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Robert Keyfitz

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  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    in sinc: Policymakers need to trade off the costs and benefits of controlling emissions. If we start now, we can bend the curve at a reasonable cost, though the political will probably doesn’t exist to achieve Hansen’s targets. However, if we don’t start until 2040, you’re right that the cost of achieving any limit will be much higher and as a result we’ll settle for a worse long term outcome. It’s all a matter of making reasonable assumptions (about technology, growth, population, etc.) and setting a discount rate and optimizing something. Don’t you think?

    I DON'T KNOW HOW EXXON made its forecast. However, pricing carbon is a terrific way to incentivize improvements in energy efficiency and CO2 mitigation. In terms of planning, they’re actually building in a notional carbon price of $80/ton CO2 in their investment decisions: “We also require that all significant proposed projects include a cost of carbon – which reflects our best assessment of costs associated with potential GHG regulations over the Outlook period – when being evaluated for investment.” Maybe the figure they're using is too low, but they’re getting used to the idea. Personally, I don’t think any of this needs to be disadvantageous for either developed or developing countries. Potentially we’ll see a wave of innovation that will make us all a whole lot better off in terms of both technology and institutions. The important thing for countries, companies and individuals is not to be stupid and get blindsided.
    Apr 12 12:46 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    aretailguy: You're right that climate change always has and always will occur. However, evidence about the current trajectory is more than anecdotal. A well established body of theory and observation associates GHGs with warming and the increase in GHGs is directly linked to human activity -- deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. There may be other causes too, but they're additive and since too hot is a more immediate problem than too cold, let's deal with that first by doing the obvious.
    Apr 11 01:41 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    in sinc: I hadn’t actually looked at the paper, thanks for the prod. It's not as empty as you imply. First, it’s hard to disagree that a low carbon scenario is unlikely to gain much ground by 2040 which is the forecast horizon. Realistically, the prospects are limited over the next 25 years for binding international cooperation, or a major roll out of renewables, nuclear, carbon capture, etc.
    WHAT IS ENCOURAGING is that the outlook anticipates rising energy efficiency and therefore slower growth of energy use and emissions, in part due to carbon pricing of up to $80/ton CO2 in OECD countries. Exxon incorporates a notional carbon price of a similar amount in its capital planning. Which is good – if a lot of hydrocarbon deposits aren’t going to be exploited, there’s no point in investing in them. As a XOM shareholder, I’d certainly hope the company won’t be stranding costly assets, but clear thinking and rational planning can enable it to remain a solid investment as the hydrocarbon era winds down.
    Apr 11 06:19 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    CoSyBob: Interesting paper, though I’d guess Luboš Motl didn’t read it and neither did you or DevilDog85. There are no “climate kook junk scientists” in the model. Rather scientists collectively discover the truth. Subsequently, the media decide whether to exaggerate it as they pass it on to the general public. Nobody “lies” in the sense of passing on false information which is not based on science, though they may exaggerate it. Potentially society benefits as a result, if the general public doesn’t believe that climate change is as serious a problem as it really is and the exaggeration encourages them to take action.
    NONE OF THIS should give much comfort to climate change deniers. Part of the social benefit of media exaggeration comes from offsetting what the authors describe as, “the propaganda of climate skepticism.” See footnote 5: “…our model does not support the view of climate skeptics. In fact, our key result – that overpessimism alleviates the underparticipation problem – implies that the propaganda of climate skepticism may be detrimental to society.” It’s kind of like after climate change deniers have poisoned the well, media exaggeration discourages people from drinking the water.
    FINALLY, IT IS WORTH NOTING that the authors present a bit of anecdotal evidence, but there's no indication whether the argument is of real practical significance. Interestingly, there’s a counterargument that the “Fairness Doctrine” has been exploited to give undue weight in the media to the views of climate change deniers, confusing the public with a false impression of a scientific controversy (see This one is much better documented empirically.
    Apr 10 06:49 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    DevilDog85: Please identify the climate kook junk scientists and document where they said it was ok to lie and exaggerate climate change affects [sic]. Folks who talk like you have been known to make things up. Let's be sure your inconvenient truth isn't actually a convenient lie.
    Apr 8 10:26 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Sense And Nonsense About Climate Change. What Do Investors Need To Know? [View article]
    Gentlemen: You’re trying to score points in a dispute that can ONLY be resolved by more evidence. Not the bogus, oil-funded obfuscation that gives you so much pleasure, but real empirical data. You’ll have to be patient. Personally, I hope you’re right so I can enjoy my golden years driving around with the top down, guilt free. Time will tell.

    INCIDENTALLY, I’VE JUST FINISHED a very interesting book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway called Merchants of Doubt. Highly recommended. I’m sure you recognize Oreskes’ name, but whatever you think of her, she didn't get to Harvard on sloppy scholarship. Lots of footnotes. The book carefully documents how the very same people and organizations bringing you climate change denial also brought you acid rain, ozone hole, nuclear winter, and pesticide (DDT) denial. Especially they brought you denial of the dangers of smoking which is especially interesting because as part of the tobacco settlement, the tobacco companies were forced to disclose thousands of pages of internal reports and memos. It's unmistakably clear how bogus misinformation was at the heart of their industrial strategy. They intentionally created phony scientific institutes to sow doubt where there was certainty and certainty where there was doubt. It’s all up on the web in the Tobacco Legacy Library.

    IT'S STRIKING HOW the same names and talking points keep popping up in the book: We can't know for sure a problem exists, or if it does whether humans caused it, or whether it's serious, or whether we can do anything about it.... They vilified and destroyed the careers of scientists who got in their way. They utilized the "fairness doctrine" to make sure their increasingly discredited views were overrepresented in the press and official reports. The point was to confuse people like you. Oreskes and Conway argue that Fred Seitz, Fred Singer, William Nierenberg and a supporting cast were motivated by an extreme antipathy for socialism and government regulation. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we do know for sure is they were dead wrong about the science on these other issues. That should make you just a bit uncomfortable as you parrot their views on climate change.
    Apr 7 07:12 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • IMF Deal Will Break Ukraine, Harm Global Stability [View article]
    You don't seem to know much about the IMF. It always recommends the same medicine which sometimes makes the country sicker (as in the cases I mentioned), but always enables it to service its debts to foreign lenders. That's what it does and why it does it.
    Mar 28 06:08 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • IMF Deal Will Break Ukraine, Harm Global Stability [View article]
    It's the same medicine the IMF prescribed for Asia in 1997, Argentina and Turkey in 2001, Greece in 2010,.... What makes you think it won't work this time, just because the patient is being dismembered?
    Mar 28 07:09 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A Rational And Inefficient Noise Event [View article]
    With $200 million you'll be able to fly around in ever decreasing circles for some time before reaching your wazoo. But find something else to spend it on. The problem is a lack of identifying restrictions in your model, not finance.
    Mar 28 06:43 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Only 20 Companies That Matter [View article]
    Interesting. But wouldn’t it be simpler to restate the conclusion as: corporate profits as a share of GDP (global or otherwise) don’t predict stock returns and therefore shouldn't be of much interest to investors? By contrast, we know valuations do, which makes that a better focus if you’re into aggregate-type macro/financial indicators. Also, why isn’t your takeaway just to buy the market (SPY or RSP, say) instead of trying to beat it through clever style selection or stock picking?
    Mar 27 07:54 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    ShellVpower: If you have a better idea, let's hear it. Party like a Rockefeller?
    Mar 26 06:43 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • In A Strategic Move, ExxonMobil Discloses Carbon Risks [View article]
    It's worth pointing out that many large energy (and other) companies have been taking timid steps toward a low carbon future for some time (see, e.g., However, Exxon is a noteworthy and welcome addition to the club. Climate change readiness ought to be part of every investor's due diligence and kudos to XOM for making it easier. Unfortunately, when I looked at the evidence a year ago ( it didn't seem that that climate awareness was good for business. Think P&G, for instance. Still, it's inevitable and over time the benefits will become more apparent.
    Mar 25 11:02 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • After 25% Pullback, Lenovo Looks Extremely Interesting [View article]
    If you already own Intel, it doesn't sound like there's much reason to add Lenovo.
    Mar 18 10:33 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Sense And Nonsense About Climate Change. What Do Investors Need To Know? [View article]
    martinfrosa: I didn't say it could, but only that $1/kg would offset any cost of containing it. The account of the study I read suggested a relatively small number of faulty components were likely responsible for a majority of the leakage ( so it shouldn't cost much to stop a lot of it. Also, I just made up the figure of $1/kg which is probably closer to a retail price, including taxes. But the point is that the benefit-cost ratio on purely commercial terms might well be greater than one (at least for part of the problem), and all the more so if you price GHGs.
    Mar 17 01:05 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Sense And Nonsense About Climate Change. What Do Investors Need To Know? [View article]
    PaulTD: I recall several years ago hearing a story about some people who had fitted up a truck and were driving around taking air samples near petrochemical plants and other facilities. Maybe that’s what led to this paper.
    IN ANY CASE, I see two main takeaways: (1) Uncertainty about initial conditions further adds to uncertainty about aerosols, the physics of ice sheets, ability to reengineer major crops to withstand higher temperatures, prospects for enforcing agreements on global public goods, etc. I continue to believe that uncertainty is a major reason for adopting cautious climate policies and this does nothing to change that view. (2) Many climate risks can be addressed at low or even negative cost, including this one. Suppose methane is worth $1 per kg, so your 14 Tgs are worth $14 billion. It's a win-win situation to plug the leaks. I’d urge the EPA to follow up by vigorously enforcing pollution laws.
    Mar 16 01:29 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment