Climate alarmists will be trying to scare us by pointing to  this, and this, and this, and this  (all in a month) with the flimsy story that global warming increases the intensity and frequency of extreme events.  Each of these ‘extreme events’ is only one event, that could have happened without climate change, so by mathematical induction, you can ignore all of them one by one.  Furthermore, they are happening to foreigners in faraway places, many of whom are not even Christians!

Move along, folks; nothing to see here, and you have Exxon and Peabody Coal shares in your 401K to protect.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

42 thoughts on “Floods”

  1. And in places where they are christians, the adversity will no doubt be good for their spiritual growth.

    1. Surely *everyone* knows that the free market will provide as much high ground as there is demand for?

  2. Michael, don’t you read your own blog?
    The current line of your more advanced Republican is that “we” will adapt our cities to these floods (and it would happen a whole lot faster if the appropriate capitalist-based incentives were in place to do so)…

  3. Maynard understands my core message but not my politics. I would support President Obama for two more terms in the White House. Yes Maynard, a silver lining of these shocks to Toronto and other places is that they will invest to make their cities more resilient to shocks. If they don’t, the skilled footloose will move out to “higher ground”. Mayors have an incentive to maintain local quality of life in order to keep their tax base. Urban residents have an incentive to seek out areas with high quality of life. Entrepreneurs have an incentive to deliver new products that enhance quality of life in the face of climate change. Our economy evolves over time to solve problems that people want solved. Climate change poses new challenges and provides ample incentives for future Mark Zuckerbergs to step up and help us cope with the “new normal”.

    1. I have a lot of respect for market signals, but Matt: what is the mechanism by which 150 million desperately poor Bangla Deshis obtain and move to “higher ground”, and just where is that ground?

      1. hi Michael, I answered your question here:


        Note that you posed the climate adaptation question as one about the consequences of poverty. How do we alleviate poverty? We both know
        that the answer is economic growth. Capitalism also leads to falling prices for goods we want. An air conditioner becomes affordable for more and more people as international trade takes place. Falling prices allow the poor to have greater access to more coping strategies.

        1. It’s not just that Bangladeshis are poor, and will still be poor in 2050 under optimistic growth scenarios. At 5% growth in GDP per head, it will be $13,000 then, similar to Costa Rica today. It’s that they live in a huge river delta. The Dutch can just about afford a Delta Plan 2, but Bangladesh?

          BTW, unchecked climate change will make such growth scenarios impossible, with Sandy-scale typhoons, monsoon failures, and accelerating glacier melt.

          1. As I state in Climatopolis, I support $10 a gallon gasoline now. Like 99% of economists, I support significant carbon taxes but I don’t believe that this policy will be adopted. One of the reasons I moved to California in 2007 was because I was excited about helping the state in implementing its AB32 regulation to mitigate carbon. Read this old interview I gave and you might be a pinch surprised.


            Bangladesh will live on as we will simultaneously (and slowly) decarbonize and adapt to changing conditions.

          2. “Bangladesh will live on..” I dare say there will enough survivors, as with the Armenians, to exact a suitable revenge on those they blame for what happened to their relatives.

          3. So, we should add more air-conditioners to the world (which will, of course, not add to our energy consumption, much less worsen the climate!) and the Bangladeshis will be able to stay afloat while we de-tox over the next what.. fifty years? This isn’t an answer – it’s rampant wishful thinking on a lunatic scale. And we haven’t even discussed the effect of China and India growing – because that’s where a lot of your magical growth is going to come from. What will that growth mean? Carbon emissions on a huge scale. What does that mean?

            Oh, I don’t know, maybe a much better Bangladeshi rowing team five Olympic games from now.

            I guess those displaced and starving persons will manage just fine in the interim.

    2. And, to add to Michael’s question, what is the responsibility of those who have created the problem to those who are its victims?

    3. Shout-out to Matthew for wrestling with the commenters. I think he over-simplifies the incentives of politicians (plutocracy-toking trumps providing a good quality of life), and over-estimates the sophistication of voters. But his conclusions follow from his premises, and his premises are generally plausible.

    1. Well, if it it not plain old ethnic nationalism/triumphalism (& I’m as much a member of the tribe as Mr. Kahn, though not one of the kohanim), then perhaps its based on the opinion that the WASPs are all washed up while we Jews retain some juice. Perhaps, though based in L.A., he has overlooked that numbers alone imply that the generators of most future innovations will be of the Asian persuasion.

  4. Oh, Jeebus. Mark Zuckerberg?

    Well he did invent the Harvard version of “am I hot or not”.
    (That must have something to do with global warming right? Oh vey: http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/05/facemash-sale/)
    And then of course there is Facebook. Which as we all know is the world’s largest social network.
    And whose stock is 24 dollars a share(!!!). You’ve got to wonder how can that possibly be?
    Perhaps because Zuckerberg is a creep with no vision and whom no one trusts?

    You heard it hear first:

    Zuckerberg is the world’s worst CEO. A billion dollar loser who should be beaten off the island with pole vault poles.
    And if that lady that now heads Yahoo had the reins of Facebook instead? Egads….
    Facebook would be trading at 200+ dollars a share now.

    What is really amazing is how the investors are so tolerant of the schmuck Zuckerberg.
    That says something about everyone buying into that “he’s a genius” bullshit…

    1. “What is really amazing is how the investors are so tolerant of the schmuck Zuckerberg.
      That says something about everyone buying into that “he’s a genius” bullshit…”

      And yet, no law states one has to be honest/virtuous for an invitation to Mensa. See: The Grand Daddy of them all, Super-Schmuck, Bernie Madoff.

      Who knows, maybe if he had worn an open tee-shirt to work, instead of a dress shirt & tie, things would’ve worked out differently?

    2. Perhaps you’re reading something into Matthew’s use of Zukerberg as a prototype that wasn’t there.

      I think the reference was to “a person of intelligence and creativity, able to come up with something novel to fill a void” rather than “a brilliant business manager of a multi-billion dollar profit factory.”

  5. You are being too hard on Zuckerberg as Superman. Millions, nay billions, will be able to update their Facebook pages with stunning videos and witty comments as the Ark sails out of sight on the rising waters.

  6. Well I’ll be darned. MK shows up for work.

    But sadly, the deep deep message to the Bangladeshis is: Let them eat Facebooks!

  7. Add to this an unusually strong storm in Minneapolis on June 21st that knocked down a huge number of trees and knocked out electricity to a large portion of the city for several days.

    1. Weather is a sample from a distribution called climate. It’s like charging a randomly aimed machine gun: your survival chance depends on the machine gun’s rate of fire. We are steadily upping this from Gatling to Vulcan.

      1. In addition, you actually would draw conclusions from a series of unusually cold winters, just as you can draw conclusions from a series of formerly uncommon extreme weather elements. It also helps to have a physical basis – e.g. more heat equals more energy in the system.

    2. Brett,
      You’re an engineer. You should know what “increased variance” means and implies.
      And I think you do. Because you’re also prone to bad faith in the service of your cause.

      1. Yes, I know what it means. I also understand that “this and this and this and this” is pretty darned flimsy evidence of increased variance, even if we do have a somewhat skewed view of things after coming off a few decades of unusually predictable weather.

      2. Agreed that “this and this and this and this” is pretty darned flimsy evidence of increased variance. I wasn’t even thinking of it. I was thinking of the climate science models–the ones you maintain are based on bad science. These models, at least, predict an overall warming trend, with greatly increased variance: i.e., exaggerated weather and short-term climate events. The exaggerated short-term climate events can go either way–warmer or colder, although the medium-to-long-term trend is to warmth. Particularly cold winters are part of standard global warming models.

        1. “I was thinking of the climate science models–the ones you maintain are based on bad science.”

          I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say “bad” science. Rather, I would say that the models have a lot of parameters in them which are not derived from actual physics, but instead fitted to historical data. Enough such parameters that they risk the usual problem of fitting a high order polynomial to a substantially smaller number of data points: You’re guaranteed to replicate the data points, but should you rely on the curve outside the range of those points?

          That is to say, I don’t place a lot of confidence in those models, and certainly object to anyone describing doubts about them as a rejection of “basic physics”.

          But, “bad” physics? Nah, I wouldn’t go that far, though I wouldn’t rule that out, either. Any of these models open source?

    3. It’s too bad the concepts of averaging and graphing haven’t reached Brett’s thinktank yet.

  8. Brett – You want aggregate numbers. So, from 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous states come the following observations. beginning with the decade of the 1950’s, the ratio of record high temperatures to record low temperatures was around 1:1 (precisely 1.09:1). for the decades of the 60’s and 70’s, the ratio was 3:4 (more cold records than hot – 0.77:1 for the 60’s and 0.78 for the 70’s). the 1980′ saw an increase in High records so thst ratio was 1.14:1, in 1990 it was 1.36:1 and in the 2000’s it was 2.04:1. for the three years of the ‘teens it is 2.8:1. If you include Alaska, the ratio of record highs to record lows is even more extreme. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2010/02/11/205494/science-meehl-ncar-record-high-temperatures-record-lows/
    (The last mentioned datum is from another wource, ask and I will look it up for you, or you could look.)

    Now the obvious question is how do you deny, or downplay, or dismiss these data. Similar data sets can be constructed for other measures of extreme weather, but these data speak directly to the aggregate measure of temperature for the entire country. We could have the conclusion blessed by doing statistical analysis, but these data are clear enough that I doubt that a reported alpha level would add anything (and note that adding Alaska simply makes the observations more extreme).

    I guess that the real question I have is “Why are you so dedicated to climate change denial?” It is as though you’ve had a religious experience – the overwhelming data simply don’t matter. I suggest that you lookclosely at your biases.

    1. Now, that is actually something like a rational argument, and worth responding to. (None of this nonsense about the models being ‘basic physics’.)

      You can see immediately from the bar graph why, when I was a tyke, people were worrying about an ice age, not global warming. Strange, really, when the level of CO2 in the atmosphere was rising then, too. Of course, there are various cyclic and random variations in climate, and they could have masked warming for a while. Or they could have been exaggerating it more recently. (If they can do one, they can certainly do the other.)

      But let’s dismiss this, and just go with the numbers. What are they measuring here? Maybe the urban heat island effect? Weather stations which were out in farmer’s fields at one time, but now sit next to somebody’s window air conditioner?

      There actually are reasons for doubt.

      1. No, those aren’t reasons. They are simply suggestions, based on nothing but your desperate desire to ignore realities. There’s an abundance of data from multiple domains that makes very clear that we have affected the climate – and are continuing to do so. Animals are shifting their ranges, the seasons have moved by about 2 weeks, the oceans are more acidic – and the overall trend towards ever-warmer temperatures is clearer by the day.

        But sure, let’s ignore actual evidence in favor of a little hand-waving from Brett Bellmore.

      2. Brett, I have a very sincere question. What data would you have to have presented to you for you to seriously consider that anthropogenic global warming is underway? If you can’t suggest a reasonable data set, I would suggest that your critique of our current understanding of the AGW is completely disingenuous and should be completely discounted.

        1. Oh, I have little doubt humans are causing some degree of warming. Of that I’m already persuaded. It’s the more extreme extrapolations that I have doubts about.

          After all, at the lower end of the range of proposed climate sensitivity, there’s not really a lot to be scared of. All the scary predictions rely on high estimates of sensitivity. The problem is that the models using high sensitivity are looking worse and worse as time goes by. So we’re left with a degree of climate sensitivity which says anthropomorphic global warming is likely real, but also likely not a big deal. Actually beneficial in a lot of places.

          And, yes, it might be the reason we’re not sliding into an ice age at the moment, as we were trending before the CO2 level really started up. And ice ages, let’s remember, are REALLY bad news.

          1. And models have limited forecasting ability no matter how good the model is and how accurately initial conditions are measured.

  9. Well, let’s see. For us non-engineers, and to suggest a simple analogy for man-made global warming even the dirty masses (and, Tea Party types) might relate to , my Harvard, PhD, physicist brother suggested:

    Let’s first assume that virtually every one understands the atmosphere consists of the area within an enclosed sphere encompassing the earth. Then, close your eyes and imagine a room full of partiers congregated in an enclosed room/area. Having gorged themselves on mounds of exotic, free food, dancing frenetically……..and, understandably, flatulating in wild abandonment. Would that change the “climate” in the room? And, could we agree it would have been “man-made?” I think, golly-gee, even I would “get that.”

    To “flatulate:” (Squeamish types look away)
    “To emit digestive gases from the anus“

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