Roger Pielke Junior Is Telling People To Shut Up Again

I usually ignore Junior’s yammering whines, but in this case there is an interesting and helpful response providing the bigger picture, a thing to learn from.

For context, I provide below links to selected posts of my own about Junior.

This most recent event involves an Op Ed published by the largely anti-science-even-if-it-is-bad-for-the-economy The Wall Street Journal, by Pielke Jr. In it he attacks Michael Mann, and does so in a ham-handed and factually incorrect way. In other words, just another day in the life of Junior.

Since I let my subscription to the Wall Street Journal expire in 1971, and they hold their cards close to their golden chest, I provide the response, by defender of science Peter Fontaine, as graphic:

The reason this all comes up now is because of THIS dustup, in combination with Junior’s very sensitive skin which stings and develops hives even when people are giving each other stern looks.

Why does Roger Pielke Junior do so well at annoying the community of climate change experts? Among professionals in this area, there is something of a running joke. If you see a number that seems to large, a number that you for some reason don’t like the largeness of, just divide it by the GDP (gross domestic product). Now, there are times when you need to divide a thing by GDP to make sens of it, some measure across time and all that. But dividing the costs of major disasters, or the overall disaster costs for an especially costly year, is crazy because, for one, GDP is forced upward when we spend a gazillion dollars rebuilding all the stuff that was destroyed by a bunch of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and what have you. Junior shares a philosophical bed with Bjorn Lomborg: Climate change is real, sure, but it isn’t so bad and maybe we should take a decade or two and do other stuff before dealing with it.

I’m sure I’m oversimplifying Junior’s position there a little. Mostly, though, I just divided what he says by the GDP and it got a lot smaller.

Roger Pielke Junior, I forgive you for this one thing
Roger Pielke Jr no longer with FiveThirtyEight?
A Letter From John Holdren Regarding Roger Pielke Jr’s Statements
Mann, did Judith Curry ever get Rogered!
The Inconceivably Bogus Republican Science Committee Hearings
Today’s Climate Change Congressional Hearings

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12 thoughts on “Roger Pielke Junior Is Telling People To Shut Up Again

  1. >GDP is forced upward when we spend a gazillion dollars rebuilding

    Broken Window fallacy, explained in Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

  2. If you believe Hazlitt on anything there is no hope. There is a reason the losers at the vonMises “Institute” hold (held) him in high esteem: his ideas are as vacuous as theirs.

  3. MikeN you need to explain exactly where the broken window fallacy is operating here, because your comment is ambiguous in that regard.

  4. The money spent on disaster relief and repairing damaged property is money that would have been spent elsewhere. It doesn’t push up GDP, it just moves money around within the existing GDP.

  5. In the current world where humans are waging a full on assault on our ecological life support systems, Hazlitt’s ideas belong in the Jurassic.

    1. That analysis does not address the issue at hand.

      Likely, disasters ultimately reduce GDP for various stated reasons. That, however, is not what we are talking about. There are various ways to index GDP, which are approximations. Some of these methods provide a larger number due to effects of disasters. Then, you get the larger number and you can use it as a Pielkian denominator.

      This has little to do with actual GDP.

      However, note that if taxes are ultimately increased in order to pay for rebuilding, and rebuilding uses US based companies and materials, in a world in which outsourcing is a major factor, there could be a positive nation-wide impact, I suppose.

      But again, this has little or nothing to do with actual productivity. It has more to do with how to cook the books so it looks like climate impacts are not as severe as “alarmists” claim.

  6. It’s hard to dispute the contention that spending to recover from a natural disaster increases the GDP, because at least some of the things the recovery spending would otherwise have gone toward cannot be deferred.

  7. Simon Kuznets placed a lot of caveats on the notion of GDP when he first wrote his submission* in 1934:

    The valuable capacity of the human mind to simplify a complex situation in a compact characterization becomes dangerous when not controlled in terms of definitely stated criteria. With quantitative measurements especially, the definiteness of the result suggests, often misleadingly, a precision and simplicity in the outlines of the object measured. Measurements of national income are subject to this type of illusion and resulting abuse, especially since they deal with matters that are the center of conflict of opposing social groups where the effectiveness of an argument is often contingent upon oversimplification.

    Whenever I see RPJ blathering, I can’t help but wonder why he seems hell-bent on doing so without due deference to the giants on whose shoulders he tries to stand.

    And then I remember the sort of person that he he appears to be…

    *See pp 5-7 here:

    https://fraser.stlouisfed.org/scribd/?title_id=971&filepath=/files/docs/publications/natincome_1934/19340104_nationalinc.pdf

    or for the Wikipedia tragics, a (critically limited…) summary here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#Limitations_and_criticisms

  8. “You evaluate people’s science based on how you like the result. ”

    Well no, that’s more the realm of you and other science deniers, but more importantly: who thinks of economics as a science?

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