This column has on a number of occasions been critical of President Donald Trump; his views on interest rates are especially unenlightened. Yet in two crucial areas, where corporate interests and the intelligentsia had spread a deep fog of deliberate lies to smother intelligent global discourse, Trump has acted as a mighty wind of clarity and illumination. I refer of course to those twin scourges of our times: global warming hysteria and excessive legal and illegal immigration.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) was released last week; it followed three previous NCAs, in 2000, 2009 and 2013, and is issued on behalf of a consortium of 13 government agencies. The process of producing it is thus not subject to proper political review, but merely wastes government money, whatever administration happens to be in power at the time.
Being unconstrained by commercial, political or academic considerations, the authors of the study are free to indulge their wildest fantasies. Every sentence of the language in the Executive Summary is extreme; there is no such thing as a moderate problem, and the study projects a temperature rise by 2100 of 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than even the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, another body whose members all lose their job if the climate change problem is decided to be a modest one.
I am not a climate scientist. But I was in my time a pretty fair mathematician, taking a considerable interest in the early iterations of large mathematical models. I spoke publicly at a 1971 meeting demonstrating the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” model, pointing out that its simulations, run 40 years forward, all included error terms that had exploded exponentially off the page – I had experienced the same phenomenon myself; with the primitive computer science of that time it was difficult to cure. But it meant that, whatever unrealistic improvements in technology they inputted, catastrophe of one kind or another followed within 40 years, according to the model, i.e. around 2012. Needless to say, since the disasters were not even a figment of computer programmers’ imagination but an artifact of sheer random mathematical error, they have failed to occur.
I very much suspect that something similar has gone wrong with NCA4’s model. This could have two possible causes. One would again be exploding error terms (but surely, 47 years later, such eminent people know how to solve that problem by now.) The other would because there is a hidden factor in the model causing the equations to “fall off a cliff,” undergoing a mathematical catastrophe, and the modelers are either hiding this or inserted it by accident.
You see, I don’t have too much problem with NCA4’s “Higher” scenario (RCP 8.5) in which carbon emissions spiral out of control and the planet warms like a meatball in a wok, by 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Yes, that would be catastrophic, and if we see carbon emissions spiraling out of control, we must prevent them from doing so. 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit, NCA4’s “headline” number is probably too high, just because of the way these people operate, but I can’t prove them wrong.
No, the problem I have is with the much lower emission “Lower” scenario, in which emissions drop back somewhat from current levels, and overall average about the same level as they have over the last century. Almost all natural phenomena are approximately linear; indeed it is very difficult to make these models stray far from linearity, and if they do, you have probably done something wrong. So, if the input assumption is that carbon emissions are at the average level of the last century, then the “null hypothesis” output would be warming at the same rate as the last century. We are told that the planet has warmed by 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit between the 1900-60 average and the 1986-2016 average, a period of 70 years between the midpoint of those two intervals (there have been problems with climate scientists fudging temperature measurements in recent years but let that pass.) Hence in the 99 years between 1986-2016 and 2085-2115 (the period centered on 2100) the null hypothesis, given that carbon emissions have not changed, would be warming of 1.2 x 99/70 = 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.95 degrees Celsius. Such a large system will have a high level of hysteresis, so you can be pretty sure that the warming by 2100 would be between say 1.3 and 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 to 1.15 degrees Celsius.) A warming of this magnitude would have little effect on our lives; the oceans would rise by at most a foot or so (so put sandbags on the levees) and some Northerly regions would become more fertile (you might consider a flutter in southern Greenland real estate!)
But the NCA4 model says that under the “Lower” scenario assumption, the temperature in 2070-2100 will be 2.8-7.3 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today, or somewhere between double and quintuple the linear rate of increase. That is frankly not credible. There is some assumption in the model which makes its output wildly non-linear, or its error term is exploding.
After 30 years, you would think that climate scientists could have devised a model that would operate plausibly and produce output values that a simple mathematical analysis as above could not prove to be invalid. The fact that they haven’t proves that they don’t want to; they are paid very well, at taxpayer expense to produce alarmist results, and they will use the model as a “black box” to do so and alarm the more gullible laymen. 30 years of this nonsense is enough; it is time that the immense expenditure of taxpayer resources and forest of immeasurably expensive climate control regulations were cut right back, or preferably eliminated altogether. An ordinary Republican President, a feeble Bush, McCain or Romney, would not have dared buck the consensus of expensive “experts” and point out that the climate change Emperor has no clothes. President Trump has done so, repeatedly and loudly, and therefore in this area at least we can say: Thank God for President Trump!
Immigration is a similar topic. Here the big corporations have been paying economists for decades to tell us that unlimited immigration raises Gross Domestic Product. This is of course the wrong criterion. Unlimited unskilled immigration, even if it does not increase crime (because of the difficulties of disparate communities living together) and welfare costs (because the immigrants lack a nearby family network when they get old) certainly reduces per capita GDP, which is the measure we should take when considering the well-being of ordinary Americans.
Letting in a flood of new people may increase output, but if they are less skilled than those you already have, it reduces average output per person. Only immigrants at the very top of the skill level, with Einstein levels of scientific capability or Sergey Brin levels of entrepreneurial ability, raise well-being levels for the populace as a whole, by producing far more than they consume. Restricting unskilled immigration raises wage rates and tightens the labor market, thus benefiting those domestic citizens who have only modest skill levels.
For many years, there was no proper response to the cheap labor lobby’s paid-for economists touting high immigration levels. I produced my first column on the subject in January 2004, when President George W. Bush first tried to impose an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and I found that the increase in immigration since the 1970s had coincided precisely with the flattening and decline in living standards for U.S. blue-collar workers. Further amnesty attempts were made in 2007 and 2013, each with the strong support of the great majority of the political class, each with massive waves of propaganda supporting them from the paid-for economic community. Both attempts were stopped only by a mass movement among ordinary U.S. voters, who made it clear to their Congressmen that this was not what they wanted.
Now, finally, President Trump has come out against the cheap-labor lobby, and its army of “experts” producing phony “studies” that say only what the politically correct want them to say. And again, this is not something his predecessors would have done. President Reagan, of sainted memory, passed a foolish amnesty plan in 1986 that let in untold millions more of the unskilled, whose descendants will form a lumpen-proletariat of the under-skilled and underpaid for several generations into the future. President George H.W. Bush signed into law the disgraceful lottery provision, whose sole purpose is to import more bottom-end toilers without the skills they need to succeed in a modern economy. Trump, finally, has spoken up for the American people.
There are subjects on which column has disagreed with President Trump, and there will doubtless be future subjects on which his policies appear sub-optimal. But by combating two areas of “expert”-driven destruction, he has performed a great service where all his predecessors failed. It was well worth a little populism to remove both these areas of corrupt consensus. So tweet away, Mr. President!
(The Bear’s Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that the proportion of “sell” recommendations put out by Wall Street houses remains far below that of “buy” recommendations. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)