Sunday, July 13, 2014

Denier weirdness: An economic interlude with Wondering Willis Eschenbach

Sou | 4:31 AM Go to the first of 14 comments. Add a comment

This article has little if anything to do with climate. It's about economics. It's about ignorance of basic economics.

At WUWT, Willis Eschenbach has written an inordinately long follow-up article to his silly criticism of the Kaya Identity (archived here, further update here, latest update here). Now the Kaya Identity can be criticised for its limitations, but Willis' criticisms are so wide of the mark they fall into the ludicrous category. Here it is again:

CO2 emissions = Population x (GDP/Population) x (Energy/GDP) x (CO2/Energy)

As you'll recall, his first shot at it was because he reckoned that anything could be substituted for GDP, including the production of beer. That's dumb because beer production only accounts for a miniscule component of GDP and only a miniscule amount of CO2 emissions. Total CO2 emissions are related to more than the production from breweries.

Now Willis is claiming it's wrong because when he drives his car on the Lincoln Highway he reckons CO2 is emitted (it is) but he thinks that the fact of him driving doesn't contribute to GDP (it does). Fuel purchase is counted as part of GDP. The purchase of his car was counted as part of GDP when he bought it.

After numerous people have pointed out that he's wrong, Willis shows that he doesn't know what the "D" in GDP stands for, and reemphasises the fact that he hasn't got the first clue about GDP or its components. Willis Eschenbach says, quoting UnfrozenCavemanMD:
July 12, 2014 at 10:57 am
UnfrozenCavemanMD says: July 12, 2014 at 9:09 am
I think you need to come up with a better objection than
“I’m burning energy, and I’m emitting CO2, but I’m not part of the GDP. “
If you filled up at a gas station and paid money for your fuel, your CO2 producing activity most certainly is part of the GDP. If you stop and by a sandwich, that activity is also part of the GDP, and if the ingredients of that sandwich were farmed and transported using fossil fuel, then it contains an implicit CO2 production as well.
Thanks, Caveman, but nope. I’m buying fuel inter alia from Saudi Arabia, where it is counted correctly as part of their GDP, and thus it can’t be part of ours.
Does he not know that "D" is for domestic or does Willis think that Saudi Arabia is part of the USA?


  1. Oh wow. I don't even know what to say to this kind of idiocy.

  2. C'mon, Willis has a port in his backyard and routinely receives shipments of gasoline directly from overseas. So when he fills up his gas tank from his backyard fuel silo there is no U.S. GDP contribution. This is clearly spelt out in his post if you read between the lines and refer occasionally to your Ouija board.

    1. Dang, I thought he got them from outer space! Still he could have looked at the X - M term in the definition before making a fool of himself...

    2. maybe he siphons all his petrol straight out of other cars?

  3. I said that Willis didn't know what the D in GDP stood for, he doesn't know what GDP is at all. And he continually refers to it at Gross Domestic Production. Willis has never studied economics either formally or informally and didn't bother to find out anything about it before he wrote his two silly articles. He mistakenly thinks that GDP is only a measure of manufacturing or something. (He keeps referring to productive work and even then, his thinking is limited. He doesn't classify selling petrol as work for example).

    Willis didn't stop to think let alone find out anything about the subject he was waffling on about. Too busy proclaiming he was right and all the economists in the world are fools.

    He does the same with science. He doesn't bother with reading the literature before pontificating, which is why he comes up with so much useless garbage and proclaims that he is right and all the scientists in the world are fools.

  4. Captain FlashheartJuly 14, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    This thread is a glorious trainwreck. Oh Willis, don't ever change ...

    For years Willis has been arguing that reducing CO2 will create poverty in developing nations, because cheap energy produces lots of CO2. ie. he has been using the Kaya Identity intuitively to argue against mitigation. Now, he has thrown the basis for his entire political objection to mitigation under the bus, simply because he doesn't understand what an identity is.

    He also has shown that not only does he not understand what GDP or dimensional analysis is, but he can't be bothered with even a brief google to find out. And he clearly couldn't be bothered researching hte IPCC's use of the Kaya Identity before he wrote his posts.

    This thread really reveals how Willis is not interested in science, maths, logic or reason, except inasmuch as they can provide him with easy "gotcha!" arguments. His science proceeds not by logic, but by reckless application of "Nyah! nyah!"

    1. I must admit that I was surprised by the depth of Willis' ignorance of basic economics. He should have learnt that way back in high school, even if he dropped out before finishing. If he missed the class, you'd have thought that he'd have picked it up somewhere along the way, given how he seems to pride himself on self-education.

      GDP is one of the first things one learns in macroeconomics. Anyone who plays the share market would know what it means, even if they'd never studied economics formally.

      I have a feeling Willis has gone down hugely in the estimation of many WUWT readers after those couple of articles.

      Did you see all the algebraic-style equations in the comments? Hilarious. I couldn't believe there were that many people who couldn't see the forest for the trees.

      I was surprised by some of the people who did understand, especially some of the hard core denialati.

    2. Captain FlashheartJuly 15, 2014 at 1:05 AM

      I was amused by how long it took someone to come up with the obvious rejoinder: gallons of gas used = miles travelled * (gallons per mile), which is a direct riff on Willis's stupid example of him and the "ex-fiancee" (why not "wife", I wonder?) on their road-trip, and also a classic example of why these identities are useful.

      Those who are disillusioned by his stupidity won't be so smart as to leave this toxic little scene and try to think for themselves. This is something remarkable about WTFUWT: no matter how much stupid they shovel out, the majority of the readers seem to come back for more, completely uncritically. It's astounding.

    3. They are a strange lot, aren't they, Captain Flashheart. I read a comment in another WUWT thread by someone who stopped reading Scientific American years ago because they disagreed with one of the articles. Yet they happily visit WUWT which even Willis Eschenbach admits is mostly nonsense.

    4. I think what Willis was trying (and failing) to say is that the conection from CO2 to GDP is a poor one because it can be varible. For example, say 3 different people each bought 50 gal of gas at the same price. So far their contributions to GDP is identical. The first uses his 50 gal to drive aimlessly around 'Cowboy Country'. He contributes nothhing further to GDP. The second uses his 50 gal to run a taxi service. His profits add directly to GDP. The third drives a delivery truck. He both makes a profit and his deliveries themselves contribute to GDP. Three diferent people producing the same amount of CO2, but with different contributions to GDP.

      Non of this means that the Kaya Identity is useless, mearly that it is of only limmited precision. It actually works best for comparing diffent contries with each other.

  5. CO2 emissions = Population x (GDP/Population) x (Energy/GDP) x (CO2/Energy)ersonal what really blew me away about the hundreds of comments in these 2 posts of willis' is just how few people on both sides of the argument didn't seem to get that they were arguing about two different equations. Willis' Kaya Identity which looks like this...

    CO2 emissions = Population x (GDP/Population) x (Energy/GDP) x (CO2/Energy)

    And in which the terms really do cancel out. Unfortunately the real Kaya Identity is...

    CO2 emissions = P (G/p) (E/g) (c/e)

    And here the terms DON'T cancel out, because the Population in P can be different from the Population in p.

    1. Do you have a source for this amazing claim that the real Kaya Identity is in fact not an identity?

    2. Schitzree.I suggest further reading - the link Anthony Watts provided:


      Or Wikipedia:


      Or the paper that started Willis off, particularly Chapter III:

      Or this article in realclimate:


    3. Numerobis - I'm not sure what part of my post made you think I'm claiming the Kaya Identity is not an identity. That wasn't my point, or even tangential to it.

      Sou - Thanks for the links. I've read the first two, but hadn't seen the one from Real Climate yet.

      After rereading all three of them, I'd have to say the first two actually promote the confusion over the whole 'canceling out of terms' issue, By not making it clear that the 4 terms used don't need to be the same number each time they appear in the equation. The Real Climate article however is much more clear, and writes the Kaya Identity as...

      C emission = population * GDP/capita * watts/GDP * C emission/watt

      This is much better, as it makes it clearer that you don't just plug in the same number for Pop, GDP, Energy, and CO2 like in Willis' article. So you can for instance change the population WITHOUT changing GDP/capita, or change the C emission/watt without changing total Watts.

      When I wrote out my version of the Kaya above, I should have add some descriptors to help explain what each term meant, like this...

      CO2 emissions = P (G/p) (E/g) (c/e)

      P - Population of a region. (country, state, whatever)
      G - GDP of population in p
      p - Population of G (can be a fraction of P, or something else)
      E - energy used to produce GDP in g
      g - GDP produced by Energy use E
      c - CO2 produced providing supply of energy e
      e - energy produced releasing CO2 in c

      I see WUWT has created another article on the Kaya, this time with a response from Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. Hopefully this one doesn't devolve into a thousand posts by people not understanding each others points.

      After the first two though, I'm not holding my breath.


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