Monday, March 4, 2013

{#11b}LaFramboise The Delinquent Author - Dr. Tol


It's looking like chapter 11 "The Peer Review Fairy Tale" is going to take some dissecting.  This installment was prompted by my researches into Professor Richard Tol the economists who's future-casts and hostility towards the IPCC LaFramboise embraces.  She presents him as a trustworthy, reliable source.  Yet, a closer looker reveals a very different image.

This thread is a side track, but I am going to look at these people Donna chooses to trust over and above the considered opinion of the greater community of experts.


Chapter eleven of The Delinquent Teenager  "The Peer Review Fairy Tale".  

For an introduction explaining why I'm reviewing this piece of work, please click here.


{Courier font identifies LaFramboise's words
Laframboise, (2011-10-09). T D T W W M W T C E (Kindle Locations 195-201). Ivy Avenue Press. Kindle Edition. }

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#11 - The Peer Review Fairy Tale   
Having repeatedly encountered the claim that IPCC reports rely solely on peer-reviewed literature,{this claim is examined at {#11a} } in early 2010 I was taken aback by a blog post authored by economist Richard Tol. He complained that, in a particular chapter of the 2007 Climate Bible, IPCC authors had ignored the findings of peer-reviewed studies and had instead cited non-peer-reviewed material to make the opposite case.
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With the following collection I demonstrate that Richard Tol's community of peers - that is folks who have the education and expertise to understand the esoteric statistics and "economics" Tol expounds on - are not very impressed with his claims.  

Tol plays with economic models and makes rather questionable assumptions about the future.  Compounding that Tol has no scientific understanding of climatology so it's not clear why he thinks he can put a price tag on the amount of damage society can expect from global warming's impacts. 

It's revealing that Tol's economic assumptions make the likes of economist William Nordhaus cringe.  {see exhibit nine}

With some honest curiosity and the educated guidance of the following authors - the failures and oversights in Tol's naive assumptions about the nature of a warming world are made plainly understandable.  Along the way, if your looking, you can see the sort of goal oriented manipulation folks like Tol engage in.

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CONTENTS
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EXHIBIT ONE:
The Tol controversy: Beyond the bounds of acceptable debate
Frank Ackerman's website   
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EXHIBIT TWO:
"Climate damage in the FUND model: A comment"
Richard Tol  |  June 3, 2012
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EXHIBIT THREE:
"What’s Wrong With Climate Change Economics In One Chart"
By Joe Romm | March 8, 2012
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EXHIBIT FOUR:
"From RetractionWatch.wordpress.com examining the strange case of..."
Comments from "someone_somewhere" ~ July 12, 2012
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EXHIBIT FIVE:
"Richard Tol, the climate change denier's favorite economist"
TolGate ~ January 07, 2011
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EXHIBIT SIX:
"Lomborg: Argument Today; "Proof" Tomorrow"
Richard Littlemore ~ September 28, 2009
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EXHIBIT SEVEN:
"Reynolds, Tol, Lomborg: The Case for Ignoring Climate Change"
Jim Hoggan ~ August 8, 2009
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EXHIBIT EIGHT:
"Climate action skeptic and/or contrarian"
SourceWatch
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EXHIBIT NINE:
Richard Tol, academic freedom and the ESRI.
Brian M. Lucey  |  June 13, 2012
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EXHIBIT TEN:
"Must-Read: Economist William Nordhaus Slams Global Warming Deniers, Explains Cost of Delay is $4 Trillion"
By Joe Romm on March 2, 2012
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EXHIBIT ONE:


The Tol controversy: Beyond the bounds of acceptable debate
Frank Ackerman's website 
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Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex, has waged a relentless campaign to convince the world that one of my published articles is illegitimate and must never be mentioned. (Frank Ackerman and Charles Munitz, “Climate Damages in the FUND Model: A Disaggregated Analysis,” Ecological Economics, 2012.) He has recently written to my employer and publishers, accusing me of libel for writing this technical article. This is a false accusation of a serious offense, no longer just an academic disagreement. It has gone far beyond the bounds of acceptable debate.
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EXHIBIT TWO:
{For reference Richard Tol's blogspot.}
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"Climate damage in the FUND model: A comment"
Richard Tol Occasional thoughts on all sorts.
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EXHIBIT THREE:
{This pretty much speaks for itself - please go to the original sources for "the rest of the story" and all the information.}
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By Joe Romm | Mar 8, 2012
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Last week economist William Nordhaus slammed global warming deniers and explained that the cost of delaying action is $4 Trillion. As I wrote, Nordhaus’s blunt piece — “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong” – is worth reading because, like most mainstream climate economists, he is no climate hawk.

A key reason for that, I believe, is a chronic low-balling of future temperature rise and hence future climate impacts and hence future climate damages by the mainstream economic profession. Nordhaus’s piece proves that point.  In his argument on why CO2 is a pollutant and negative externality—”a byproduct of economic activity that causes damages to innocent bystanders”– he writes:

The question here is whether emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will cause net damages, now and in the future. This question has been studied extensively. The most recent thorough survey by the leading scholar in this field, Richard Tol, finds a wide range of damages, particularly if warming is greater than 2 degrees Centigrade.  

Major areas of concern are sea-level rise, more intense hurricanes, losses of species and ecosystems, acidification of the oceans, as well as threats to the natural and cultural heritage of the planet.

That highlighted sentence may strike some of you as a bit strange. After all, the chances that warming would be less than 2°C have been pretty small for quite some time even with aggressive action and essentially nonexistent without it.
{...} 

As readers of Climate Progress know, the recent scientific literature has amped up the likely consequences of inaction considerably (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces.”

A 2010 AAAS presentation on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“ concluded: New scientific findings since the 2007 IPCC report are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.”
{...}

Consider this jaw-dropper from Tol’s  supposedly definitive paper:

Fourth, estimates of the economic effects of greenhouse gas emissions have become less pessimistic over time. For the studies listed here, the estimates becomeless negative by 0.23 percent of GDP per year in which the study was done (with a standard deviation of 0.10 percent per year). There are several reasons for this change. Projections of future emissions and future climate change have become less severe over time—even though the public discourse has become shriller

Let’s set aside how that final clause made it past peer review given that it has nothing to do with economics and is based on nothing more than the author’s unintentionally revealing preconceptions.
{...}

It is not true that “Projections of future emissions and future climate change have become less severe over time.” That is BS. In fact, long before spring 2009, the reverse was obviously true.

First, it’s worth noting that the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment projected warming for this century (2090-2099 vs 1980-1999) finds the “best estimate for the low scenario (B1) is 1.8 C (likely range of 1.1 to 2.9 °C)” and the “best estimate for the high scenario” (A1FI) is 4.0°C (likely range of 2.4 to 6.4°C).
{...}

By December 2008, Dr. Vicky Pope, the head of climate change predictions at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre warned that:

In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5°C by the end of the century.

She said, “This would lead to significant risks of severe and irreversible impacts,” though no doubt she used her shrill voice.
{...}

{...}

And in spring 2009 the definitive NOAA-led study of U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S.
{...}
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EXHIBIT FOUR:
{This may be the most interesting link, if you want to hear experts exchanging thoughts, questions, barbs -  Tol is actively involved in the discussion offering many explanations, but encountering learned resistance from folks who understand the statistics and math as well as he does.  It's an interesting telling dialogue}
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RetractionWatch.wordpress.com 
"Noteworthy: Journal posts all the corrections it wanted in a climate change paper after authors refuse most" 
"In a case of refreshing transparency, a journal has published a detailed list of corrections it requested from authors of a paper on the costs of climate change, even though the authors declined to make most of them. 
"Earlier this year, the journal Ecological Economics published a paper that cast some doubt on the FUND model, which, as the article explains:"
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{"someone_somewhere" shows up in the comments with well balanced reviews along with questions, review, a little critique.  Some good perspective.  Below I share some of his remarks}
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someone_somewhere ~ July 12, 2012

4. I tend to agree with Stern’s conclusion, but am sincerely puzzled about the expected/appropriate behavior in this situation. After all, T&A’s papers & FUND software documentation don’t acknowledge any possibility of such issues. 

Instead, the developers of FUND have tested it internally & concluded that the issue does not significantly alter the predictions (based on Mr. Tol’s responses above & on their letter to the journal). The details of these tests (trimming/screening parameters, etc) were not released publicly, though T&A apparently sent some test results to A&M. I wonder if T&A would still object if the authors included a footnote “FUND model developers have notified us that their internal tests did not find any issues related to this singularity. We cannot confirm or deny these claims since the tests & the parameters used in them are not publicly available.”

5. T&A’s objections (in the letter to the journal) deal only with the second half of section 4.1.
They completely ignore the first half (& if their diagnostic tests are correct, it would appear that they are in contradiction with what is reported in there — I am not sure how they square it off). In addition, Mr. Tol’s above responses to my questions 4 & 5 don’t exactly inspire confidence. I really hope that his papers provide a better justification for his confidence in FUND’s predictions.
{...}
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{someone_somewhere's comment was referring to the following claims by Tol:}

4. This is a theoretical possibility, but I am not aware of any realization that shows this particular problem.
5. In principle yes, but in practice not needed.
6. In the papers under discussion, the focus is on the central part of the distribution. All our tests show that the estimates are computationally valid. Those results are not typically made available in accordance with common practice in this literature. In another paper, we focus on the tails of the distribution. The tests indicate that our estimate of the 99%ile is reliable.
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{Interesting how the echo-chamber members such as Donna never complain about their own withholding computational details from others.  Another example of the disingenuous one-sided nature of Donna's "investigation".}
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EXHIBIT FIVE:
{This one is a good example of the reliability we can expect from economist such as Tol.}
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"BigCityLib Strikes Back"
TolGate ~ January 07, 2011
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Richard Tol, the climate change denier's favorite economist, gets smacked down for both his role in the Irish economic collapse and some dubious science:

No less disturbing than the drift into boosterism in the ESRI’s forecasts are the political activities of Richard Tol in the climate field, activities that blur uncomfortably and insidiously into his research work.

Tol has engaged in a long-term collaboration with Bjørn Lomborg, himself the subject of a detailed critique by Howard Friel titled ‘The Lomborg Deception’ and categorised by its publisher, Yale University Press, under the subject-heading of “Fraud in Science”. . .

{there's another nearly 400 words worth of interesting information.}
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EXHIBIT SIX:


Lomborg: Argument Today; "Proof" Tomorrow
Richard Littlemore ~ September 28, 2009
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Bjorn Lomborg, the Disingenuous Environmentalist is at it again, taking advantage of the delusionist tendencies of the Washington Post's opinion page editors to argue that climate change is no worries and that coal is the key to our long-term health and prosperity.

Lomborg bases this particular example of economics fiction (a less rigorous form of science fiction) on the work of the economist Richard Tol, whose previous machinations have made it obvious that he is happy to take Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center funding and feed back the conclusions Lomborg would like.

This raises a question of accountability. Lomborg starts a "Consensus Center" with seed funding from the right-wing Danish government of the day, but he doesn't share all of details of his ongoing income. 

Using that anonymous funding to commission a study by Tol, Lomborg then bases his own arguments on the purported results of Tol's work. So, we're left looking at a study paid for, at least in part, by anonymous funders on behalf of a guy (Lomborg) whose reputation for accuracy is getting worse every time he opens his mouth. . .
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EXHIBIT SEVEN:


Reynolds, Tol, Lomborg: The Case for Ignoring Climate Change
Jim Hoggan ~ August 21, 2009
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The most successful Libertarian politician in Canadian history, Globe and Mail columnist Neil Reynolds, has joined the campaign to do nothing about climate change, basing his argument (A Net-Benefit Greenhouse Gas Plan - Less is Really More) not on the work of anyone who actually studies climate science, but rather on two economists with a track record of trying to discourage action.

Most famous of these is Bjorn Lomborg, the Disingenuous Environmentalist and director of a Danish think tank that specialilzes in understating the costs of climate change and overestimating the costs of taking preventative action.

In the run-up to the United Nations meeting scheduled for his hometown in December, Lomborg's Copenhagen Concensus Center has commissioned 21 reports "to examine the costs and benefits of different solutions to global warming." The most recent result, a paper by the economist Richard Tol, gives a good indication of how agenda-driven and, in some regards, surprisingly unprofessional, those papers might be.

Tol's contribution, entitled "An Analysis of Mitigation as a Response to Climate Change,"  purports to consider the costs or benefits (!) of climate change, balanced by the costs and benefits of particular actions. Tol builds a narrow case, on an extremely limited number of assumptions, and then cobbles together a financial model to assess five potential policy approaches. Then he lets the model churn through the numbers, delivering a result that he presents as somehow relevant - even as scientific.
{...}

But Tol goes on to sniff at his own shortcomings: "Many of the omissions seem likely to be relatively small in the context of those items that have been quantified."

"Relatively small?" Who is Tol to pass off this comment as if it is reliable and based on a serious reading of the science. The people who have actual expertise in this field are telling us that humans, having pushed the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere over 300 parts per million for the first time in more than 650,000 years, have endangered the steady state that has allowed human life to thrive. 

The best of those scientists say we should be wrestling CO2 back from its current level of more than 380 ppm to a safer 350. European leaders are aiming to contain the increase below 450 ppm - and Tol is recommending  that we do as little as possible as a way of saving money on the journey to a level of between 550 and 650 ppm - a point at which real climate scientists say the world would be subject to catastrophic consequences.
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EXHIBIT EIGHT:
{a little background information}
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"Climate action skeptic and/or contrarian"
SourceWatch
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Wikipedia states according to Tol "the impact of climate change is relatively small". He was also among the US Senate Republican Party's "list of scientists disputing man-made global warming claims", which stated that Tol "dismissed the idea that mankind must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming".
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EXHIBIT NINE:
{Ireland's Banking collapse is an excellent example of how much to trust economist}
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Richard Tol, academic freedom and the ESRI.
Brian M. Lucey  |  June 13, 2012
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"To summarize; in May 2012 Richard, who had left the ESRI under rather strained circumstances earlier this year uploaded a working paper on the welfare-work wedge, whether and under what circumstances it is “better” to be on the welfare than to work. A part of the findings were that for some cohorts there was a significant wedge.
The paper was, according to the details on IDEAS (along with SSRN one of the larger repositories of working papers) uploaded in May. . . "
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EXHIBIT TEN:

{This one doesn't speak directly to Tol.  However, it does examine claims made based on Tol's work.  It is a reaction by noted Economist William Nordhause to being misrepresented in the Wall Street Journal OpEd 
“No Need to Panic About Global Warming."  
I include it here for perspective.}
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By Joe Romm on Mar 2, 2012
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Yale economist William Nordhaus has eviscerated the 16 scientists who wrote a disinformation-filled Wall Street Journal piece in late January. Yes, three dozen climatologists already debunked the posers (see “Dentists Practicing Cardiology”), 
as did I.

But Nordhaus’s blunt piece — “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong” – is worth reading because he is no climate hawk. You may recall his October article that found “Oil and Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added.” It use an uber-low, uber-lame, uber-outdated “price” for CO2:

"We use the social cost of carbon for the year 2000. This cost will rise over time as greenhouse gases accumulate and marginal damages increase. We assume that the central estimate of the social cost of carbon is $27 per ton of carbon (Nordhaus 2008b)."
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* Speaking of those economists it's curious how much denialists attack climate models based on physics, yet if an "economic model" produces results that they find politically expedient, they glum onto to like... well never mind. 

How much do you really trust economists or their models?  

Comment #10 under Joe Romm's article What’s Wrong With Climate Change Economics In One Chart pretty well summed up my own feelings towards this economic Voodoo the likes of Tol are producing.
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Comment #10 Have the world’s “leading economists” been right about anything in the last ten years? Go pick up a Wall Street Journal from 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 and read whatever pronouncements the economists of that day are making.  
They will be wrong. Almost without exception. 
The pretense that economists are anything but astrologers with spreadsheets instead of horoscope charts needs to be abandoned. They can’t even agree on what happened in restrospect much less tell us anything about the future.
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You know Donna LaFramboise for someone who is so out spoken about perceived shoddiness within the IPCC process, you sure have a low threshold for what you accept and broadcast, if it fits your political message of no action and no learning.

2 comments:

Richard S J Tol said...

What a wonderfully selective set of comments taken out of context.

Peter said...

Profession Tol,
Sorry for taking so long to post your comment, I've been quite busy the past few days.

Interesting comment though - I feel that exactly the same can be said about your own one sided approach to examining the current situation.

Since, you yourself are very selective in what you choose to consideration and what you choose to ignore.

Please, if you are interested, I'd love to hear your critique of the observations in this post.

Peter