Tag Archives: controversy

“Spreadsheets of Power”

Here is a rather different take on economic modeling (including the kind that went into the Stern Review, presumably).


This article is about the use of mathematics (in the form of economic modeling) to distract and obfuscate – to shut down debate.  My hope in offering this course is that mathematics can also empower.

Probably a blog post or two in here somewhere!


The precautionary principle

A good topic for blog posts in our general theme area of “probability” for this week might be the precautionary principle.  This idea, which has legal force in some countries, has several forms: one of them is that “if a proposed action is suspected of causing a risk to the environment, then  those proposing the action need to demonstrate that it does not propose a risk; those opposing the action do not need to demonstrate that it does pose a risk.”

Here is a basic scientific paper on the principle


and a link to an important early consensus statement

Wingspread Statement

The precautionary principle is appealing, but there are some obvious problems with it, for instance: What counts as “demonstrated” absence of harm?  What if our choice is not between “risk” and “safety” but between two courses of action both of which are “risky” in different ways?

You could post about the application of these ideas, and its relation to more probabilistic methods of risk assessment, in any one of several contexts: GMO foods, vaccines, cell phones and brain cancer, climate change…


Paul Krugman on growth

There’s been an interesting dialog just recently initiated by an op-ed by economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Here’s Krugman’s original piece: Errors and Emissions. He wants to argue against what he calls “climate despair” – the argument that rising carbon dioxide emissions and economic growth are inextricably tied together.

Some responses: from physicist Mark Buchanan, Economists are blind to the limits of growth, and from Richard Heinberg at the Post Carbon Institute, Paul Krugman’s Errors and Omissions.

Krugman responded by doubling down on his argument with Slow Steaming and teh Supposed Limits to Growth

Heinberg again: Paul Krugman and the Limits of Hubris