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Yes, there is such a thing as Eurocentric science (Gremlins edition)

Sometimes we hear stories about silly cultural studies types who can’t handle the objective timeless nature of science. Ha ha ha, we laugh—and, indeed, we should laugh if we don’t cry because some of that stuff really is ridiculous.

But let us not forget that science really can be culture-bound.

Not just silly psychology journals that act as if a study of 24 psychology students and 100 people on the internet can give general insights into the human condition.

Culture-bound research also appears in more quantitative research.

Recall this, published in the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy:

This review of estimates in the literature indicates that the impact of climate change on the economy and human welfare is likely to be limited, at least in the twenty-first century. . . . negative impacts will be substantially greater in poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries . . . climate change would appear to be an important issue primarily for those who are concerned about the distant future, faraway lands, and remote probabilities.

“Faraway lands” . . . this is a laughably Eurocentric perspective. In one sense, this is fine given that this appeared in “the official journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.” On the other hand, it’s called “the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy,” not “the European Review of Environmental Economics and Policy.” And the article in question is called, “Economic Impacts of Climate Change,” not “European Economic Impacts of Climate Change.”

So, yeah, even physical sciences can suffer from an implicit Eurocentric perspective. Again, if you’re European and you want to present your own perspective, that’s fine, and it’s natural. I write lots of things from an American perspective! The error here is in considering one’s own perspective as default or universal. The “faraway lands” quote is an amusing tell, but it also represents a larger issue.

65 Comments

  1. John Williams says:

    Well, science is something people do, so shouldn’t we expect this sort of thing? It seems to me pretty much of a piece with things scientists do to advance their careers rather than science.

  2. Matt Skaggs says:

    “even physical sciences can suffer from an implicit Eurocentric perspective”

    “Climate” is a physical science.

    “Climate change” is a frankenstein monster of climate, paleoclimate, meteorology, modeling, and physics.

    Policy studies on the impacts of climate change to economics have no direct connection to the physical science of climate. So I just don’t think this is a good example of “implicit perspective” in the physical sciences.

    I’m trying to think of implicit Eurocentric bias in the physical sciences, perhaps something like “a global temperature increase of 1C would not be a problem, but an increase of 1.8F would cause disaster.” ;)

    • Joshua says:

      > I’m trying to think of implicit Eurocentric bias in the phyical sciences

      Id guess it would mostly play out in the form of which questions get researched, but there’s certainly a long tradition of implicit bias reflected in in fields like genetics (perhaps less so more recently).

      • confused says:

        I think this is a much better example, yes (although I do think that’s largely historical rather than current).

        I think it’s fairly human-biology specific, though. Not sure there is an equivalent in physics, chemistry, etc.

    • confused says:

      Yes — and I think this is a very important point for other reasons.

      The physical aspects of greenhouse effect etc. are very well established.

      Human/economic/social effects of climate change are far more uncertain (inevitably so, as economics and society are strongly affected by technology, and technology will likely change dramatically over the relevant time scale).

      Confusing the two makes the argument for climate change as settled science much weaker than it should be.

  3. morris39 says:

    A very minor point which does not contradict your premise but nonetheless it may be illustrative. The quoted paper is not about physical science but about economics, a humanities field which has yet to demonstrate its usefulness to many.

  4. Anonymus says:

    I think this is more about most of environmental economics being garbage than eurocentrism. The European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists is in Venice. Good luck to them.

    • Dale Lehman says:

      I think “garbage” is the wrong term. There has been some very good technical work done by environmental economists – I am thinking of some of the surveys used and attempts to measure or eliminate bias in responses. There are also some innovative techniques developed to tease out market “values” of environmental services from marketed goods (such as property values or wage rates). What is the problem, in my view, is the ethical foundation for environmental economics is very narrow, and generally not explicitly stated. I consider much of the work morally bankrupt (although no doubt many would disagree). You could call it “garbage” as a result, but I think that label is overly vague and does not really describe the problem with the field.

    • jim says:

      Happily I’ve yet to take a deep dive into “Environmental Economics” – whatever that exactly is. However from the dinner table conversations I hear and the headlines I read, it appears to have rich pickings for anyone looking to wander around destroying crappy research. Even the leading lights seem to have a soft underside.

      • Dale Lehman says:

        jim – I’d recommend avoiding dinner table conversations as an authoritative source (though better than twitter).

        Rahul – What I mean by morally bankrupt is that the underlying methodology (rarely stated) is that willingness to pay and/or willingness to accept compensation are the underlying foundations for “value.” If your concept of environmental “values” does not derive from those two measures, then the whole economic approach is off base. Calling it “morally bankrupt” reflects my own personal morality – others, even if agreeing with my description, may well find it morally appealing. In fact, many people are not uncomfortable with measuring value in those terms (provided that all impacts are included, even those that are not traded in markets). But if you have a different concept of “value,” then the economic approach might yield implications consistent with your views, but they are ultimately derived from a different framework.

        Perhaps a more concrete example will help. Environmental economists have a number of methods for estimating values associated with “clear views.” These have been applied to things like good visibility in places such as the Grand Canyon. They are able to estimate maximum willingness to pay for clearer visibility, and/or minimum willingness to accept compensation for a degradation in visibility. And, some of their methods are really quite innovative and genuinely deal with some of the thorny problems associated with surveys. Some of these studies yield rather large estimates for the “value of good visibility” and so may coincide with a person’s environmental ethics. However, my point is that this does not change the fact that the estimation is based on the idea that this is the appropriate way to measure “value.” If your environmental views come from some notion of “rights” or some other basis, then this approach might be considered “morally bankrupt,” to use my personal term.

        I would also point out that it is possible that worse air quality might result in nicer sunsets. So, it is possible that this methodology might result in a negative valuation for improved visibility. Of course, an environmentalist would then reject the methodology and/or its implementation. But it bothers me that our judgement of the methodology hinges on whether or not we like the answers it provides – I would call that “morally bankrupt,” again to use my personal term.

        • confused says:

          >>But it bothers me that our judgement of the methodology hinges on whether or not we like the answers it provides

          Unfortunately, I think this kind of problem is sort of unavoidable. At least with toxic pollution you can use toxicological studies and basically everyone agrees that poisoning people is bad (not that there aren’t plenty of arguments about more marginal risk vs. economic costs, or how reliable the evidence that X parts-per-billion of whatever is actually harmful, etc.)

          But the more you expand beyond direct toxicity, the more environmental issues become values-dependent, and it’s hard to argue that on a purely empirical level; you have to start with assumptions about what is valued before you can even get into numerical tradeoffs.

          Is there a way around that?

          • Dale Lehman says:

            No, I don’t believe there is a way around that – nor do I think there should be. The problem is that the economics approach pretends that you can discuss tradeoffs and skip the part about values.

            • confused says:

              Ah, ok, so it essentially presumes everyone has already agreed on values (when in reality that’s not the case)?

              • Dale Lehman says:

                Exactly! The disagreements between environmentalists and cattle ranchers is not a dispute over what the value of an endangered wolf species is, but a more fundamental disagreement about rights.

              • confused says:

                Yes, precisely.

                I was once told that preserving things like lions and tigers is not only not worth it, but actually actively bad, since they occasionally eat people so if lions/tigers were extinct more lives would be saved.

                I didn’t know how to respond to that (obviously I believe that’s wrong, but I didn’t know what to say).

        • Rahul says:

          Is that an objection to environmental economics or just all economics in general?

          Willingness to pay or be paid, as a measure of value, seems fundamental to any sort of economics.

          Furthermore, what other better measure of value do you propose?

          • Dale Lehman says:

            The criticism can be applied to all economics, but the degree to which it is a problem differs. I believe it is more relevant in the areas of environmental economics and health economics – both areas involve fundamental issues of ethics and rights that don’t arise as readily on areas such as housing or cable TV access. There are values involved in everything, but WTP and WTA appear to work better than the alternatives in many areas of life – but not as readily for the environment and for health, in my opinion.

            I would not propose an alternative measure of value, although I am open to more robust measures that accommodate non-economic conditions (such as multicriteria decision making – which has always appeal to me, but never achieved any traction within economics, primarily because it often leads to inconclusive results – again, in my opinion). The whole idea that we must have a “measure of value” presupposes some ethical judgements.

            • Rahul says:

              Sure, using money based values to judge environmental concerns may be more disturbing than in other areas but the fact remains ( as you seem to concede as well) that this is the best we have for now.

              A part of it is the omission vs comission problem. People cringe when we explicitly attach monetary measures to health or environment outcomes. But when a kid dies in India of malaria because he could not afford a treatment or rivers get polluted with dioxin because polluting industries get pushed to third world countries it is still implicitly a monetary inequality or arbitratrage at play.

              Point is whether you decide to use monetary value or not, that’s exactly how it works in practice. It just makes us feel happier to pretend it ain’t got anything to do with money.

              • Dale Lehman says:

                You are confusing what I said – and this is a very common error made by non-economists. You can measure values in dollars, or Euros, or utils, or anything you like. The metric is not the problem, it is the rules behind the metric. When people object to measuring health or environmental quality in dollars, they are objecting to the wrong thing. I have no problem with measuring these things in dollars.

                But the point is that economists’ measure of value (regardless of the metric currency you use) embodies rules about what is an allowable source of value. I have often used the example of the Endangered Species Act. In economic terms, the Act is nonsensical – it establishes a right of species to exist (in contexts covered by the Act) regardless of cost. That last phrase violates all economic concepts of value. You can try to defend the Act in economic terms by appealing to unknown ecological consequences, disaster prevention, or other attempts to claim that some minor species may turn out to contain the cure for cancer. But the arguments are so stretched that they have no credibility. The truth is that the Endangered Species Act is a statement about a different sort of value – derived from a belief in rights. It is an inefficient Act in economic terms, yet I personally support the Act. Why? Because I believe that economic value is only part of what matters – and, in some cases, a small part.

                Your example of a kid in India dying from malaria is consistent with my point. In economic terms, that kid “should” die while the rich world “should” be able to buy Bitcoins, Iphones, or whatever they like. No measure of WTP or WTA will save that kid’s life, unless it is poorly estimated. But that kid’s life has value, regardless of WTP or WTA. You suggest that we must use those values as a practical matter. But I would say that we might make more progress by acknowledging human rights to life and health as usurping many other values, such as economic wealth. To claim this is impractical just relegates the economics to needing to come up with a methodology to reach a foregone conclusion – that somehow that kid’s life is “worth” the cost. I’d rather just dispense with the economics then, as it becomes merely a complex way to reach a conclusion you are looking for. That’s the kind of “science” we are continually objecting to on this blog.

              • Rahul says:

                @Dale

                I guess I agree with some of what you are saying here.

                OTOH, take the statement “regardless of cost”: I think there’s a certain sense of hypocrisy whenever people use these statements.

                Corporate policy report love these sort of statements: “We regard safety of our workers as invaluable and will take all measures to protect our employees regardless of cost” I think every time one uses that phrase it’s bullshit. All it means is there’s a certain (very high) price to pay for killing an employee but it isn’t infinite. Implicitly we are taking it into account every time we decide whether or not an additional safeguard or engineering interlock makes sense to install.

                Take the Endangered Species Act you mention. Sure, there’s a right for species to exist but imagine for a moment that we discovered a certain population endangered species of bat turned out to be a Covid reservoir. Do you think we would balk from exterminating it?

                I view “regardless of cost” as just a shortcut, a shorthand to say that the price would be very high but we don’t think it’s worth the time and effort to determine the exact value put on it by the median person.

              • confused says:

                >>you can try to defend the Act in economic terms by appealing to unknown ecological consequences

                This sort of argument always worries me (in some cases it is correct, of course, but as a *general* argument it worries me) because it is an argument from ignorance. We should expect to learn more about ecology as science advances, and so if one accepts this argument the number of species protected by it would steadily decrease (as we learn their extinction would have no or small impact on the parts of the ecosystem that support humanity).

                Also it’s just not plausible in many cases in the first place — many species that are endangered are endangered because they were already highly localized.

            • confused says:

              @Rahul: yeah the disease reservoir thing has occurred to me before. If we could wipe out all malaria-carrying mosquitoes, would that be worth it?

              And certainly no one complains about eradicating smallpox or rinderpest. One can argue that viruses are not strictly “alive” but IMO that is dodging the issue — surely if we could eradicate tuberculosis bacteria or malaria protozoans that would be a clear win.

              I do think there needs to be some way to weigh values against one another – we can treat both human life and the existence of a species as “immeasurable” values, but then how do you weigh one against another?

              I am not comfortable with the purely economic approach, but I think rejecting it outright hits cases where no decision can be made.

              • Rahul says:

                The only solution to weigh values I see is empiricism. Just poll people. I don’t think we are ever going to find something close to a universal and unanimous system of values.

                The best we can do is to determine some sort of quantitative average of the population’s opinions.

              • confused says:

                Eh… maybe… but I am not comfortable with majority rule deciding morals/ethics either.

          • jim says:

            “Furthermore, what other better measure of value do you propose?”

            Exactly. There *is no better measure of value* than money, because money is *the* universal resource. Virtually anything can be acquired can be acquired with it, and virtually anything that is acquired can have it’s relative cost assessed in money.

            The problem with things like the “value of clear skies” is that it has no meaning at all without reference to something else – and that’s exactly what money is – a medium to compare the values of things.

            The big moral hazard isn’t in assigning dollar values, it’s in pretending that things *have no relative measure*.

            • Dale Lehman says:

              What you are saying is one particular belief system and not one I share. To say everything has value only relative to other things is absolutely true. But that does not mean that the basis for relative values must be related to WTP or WTA. I agree that this is an appropriate way to value a smartphone relative to a new piece of furniture. But that does not mean it is the appropriate (or only) way to value a clear sky relative to electricity. It certainly is one way to do so, but not the only way. What really bothers me is the view that there are no alternative ways to make decisions. This is the most common complaint I have with my fellow economists – it is the arrogance that economics trumps all other disciplines.

              I’d recommend a book “The Economy of the Earth,” by Mark Sagoff. He is a philosopher who exposed environmental economics for what it is – much to the ridicule by economists. They accused him of not understanding the wonderful ways that economists can come up with things like the value of a statistical life. But Sagoff understood what economists were doing – the criticisms only revealed that many economists did not even realize the value judgements they were themselves making. The simplest example I can provide is that Sagoff asked why economists never survey people to find out their maximum willingness to pay to have economic efficiency.

              • Andrew says:

                Dale:

                I have mixed feelings on this, and the topic has come up in my research and on the blog on occasion.

                First, I do like the dollars-per-life framework or dollars-per-qaly framework, not necessarily as a decision rule but as a baseline. I find it helpful to do the computation that tells us that people are implicitly paying a million dollars per life saved or whatever. It’s a way of understanding people’s decisions. It’s a way to calibrate. See our discussion here.

                I agree with you that we have to be careful not to take these numbers too seriously. One example I like to use to demonstrate this comes from the economist Peter Dorman, who wrote about the problems of using hedonic regression to estimate the purported tradeoff between salary and job risk. He pointed out that the riskiest jobs such as lumberjack are also low paying, while the safest jobs such as statistics professor pay well. A simple regression would reveal an apparent negative value of life. That’s silly, so when people did these analyses back in the 1970s they threw lots of controls into the regression until they got reasonable positive coefficients—but that just reveals the arbitrariness of the exercise.

                Finally, I don’t like the economists’ phrase “willingness to pay” which, in practice, often means “ability to pay.”

              • Dale Lehman says:

                To your point about Peter Dorman and hedonic regression. I studied under Sherwin Rosen who was one of the pioneer of hedonic regression, and particularly applied to values of statistical lives revealed through occupational choice. He was horrified to see how his hedonic valuation was used in decisions about highway safety – saying that the values were being inappropriately applied to a different context. He was recognizing that such valuation was context -dependent.

                I do agree with you about values of statistical lives – they can be useful. I am not rejecting all of those efforts, and in fact, some of the modeling that is done is quite ingenious. However, I do object to way it is often used, to hide (or sometimes to deny the existence of) conflicting values that should require debate, discussion, and discourse. Taking a value conflict (such as abortion, human health, species preservation, etc.) and reducing it to an economic calculus is dangerous – I think it leads to poor decisions and undermines any real legitimacy of the methodology. Economists have much to contribute in these areas – but they are not the most fundamental or only input that matters.

                Willingness to pay does bring about an emotional reaction, but one that is misunderstood. It is actually “maximum” WTP or (depending on the property rights) “minimum” willingness to accept compensation. When property rights are questionable (who owns clean air?), then both measures are acceptable measures in economics. They “should not” differ much from each other, as both are similarly affected by income (if you are poor, you cannot pay much, but you also would not require much in compensation to give something up). So, all economic values are fundamentally tied to income.

                This is an obvious shortcoming with economic values, but it isn’t clear what to do about it. Some people reject the whole idea of anything tied to people’s incomes – but I don’t live my life that way and don’t want to. I enjoy spending money on a round of golf that could have saved X lives of children in India, and I don’t want to give that up, nor do I forgo the round of golf and devote that money to charity. Yet, if there was a proposal to increase my taxes and earmark that money to providing COVID vaccines in poor countries, I might well support it – and it would not be because I was willing to pay that much for the knowledge I was saving lives (though you could, of course, make that statement). What I am saying is that we humans have different hats – sometimes we act selfishly and do things because we can do them, because we have the money to do them. Other times we can recognize other values and make decisions that are not selfish. I believe that is part of what it means to be human.

                What is unfortunate, and really upsets me, is that we seem to have evolved two extreme ways to make decisions, neither of which I like. We reduce value conflicts to “scientific” methodologies that produce answers (such as making environmental quality choices based on relative WTP for environmental quality versus traded goods, for example). Or we make value choices on the basis of political power – the rule of the mob. The scope for useful discussion where values conflict has almost disappeared.

                I feel similarly about much statistical work. It often buries the value choices that need to be made behind complex methodologies. At other times, the statistical evidence is ignored or rejected, instead relying on raw political power. The best work (such as I’ve seen by many on this blog) is that which elucidates the value choices that need to be made. It is more humble work put in the service of helping people make better choices rather than seeking to replace choice with “scientific methodology.” I think many of the cases highlighted on this blog could be put in the latter category.

            • Joshua says:

              > There *is no better measure of value* than money,…

              Maybe I’m misu derstanding, but to me that seems to imply that you think that people’s income for whatever work they do is exactly commensurate with the value you see in their contributions to society?

              So as an example, you think that Trump’s value in 2015 was tens of thousands of times more valuable than, say, an ER nurse?

              • Joshua says:

                Or by definition, any 30 year old living off a massive trust fund is much more “valuable” than any working stiff earning 50k?

                Not a rhetorical question. I’ve run into people before who have that kind of faith in the “free market” and I want to know more about how it works.

      • Joshua says:

        > I’d recommend avoiding dinner table conversations as an authoritative source

        You might also consider reading beyond headlines.

        • jim says:

          Occasionally I do. Rather than inspire confidence in the methods, it makes it even more clear that most environmental economics is at about the Freakonomics level – I guess that’s consistent with social sciences overall, so I shouldn’t be too surprised. As I suggested before, for all the research that’s been done, Social Sciences is barely more than a religion. Sure, we know how to adjust polls, and that’s good. Sure, we can do a population growth forecast. The Greeks knew right triangles too. That’s about where social sciences is at.

          • Joshua says:

            jim –

            So there’s nothing for you to learn from any social science research since the dawn of time? It’s basically like going with the Bible except on stuff like evolution and astronomy?

            Maybe just a tad overstated?

        • jim says:

          Perhaps social sciences are actually still in the “pre-Greek” era. Certainly the Newton of social sciences hasn’t emerged yet.

  5. chrisare says:

    What precisely is the empirical issue that we can associate with the author’s arguably poor word choice?

    Or are we just assuming there must be, because of the word choice?

    • somebody says:

      Well, for any readers from the “faraway lands” the authors mention, the lands in question are not far away, so they would be empirically incorrect about that.

      • Andrew says:

        Or, conversely, if we condition on the statement being true, that implies that the journal article has no readers from Bangladesh etc. That maybe the case, in which case, yes, it’s Eurocentric science if written by and for Europeans. It could still be good science while being Eurocentric. OK, in this case, it’s not good science; it’s incompetent science, or, we could say, competent in the sense of getting published and padding the author’s C.V., but not competent in the sense of expanding our knowledge or understanding of the work. In any case, I think we should at least be aware of such a cultural or geographic bias.

      • chrisare says:

        This is sophistry. The point is, what exactly is the implication of this supposed bias in terms of the qaulity of the work?

        It seems more like a woke gotcha moment from Andrew, rather than pointing to substantive methodological flaws that directly follow from the claimed bias.

        • Andrew says:

          Chrisare:

          Follow the link in the above posts. I’ve already written many times on various substantive methodological flaws of that work. I’m really bothered by these methodological flaws, as well as the sociological flaws by which this sort of work is promoted by prominent academics. It’s a big problem! The current post is about a particular aspect of this flawed work, which is its Eurocentric bias. To point out this problem is not a “gotcha moment” any more than it’s a “gotcha moment’ to point out other problems in published research. These are systematic problems.

          • Adrian Diaz says:

            What does the word choice of “faraway lands” have to do with the methodological problems of that work? The normative implication of the term – and more generally the idea that authors seem not to care that countries in the “faraway lands” will be more affected by climate change under whatever scenario they are forecasting – would seem to be orthogonal to whether the forecast is actually sound.

            • Andrew says:

              Adrian:

              Yes, I agree that these are two orthogonal issues.

            • somebody says:

              This isn’t theoretical physics; it’s applied science. The impact assessment was in the paper; indeed, an impact assessment is the whole point of the paper. The primary purpose should be to evaluate the consequences of climate change, not to impress other academics with your sick regression skills. You don’t get to then ignore a low quality summary because “well, the most sciency parts of it are mostly right” (though they aren’t).

              Imagine I’m a patient with early stages of the flu, and my doctor tells me “well, the flu is really nothing to worry about if you’re young and healthy, so I think you should be free to ride this out at home.” “But doctor, I’m 95!” Well, the doctor got the substance of the medical science right, so I guess they’re a great doctor then!

              • Joshua says:

                The operation was a success but the patient died.

              • Adrian Diaz says:

                I don’t think so, in the sense that Tol may have used a different language and the validity of his forecast would remain the same. I agree with you that he’s wrong about the normative implications of climate change, but drawing from your example his intended audience seems to have as much regard about them as he does. He’s a doctor who’s talking to a young patient, not to 95 year old one.

                To me, that says more about him than about science as a whole.

              • somebody says:

                > I agree with you that he’s wrong about the normative implications of climate change, but drawing from your example his intended audience seems to have as much regard about them as he does. He’s a doctor who’s talking to a young patient, not to 95 year old one.

                Then you aren’t contradicting the premise that this is a Eurocentric perspective, just stating that a Eurocentric perspective is correctly presumed. I disagree that publications should assume such a frame.

              • Adrian says:

                I’m not discussing whether Tol has an Eurocentric perspective or not, or if this is correct or not, but whether it has anything to do with science. It doesn’t – I don’t see how his paper would be an example of better science if he had summarized his results in terms like “well, humanity will not be affected equally with Europe being forecasted to face lower welfare losses due to climate change than other regions of the world”.

                In your doctor example, as you correctly pointed out, the doctor would be getting the science just right but he would be a bad doctor because he does not care about who his patient actually is (although I wonder if this means the doctor would be “youngcentric”. Or if the doctor had given the relevant advice, if this would make the doctor “geriocentric”). But is the doctor a bad scientist? No, not necessarily but he should probably stop seeing patients because even if he’s good at explaining reality and the intricacies of human biology, he doesn’t really care about his patients.

                I think Tol’s summary should be seen in a similar light in this regard, and one may also wonder who his intended audience could be. I can imagine he’s talking to European policymakers, but if he were right then climate change could cause other indirect yet serious problems he may not be taking into account as a result of its effects on those “faraway lands” and hence I would likely not take him literally if I were part of that audience. For all we know, those effects in “faraway lands” may justify taking a policy position that is radically different from the one he might be implicitly advocating for, even if the forecast and general science are sound and even if he doesn’t care about these effects at all. What his language says about who he actually cares about is also a different matter and, again, says more about him than about science.

              • Rahul says:

                ….Andrew’s criticism sounds a bit like criticizing an advertisement for an amazing homeopathic cure for breast cancer on the basis of its bad grammar and spelling.

                If you believe in homeopathy, the critique is irrelevant, it’s not going to deter you from trying the cure.

                OTOH, if you think homeopathy is bogus, still the critique is irrelevant, but for other reasons.

      • Joshua says:

        > Well, for any readers from the “faraway lands” the authors mention, the lands in question are not far away, so they would be empirically incorrect about that.

        Also this…

        >> primarily for those who are concerned about the distant future, faraway lands, and remote probabilities.

        The “remoteness” of the probabilities would be a function, to some degree, of how “far away” one is from the places most likely to be hit the hardest.

        At what point does sloppy phrasing become an “empirical” issue?

  6. jrkrideau says:

    I think I may have scanned Tol1’s article but I do not remember any details. This line is amusing however.
    climate change would appear to be an important issue primarily for those who are concerned about the distant future, faraway lands, and remote probabilities

    It is almost certainly a parody of Neville Chamberlain’s speech on his return from Munich when he spoke of “a quarrel in a faraway land between people of which we know nothing.”

  7. Asher says:

    I’m 99% certain this was just meant as a figure of speech. “[D]istant future, faraway lands, and remote probabilities” is a synonym for “speculative”. Translation: Wherever you are in the world, the place where climate change is really likely to be a present danger is probably faraway.
    It has nothing to do with Europe.

    • Andrew says:

      Asher:

      Sure, but that’s the point: It’s purely Eurocentric. I’m not surprised if the audience for an article in a journal published by the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists is mostly European; nonetheless the article is called, “Economic Impacts of Climate Change,” not “European Economic Impacts of Climate Change.” It’s Eurocentric for them to assume that “poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries” are far away. If you live in, say, Bangladesh, these places might not be far away at all!

      • Carlos Ungil says:

        > It’s Eurocentric for them to assume that “poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries” are far away.

        The author was born in Hoorn (elevation -3ft).

      • JohnW says:

        “It’s purely Eurocentric.”

        No it’s not. How on earth is the point Asher made “purely Eurocentric”? You seem a bit desperate to try to shoehorn this thing.

        • Andrew says:

          John:

          Sorry for the confusion. I’m not saying that Asher’s point is Eurocentric. I’m saying that the association of “poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries” as being “faraway lands” is Eurocentric. I’m not trying to “shoehorn” anything; this is from the published article! It’s the author of the article who’s trying to shoehorn his parochial perspective into his story. Again, here wrote that “climate change would appear to be an important issue primarily for those who are concerned about the distant future, faraway lands, and remote probabilities.” He’s the one who’s locating the problem in “faraway lands.”

  8. Really? says:

    This kind of grasping at straws for virtue-signaling points is beneath you, Andrew.

    • Andrew says:

      Really:

      I’m not trying to grasp or signal here (except to the extent that everything I write is grasping or signaling). As to the rest of your comment: virtue is in the eye of the beholder, and there are no points being given or collected here. I just think it’s interesting to see people’s unstated assumptions, in this case assump that none of the article’s readers are in “poorer, hotter, and lower-lying countries.” This may be true; it’s still a Eurocentric perspective.

      As I wrote in one of the comments above, this issue of perspective is completely separate from the scientific quality of the work, a topic that we’ve already discussed a few times on this blog. I don’t think the Eurocentric perspective is the most important thing, but it’s still of some interest to me.

      • Joshua says:

        I think it’s intersting how much pushback you’re getting on this one.

        How is this post in a different category than your typical posts?

        I think the anti-SJW warriors are a particularly sensitive lot.

        • P says:

          @Joshua When it comes to sensitivity, the “SJWs” (among which you seem to be, given your touchy comment) surely take the cake. You claim “it’s intersting how much pushback you’re getting on this one”, yet almost every post in this blog has similar discussion in the comments. Mind explaining why you think “this one” is different? Or is it that you’re overly sensitive of the response to the topic for ideological reasons?

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