and more than 300 articles on Russian economic and social policies.

Alex Robson, PhD, Economics, Australian National University

Three published papers and lots of policy type papers. ET is a good journal.

* "Costly Enforcement of Property Rights and the Coase Theorem," (with Stergios Skaperdas), forthcoming, Economic Theory.
* "The Welfare Cost of Capital Immobility and Capital Controls" (with A.J. Makin), Economic Analysis and Policy, 36 (1/2), March/September 2006, pp 13-24.
* "Comparing Trade and Capital Weighted Measures of Australia's Effective Exchange Rate" (joint with A.J. Makin), Pacific Economic Review, June, 1999.

Now, here are the problems.

First, eight out of a total of 400 is by reckoning a very small percentage and hardly worth a headline.

Second, which ever way you cut this cake it is hard to come to the conclusion that you have got any of the worlds leading economists or environmental economists.

I leave it to the reader to dig deeper.


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Anonymous said...

I don't get this. Why should I care what an economist says about a physics/climate science problem? I don't care what climate scientists say about monetary policy...

Rob said...

anonymous - why do you think it has been so difficult to get agreement on what to do about global warming? Why can't China and the US agree on the way forward? It is because of money and economics.

If you want emissions to be reduced and soon you better get a shed load of economists on board quick.

Evan Herrnstadt said...

I think the point anonymous was making is that economists should work through their economic analyses taking climate impact probability distributions from climate scientists as given.

If an economist is a climate skeptic, they either shouldn't be working in this area or they should dishonestly cherry pick the climate analyses produced by skeptical climate scientists. Not to encourage such behavior of course...

Anonymous said...

Exactly Evan. Thanks.

I know my point is somewhat academic, but it really should always be kept in mind that specialization in field A doesn't mean you know anything (much) about field B. Economists without formal training and peer revied papers in climatology that are making claims about climate mechanics etc. should be treated with the same kind of scepticism as e.g. economists without training in cosmology making claims about the inexistince of black holes.

I think the problem is wholly political. The electorate has not been sufficiently interested in this problem and a whole bunch of special interests have been very interested to see nothing being done. I'd say things really changed 2007.

Web said...

It’s great that more people are focusing on making better environmental choices. Plus technology is making it more economical now, and that’s what people really notice. Wind energy, solar power, hybrids and zap EV’s, our choices are good. There are now electric cars being sold everyday, you just plug it into a regular power outlet. When people test drive them they say it’s far more fun to drive an EV.