Super freakononics

Altruism is discussed in the third chapter, and uses examples of the murder of Kitty Genovesecrime rates as affected by television, and economic experimental games such as prisoner's dilemmaultimatumand the work of John A.

While some early adopters of unleaded-fuel cars might have done it for environmental reasons, the vast majority of people did it first because it was cheaper, and second, because after a while there was no longer an option. Synopsis[ edit ] The explanatory note states that the theme of the book explores the concept that we all work for a particular reward.

The first thing to note is that these issues have not been dealt with by forcing people to think about the consequences every time they make a decision. Unfortunately, the real world still has an ozone layer, winds that depend on temperature gradients that cause European winters to warm after volcanic eruptions, rainfall that depends on the solar heating at the surface of the ocean and decreases dramatically after eruptions, clouds that depend on the presence of condensation nuclei, plants that have specific preferences for direct or diffuse light, and marine life that relies on the fact that the ocean doesn't dissolve calcium carbonate near the surface.

The issues I listed above are the 'known unknowns' — things we know that we don't know to quote a recent US defense secretary.

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To be a little more charitable, it is possible that what was meant was that you can't expect humans to consciously modify their behaviour all the time based on a desire to limit carbon emissions.

Instead, almost all existing mitigation ideas rely on aligning individual self-interest with societal goals to reduce emissions — usually by installing some kind of carbon price or through mandates such as the CAFE standards.

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The role of the economist should be to find ways to make that alignment of individual and collective interest easier, not to erroneously declare it can't possibly be done.

For some background on geo-engineering, read our previous pieces: Climate Change methadone? The genius of the original book lay in its ability to turn hard data into stories as interesting as the best anecdotes. Can a sex change boost your salary?

Super freakononics

The problem is that we don't know more than roughly what such a planet would be like. But why should economists be any better at understanding what actually happens in a simulated car crash than scientists or engineers? While this may have made some difference to CFC levels, production levels were cut to zero by government mandates embedded in the Montreal Protocols and subsequent amendments. His second error is in not appreciating the nature of the cost-benefit calculations. Reception[ edit ] SuperFreakonomics has been praised for its entertainment value, but has drawn criticism for taking unconventional approaches to its subject matter, particularly global warming. Superfreakonomics contains nothing as painstaking or as revelatory as this. For some background on geo-engineering, read our previous pieces: Climate Change methadone? The real problem is that there is too much of people like Allie and too little of Levitt. No-one needs to think about their spray can destroying the ozone layer any more. Maybe not; after all, as economists they tell us they are fully attuned to the difference between declared preferences what people say they think and revealed preferences what it turns out they really think. However, instead of simply listing errors already found by others, I'll focus on why this chapter was possibly written in the first place. None of these issues are trivial or cheap to deal with, and yet few are being accounted for in most popular discussions of the issue including the chapter we are discussing here. This book treats mildly interesting anecdotes as though they were substitutes for hard data.

The geo-engineering option that is being talked about here is the addition of SO2 to the stratosphere where it oxidises to SO4 sulphate aerosols which, since they are reflective, reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the ground. Yet in their rather smug preface, the authors say that they believe the second book "is easily better than the first".

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Superfreakonomics by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner