Saturday, October 17, 2009

SuperFreakonomics Chapter 5 Reactions

Andrew Gelman just posted a review without having read the book, so why can't I? Allow me six thoughts:

1) Once Romm pulls his pdf there are no other pirated versions of the chapter still swimming around on Google? Listen, internet, I'm not angry. Just disappointed. The best you can find are the two pages on DeLong's blog. And the mishaps do seem pretty bad there.

2) Levitt responded here, noting that
[W]e believe that rising global temperatures are a man-made phenomenon and that global warming is an important issue to solve... meaningfully reducing global carbon emissions has proven to be difficult... other approaches represent a more promising path to lowering the Earth’s temperature.
If that is their opinion, then it sounds like a very reasonable one, pretty close to where I stand. The disconnect is that those mishaps that DeLong and Connolley point out indicate that Levitt and Dubner haven't done the proper fact checking. And in many circles you're not even allowed in polite conversation after that. Perhaps the version that was leaked was never meant to be the final copy, but I doubt it.

3) This is what Levitt and Dubner deserve for forcing people to click through the links from RSS to read their posts. Vomit breath karma.

4) Tyler Cowen does not like geoengineering but Robin Hanson says he does and quite frankly Robin's reasons are a lot more convincing. Tyler's post is old but he just reiterated support for it here. So I must ask him, how are the political difficulties of geoengineering more cumbersome than the political difficulties of emissions limits?

5) The worst possible way that this whole fiasco can end up is that readers write off geoengineering for instant ridicule without examining it. Here's a fairly skeptical treatment of it in the Atlantic from a month or two ago. Here's Real Climate with another skeptical analysis--they show predictions of how SO2 in the atmosphere might affect precipitation, and note that once geoengineering ends the temp will rise again. Yes geoengineering would probably have some bad effects and micro-studies should be done on it now to see what those might be. But it represents a last-ditch saving throw for humanity in case things get really bad before other tech like CO2 sequestering can save us. And the supposed downside is that by supporting it govs will take emissions cutting less seriously? Because they aren't doing so anyways...

6) Everyone is prefacing their posts by saying "I liked the first one, but...". Of course you liked the first one, everyone did. The first one was money. No need to state the obvious.