Posts tagged ‘Nicholas Kristof’


Nicholas Kristof reported in the NY Times (via Reason)that Portland had found the secret to eternal motion, cutting CO2 emisions while paying no price and growing the economy:

Officials in Portland insist that the campaign to cut emissions has entailed no
significant economic price, and on the contrary has brought the city huge
benefits: less tax money spent on energy, more convenient transportation, a
greener city and expertise in energy efficiency that is helping local businesses
win contracts worldwide.... Portland's experience is so crucial. It confirms the
suggestions of some economists that we can take initial steps against global
warming without economic disruptions. Then in a decade or two, we can decide
whether to proceed with other, costlier steps....

Here's his big conclusion:

Perhaps eventually we will face hard trade-offs. But for now Portland shows we
can help our planet without "wrecking" our economy--indeed, at no significant
cost at all.

No one, particularly the science-challenged press who oh-so-wanted this to be true, asked themselves if this made any freaking sense at all.  Apparently, it doesn't:

In response to data requests from the Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based
think tank, the [Office of Sustainable Development] admitted that a math error
resulted in a 2004 carbon dioxide calculation that was 74,561 tons too low. The
re-stated total puts Multnomah County above the 1990 levels by more than 68,000

The implication?

What's more, Cascade's prez, John Charles, argues that, beyond bad math, there
are more basic methodological flaws that lead to an undercounting of
transportation-related emissions. "Portland's claim of painlessly reducing
carbon dioxide has been repeated over and over by journalists, bloggers, and
even some scientists for the past month, without any attempt to verify the
accuracy of the OSD's report," he writes. "In fact, actual carbon emissions have
been well above the level claimed by Portland, and any regulatory program
imposed by the government to lower emissions to pre-1990 levels is going to be
costly to consumers, something elected officials apparently don't understand."

More Fun with Statistics

I didn't really pay much attention to the typical 24-hour partisan finger-pointing flurry accompanying the stats showing an uptick in US infant mortality rates.  However, looking back on it, it is a good lesson about how statistics are routinely misused in this country (via Captain's Quarters).  Critics of the administration and the health care system used the statistics to try to show something is wrong with the US. 

Two weeks ago, Nicholas Kristof wrote a column on the first increase in the American infant-mortality rate in decades, taking the opportunity to excoriate Americans and the Bush administration as uncaring and unresponsive to the deaths of children. He compared the US unfavorably with Cuba and China

Unfortunately, this conclusion was flawed:

babies that would die in the womb or at stillbirth elsewhere are born alive in the US. Many of these survive completely, but because of their precarious state, they tend to die at higher percentages than normal births. That's why the numbers rose slightly for 2002. The CDC doesn't expect to see another increase like it.

The solution might be to look at the survival rate at year one as a percentage of total pregnancies, not just births (though you would have to exclude abortions).