Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Stern Review on Climate Change

...can be found here with the "frequently asked questions" section found here. I am no expert in this area, however, what I see sounds quite sensible at first blush. The Review recommends that we reduce our CO2 emissions substantively in order to avoid continued warming of the planet. Failure to do so will lead to potentially catastrophic consequences by the end of the century. The cost in making the reductions will amount to about 1% of Gross Domestic Product by the middle of the century (+/-3%). A brief excerpt:

".....Global GDP is currently around $35 trillion, so if the full 1% were applied to the current period, it would imply around $350 billion in costs. Global GDP is likely to be around $100 trillion by 2050, so this would mean annual costs in the order of $1 trillion by then.

These costs are not trivial in absolute terms, but they will not disrupt economic growth. The overall impact can be thought of as equivalent to a one-off increase in the average price level of 1%. Since it may be interpreted as a cost or price index we should see the 1% as applying to either consumption or income.

The costs of inaction would be likely to be much more significant in terms of damage to the world economy......

....The cost may be unevenly distributed amongst countries. For equity reasons, rich countries may at least initially need to take on more of the costs. For illustration, if the costs of mitigation are 1% of global GDP, then if the rich countries agreed to pay 20% more in the initial decades (1.2% of GDP), then this would allow poorer countries – accounting for 80% of the world’s population – to pay only 0.2% of GDP.

If some countries take action that is much more significant than others over long periods of time, this may lead to impacts on the competitiveness of some firms or sectors, particularly in energy-intensive industries. It is important to use quantitative analysis to assess the size of these impacts, and to find ways to reduce the problems. If all countries act in a broadly similar way, there will be no impact on competitiveness or on firms’ decisions to invest in particular locations. For some industries, a global sectoral agreement in advance of a broader international agreement could offer opportunities to co-ordinate efficient and effective action.

Taking no action to reduce emissions will also penalise some sectors more than others – for example, as the climate changes the spatial distribution of tourism and agriculture....."

What I found interesting about this is that the cost to us---1% of global GDP---is similar to the cost that Thomas Pogge claims wealthy countries should pay to end severe poverty (1% of GDP from affluent states). Thus, for less than 2% of global GDP we might eradicate global poverty and avoid global warming. Such a sum of money would be far from insignificant and difficult to manage and allocate effectively, but not beyond all possible hope. The solution to both problems may be easier than many may least in terms of costs.

Giving up the dollar

We now learn the Federal Reserve will try once more to get Americans away from dollars and towards coins, introducing (again) the one dollar coin. The idea is that dollars simply don't last as long as coins: coins get more bang for one's buck...literally, in this case. Will it catch on? I have been used to one pound coins for years and can see others doing likewise. The problem may lie with American wallets: when friends and family see my wallet, they notice it has a place for coins. American wallets for men lack these. Moving to coins will mean more than getting used to something different, but involve entirely new lines of wallets as well. Not a problem to end all problems, but perhaps another reason to doubt Americans are ready for this move.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Cafe Philosophique

is a creature I haven't had interaction with before. However, I am now happily on the bill with my colleague Peter Jones. We'll be debating positive and negative freedom, where I'll be arguing in favour of a conception of positive freedom and Peter in favour of negative freedom. It should be fun and I nothing but wonderful things from colleagues who have participated in these events in the past. We'll be live at The Trent's World HQ in Newcastle on February 5th (a Monday).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The personal cost of prisons well demonstrated in this Hartford Courant piece on how imprisonment has effected the children of those in prison. At the moment, one in six children living in my home state's capital of Hartford has a parent in prison. It makes for sober reading.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Philosophy Family Tree: who is in your family?

Josh Dever's wonderful "The Philosophy Family Tree" is something else. You can look up your supervisor and see who supervised them and so on. Like a family tree, the philosophy family tree lists a name (as if one's parent) and then lists their students (as if their children), their students' students (as if their grandchildren), etc.

And so what did I find out? Several terrific facts. I had two Ph.D. supervisors: Robert Stern and Leif Wenar at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, UK. Here are my family trees:

(Stern line)
Thom Brooks
-Robert Stern
--Edward Craig
---Jonathan Bennett
----Arthur Prior
-----John Findlay
------Ernst Mally
-------Alexius Meinong
--------Franz Brentano
---------Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg
----------Karl Reinhold
-----------Immanuel Kant
------------Martin Knutzen
-------------Christian Wolff
--------------Gottfried Leibniz

Not a bad tree, huh? Cousins and great-cousins include Alfred Tarski, Kit Fine, Alastair Norcross, and Mark Sacks.

Now onto my tree with Leif. Leif was supervised by both Robert Nozick (family line A) and T.M. Scanlon (family line B). My trees here:

(Wenar line A)
Thom Brooks
-Leif Wenar
--Robert Nozick
---Carl Hempel
----Hans Reichenbach
-----Emmy Noether
------Paul Gordon
-------Karl Jacobi
--------Enno Dirksen
---------Johann Meyer
----------Abraham Kaestner
-----------Christian Hauser
------------Johann Wichmannhausen
-------------Otto Menche
--------------Gottfried Leibniz (again!)
(Distinguished cousins and great-cousins include Elijah Millgram, Matthias Risse, and Tamar Gendler.)

Now onto (Leif line B)
Thom Brooks
-Leif Wenar
--T.M. Scanlon
---Burton Dreben
----W.V.O. Quine
-----Alfred Whitehead
------John McTaggart
-------James Ward
--------Hermann Lotze
---------Christian Hermann Weisse
(Here distinguished cousins include Charles Beitz, Gary Kemp, and Stephen Yablo.)

Simply amazing stuff. Key figures come to life as never before!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Great news for Queen's University Belfast

I have just heard from my old chum Stefan Andreasson that Queen's University Belfast has joined the prestigious Russell Group. For those who do not know the group, it is essentially a lobbying body representing the top (now) 20 research-led universities in Britain, including Birmingham, Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, UCL....and Newcastle, of course. QUB's recognition as a member of this club is long overdue. I'm delighted.