Learnt climate helplessness: an Xmas puzzle

A holiday post-prandial puzzle for you.

Another chart of the attitudes of Americans to climate change, from a long-term Yale/GMU project – it’s nice to know that GMU has some reality-based faculty, unconnected to the Koch payroll at the Mercatus Center. As usual, apologies for the poor-resolution screengrab. Better version in the source pdf, page 10.

This is more than odd. In the latest survey, only 32% of respondents who accept climate change thought that the carbon-saving actions they’d taken or were considering would “reduce my contribution to global warming a lot/some” (call this question A). Then (question B) 60% agreed that “if most people in the USA did these same actions, it would reduce global warming a lot/some”. Question C was the same, extended to “most people in modern industrialized countries “: 70% agreed.

On the face of it, this combination of positions is contradictory; a logical mistake, of the same order as found in Kahneman and Tversky’s famous Laura experiment.
It’s easiest to see this if we imagine a fourth question D which the survey didn’t put, asking about the impact “if everybody in the world took these same actions”. Now the answer to A and D should be the same. If I reduce my contribution to global warming – my carbon footprint – by 50%, and everybody else in the world reduces theirs by 50%, then the total contribution to global warming also falls by 50%. The answer to question C should be lower, because (a) it’s “most”, not all, and (b) only a fifth of the world’s people live in modern industrialised countries (say OECD members), while poor India and China are very large and growing carbon emitters. The answer to B should be lower again, because the USA population is only a quarter of the OECD’s. The C/B dominance was what was observed, and tends to confirm that respondents took the exercise seriously.

Given the population data, the logically required hierarchy is A(=D) > C > B. The survey consistently found C > B > A, over six cycles. What is going on? Please help me out.

Hypotheses:

1. I have got the whole thing wrong and made some simple mistake in reasoning. Show me.

2. The respondents are dumb and incoherent.
Objections:
(a) If people are just saying the first thing that comes into their heads, the findings would not be consistent from year to year.
(b) It’s bloody patronising. When looking at puzzling findings from professionally conducted surveys, we should try to construe them in the most economical and respectful way that makes sense, and only conclude that people are just being stupid as a last resort.

3. The fusion of the “some” and “a lot” categories distorts the chart. It does; but the disparity in those who said “a lot” is even wider, not narrower, so the paradox remains.

4. My thought experiment requires “everybody” and the questions said “most”. That should lower the “yes” response to B and C about equally, without changing the hierarchy or my thesis.

5. Respondents think there is a terrific amount of synergy. If you go from 1 person doing X (say putting a 3 kw solar panel on their roof) to 1 billion, the impact rises say 2 billion times.
Objections:
(a) there is in fact no such massive synergy, and it’s not been touted in the media. There are large economies of scale to be sure, but these affect prices, not impacts;
(b) if respondents thought so, the answer to C should be much higher than to B, as you quadruple the number of people. It’s possible of course that American respondents do seriously underestimate the size of the OECD population, which is 1.2 billion.

6. My question D and thought experiment are invalid, as a factory worker in China, a peasant in India or a slum-dweller in Brazil cannot take “the same actions” as an American. They have no air-conditioning to turn down, or gasoline SUV to trade in for a hybrid.
Objection: the difficulty holds already for the other OECD people, who mostly don’t have air-conditioning and do have efficient cars; and even within the USA, with its huge regional variations. Wall insulation makes a big difference in North Dakota, not much in Florida.
For the questionnaire to work at all, respondents have to interpret “the same actions” in a very elastic way; broadening from “wall insulation” to “making my house more energy-efficient”. The Indian peasant can do this by switching away from a wood fire or kerosene stove.
Respondents were able to answer the question, so they must have made such mental adjustments. Kant’s categorical imperative universalizes rules of conduct, not single actions.

7. Respondents heard a different question to the one put.

7.1 They heard “contribution to the chance of dangerous global warming” not “contribution to global warming”. That introduces a binary, yes/no criterion. In this case, anybody’s personal contribution is insignificant. But that’s the objection too: insignificant, not 32% for “some or a lot”, by any stretch of the imagination.

7.2 Respondents heard B and C as “if everybody in the USA/OECD did their bit….” and shifted the blame to spendthrift others. I’m doing my share and it’s not much, now you, the gas-guzzling private jet owner, do the heavy lifting. The extravagant are more likely to be among the 18% denialists, true, but it’s a huge stretch to think they plausibly account for the sort of differences observed in the responses.

7.3 A related and somewhat more complicated idea that doesn’t require distorsion is this. Go back to the framing of the survey. Respondents were asked about a string of steps they might take in their private lives (the survey-takers didn’t specify, but respondents would have thought of home, shopping, and commuting); but they were asked to relate it to their total carbon footprint. This includes carbon embodied in all the goods and services they consume, and in the physical investments funded by their saving and taxes. I made a modest effort at a methodology cribbed from Leontief to estimate these, though sadly I have to report that the world has not beaten a path to my door. At any rate, these indirect carbon footprints are large, even for apparently disembodied services like insurance and web search. They are also out of reach. 5% or so of global carbon emissions come from cement-making, and the same again from iron- and steel-making. What can a consumer do to affect this? Nothing. You can do a tiny bit to shift the behaviour of retailers and service companies like Google by consumer activism. The rest can only be affected through politics.

The suggestion is that respondents correctly related their local steps to their overall carbon footprint, and concluded they couldn’t do that much as consumers. At work, most of us are powerless. But when they thought about whole societies, they dropped this constraint, and considered “everybody else” in all their social rôles, including those as political and economic actors: managers, congressmen, CEOs, academics, pundits. In that case, the observed hierarchy of responses becomes perfectly sensible. If the USA as a society, including its élites, took carbon emissions seriously, it would make a significant difference to global warming. It matters that the likely next US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is a knowledgeable climate hawk and not an able climate ostrich like Susan Rice.

Hypothesis 7.3 doesn’t require charging the respondents with unconscious falsification, so I think it’s preferable to 7.2. What do readers think?

The downward trend in A is odd. Over these 6 years the practical options for citizens to take effective action have expanded, not shrunk. The cost of solar panels continued to fall; solar leasing has made them accessible without upfront investment; plug-in hybrid and fully electric cars have gone on sale from major manufacturers; LED lighting is in the shops everywhere; better labelling, smart meters, thermostats and software have created new options for managing home consumption; there are more green investment vehicles; internet shopping has reduced the need for shopping trips, and social media for face-to-face meetings; and so on.

Whether it’s 7.2 or 7.3, either way the chart is depressing. It suggests that in this field Americans have given up on their self-belief – a national trait, often to excess – and are waiting for Godot. The preconditions for real change are hope and mobilisation: creating wide and deep pressure at a variety of levels, from individual example, persuasion, ridicule, ostracism, the ballot-box – and protest and civil disobedience. How about staged defiance of the ridiculous, kakfkaesque, uncoordinated multiple-permitting bureaucracy that drives up US residential solar costs to twice those of Germany, which does perfectly well without any prior permitting at all? You don’t need a permit to buy a gas cooker, which is far more dangerous.

Let’s have more, and less polite, climate noise in 2013. The transition can be done. There is no try.

Comments

  1. klem says

    “It matters that the likely next US Secretary of State, John Kerry, is a knowledgeable climate hawk ..”

    He’s also a gaff machine and garners little respect from anyone, he should do wonders for your climate alarmist religion. This will be entertaining. Lol!

    cheers

    • says

      Kerry has been the leading candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton for months, and has carried out sensitive diplomatic missions under her to Afghanistan and Pakistan. I didn’t hear he screwed up on in an easily screwable-up region. Seems to me you are attacking the messenger because you don’t like the message. True, he’s rather dull. Who wants an exciting diplomat apart from Hugo Chavez?

      • Cranky Observer says

        “Gaff machine” is the hard Radical Right’s current meme for attacking anyone who isn’t part of the Cheney/Palin Administration (and in the case of foreign policy, anyone not in agreement with John Bolton). As evidenced by the first debate between Kerry and Bush back in 2004, Kerry is extremely knowledgeable and well-spoken on a wide variety of key topics. He just doesn’t agree with the hard Right’s view of the origins & conduct of the Vietnam War, but then again neither are many US Army historians.

        Cranky

    • doretta says

      Yes, yes, and Hilary Clinton is a murderer and Barack Obama uses a TelePrompTer because he’s really stupid and in my current favorite Fox idiocy, lacks ambition because he’s Hawaiian. (Bill O’reilly did an exposé. Yep, a TV taking head says the President of the United States lacks ambition.)

      Fortunately, most of the world doesn’t get it’s ideas about our SOS from Fox News.

      • Brett Bellmore says

        “and Barack Obama uses a TelePrompTer because he’s really stupid”

        Thought it was because when he didn’t he went off script, and said what he really thought? At least that’s the line I hear. But, unlike Democrats, Republicans don’t have this perverse desire to believe they’re getting beaten by morons, they tend to credit anyone who wins an election against them with a minimum degree of intelligence.

        Except Joe Biden, of course, but that goes without saying.

        • toby says

          In the case of George W. Bush, after a massive surge of popularity in 2003, even Democrats were conceding that this President was really smart, and blessed with wise advisers like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and “the stupidest man in the world”, whose name escapes me, but he must have been bad because he was not John Bolton.

          Democrats prematurely congraulate their adversaries, like Hilary Clinton in 2004 musing that the party needed to appeal to “people with Confederate bumper stickers”, those who believed that Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”) had masterminded a permanent Republican majority, and who dissed John Kerry a man who came agonizingly close to winning in 2004.

          Who’s crying now?

    • politicalfootball says

      Has anyone else noticed right-wing true believers often attack scientists as the adherents of “religion?” It’s as if the Right believes, deep down, that religion is a scam.

      • Dan Staley says

        The hard right true believers only know religion. Thus they assume that’s how everyone thinks. I notice it all the time, BTW, and it is an indicator the commenter can be ignored. But I agree it does have an underlying implication they know religion is a scam.

  2. dave schutz says

    Red versus green: How about, if people in USA do X, then the USA demand for fossil fuels will go down, but that will lower the price which face people in India/China/EU, so global consumption of fossil fuels is not abated?

    For that matter, Blue vs red: if I buy a Prius, it just lowers the national price for gasoline, and somebody in Texas can continue to affordably drive his Suburban.

    • says

      The frame of the survey was sort-of Kantian, and so exclude your sort of utilitarian calculations. As your examples show, these can easily be used as bad-faith cheap shots.

    • Byomtov says

      I think that doesn’t actually work in the aggregate, at least not on a basic supply-demand basis.

      US consumption drops, and that of the rest of the world increases, but the increase is less than the drop in the US.

  3. Brett Bellmore says

    7. A large fraction of the respondents read the questions, and due to a common perceptual error, read the first one as asking the same KIND of thing as the other two: “If you did most of these things, how much do you think it would reduce global warming?” To which the correct answer is, “Virtually not at all.” If you’re going to be comparing the answers to three questions, and one of them is categorically different from the other two, you have to move heaven and earth to make sure everybody understands this.

    As for the downward trend, essentially all of it takes place between 2008 and 2011. (Tricky that, using a non-linear horizontal scale.) What happened during that time period? Why, a major global warming research scandal, that’s what.

    A major scandal like that doubtless shifted a significant number of people down the certainty curve, from absolutely certain to very certain, from very certain to moderately certain, and so forth. While excluding from consideration anybody who was “extremely or very sure” global warming wasn’t taking place will have moderated to some extent the effect of this, it won’t have totally eliminated it.

    • Byomtov says

      A large fraction of the respondents read the questions, and due to a common perceptual error, read the first one as asking the same KIND of thing as the other two: “If you did most of these things, how much do you think it would reduce global warming?” To which the correct answer is, “Virtually not at all.”

      This seems plausible to me. The instinctive reaction to the first question is to think in terms of my absolute effect.

    • says

      On your first point: if you were right, the response rate would have been near-zero to the first question, not 32% for “some + a lot”.

      In the second, you are of course right, except that the scandal was manufactured and disseminated by a richly funded denialist agitprop machine. The trivial intemperances of the East Anglian scientists in internal emails to each other bears no comparison to the systematic fraud and misrepresentation perpetrated by Monckton, Plimer, Lomborg, and their many paid friends, sucking in a very few tenured scientists like Wegman and Lindzen, enough to trick the MSM into a false balance narrative. It says a lot for the good sense of the American public that the effect of this campaign has been so limited.

      I will allow you, Brett, one brief rejoinder only on Climategate and such. Any further comments on the subject will be deleted as derailing. Other commenters: please do not cooperate with the endeavour.

      • Brett Bellmore says

        Nah, don’t need it. I will point out this: No, if my first point is right, the response rate would NOT have been near zero. That depends, does it not, on the percentage of the respondents making this particular error? We certainly can’t expect EVERYBODY to make that mistake, it is, after all, a mistake.

        • says

          I see. You would need say 50% of the respondents to read question A, the easiest one, as “can my actions by themselves make a difference” and the other half correctly. Then all of them have to understand the more difficult and abstract questions B and C correctly. It’s formally possible, but a real stretch. An explanation of last resort.

          Thanks for seasonably declining the nth return fight on Climategate. These disputes are getting like those bare-knuckle fights before the lethal invention of boxing gloves, when all blows were to the body (you would damage your knuckles on head bones), so fights between trained pugilists could go on for 100 rounds.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            Well, if they’re getting to read all the questions before replying to any, the fact that two of the three have the same form might influence some people to attribute the same form to the exception. We know from research people attribute meaning via a probabilistic process unless they’re taking extraordinary care to parse.

            Any explanation has to have the people doing something irrational, this is just a theory as to what the irrational thing might be.

        • matt w says

          I don’t even necessarily think it’s a mistake. Absolute vs. relative are two different readings; maybe some people had one reading and some people had the other one.

          Though I’m not someone who works with survey design, I agree that this doesn’t seem like great survey design; when you’re asking people to evaluate complex hypotheticals that seem parallel at first glance but aren’t quite, I’d guess that some noise will creep in.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            “Absolute vs. relative are two different readings; maybe some people had one reading and some people had the other one.”

            ‘Living’ survey questions; The concept is metastasizing!

    • Dan Staley says

      Why, a major global warming research scandal, that’s what.

      I noticed a maaaaaay-jer expose on Faux “News” last week – they documented that the day the Climategate scandal broke, across the entire planet the glaciers advanced, plants and animals moved south and downhill, droughts ceased, rainfall returned to normal, the temperatures lowered, plants and animals were back in synch…

      Never mind how the mind reels at the power of a few climate researchers to alter global atmospheric patterns – how come the em-ess-em isn’t covering the changing weather?!?!?!?!?!??!!?

      • Brett Bellmore says

        You do realize that whether or not the scandal was ‘real’ was utterly irrelevant to whether it would have the suggested effect on public opinion? Which is why I didn’t take James up on his offer: It really wasn’t important to the point I was making, that the slope was explicable in terms of widely known events.

  4. Al Bore says

    You don’t think the future will make fun of us human monkeys trying to control climate variation with taxes and human sacrifice of modern day lifestyles? It’s omen worship; ’I see the signs of change……’ This is funnier than witch burning and sacrificing virgins and we are destined to be end of the world freaks for the history books.
    How many climate blame believers does it take to change a light bulb?
    None, but they DO have full consensus that it ’WILL’ change, maybe.
    Not one single IPCC warning wasn’t qualified with a ’maybe’ or a ’could be’ or a ’likely’ or two so science has never said any crisis ’WILL’ happen, only might happen.
    ’Climate change is real and is happening and could cause a crisis of unstoppable warming.’ isn’t consensus of crisis, exaggerated crisis yes! It’s real alright, really not a crisis. Exaggerating the effects, never causes of an assumed to be real crisis was not a crime or a hoax or a lie, it was a war crime.

  5. Fred says

    As I read the results, people are saying their individual contribution, no matter the extent, is an insignificant pittance to solve the systemic, global problem. I wouldn’t look at that as learned helplessness so much as a longing for system-wide solutions– policy, engineering and investment equitably spread.

      • Fred says

        I suppose it’s up to people like us to advocate then. We need to make it very risky for parties to oppose morality and reason.

    • says

      Your explanation is a generalization of my preferred 7.3, very well put.

      You also basically accept but describe differently what I call helplessness (“an insignificant pittance”), which comes of the learned habit of thinking in a utilitarian frame rather than the Golden Rule terms of the survey.

      My secondary argument for the helplessness characterization is the declining trend in the answers to Question A, contrary to the widening of real options. However, this isn’t as strong an effect as the perverse hierarchy.

  6. koreyel says

    James Wimberley: Let’s have more, and less polite, climate noise in 2013. The transition can be done. There is no try.

    I know you probably saw this James, but some others might not have:

    Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary) : Nature News & Comment
    http://www.nature.com/news/be-persuasive-be-brave-be-arrested-if-necessary-1.11796

    The damaging effects of climate change are accelerating. James Hansen of NASA has screamed warnings for 30 years. Although at first he was dismissed as a madman, almost all his early predictions, disturbingly, have proved conservative in relation to what has actually happened. In 2011, Hansen was arrested in Washington DC, alongside Gus Speth, the retired dean of Yale University’s environmental school; Bill McKibben, one of the earliest and most passionate environmentalists to warn about global warming; and my daughter-in-law, all for protesting over a pipeline planned to carry Canadian bitumen to refineries in the United States, bitumen so thick it needs masses of water even to move it. From his seat in jail, Speth said that he had held some important positions in Washington, but none more important than this one.

      • Steven B says

        Brett, your post is the definition of trolling. To not-so-subtly “link” koreyel’s call for effective engagement and action to mitigate the greatest threat mankind has ever faced, with a ridiculous rant by obviously puerile ‘revolutionaries’ (re-posted, by the way. why not take 30 seconds and link to the original? or is there actually an original?) is itself ridiculous. I trust you have the capacity to self censor. Use it.

        • navarro says

          @steven b–

          this is a favored rhetorical device of mr. bellmore’s and after the last time he used it i promised myself i wouldn’t waste the space on this blog’s servers responding to this instance. my only hope is that if he can’t be shamed into letting go of that device that he might be ignored into doing so.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            I notice you attack it as trolling, and as a rhetorical device, instead of simply saying, “Yes, it is beyond the pale.” Do you realize this helps make it an effective rhetorical device?

            I raised the issue, because Koreyel says you should be brave, be arrested if necessary, and I wanted to probe the limits of what he thought it might be reasonable to bravely be arrested for. Trespassing? Destruction of property? Assault? Murder?

            Worth asking, because people actually advocating murder over this are not entirely lacking. If your advocate transgression, it’s reasonable of people to ask which boundaries you plan on transgressing.

            But, yes, this is a favored rhetorical device of mine: I ask if liberals will rule out some outrage, and, almost invariably, instead of answering “yes”, they get outraged and say anything BUT “yes”.

            Here’s a clue you shouldn’t need, but I’ll pass it on for free: If somebody lobs a rhetorical tarball your way, don’t get so caught up in being mad it was lobbed that you forget to duck. All that wild hand-waving just spreads the tar around. You should take Mark’s outrage with Gannett at a far lesser offense as a guide: When somebody on your side commits some outrage, be outraged at it. Not at somebody on the other side who dares to mention it. You just end up looking like you don’t think it’s really outrageous when you do that.

            “by the way. why not take 30 seconds and link to the original?”

            Why say why not? Why not say, why? It wasn’t worth the time to do more, because it was a question whose answer would not reasonably be different if the linked to assassination list were real or faked. If the list were faked, would that make assassination ok? No. So it wasn’t worth going deeper.

            Here’s a clue you shouldn’t need, but I’ll pass it on for free: If somebody lobs a rhetorical tarball your way, don’t get so caught up in being mad it was lobbed that you forget to duck. All that wild hand-waving just spreads the tar around.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            And here’s another clue I shouldn’t need: Read the whole comment before hitting “submit”, don’t assume you “cut” instead of “copied”.

          • navarro says

            mr. bellmore, i said above that i am no longer willing to get sucked into this diversion but i will, just this once, explain as clearly as i can why i won’t. it is because a response to your original question is as worthless as a request to sign a loyalty oath. if i were the type of person who would either murder another person for his or her opinions, or advocate the murder of another, or support the kind of people who would do so then i would have no scruple against immediately assuring you that i would certainly disavow such a position and denounce anyone who committed such an act. just as on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog, so too no one knows if you are a terrorist or a saint. the only evidence we have here is the record of our written words submitted to these comments. the last time you used this device there were several commenters who denounced anyone on either side of a labor dispute who engaged in violence, although as i recall you kept ignoring them and repeating your request for a disavowal. it was your continued pretense that no one had responded that led me to believe that your request was in no way sincerely meant and that you were, instead, simply trying to be antagonistic and to stimulate anger. i find it regrettable that you have chosen to use what i perceive to be a fine intellect for the purpose of angering people with whose opinions you disagree. i also find regrettable the time i have spent trying to reason with you. your use of this trope, yet again, tells me that most, if not all, of that time has been wasted. if i tell you that i absolutely believe that encouragements to commit murder are beyond the pale would it matter or would you quibble with my phraseology as i have seen you do at other times you have pulled this device out? and even if i did tell you that i find such calls for murder to be reprehensible and outside the bounds of civilized conduct how could you possibly know such a statement was sincerely meant? all you have to go by is the record of the words that i have submitted to these comments and i say, on the basis of my comments on this site, you should already know enough about my beliefs to answer that question wihout even asking it.

      • says

        It’s wrong, but understandable – these men are threatening my grandchildren too – and we are going to see more of it. Non-violence is morally superior and works better. The recommendation in my post was for ostracism and ridicule. Gheraos might be worth trying, if you’ve got the bodies.

        • says

          Non-violence is always best. Property destruction is always better than violence against persons. Targeted violence against individual persons is always better than the mass murder of war. And down the slope we slip.

          But we live in a country that recently attacked another nation on negligible evidence that it might possibly be a threat to us in the future. We inflicted damage on it from which it has yet to recover, and killed a lot of people. A hundred thousand, a million, who knows? As Uncle Joe Cheney would point out, that’s just a statistic. That sort of behavior used to be beyond the pale, but now? Drones, drones, drones, rockin’ in the free world.

          Given the ever-lessening necessity of labor to capital; given the increasingly rigid class stratification of American society; given the ability of the wealthy to move themselves and their capital to more comfortable climates; given the new-found ability on the part of the powerful to commit targeted anonymous murder at a safe, bloodless distance; given all this, is it any wonder some decent people consider violence before it’s too late?

          I advocate non-violence. But if the worst comes to pass, the consciously guilty should dread the next Nuremberg.

          Rule of law, not rule of man or rule of cash or rule of power. Crimes against humanity demand punishment.

  7. Steven B says

    T begin with, thank Mr. Wimberly you for the use of “accept” rather than “believe” when referring to AGW. Now we need to drill this into the heads of reporters, editors, and every national Democratic politician.

    As to the post, I’m wondering if there isn’t a bit of overthinking here. A couple thoughts:

    First, I doubt that logic of any kind has much to do with this. Anytime human behavior doesn’t make sense, we’re probably dealing with the world of emotions.

    Second, Americans are steeped from birth in a pervasive, self limiting stew of hyper-individualist ideology. Thus the difference “I” can make, in the face of such a huge problem like AGW, appears not just insignificant but impossible. Because by definition I’m disconnected from (most) everyone else, for “A” my non-conscious, immediate response does not include non-conscious assumptions of shared responsibility. As Superman it’s up to me, but I’m not Superman. Therefore, it can’t be done. (This is hardly exhaustive, but I think you get the point.)

    Third, research I’ve read shows Americans as much more responsive to a “problem solving” frame, in regards to AGW, than to a “catastrophe” frame. While the questions in the study fit this frame, one of the ‘nice’ effects of the artificial denialist/realist dialectic is that realists have had to scream bloody murder to be heard (being the target of abuse, smears, sneering dismissal, etc. might have stoked the flames a bit as well…). So folks might be less responsive on a personal level due to an unintended (for realists, anyways) “chicken little” effect. Got to hand it to the propagandists, they’re good at what they do.

    Fourth, the go-to response of the denialist propaganda machine, now that the world is undeniably cooking, is “adaptation.” Which is, of course, code for crank the AC and stock up for the apocalypse (see my second point above). This, by my own anecdotal experience here in TX, is the prevailing attitude amongst anyone not firmly progressive (and many who are, which is disappointing, and a comment on the effectiveness of the denialist machine). Therefore, any individual action taken to mitigate AGW is by definition pointless.

    I think when it comes to the disconnect in this country between perceptions of individual and collective efficacy in the face of huge, seemingly overwhelming (but not really) problems, Americans start from an intrinsic disadvantage at the individual level, which then erodes faith/hope in collective action. One thing is for sure: all AGW conversation must be directed towards a problem solving model. The argument is over, and as Mr. Wimberly does above, continued sniping is to be dismissed for the juvenile garbage it is.

  8. John G says

    Besides some of the other persuasive rationalizations of the numbers, isn’t the result self-serving? I can’t do much, but boy, if those other countries got their act together, they could solve the problem. It’s probably them creating it in the first place, so it’s up to them, i.e. somebody else, to do something about it. In short, pass the buck by underestimating our responsibility and power by overstating others’ power and implying their responsibility.

    • says

      As between the USA and the whole OECD, this doesn’t wash. If you were right the USA number would be lower than 60%, only 10 points below the whole OECD. These responses overestimate the importance of the USA as emitter, rather than shifting the blame to Europe and Japan. Perhaps it’s a fair reflection of the USA’s power as hegemon. If American policy were the same as Denmark’s, it would make a dramatic difference to the prospects for global action, and accelerate the changes in Chinese in Indian policy.

      • dave schutz says

        I don’t understand why you think that USA adopting Denmark policies would accelerate changes in Chinese and Indian policy. Maybe I am missing something, but it seems that it would make Australian coal, Russian petroleum cheaper for China and India, thus making policy changes of the kind you would like relatively more costly for India and China. As well, a lot of China exports have a huge energy component in their manufacture, so this would make Europe-made and US-made competitive goods which are also high-energy-manufacture more expensive relative to their Chinese competition.

      • dave schutz says

        Today’s NY Times, for example, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/business/energy-environment/california-manufacturers-weigh-costs-of-new-greenhouse-gas-rules.html?ref=business&_r=0 talks about the costs which Cali will impose on tomato processors to account for their carbon emissions and about the troubles Cali tomato producers already have dealing with cheaper Mexican tomatoes http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/business/global/mexico-finds-some-us-allies-in-trade-dispute.html?ref=business. Together, these lead me to expect more tomato work going to Mexico and leaving Cali. Maybe that will free up some central Cali farmland for growing marijuana and move that work away from the environmental harm it is doing in Mendocino and Humboldt? It’s an RBC convergence!!!

        • says

          You are missing what’s happening in the policies of other countries. Against stiff domestic opposition, Australia has introduced a carbon tax. Mexico has a climate change law. The new Chinese leadership is making much greener noises and doubling down on renewable energy targets. The Indian central bank recently froze loans to coal generation plants. None of these countries are Denmark yet, but the direction is clear. I maintain my point that world policies are not set in stone and a US shift would have knock-on effects, as it would reduce the perceived costs of action by others. If you are German, it’s America that’s guilty of climate dumping today.

          This is a prisoners’ dilemma, and it will kill us if we don’t escape by a bit of trust.

          • dave schutz says

            Well, okay, but if you are asking people to make assumptions that our (USA) doing things would lead to good prisoner dilemma behavior by LDC governments, that’s an awful lot of freight to load onto questions 2 and 3. I’m going to associate with the folks who have been claiming that it’s a shoddy set of questions. And I still think a fair amount of the ketchup business will move to Mexico.

          • says

            Go back and read my 5:17 comment. You are missing the problem, which is the observed overestimation of the effect of action by the USA alone on global warming, compared to the effect of similar action by the whole OECD. I offered a leadership hypothesis, though I don’t like it as an explanation – it’s far too iffy; I reckon your attitudes are more common among Americans than the suggestion, even if its based on truth. You like it even less, to an extent I think is plainly an error in the other direction. So what is your explanation?

  9. says

    Mr. Bellmore, having colluded with the Neo-Confederates in the destruction of America has cannily decided that the best way to hide the evidence is to simply burn down the entire planet.