Author Archives: Neil Lock

Coronavirus: eight European countries are now “over the hump!”


I’ve been doing some more playing with the new-cases figures for coronavirus. I took the raw figures since March 17th from worldometers.info for the following countries: Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Denmark. I left out France, because of their recent data issues. I used Excel to smooth the figures over 7-day periods (so e.g. for March 20th I averaged the figures from March 17th to 23rd inclusive). I chose 7 days, because that is roughly the period of the “wobble” I saw in many countries’ data when I first looked into the detail a few days ago.

I came up with some interesting results. The countries divided clearly into three groups:

  • Eight in which the smoothed new cases have already peaked and are on a downward trend: Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Norway.
  • One (Netherlands) where smoothed new cases have only very recently peaked, and it’s not clear whether or not that will be the final peak.
  • Four in which the smoothed new cases have not yet peaked: UK, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark.

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Are Coronavirus Lockdowns Working?


(Neil’s Note: This was a blog comment I made in response to Christopher Monckton’s article “Are Lockdowns Working?” at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/04/04/are-lockdowns-working/#comment-2956309, about the efficacy of lockdowns at lowering the rate of spread of the currently raging coronavirus epidemic. I made some further comments in replies, too).

The former mathematician in me decided it was about time to use the data we have to make a direct assessment of Christopher Monckton’s hypothesis that the lockdowns are working.

What I did was look, not at comparisons between countries, but at the graphs of total cases and daily new cases which are readily available on worldometers.info. As long as the reporting of cases within a country is done in the same way each day, I should be able to make reasonably reliable comparisons between the numbers of cases in a country at different stages of the epidemic. I simply picked the top 12 European countries in terms of total number of cases, and looked at the graphs for each.

First up was Spain. Something interesting jumped right out of the paper at me when I looked at the total cases graph. The curve comes in two parts; an exponential part, followed by a pretty much linear part. The transition in Spain was quite sharp, around March 24th. The daily new cases graph shows it, too; new cases were increasing exponentially up to about that date, and since then have been increasing far less, or even static. The Spaniards seem to have brought in their lockdown very quickly on March 13th and 14th, so the change in the regime came about 10 days after lockdown. Not at all far from the incubation period of the virus, of which the best estimate I have heard is 6 to 14 days.

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On Externalities, Integrated Assessment Models, and UK climate policies


On Externalities, Integrated Assessment Models, and UK climate policies

By Neil Lock

This is a follow-up to my recent essay, “On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment.” As I said there about the economic impacts of global warming: “I’d expect that some probing by independent experts into the economic calculations, and the assumptions on which they are built, might bear fruit.” But where are these calculations, and who are the unbiased experts who have quality controlled them? I couldn’t find any such calculations, or the names of any such experts. Perhaps, I thought, I’d better take a look at this myself.

So, I set out to learn as much as I could about the economic calculations which – so we’re supposed to believe – justify the extreme measures proposed, all the way up to total de-carbonization of the UK economy, to avoid alleged catastrophic damage from global warming. This essay is the result of that exercise. If it reads like a cross between a layman’s guide to the economics of global warming and a political rant, that’s because it’s both!

Summary

Here are the main points of what I found out:

  1. In 2009, the UK government ceased to value carbon dioxide emissions according to their social cost [1], in favour of using numbers based on political commitments they had previously made. In effect, they abandoned doing cost versus benefit assessments on policies that are expected to increase or decrease CO2 emissions.
  2. Recent empirical estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), when run through assessment models like those used by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suggest a considerably lower social cost of CO2 emissions than earlier estimates, such as the UK government’s Stern Review.
  3. When the beneficial side-effects of CO2 emissions, such as increased plant growth, are taken into account, it’s possible that the social cost of these emissions may even become negative. That is, CO2 emissions become a nett benefit not a nett cost.
  4. Calculations based on a 2017 paper by Dayaratna, McKitrick and Kreutzer suggest a social cost for all UK CO2 emissions as at 2020 of 0.05% of GDP (optimistic) or 0.31% of GDP (pessimistic). Using the social cost numbers for 2050 from the same paper, the figures are 0.08% and 0.52% respectively. All these numbers are substantially lower than the 1-2% of GDP put forward as the cost of “net zero” policies.
  5. There is a need for urgent action to prevent the imposition of costly, draconian and lifestyle-destroying policies on people in the UK in the name of a problem, which is far less serious (if it is a problem at all) than is claimed by the promoters of those policies.

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On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment


On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment

By Neil Lock

In the early 1970s, I studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. I enjoyed it at the time, but was left with a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I scraped a First, and was offered a place on Part III of the Tripos, I decided to go out into the real world instead. Never did I make a better life decision.

Over the intervening decades, I have come more and more to question the value of universities. I would have expected the remit of a university to be (1) to seek, (2) to develop, and (3) to pass on, ideas and practices to improve the human condition, both today and in the future. There should be no dishonesties in their processes, no imposed orthodoxies, and no restrictions on the freedom to seek, or to tell, the truth. Yet, universities – not just at Cambridge, but world-wide – seem to have become bastions of political correctness. Anyone in the faculty, who doesn’t toe the party line and parrot the narrative of the moment, will find difficulties in funding or in getting papers published, or may even be in danger of dismissal. Peter Ridd in Australia and Susan Crockford in Canada are topical examples.
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Ik sta achter de boeren


Recently, Dutch farmers have – rightly – started protesting against demands of “their” government that they cull their herds of cattle and pigs in order to comply with some idiot EU/UN rule about limiting emissions of ammonia and nitrogen oxides.

Now, isn’t government supposed to be for the benefit of the governed? All the governed? So, what benefit is there to ordinary Dutch people from these limits? None at all, I’d say. Where is the science which, objectively and without political bias, quantifies the bad (or good) effects of these emissions? And what is the loss to ordinary Dutch people (and the rest of us) if their supposedly “liberal” government is allowed to pursue these policies? Biefstuk, ossehaas, spek… I don’t need to go on. Read more

On How to Pay for Convivial Governance


This is the last of four essays which, taken together, outline my proposed system of minimal governance, called convivial governance. Today, it’s time to ask the thorny question: how should all this be paid for? Again, while I aim to make the general principles of how convivial governance should be paid for as clear as I can, the details may end up being very different from what I have envisaged.

Payment for protection

How to pay for government has been an issue for centuries. John Locke, in his Second Treatise of Government, wrote: “It is true governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit everyone who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.”

From which, I deduce two things about Locke’s view on this matter. First, an individual’s payment must be his proportion of the total. Second, it must come out of his estate. That is, from his wealth, not from his income, or from a cut on transactions he makes. What I think Locke is saying is that an individual’s payment for the “protection” functions of government should be in direct proportion to his wealth. That is similar to what happens with home buildings insurance, where (assuming the risk is constant) the price is in proportion to the amount insured for. And it seems very reasonable indeed, to me at least.

So, the amount each individual must pay each year for the “protection” elements of convivial governance ought to be a (small) percentage of the individual’s total wealth. Once this is achieved, to support these functions there will be no need for any taxes on income, or on transactions, or on anything else. Read more

On the Institutions of Convivial Governance


This is the third of four essays outlining my system of minimal governance, which I call convivial governance. Today, I’m going to take a look at some of the institutions, which I think are likely to make up convivial governance.

This essay will be far more speculative than my norm. This is because what I am describing will be a bottom-up system, growing organically and adapting, as all organisms do. I believe that I have correctly diagnosed many of the reasons for the failure of current political systems, which is leading to the need for this new approach. So, it’s likely that I will be along the right lines in many of my suggestions; but the details may turn out to be very different.

The structure of convivial governance

Convivial governance will be a bottom-up system. It will focus on the individual, and on small communities of people. It will be networked; closer in concept and structure to the Internet than to a top-down hierarchy. Thus, convivial governance will be organized to serve a network of individuals and small communities.

I foresee, most likely, just two levels of community. One, sufficiently small that those in the community can know each other personally. The other, sufficiently large to be viable as an economic unit in a free market; but not significantly larger. Only when absolutely necessary will these communities make alliances on a larger scale. Read more

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