climate, economics, and agent based models

This journal article is mostly over my head, but I found the introduction interesting. It talks about the use of equilibrium models most common in economics compared to emerging research into agent based models.
Complexity and the Economics of Climate Change: a Survey and a Look Forward

Excerpt:

Mitigation and adaptation to climate change represent governance challenges of an unprecedented scale because of their long-term horizon, their global nature and the massive uncertainties they involve. Against this background, equilibrium models generally used in Integrated Assessment Models (IAM) represent the economy as a system with a unique equilibrium, climate policy as an additional constraint in the optimization problem of the social planner and consider the uncertainty of climate-related damages to be predictable enough to be factored out in the expected utility of a representative agent. There is growing concern in the literature that this picture might convey a false impression of control (seePindyck,2013; Stern, 2013, 2016; Weitzman, 2013; Revesz et al., 2014; Farmer et al., 2015, among manycontributions) and that IAMs might underestimate both the cost of climate change and the bene fits resulting from the transition to a low carbon-emission economy (Stern, 2016).

Network and agent-based models have been increasingly advocated as alternatives t to handle out-of-equilibrium dynamics, tipping points and large transitions in socio-economic systems (see e.g Tesfatsion and Judd, 2006; Balbi and Giupponi, 2010; Kelly et al., 2013; Smajgl et al., 2011; Farmer et al., 2015; Stern, 2016; Mercure et al., 2016). These classes of models consider the real world as a complex evolving system, wherein the interaction of many heterogeneous agents possibly reacting across different spatial and temporal scales give rise to the emergence of aggregate properties that cannot be deduced by the simple aggregation of individual ones (Flake, 1988; Tesfatsion and Judd, 2006). The development of agent-based integrated assessment model can overcome the shortfall of equilibrium models and ease stakeholder participation and scenario exploration (Moss et al., 2001; Moss, 2002a). Indeed, the higher degree of realism of ABMs (Farmer and Foley, 2009; Farmer et al., 2015) allows to involve policy makers in the process of the development of the model employed for policy evaluation (Moss, 2002b).

Hiroshima

Should the U.S. apologize for dropping the bomb on Hiroshima? Certainly the Japanese government of the time committed horrible atrocities, but I still think dropping the bomb was a mistake, and not coming to terms with what we did leads to a callous attitude toward the dangers of our (much larger, much more powerful, in many more hands) nuclear weapons almost 70 years later.

Even if you have never been to the place, you know the place. The mountains that form the background in all the old photos are still backstopping the city. A lot of newer, tall buildings now, but the Ota River delta, where thousands drowned trying to cool their bodies and extinguish their burning flesh, is right there. You’ve seen the pictures. Most of the bridges and streets were rebuild [sic] right where they’d been before the Bomb. Same for most public buildings. You could see where you were in 2017 and where you would have been in 1945 because they are the same place…

Outside of Japan, most people feel the Japanese government has yet to fully acknowledge its aggressiveness in plunging East Asia into war. Indeed, the museum inside the Peace Park has been chastised as focusing almost exclusively on a single day, out of a war that began over a decade earlier and claimed millions of innocent lives before the bomb fell on August 6, 1945. The criticism is particularly sharp, given the rise in militarism occurring under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Now, as in decades past, China watches to see what Japan will do with its armed forces…

There are others with things to atone for, and much to reconcile. The U.S. remains unrepentant. It was only on the 60th anniversary of the bomb that the first American ambassador came to Hiroshima on an August 6th morning to pay respects. There has never been an apology for the first use of a nuclear weapon, and against a civilian target at that. Ask most Americans about the bombing, and it would be surprising not to hear the phrase “they deserved it.” A few elderly survivors with disfiguring burns still suffer today. Yet there is not enough vengeance for some, even seven decades later.

– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/165741#sthash.Ii0iS7fh.dpuf

NATO expansion as a failure of empathy

This article in History News Network explains why allowing NATO to expand too much too fast after the fall of the Soviet Union may have been a crucial mistake.

By 2017 much of the former communist-ruled area of Europe—including Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Albania—had joined the alliance, as had three former republics of the USSR itself (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). In 2008 NATO’s Bucharest Declaration indicated that two more former Soviet republics could at some point in the future join the organization whose original purpose was to protect its members against Soviet threats. (“NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO.  We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.”)

To realize how colossally we have failed to empathize with Russian concerns about such expansion, we should imagine how we would feel if Canada and Mexico and say some states that successfully seceded (imagine Texas, Minnesota, and North Dakota) joined a Russian alliance system. Our empathy deficit has been recognized by many leading political thinkers, including some conservative statesmen.

In her The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-first Century, Georgetown’s Angela Stent approvingly quotes a German official, who accused the United States of “an empathy deficit disorder” toward Russia. In addition, Henry Kissinger (former secretary of state), Jack Matlock (Reagan appointed ambassador to Russia), and Robert Gates (secretary of defense under both George W. Bush and Obama) all have criticized a lack of U. S. empathy toward Russian concerns about NATO expansion. Typical is Gates’s comment: “Moving so quickly after the collapse of the Soviet Union to incorporate so many of its formerly subjugated states into NATO was a mistake. . . . Trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching.” (See here for sources of quotes.)

I think there are some important claims here as we see echos of the same lack of empathy in U.S. statements and positions toward China. We can try to understand their motives, interests, and understanding of their role in the history of the region as we engage with them. This doesn’t mean being weak, it means being smart and strategic and giving peace a chance.

 

what’s going on with mad cow?

Mad cow disease is scary because there is such a long time between when someone is infected and when they begin to show symptoms, the kind of disease that could spread through large portions of a population before anyone realizes it is there. I am not saying it has, I don’t know. This article in Alternet doesn’t really address the current status, but it goes through some interesting history of the first outbreak in the U.S.

On December 23, 2003, the USDA announced that a Holstein cow, imported from Canada and slaughtered in Moses Lake, Washington, tested positive for mad cow disease. Ann Veneman, USDA secretary at the time and other USDA officials, said the cow was discovered because she was a “downer”––unable to walk—which was how the system screened for mad cows. In other words, the system “worked.” The problem was three workers said the cow had walked just fine suggesting that the entire federal mad cow testing program was worthless. Congressional hearings ensued.

As it turned out, congressional troubles were the least of cattle producers’ problems. Within hours of the mad cow announcement, China, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea and ninety other countries banned US beef and 98 percent of the $3 billion overseas beef market vanished. (The only reason the EU didn’t ban US beef was it was already banned for its hormones oestradiol-17, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengestrol which EU officials said increased breast and prostate cancer risks.)

After the first mad cow, things got worse. Two more mad cows were found in the US in 2004 and they weren’t from Canada. One was born in Texas and the other Alabama. Worse, a USDA export verification report admitted that 29 downers at two unidentified slaughterhouses went into the human food supply and twenty were not tested for mad cow disease.

Most of the countries mentioned lifted their ban shortly afterward, but China apparently is just lifting it now, according to NPR:

Cooked chicken from birds grown and raised in China soon will be headed to America — in a trade deal that’s really about beef…

The Chinese appetite for beef is huge and growing, but American beef producers have been locked out of that market since a case of mad cow disease cropped up in the U.S. in 2003. In response, many countries, including South Korea, Japan, Mexico and China, banned imports of U.S. beef…

Many people long had seen China’s refusal to lift its ban on U.S. beef imports as a negotiating tactic, a tit for tat aimed at allowing Chinese chicken imports into the United States. The negotiations that led to the new trade deal have been going back and forth for more than a decade, stalled at one point by worries in Congress over China’s food-safety practices.

This might be good for the U.S. beef industry in the short term, but an exploding demand for beef can’t really be good for the world in the longer term. Maybe this is not the kind of industry of the future that the U.S. should be focusing on. I’ll admit I’m a hypocrite – I love a good cheeseburger, but I try to treat it as an occasional treat rather than a staple food.

more on NASA’s plans

sciencealert.com has a little more on NASA’s plans to visit Mars around the early 2030s or so.

As NASA’s Greg Williams explained this week at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington DC, the Moon mission is on the slate for 2027 and could see a crew spending a year sailing above the lunar surface.

That extended stay in space would be preceded by at least five missions, some manned and some unmanned, to lug bits of equipment towards the Moon. That kit would include a habitat for crew members as well as the Deep Space Transport spacecraft that NASA has in the works to take people all the way to Mars.

“If we could conduct a year-long crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back,” Williams said, as reported by Calla Cofield at Space.com.

what NASA is up to

NASA is working on a couple interesting things, The “space launch system” is described as “the world’s most powerful rocket“, with the aim of lifting components that can eventually be assembled into vehicles for deep space exploration. That’s right, we’re talking about a spaceship, about a decade out or so.

For those destinations farther into the solar system, including Mars, NASA envisions a deep space transport spacecraft. This spacecraft would be a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion and would be specifically designed for crewed missions to destinations such as Mars. The transport would take crew out to their destination, return them back to the gateway, where it can be serviced and sent out again. The transport would take full advantage of the large volumes and mass that can be launched by the SLS rocket, as well as advanced exploration technologies being developed now and demonstrated on the ground and aboard the International Space Station.

This second phase will culminate at the end of the 2020s with a one year crewed mission aboard the transport in the lunar vicinity to validate the readiness of the system to travel beyond the Earth-moon system to Mars and other destinations, and build confidence that long-duration, distant human missions can be safely conducted with independence from Earth. Through the efforts to build this deep space infrastructure, this phase will enable explorers to identify and pioneer innovative solutions to technical and human challenges discovered or engineered in deep space.

 

Amsterdam

Here is a book for children as young as 4 about the bicycling revolution in Amsterdam. Here’s the Amazon description:

Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World

Cycling rules the road in Amsterdam today, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1970’s, Amsterdam was so crowded with vehicles that bicyclists could hardly move, but moms and kids relied on their bicycles to get around the city. PEDAL POWER is the story of the people who led protests against the unsafe streets and took over a vehicles-only tunnel on their bikes, showing what a little pedal power could do! Author and illustrator Allan Drummond returns with the story of the people that paved the way for safe biking around the world.

I love Amsterdam, It’s not just the idea of bicycling as a major form of transportation, it’s the whole package of getting around by bicycle and on foot, the old world layout, and the active public places and street scenes it leads to. It’s a winning formula that cities around the world could aspire to, and yet almost none are.

Buzz Aldrin’s plan for Mars

Buzz Aldrin has a plan to go to Mars.

Establishing private outposts in LEO [Low Earth Orbit] is just the first step in Aldrin’s plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on “cyclers” — spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth…

Step two involves the international spaceflight community coming together to build cyclers that ply cislunar space, taking people on trips to the moon and back. Such spacecraft, and the activities they enable, would allow the construction of a crewed lunar base, where humanity could learn and test the techniques required for Mars colonization, such as how to manufacture propellant from local resources, Aldrin said…

Aldrin foresees these various cycler iterations enabling a crewed mission to a near-Earth asteroid by 2020 and a Venus flyby by 2024. If all goes well, the first future Mars settlers could launch in the early 2030s, he said.

So a sustainable Mars colony could be not an ambitious goal for the next 100 years, as Stephen Hawking just suggested, but 20 years or so out.

Stephen Hawking: escape the planet in 100 years

From The Independent:

In “Expedition New Earth” – a documentary that debuts this summer as part of the BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” science season – Hawking claims that Mother Earth would greatly appreciate it if we could gather our belongings and get out – not in 1,000 years, but in the next century or so…

“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,” the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. “With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious…”

The BBC program gives Hawking a chance to wade into the evolving science and technology that may become crucial if humans hatch a plan to escape Earth and find a way to survive on another planet – from questions about biology and astronomy to rocket technology and human hibernation, the BBC notes.

Getting a colony started on Mars, Earth’s moon, or another moon in the nearby solar system within a hundred years doesn’t seem all that daunting to me. Whether it could be truly self-sufficient from Earth in that time frame is the real question. That seems like a tall order, considering how much our current civilization depends on this planet’s natural gifts to get by. Our technology would have to improve a lot.

roads and railways as wildlife movement corridors?

At least, I think that is what this paper in Conservation Biology is about. The key conclusion is that biodiversity impacts (of the roads and rails themselves? it’s unclear) can be reduced by up to 75%. I am presuming this is by locating a linear park of sufficient width along the road or railway. Presumably you might need to do something to keep the animals off the road too. Could a few larger reserves located along the corridor reduce the impact to zero? I would find it very encouraging both to know that it is possible and to know that we have the quantitative tools to accurately predict the outcomes of policy and design choices.

Quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure

The proliferation of linear infrastructure such as roads and rail is a major global driver of cumulative biodiversity loss. Creative interventions to minimise the impacts of this infrastructure whilst still allowing development to meet human population growth and resource consumption demands are urgently required. One strategy for reducing habitat loss associated with development is to encourage linear infrastructure providers and users to share infrastructure networks. Here we quantify the reductions in biodiversity impact and capital cost under linear infrastructure sharing and demonstrate this approach with a case study in South Australia. By evaluating proposed mine-port links we show that shared development of linear infrastructure could reduce overall biodiversity impacts by up to 75%. We found that such reductions are likely to be limited if the dominant mining companies restrict access to infrastructure, a situation likely to occur without policy to promote sharing of infrastructure. Our research helps illuminate the circumstances under which infrastructure sharing can minimise the biodiversity impacts of development.