Many scientists have taken up sounding silly lately. On purpose. I don’t here mean denying sex, where many have made perfect asses of themselves. I mean on “carbon”.
They say idiotic things like “carbon footprint”, “carbon pollution”, or “social cost of carbon.”
The better sort of scientist knows “carbon” is shorthand for “carbon dioxide”, CO2. Yet they can’t be made to speak the whole word, which would bring mental exhaustion. Or maybe it’s because they understand “carbon dioxide footprint” sounds perfectly asinine. But they must have us fear carbon dioxide (the stuff you exhale), so they go for the shorthand.
The worst, and now most common, sort of scientist gives our example today. In which we learn the new phrase “The mortality cost of carbon“. From a peer-reviewed paper in Nature (that serial offender of commonsense), by a fellow calling himself R. Daniel Bressler.
It’s a stupid enough joke to say that if you drained earth or your body (or even “footprint”) of carbon, you’d fast learn all about mortality. Mortality cost of carbon forsooth! But the joke can’t help but impress itself on our minds when we read a ridiculous title like that. Maybe the text itself rescues the embarrassment we feel for the author? Let’s see.
The Abstract (my paragraphifications):
Many studies project that climate change can cause a significant number of excess deaths. Yet, in integrated assessment models (IAMs) that determine the social cost of carbon (SCC) and prescribe optimal climate policy, human mortality impacts are limited and not updated to the latest scientific understanding.
This study extends the DICE-2016 IAM to explicitly include temperature-related mortality impacts by estimating a climate-mortality damage function. We introduce a metric, the mortality cost of carbon (MCC), that estimates the number of deaths caused by the emissions of one additional metric ton of CO2.
In the baseline emissions scenario, the 2020 MCC is 2.26 × 10-4 [low to high estimate -1.71× 10-4 to 6.78 × 10-4] excess deaths per metric ton of 2020 emissions.
This implies that adding 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020—equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 3.5 average Americans—causes one excess death globally in expectation between 2020-2100.
Incorporating mortality costs increases the 2020 SCC from $37 to $258 [-$69 to $545] per metric ton in the baseline emissions scenario. Optimal climate policy changes from gradual emissions reductions starting in 2050 to full decarbonization by 2050 when mortality is considered.
We’ll pass by the important and obvious difference between causing deaths and causing excess deaths, which are not the same thing, and which indicates how model happy scientists are.
Say, do you remember a favorite dictum of the blog? All models only say what they are told to say.
Modeling, and the mistaking of models for Reality, is, we infer, big business, for our Bressler speaks of “integrated assessment models” as if these are routine. There is already a “DICE-2016 IAM”, and undoubtedly there are others. I have five crisp brand new one dollar bills that says that not one of them have ever been tested against Reality. And I have five more that says none ever will be, not officially.
Anybody care to take the other side of that?
Our Bressler has added his own numerical ruminations to this DICE model. He told this model to say that for every metric ton of CO2 released into the atmosphere, 2.26 × 10-4 persons will die, their deaths caused by “carbon. Yes: deaths caused by carbon.
Well, 2.26 × 10-4 can also be written 0.000226. A mighty precise number, that. Even if we add his plus-or-minus.
I won’t spend even a moment critiquing that precise number, because it is absurd on its face. Especially when we read “climate change affects society through only one equation [in his model]: the climate-economy damage function”.
Any certainty you have that “climate-economy damage function” must be swamped by the uncertainty is specific causes of death, and in considering how wrong and long scientists have been on this subject, and in thinking about improving adaptations will extend lives. And so on.
It’s therefore a more interesting question why our Bressler could have convinced himself he has done something worthwhile.
In one sense, it is obvious. He got his paper in the “top” journal, it will help his career in no small way, and his model will increase his status as an Expert. His model, then, is very helpful. To him.
The second, and more subtle reason, is buried in the paper, on page 7. This is where were find some fun partial differential equations, all of which must be solved to make his model work. Solving these is an intellectual puzzle, which brings pleasure. To him.
That we have to deal with Bressler’s enjoyable hobby is thus an example of the Do Something Fallacy, which says here that doing a model to understand how “climate change” kills people is better than doing nothing.
Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.