Wednesday, December 12, 2007

George Porter is an active member of the Stephens County Republican Party. He writes a weekly column in The Duncan Banner. George's articles are well thought out and well written. He has granted permission for this weeks article to be posted on the blog- enjoy!

Understanding Human Behavior
Al Gore and the media cascade
by George Porter
Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his work with Amos Tversky in understanding human behavior and common human error and biases. Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist, was born in 1934 in Tel Aviv, Israel, received a B.A. from Hebrew University in 1954 and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1961. He won the Nobel for his pioneering work on behavioral finance and hedonic psychology. His ideas and terminology have become main-stream today. An example is the op/ed column by Holman Jenkins that appeared in the Dec. 5 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Al Gore and his motivation. Jenkins refers to Kahneman and defines the terms "availability bias" -- the human propensity to judge the validity of a proposition by how readily it comes to mind. "Availability cascade" is used for the way a proposition can become irresistible simply by frequent media repetition. "Informational cascade" is used for the tendency to replace one's judgment with the crowd's beliefs; and "reputational cascade" for the rational incentive to do so. Enter these terms in your search engine to see the range of current issues being discussed using these terms. Fortune magazine on Nov. 13 reported in an exclusive interview that Al Gore last month joined the venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, to assist in promoting alternative energy investments. Gore three years ago started in London the $1 billion investment firm Generation Investment with David Blood, the former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Fortune quotes Gore that to halt global warming "What we are going to have to put in place is a combination of the Manhattan Project, the Apollo project, and the Marshall Plan, and scale it globally…It'd be promising too much to say we can do it on our own, but we intend to do our part… We want to give a big shout-out, though that's not the corporate term, to every inventor and entrepreneur and idea generator in the micro, macro, systems-integration level to create with this alliance a clearinghouse for the identification and selection of the most promising ideas on the planet for quickly solving this climate crisis...We all believe that markets must play a central role." This is no small deal. Venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins has in the past backed start-ups like Google, Netscape, Sun Microsystems and Amazon, among others. Gore has effectively created an "availability cascade" on his thesis of a man-made global warming crisis. He estimates that he personally has shown his slide show on global warming over 1,000 times, and the documentary version "An Inconvenient Truth" won the Oscar. A Kleiner, Perkins spokesman recently told a Senate hearing "One does not need to believe in climate change to support climate change legislation….Many executives would prefer to deal with known legislation even if unwarranted." He was referring to the carbon tax proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have more than doubled the home heating costs for the majority of American homes. (It didn't pass.) Global energy currently is a $6 trillion business. Jenkins comments that if Congress were to mandate a one-half replacement of annual U.S. gasoline consumption by a carbon-neutral alternative, it would be a $400 billion annual business opportunity for the green energy lobby. Yet it would have a minimal effect on global carbon emissions. The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, ends today. The 180 nations in attendance are trying to forge an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012. President Bush has stated the U.S. will not sign unless it applies to all major countries including China and India. China recently said it will not sign any multinational U.N. protocol on global warming. I agree with the many scientists who believe man-made global warming is a myth. World temperatures were both much colder and warmer than they are in today's industrialized world with its seven billion people. The WSJ article concludes with the statement that current global warming politics will certainly end with a whimper once a few consecutive years of cooling are recorded as they have been in the past. Quoting Michigan's representative John Dingell "the world…is great at having consensuses that are in great error."
George Porter is a retired insurance company executive. He may be contacted at

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