tv Book TV After Words CSPAN December 13, 2009 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
economics and my own way and using models in using data to figure out the difference between correlation and causality but applied to a different set of questions. looking at cheating sumo wrestlers and no self respecting economist would never take on. i was a different kind of economists. i do not know anything about the macro economy. . .
>> we haven't had all that much luck making sense of. made clear by some recent goings-on. microeconomics is about individual behavior. it's a way of saying cannot predict what you're going to do when i put you in a situation, or looking back why do people act the way they did. microeconomics, any topic i describe almost everyone of them them is about individuals, about how they make their choices. you brought up this idea of natural experiment. for a broader audience, let me take a step back. the cornerstone of the
scientific is the randomized experiment. we decide whether the fda should approve a particular drug. we see what the drug works, and a double blinded experiment relative to placebo and able to compare people who are treated and those who weren't. tells us whether not that works or as an economist, as much as i would love to carry a randomized experiment it's not always possible. we talking about how i would love to know one of the questions i wanted to know, do prisons reduce crime. it's not like they have allowed me to go out and run an experiment where i lock up a bunch of people and i randomly release some people in another state and see what happens. in that kind of a world economies have had is what i call accidental experience to figure out the gains. nor do i i look for quirks where something a law change or if you want to talk about abortion and crime, i have a controversy
theory about how abortion, legalization of abortion in the 1970s reduced crimes in the 1990s. truly not a random experiment, but after abortion became legal in some states, in some states it was easy and substate is very hard. you can compare. that's what we would go and accidental excrement. it's kind of a new wave of microeconomic research, that did not just look for pure correlation but to go deeper to try to find evidence of the experiment, a quasi- experiment to think what can i do that as close to replicating science experiment as possible. and not even economist are getting into running randomized experiments. one of my colleagues that were talked about in "superfreakonomics," not going into the lab would cause you and us and to go out and do a real-world setting and trying to learn from their behavior.
>> how to separate this from psychology, from sociology? the economic case i think it will call economic imperialism where you plant your flag. how is this different from psychology? >> probably both. i think a little of both. psychologist ask different questions. at an economist and psychologist asked the same question, then the methods we use would be similar. psychologist rarely if ever venture out. the psychologists have complete control. economists have to really have been much more critical to the left because it is an artificial environment. one of the things that psychologist know what is depending on how you run an experiment, you can get college
students to do just about anything. but the question, psychologists are interested. there are almost interested in how human they play people than it extrapolating outside the lab how people behave in the real world. economists seem to be interested in will this tax do what we think it will. psychologist into the interested in how will people feel about the tax. and so in general, a lot of the topics i study do overlap with sociology. they are sociological in nature. sometimes i came up with sociologists when i work on games and prostitution. and we try to bring both pieces. but if you ask a sociologist they will not confuse my work because i stick to using the economic tools. the same tools that economists have use for hundreds of years to try to study markets, and the prices and quantities.
i've taken out to study questions like education work or. >> doesn't work? >> the returns to education are schituate it's amazing. i don't say our education system is perfect. but if you look at the causal effect of getting at here, economists say an extra year of education is worth about 8 percent to your lifetime earning spirit so it's a really good return. eventually you get too much education it starts to hurt you. you're not just buying, when you get a phd, you're getting a comfortable like where you get to do whatever you want. i think there's a lot to fix in education. and working on it as well. by and large, we do have, people come from all over the world where we are very much importers of people coming in to buy our, unit, people want to buy our education system at the higher level. >> so the other blend of
disciplines in the book comes on your site as a reporter. so the book ends up being interesting where one chapter will be about a very deep dataset and another chapter will be what i recognize being more traditional reporting, a long interview with the source, you know, going out in the field, going to events in watching people react and trying to take the polls of cultural moment or intellectual moment here. so how do those work together? they are very different disciplines and they are sort of empirically, although i love my job, we are sort at a different level than other. >> if you notice the divide that will, that's a bad sign on our behalf. because they are meant to really -- i don't mean to trash this entirely, but we do try to marry them. maybe you're more perceptive than the average reader because that's the work you do. a lot of people when they're reading about even something empirical stuff they don't think of it as research versus
reporting. when they think about a kind of character and narrative, they may not think of that as research versus reporting or purses and purple. but yeah, we tried to basically create a hybrid of a few different things. empirical research that may have five or 10 different, you know, degrees of gravity and the degrees of difficulty and so on, they may be broad topics. they may be narrow topics. and may also write about -- one thing we decide from the outset is, in order to bring these in purple -- in order to bring these academic papers alive, you want to read about the people who are involved in the. sometimes the people involved in them are the people who gathered the data. so levitt works with a lot of data. so for instance, steve levitt mentioned a man on while ago, to me as a writer whose writing about topics that are in. lee arrived at, there's a great
guy you in meeting the character. it's not just a four-color. it's for understanding kind of the shape of the project, the motivation and so on. there some equations in "superfreakonomics," they are different than what was in the first books early. the first book was maybe 80%, 90% based on levitt research done in collaboration with co-op in. this one, maybe 50, 60, some people think less because we keep levitt out as the co-author. all of these other people. his hand was very heavily involved in a. we were making different kinds of arguments in "freakonomics." i don't know whether we try to engage more mainstream topics are what we just came out of our interests of these topics. so when you look at global warming or terrorism, or education and health care, while there is a lot of empirical stuff in there we thought it was viable to build within, build
that within a story where there's a narrative as wow. >> i think it was less trying to engage in these more political topics. or hot topics, current topics. i think was just a fact after the first book, a lot of doors open the. if i wanted to study terrorism and i've gone and knocked on the door of a british bank and said, you never heard of me, but i am an academic and i really want to, yeah, work with you to find terrorists. they would have laughed at me. they would've simulator but after the book, people were much more willing to open up with data and stories. i think that was one of the benefits of the first book, was when i first started, this is going to be really a substitute for doing academic research but i'm going to end up taking a lot of time away from a research to write a popular book. but i waited a trade off like any comments would. and maybe i would do anyway. i was wrong. we talk about unintended
consequences. one was it was compliment in my research but it allowed the two things i'd never would've done otherwise. >> there's a lot of research that levitt has been doing in the last four and a half, five year since "freakonomics" came out. that will yield really good academic research that it was totally uninteresting for a book like this. i'm not a kind of having to do with pricing and from the strategy. everyone to write a business book it would be good for the. we could write about case studies, nominally interesting mistakes that firms have made, the good things that come out of that. but there's a lot of research that didn't work for the book and there's a lot of kind of storytelling that we don't work for the book that would augment the empirical research expect it was a danger to this. what you both have are sort of, you are well known this natural experimental toolkit along with econometrics. and sorted elements of the profession. there is what a lot of people
would say, one of the criticism is you are not experts in all the subject. neither of you are terrorist experts. there are economists who focus on one energy congress or health care economist. accuse would've to take on a lot of these large topics. and come to conclusions oftentimes quite opposed to the conventional wisdom of the expert community. so how do you weigh that? how do you develop the confidence to say these people have been studying are wrong on it, but how do you make sure you're not being an entranced by but a salesman or a paper that would work for the book? >> i think a lot of it comes down to the approach which is based on data. and it strips away a lot of the issues of ethics and morality. a lot of the subtleties of questions come down to kind of a right versus wrong. rarely are we in the business of right versus wrong.
let's take, i don't know, one of the controversial subjects which you could say i'm not an expert and in the sense i haven't spent my life studying, which is car safety versus eagles. so what did i do? i analyze them in a way that i know how to analyze data sets. when you look at the data in subways or in complex ways, you just don't see a very big difference in the effectiveness of child car seats relative to a adult seatbelts in saving the lives of young children. you do see some benefits, some relatively minor benefits. both car seats and seat belts are a world better than not being restrained at all. so in some sense i am not an expert in this area, but i have access through the david and i look at it and i do what i know how to do and i find it. on top of that, steven and i went out and did some crash test. wee bit out of our talk pockets
to do crashed just because we couldn't find any evidence in the literature how crash test dummies of young children sides did when you put them in adult seatbelts. and so i think a lot of times what we talk about experts, to kind of get up to speed, certainly within the economic measure, you get up to speed in an area for somebody like me, it just doesn't take a long. literature isn't that large. there are a lot of sources. much easier to learn about the litter now than it used to be. what's harder than doing the academic work is maybe coming up with a brilliant public policy plan that will take into account all of the special interest, all of the political rallies, what you can cannot do. our thing. our thing is to take ideas, to get people thinking, to challenge conventional wisdom, and in many ways it's better to be an outsider. it's almost impossible to challenge conventional wisdom from the inside out.
because i think you lose the perspective that comes from distance and newness to a subject when you are part of a. for me now, i have studied crime for a decade. it's really hard for me to an original thought on crime that are not heavily weighed, heavily influenced by what i have studied. it will be someone new comes along and has the next big breakthrough on crime. >> i think that's an interesting point. so you actually feel having been very deeply involved with crime unit stopped short of having new ways to look at it. that when you continue studding crimes, you can make progress on. do you think you stopped having, you will learn more and the new ways are wrong? the conventional wisdom is it is right and the new breakthrough will be done by a fresh pair of eyes or acted? doesn't that have a sort of weird set of implications for the other pieces of your answer there? >> no, look, people always have different opinions. do i think that the research
i've done on crime is right? yeah, i think it's been good, the noble. did i bring new perspectives to crime that criminologist didn't have? definitely. but now, i have poured over the evidence in a way that have really set my thinking. i believe things now. and partly, i had the ideas that i have, right? so new people, and they might have better ideas. different ideas. i'm trying to think about how to stop violence in the chicago public schools. and i know a lot of at stopping violence, and i think the entire checklist of all the things that i think that possibly work, that are politically viable, that we can actually do, that will stop violence or less in a year, and i think we don't have any thing. i can't think of one thing on the table. i will ask the blog readers. i don't know. maybe the blog readers have an idea. it's hard. but i can imagine, you do, it just went up today.
there were 70, 80 with an out. >> it's hard. if it were easy, but -- so that's where, you never know where the next great ideas going to come from. i don't want to make it sound like i don't think great ideas ever come from people within an area. it helps to know the institution to deal it. but i think oftentimes the really great ideas come from the outside in. >> so one of the early places in the book, i wonder if this is really accurate, team and the very first vignette. is about drunk driving and drunk walking. you make the point that if you look at the data, if you compare miles driven drunk and miles walked trumpet people die more when they walk the drunk. this is the actual perspective of the book, and a lot of these things are in fact not subtle at all. i was struck by a movie, and ecological move. real early on in a going to read
it here because i want to make sure i got it right. you begin by saying the survey show one out of every 140 miles driven has driven drunk every time people got 140 million miles -- >> is that our language? >> data showed. >> i don't think so. that was an empirical. >> who knows where those numbers came from. >> in the way, i'm not questioning that. one out of every 140 miles is driven drunk which is i think would be a number surprising to a lot of folks. but then you said there are 207 the americas, 16 and older. if we assume that one out of every 140 of those miles, so if we assume the same number of miles driven drunk or walk drunk, same percentage, then that's 307 million miles and that's much more dangerous. u.s.a. elsewhere in the book, friends don't let friends walk
drunk. it seemed the assumption packed a lot. among other things impacting idea that it isn't the same. if i go out to a bar and i'm going to not take my car today because i'm going to get drunk, that would imply that i'm substituting miles walked are going to be a higher proportion. say, one out of 100. then this is a question about the same type of miles. rural, urban or are they as a drunk most. maybe people drive drunk when you have three glasses of beer. i guess the question i want to ask is, this seems like a lot of leaps of logic. it wouldn't have caught my eye except for the topic. in this topic people are going to look at this. people who maybe don't know stats that well and say, i've celebrated an economist and reporter i think i should drive home drunk tonight. because that's a performing.
>> first of all, if you think that the your not read the book carefully, because we explicitly and implicitly state that the solution to the problem is not to drive instead. the solution to the prom is to do something else, call a taxi or something else. the last thing in the world -- i'm not accountable with you phrasing the questions like that because if anybody catch is that part of the question they will say what? and make an assumption. >> you do say friends don't let friends walk drunk. >> let's take this. let's start by my own research that we cite in the beginning of that vignette, says that drunk drivers, 13 times more dangerous than driving sober. that's a published paper and it is consistent. we are no ways in condoning driving drunk. i think what's implicit in your question, what other people seem to feel as well as get some help by saying there is something even worse than driving drunk, that we are condoning it. it seem strange to me. if i told you that, if you had a
political group, and education group that went around telling people not to poke their eyes out with scissors, and then i came along and said it's also really bad to poke your eye out with a butcher knife. i can see that you would get upset and say now you're just condoning people poking their eyes out with scissors. so i think on that point, go ahead and. >> if somebody is leaving a bar or a friend's party, there are not a whole ton of options. most people don't poke your eyes out with scissors or a hot poker. when you say you should do i do think, maybe i will play videogame instead. the reason there's so much controversy on this topic, people have to make this decision. we are in d.c. right now. calling a cab is very easy. where i come from orange county, no one i knew had their number handy. and i'm not even saying you're wrong. it does seem to be there is a little bit loose given the seriousness of the top. >> let's go back. the one thing i love about your
question is it shows you're really thinking that what we're doing. the whole point of her book is to get people thinking. we don't have to be right every time. i think we are right every time but we don't have to be right every time. let's just think about what the kinds of assumptions. i obviously we wouldn't have put in there if we thought we were wrong. when we first started thinking about, we went to the data. there must be good data on how much people walk. period. not drunk, but it turns out it's hard to figure out how much people walk. we see people walking half a mile a day that it's actually, that's probably a long road and probably a gross exaggeration. people walk probably even less than that. then the question of how much when they walk they are drunk. again, who knows? it's hard to find the data so we look at time use survey. just not exactly clear. that's what we say let's take this assumption, and then at least people can think about it. what i think is important when you're coming up with explaining
an idea is to put the assumptions, number one, in front of people. but also explain them in ways that will get intuition. we think the same proportion of miles that are driven drunk or walk to drunk. you can think about that. i am a big drunk walker may be. >> i haven't turned pro yet. i am still an amateur. >> so let's take a particular point you raise. is it true that maybe the people who are walking drunk are on average much drunker than the people who are driving drunk. and that risk on our numbers, the exact same person with the exact same about of drunkenness switched from walking to driving, then the benefits would be, you know, the difference would be a lot less. that's possible. you go to the date and you might think, of course there must be really good data. the u.s. government keeps every fatal crash. it turns out they don't very often do the blood alcohols on the pedestrians because there's
nothing illegal about walking drunk. you can't find the data. i think you're right. there's a very limited amount of data you have that people are walking drunk do have higher blood-alcohol than the people who are driving drunk. so that works in one direction towards making it eight to one and overstatement. on the other hand, if you look at where people are driving, you think it is in a lot drunk walking two and on in rural areas. you can't walk 20 miles or 50 miles. you fall asleep at the wheel, you go faster. so that works in the opposite direction because a lot of the walkers are going to be in the urban settings where driving drunk isn't as davis were as a driver in the rural. we don't know the exact answer. but no one does. so we're talking about the experts are not extra. you look in the literature and there is nothing there. i truly believe, that drunk
walking is far, far more dangerous than drunk driving. i would expect that groups like mad or sad might embrace this and say we are trying to save peoples lives. and we've been doing it through drunk driving. maybe there is more. maybe we have to expand our agenda to take his. i'm guessing that your intuition which is the reaction of madd and sadd isn't going to beat this is great. we have a whole new agenda, a whole new way to save up to a thousand pedestrians killed every year walking drunk. i hope they will but i kind of doubt in. >> there are a thousand people every year out of the 13000 people were killed in algol related accidents every year, 1000 of those are pedestrians. who are drunk. i find it hard to believe that parents or siblings or whatever, those people don't want to know this. i find it hard to believe they wouldn't have wanted to know this fact before a. you're right.
if you what to think in a very limited way like holy cow, are these guessing you're drunk at a friends party, you should get in and drive home instead because it's safer to you? no, we don't say that and i would hope that note in the right mind would recommend that. i think it is an added -- what's ironic about this, also i don't know if it's caused much controversy that other than you. actually thought of it in that way before. i think that's great. i think if the notion is that there's something that can be done beyond what people are thinking about, as a safety measure great. the ironies for us, we are usually the last people to be fear mongers. we spent a lot on if you first , this is probably one case i can think of where we say here is something that we don't think about very often, but it's worth thinking about. i would hate to think that one person -- i don't know, california. i've never lived there but i think there are more options than not walking or driving drunk. you can stay somewhere.
if you can get a cab, you can find some ill to drive you. is not in any way an endorsement of doing anything other than not walking drunk because a thousand people die every year doing it. >> if you had a gun to your head and you had two choices, should you drive drunk or should you walk drunk? i think the answer is you should drive drunk. people don't like that, they're very few cases we have a a gun to your head and people are forcing you to do one of those two things. but i think that is the right interpretation. >> that was my interpretation as well. i appreciate you. i use it in a similar ways that you guys use it, which is to illustrate something. i lot of the conclusions in the book are surprising. there's a lot of uncertainty in that estimate. as you said, something is in one direction, something and another. your main point is we don't have great data.
that makes the conclusion hard. what wasn't present i thought as much as one might hope is uncertainty. that these are tricky questions, and coming to them with a new set of eyes can answer them in the ways people didn't expect. that maybe those answers are wrong. what's interesting about "superfreakonomics" as opposed to your previous, as you said at the beginning it took a much bigger questions. so the amount of controversy which hasn't been on drunk walking or drunk driving but on other pieces, has been significant for that reason. so i'm curious on the drunk driving piece of it, so you are comparable with that conclusion? >> i look at that the same way a lot of things we look at. there is uncertainty. it's not like we are saying that drunk walking is 3% more dangerous than drunk driving. or 15% or 20% or 100% or 200% or 500%. for you it is 800%. there is so much room for slippage. the kinds of assumptions you would have to make to get back
to the better choice, personal choice is to walk than drive. really i think is quite extreme. i think there's almost no way you could cook up data or assumptions. you say that we didn't do this in a first book but we did. we have the question, and so that got a lot of people upset when we made the claim that if you have a swimming pool in your house and you have a gun in your house, the swimming pool is much more likely to kill your child that they can. it's very similar to weighty argument are structured. the same kind of assumptions. i think the abortion and crime step that it's the same kind of feel. there was some uncertainty about it but the fx are big and we do, it is a positive book. the art endless footnotes where we describe the exact ways that we try to lay out a sergeant and we try to kind of mix a way of telling their story. we talk about what some of the concerns are.
we are very sensitive to the idea. what we don't like is people who go out and say that they are right about something and never give, you know, any attention at all to some of the shortcomings might be. >> i agree. ironically, one of the segments of the book that a lot of people, not a lot of people, but a few nosy people are upset about is the way we treat global warming. which we will talk about later. ironically, the point is we're introducing the great degree of uncertainty in the climate centers. which to me as one of the key parts of the. i think we do try to acknowledge uncertainty as much as we can because it is a big piece of -- what's interesting is, you're right. you can interpret our drunk walking finding in any one of number of ways. but the point of that and the point of almost everything else in the book is to give the reader some thoughts or information to try to think about the world and think about making different decisions. one big piece of, one big reason
why making decisions is hard, this fueled the behavior of economics, was this very first breakthrough of uncertainty, what it does to people. so if you have uncertainty in an equation that changes everything about and climate science, such a fascinating topic. we are not climate scientists. one argument would be -- >> we got to take a break right now and we'll get to when the come back. we will come back in a moment with stephen debra and steve the levet, co-authors of "superfreakonomics." >> she has a new one out but i got to catch up on her first one. jennette used to work at msnbc. do you know her?
she grew up in west virginia under the most unbelievable conditions and she writes about it and how she views her life through the glass castle of this existence with a very mentally ill mother and a very poor existed. and it is a book i'm sharing with my daughters. and then she has another book out just now. i can't remember the title of it. i have to get her first win under my belt. >> you also are writing a book. >> im. is out january figure i'm a little nervous. it's called all things that once. and it is about the search for the inability to admit to myself that i love to work. and it is an important to me as my children and my husband. and how my time off looking for work forced me to realize that, sort of a mental journey to get there. but along the way in this book do i couple of other messages
about the female identity in this day and age, and how you kind of have to really push through a lot of things, not to lose sight of it. there are some messages in their that are fairly controversial. aymara getting hit a little bit on the internet because i'm a strong advocate of getting married and having children as well as finding the work that you love. so that we'll all be in the book. >> mika brzezinski. >> "after words" with stephen debra and steve and levet continues. >> im as recline and we're back with stephen doppler and steven levitt. before what to break would begin to get a little bit into the most controversial section of the book which is the piece on global warming. our listeners have heard about cap-and-trade and they will hear about carbon taxes. but the book advocates a different solution which is using new technologies to reengineer or to engineer, to manipulate the very climate of
the earth. back when i was a kid, would get you a quick visit from the justice league. but here you are saying it is the answer. what convinced you? >> we have to be careful. we have to be clear about what we're talking about. the question we try to answer is, if we decided the earth was way too hot, it is too hot and we wanted to cool down quickly, how should we go about doing it. that's a question that i think we as a quite effectively in the book. there's other questions you might want to answer like what kind of legacy do we want to leave for our children. is it wrong for humankind to leave its imprint on society? those are questions were not good. morality is not -- ethics are not what we know anything about it but we tried to do is take economically, melded into whatever question. i want to be real careful. i think on the facts, we have very few disagreements with our critics. in the environmental domain. it's a question, we're trying to
answer a different question than they have. i do not think that actually first and foremost the idea of the cap-and-trade or radical reduction of carbons, i mean, i don't think anyone at would agree that the right answer to the question if you wanted to cool down the earth in a hurry. is that how you would do it. >> why don't you tell me first. tell me about the solutions. how would they work? >> geoengineering is a word that's been applied to a number of ideas that basically say yeah, intentionally using engineering to change the way the planet is kind of working. if you think about it in an organic way, we have been geoengineering the living daylights out of the art for the 100 years. >> unintentionally. >> intentionally. >> but without purpose. >> without the idea of making things better, except for our economies and our society's. so that's the point. in the space of 200, we will
probably burn about 300 billion years of accumulated fossil fuels. that's geoengineering to the earth by contributing a whole lot of things the environment that were there before. so the idea is, well, if the problem is really bad, bad enough to worry about. in other words, if the central problem is warming and there are other problems to discuss and we discuss some of those. but if the central problem is warming. is stopping burning fossil fuels, even at a very exelon great one that may be just a dream to achieve with any kind of political friction at all, is that sufficient? and answer as best as we can tell it's probably not. the reason why is carbon mitigation as a kind of primary route, even if it could be achieved far more successfully than any indication then it could be, would probably be too little and too late and too optimistic. there are other reasons why you might want to burn fewer fossil fuels. you might want to find cheaper
and cleaner and better forms of energy. i did almost anybody is in favor of that except a very few interested party. geoengineering and of itself would not address but if the idea is to cool the earth if it becomes dangerously hot, what can you do. because atmospheric carbon dioxide, what's there is there and will stay there. and will probably keep contributing to a. so the ideas range from the very environmentally friendly sounding ones like creating higher, more reflective oceanic clouds, clouds are a very good job of cooling the earth. >> how did he do that? how will they cool the earth more? >> know, how will they create a cloud? >> one i did this kind of non, low friction, using this fleet of boats that don't have engines that kind of have turbines under water that is driven by wave power and would take up the salt spray. one of the reasons why clouds over the ocean are not as
reflective as one might like to do if you're trying to cool the earth is there are not as many cloud condensation nuclei. we probably don't want to turn this into the science. we try to learn as much as we could about. cloud condensation nuclei are sparser over the water then overland we'd have a lot of dust into one. so the idea, this is generated -- >> the clouds to build themselves around. >> and to make themselves into. the more dense they are generally the more reflective they are. the more reflective they are the more sunlight they reflect. >> and they are dark in color. to the more the sunlight bounces back up, and doesn't heat. so gently you want stuff that is like. >> and clouds are puffy and nice and reflective and do a good job of calling the earth. then there is a radically different sounding solution. that is easily the most frightening sounding at first, and we will surely be one of the
most controversial ones. which is using sulfur dioxide, a kind of targeted application of sulfur dioxide sprayed into the stratosphere which kind of forms a stratus and she'll pick a cooling shield. this is based on nature as well. in 1981 there was a volcanic explosion. it was the biggest volcanic explosion in about 100 turbines sold dioxide. what happens when sulfur dioxide get into the stratosphere at that height? volcanoes are exploding all the time in putting their. when it gets to that height it behaves differently. it mixes with the air, salt air. and forms this weber, a layer of round the planet that is this kind of shield. in the aftermath of not pinatubo, mobile ground temperatures decrease by a little over 1 degrees fahrenheit for one to two years because a huge change in global tempter as a result of this volcano. there were some scientists who we write about and
"superfreakonomics," and that would be disastrous and horribly efficient because it puts hundreds of millions of junk in the air that you mostly don't want there. they want to do a targeted garden hose to the skies were you then spritzed sulfur dioxide in a very relatively very, very small amount that would be enough to mimic what the volcano did and form a shield to cool the earth. it sounds absurd but it sounds like science fiction but it sounds like there's all kinds of dangers involved. one of the reasons why this proposal is being seriously considered it because the nature proof does exist from a bucket. in other words, sulfur dioxide -- >> a natural extent of. >> right. again, there's a lot albus of this to talk about. what we are advocating is this kind of solution be considered, be put on the table, in addition to carbon mitigation ideas because if the problem is bad
enough to worry about a lot which we think it is, then you should look for solutions that we think will work to cool the earth rather than just a gradually cut down on carbon emission. >> i.t. thing about this is, either of the two schemes that don't are just described, putting the cloud over the ocean. is that they're completely reversible. and you could build up today. so within a year or two we could have the systems up and running. and we would get immediate feedback on whether they cooled the earth as opposed to even if we were to cut or stabilize or cut our carbon emissions that it would be 30 to 50 years before we started to feel the effects. it seems to me, if you thought about this differently and you just said there are two ways to solve some problem. you could either spend $1 trillion, and people talk about this carbon mitigation is how incredibly expensive to our economy this carbon mitigation will be.
the best estimate of 2 percent of our gdp will be spent every year for the foreseeable future cutting carbon. made he does want to cut carbon. there are more reasons that putting a lot of carbon into the air is real bad. but if you really, the primary reason is you want to keep the earth cool, i think we have better reasons to keep the article. you can ask different questions that it is a band-aid. links over dioxin, making more class, if you keep on putting carbon and energy will be more and more pressure to make the world hotter. but on the other hand, i think it's wrong to think about carbon dioxide as a poison. carbon dioxide is not carbamide oxide. is not necessary a pollutant in the same sense. there is evidence that shows would have more carbon dioxide, plants grow better. soap greenhouses actually inject a lot of carbon dioxide into the air of the greenhouse because plants will grow faster. i think we kind of got into this mythology that carbons are bad, bad, bad.
carbon does make the planet hotter, but if it didn't do that, even someone who wants to get a total ban on carbon, the climate scientist, was a total ban on carbon says all else equal we would rather have carbon, more carbon in the air than less. it's just that it is a change that is problematic. >> i think the other important thing to race, it is two possible reactions. letzig was a stratus she'll put up against all odds. what's interesting is there will be congressional hearings in a few days actually on geoengineering. is fascinating to see this part of climate science getting a little spotlight because we think it is very much considering at least that but if you think about two of the possible reactions to let say a stratus shield, the real downside would be that it creates what you call an excuse to pollute. everybody would say, well, they are clicked the earth so boom,
barrel ahead. and do exactly what you've been doing without acknowledging what the other consequences of that might be. that's a potential downside. the upside is that buys you time. in other words, if warming is a problem or try to solve it now and all these other issues, how do we make clean energy not just for 7 billion people, but it might be 10 billion people. if we need to do that, could we use some more time? it seems the case because we're not there yet. if you have a geoengineering solution that could keep the earth at a manageable temperature. again, as ken caldeira that we write about at some length, he makes a point that there is no magic temperature for the earth. there is no magic carbon dioxide love that there is no magic sealevel. it has changed many times. and a couple of directions over the course of our planet. what you do want to avoid is rapid change because rapid change is generally catastrophic change. so if the danger is rapid change
and the rapid changes in the form of temperature change, then it would be great to have, you know, one way to think of it is when you build a house, you try to do everything you can never travel far in that house. that's one of the great remarks the progress of the 21st century. we have got much better at stopping fires from devastating cities and so did you try to do everything you can discover fire but you want to have a spray process and. we hope the house is not burn down but if there is a 1% chance the house is burning down, you want a sprinkle system in the house. >> we talked about ken caldeira. this is, it is a very controversial situation among climate scientist at you can imagine a scenario in which we know that carbon dioxide is warming the earth. we just know that. you create this shield made of the particles. and china says that was a close one. fire up some more coal plants. overtime you in the padding and
situation to which humans have to do more and more manipulation of the planetary climate in order to handle what has been known to do carbonates o-ring buildup of an almond of very, very long life until death. so if you have that scenario happen, you do end up in a situation. i want to read something from the beginning of your book. one of the most powerful laws in the universe is the law of an intended consequence. so a lot of the scientist, what they would say to you, is that there just isn't that sort of work in theory but it is very dangerous to do this. we have had sort of to some degree a natural expert. we know when there is morbid, hotter, it would cool down a bit. with the volcanic ash with talk about, that went away after a couple of years but we don't know what would happen if we just had to keep belching particles into the atmosphere, sort of for a very undetermined
or potentially forever. i think the matrix had one vision of the. it wasn't the right vision. so you just end up with a situation. early in the book one of the things you argues we should be modest and how we look at this. we should be very, very careful because of all the things we think to be true that seem to work in theory don't work in practice. but on this, we only have one earth. it seems a fairly big risk. >> it is a risk bigger to ignore these things, and wash the earth heat up and catalyst things like ice shelves to know. is a damn, i really wish we would have listened that could have kept the earth cold while we figured out to pull carbon out of the air. i think ultimately, here's my daily. that my belief is that and we haven't talked about it, that these geoengineering systems are unbelievably cheap. so for less than the cost of al gore's last big ad campaign, they could build either of the
two geoengineering solutions which is described and likely stabilize the temperature of the earth. at my just be a band-aid. i'm not saying it is a permanent solution. but what i think is not been discussed much is it that we have gotten out of many, many jams in the past. the problems seemed impossible. the amount of effort gone into issues of geoengineering of getting carbon out of the air, there is every reason to be confident that as time goes by we will think of cheaper and better ways to get carbon out of the air once we put it there. maybe we never will. maybe we will be left in a situation. but this is a law license to pollute, you have to remember to think that it's not that clear that it is pollution is the earth as a warming. at the cost of emitting carbon dioxide goes down radical which
is why people think it will do more of it. the same logic, we should never allow people to see balls in her car because what you do that now if i get in a crash and less likely to drive and i will drive more recklessly. we still think it makes sense to allow, to take steps that reduce the damage from the accident. so we don't say we should not allow doctors to work on, you know, solutions to diabetes. that just gives people a license to get overweight. and as long as we reduce the consequences of being overweight people will be overweight more. it is a tricky art of it. >> so shouldn't they be done in concert or do you think it should be a replacement for them? >> let me say that i am probably as extreme as you but my view is at the current time the cost of carbon mitigation is really, really expensive. i think if you took a year or two we are learning a lot. we're learning a lot about these issues by use, by decades. if we greatly restricted carbon today we will feel the benefits
in 50 years. if we greatly restrict carbon in it for years, we will see the benefits and 53 that i think the amount we learn in the next three years, i would rather wait on carbon if we have other ways to control the temperature of the earth. it really is in the short run that thing where word about is the temperature of the earth. there are other things that are on a much longer timetable. but i will be clear as a this is an opinion of mine. that most of what we try to do here is based on a mix of science and economics. this is a little further. it is an opinion that is informed by the economics. i think economics is not done nearly enough on the part of this debate that you can't just think about benefits. you've got to think about the cost of this mitigation and it is incredibly expensive. >> maybe with a bailout we don't think so much about. >> i've kind of money that. >> so let me, if i can borrow your brain for one minute.
is this another case of economic capitalism? is this another case with the economist are coming in the sink no, climate scientists, we think we be helpful there. we think we can apply models and a set of, a way of thinking about the problem and a way that can improve upon the current thinking. and if so, how and why? >> as an economist, i take is given, and what i try to do is to put that together with what we know in economics about what you do with very this or things that economist know about decision-making under uncertainty. and you think about the cost side and the benefits i. one of the important contributions of economic thinking the last 20 years, you think about auction site and have the value of waiting and the ability to wait is incredibly viable. i think there is evil in this debate for economist that hasn't been prominent enough. do i think that economist should determine?
absolutely not. economisteconomist are completely determined on the site is. i think the climate scientists have not been respecting the economics. the climate scientists are really often operating under the idea that there is a combination of science and what is right and what is moral. they have been using those two pieces. but there is this economic piece has been left out. >> there are two implications that, i. one that economist are sort of in agreement, which is insofar as disciplinary position, my understanding which is more towards things like taxes where they have done a lot of work on it. but number two as well, isn't what a climate scientist would say to you is the big argument here is time. but in fact we don't have because what carbon does is it builds up and remade. is a big point you make in your book. it is incredibly long to get
elected to the concentration that we are in a situation. whether we like it or not. if we let go of the politics now they don't move forward. what is the risk of waiting? >> not very much. the risk of one more year of waiting is actually really small. we have already essentially waited for 50 years. so the difference between waiting from 50 years and 51 years is it that big. it's exactly the kind of situation where waiting, right. you have a huge stock in it. the flow relative to the stock is very small. and then the benefits come away faraway. i'm sorry, the cost comes away faraway. the cost of having put too much. you know, the difference, when you think about the different than what you would pay to have the earth have a little bit less carbon dioxide 51 years now versus 52 years now from there, it wouldn't pay that much. i think the economics of it, which are surprising, which gets people off guard, really do say is that what you want to do now
is take the steps that are cheap and that will allow you to get information about the likely of global capacity as quickly as possible. if you learn where heading for global catastrophe, then of course you pull out all the stops. then you say, if we wait three years and we realize things are much worse than we thought, leave a shield on. that is great. but we have to basically cut carbon completely out of production, completely. if were going to cut carbon out completely in three years, a few more years of flow are not going to matter that much. i think these are tricky questions to think about. but if you start writing down the models, i think that you are, in less you really think there's a very high chance of global catastrophe, very soon, you've got to feel nervous. when you have two options that
give you know other option, then i think you have to think hard about the expensive one. when you have other options not buy you time, it does. in some sense it gives you a little bit of a license balloon. in the short run to you can figure out whether or not the pollution you put out, how costly it is. how big should it be? what does it cost? we have no idea of the cost. we know that there's going to be the end of humanity in 100 years, then they should be very big. if it's just going to be there a one in a million, then it should be small. i think there's no guarantee whatsoever that we get the right tax. at all. but i think the longer we wait the better chance we have of getting the right tack. >> the final question. on about two issues. one small and one quite large. so you have a fascinating chapter on the economics of prostitution. much of it focuses on a
"freakonomics" blog leader who got in touch with you as i understand it and i guess kennedy she spent a fair amount of money and for her turned out pretty well. she's an economic score somewhere. so my question is if the 18 year old daughter of a friend called and said i am considering following her example, what advice would you have for her? >> i don't want my daughter to be a prostitute, but i think -- i think it is a quintessential weakness of societal dialogue when we can appreciate that our preferences are not other peoples preferences. even if the number of women who would want to lead the life that she laid is one in 100,000, even though it is illegal, it doesn't mean that people like us can't look at this case and try to write about and try to learn something from it. so i think that's one thing that is interesting, especially about being in this town, where policy
is almost, almost a zero-sum game, but preferences become to be seen as a zero-sum game. if yours or yours cannot be mine, and with that we can't lose sight of the fact that people do believe in paper and act differently. it's what makes politics often so ugly. you cannot conceive how a guy like him could think that way because it's so far from the preferences. so my preference that and my preference is for my daughter would be very, very different from her statement that doesn't mean there isn't something in there that is enlightening. and it is also in line with what we do often which is it's not a judgment we're making. it is not about this is good is bad, this right, this is one. and whether you just want to assure the world or like a lot of people in d.c., want to fix the world or change the world. i think the essential foundation is to know what's going on in a world first. if you know a woman like alli can make $500 an hour that is an strong insight into someone like that will do that.
>> i agree with you. i'm not suggesting that the preference or people should go into it. i'm saying what the chapter teacher? what they teach you about the economics of prostitution if someone were to go into that field? as you say, you learn a lot about and that's an area we don't have a lot of data. >> i think one thing is that if you are a high-end prostitute, the last thing you want is prostitution legalized. the reason she gets paid so much as she has begun how to get through the barriers to entry. and she knows that her wage would go way, way down. she says she would want it to be legalized. i think the other thing, well what i learned from doing the study, i think the study of the street prostitute might have been the one that i don't the most from was just it is a window of how the inner city works. and things you would never imagine like the fact that in
chicago, prostitute, a street prostitute is more likely to have sex with a police officer than be arrested with a police officer. i was shocked by the things that we discovered. i think of substantive stars to give you some insight nudges him to prostitution, but maybe policy more generally and what you might try to do with inner cities. >> and then over to the mac appeared to have about health care. some very uncommon datasets about the. here we are doing health care reform. you have to try and get it through condors, get the vote of max baucus and would've. what did your dad doing about how we should fix the health care system? >> i will start. i think not that much. i think the data that i have, that we have looked at on health care, are on very specific parts of the palm and i don't think