Climate Change - A Tale of Two Reports
Opinion Journal has a great piece on what gets press and what doesn't....
Two scientific events of note occurred this week, but only one got any media coverage. Therein lies a story about modern politics and scientific priorities.Gold!
The report that received the headlines was Monday's 700-page jeremiad out of London on fighting climate change. Commissioned by the British government and overseen by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, the report made the intentionally shocking prediction that global warming could eliminate from 5% to 20% of world economic output "forever." Meanwhile, doing the supposedly virtuous thing and trying to forestall this catastrophe would cost merely an estimated 1% of world GDP. Thus we must act urgently and with new taxes and policies that go well beyond anything in the failed Kyoto Protocol.
The other event was a meeting at the United Nations organized by economist Bjørn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center. Ambassadors from 24 countries--including Australia, China, India and the U.S.--mulled which problems to address if the world suddenly found an extra $50 billion lying around. Mr. Lomborg's point is that, in a world with scarce resources, you need priorities. The consensus was that communicable diseases, sanitation and water, malnutrition and hunger, and education were all higher priorities than climate change.
The author of the second report has also written a response to the Stern report which highlights just how horribly biased this hack job of a report is.
The Stern review's cornerstone argument for immediate and strong action now is based on the suggestion that doing nothing about climate change costs 20% of GDP now, and doing something only costs 1%. However, this argument hinges on three very problematic assumptions.Essentially, the real figure is that global warming may cost us 3% of GDP in 2100, and nothing now. Even these figures ignore the possible benefits from global warming (some places will have better crop seasons etc).
First, it assumes that if we act, we will not still have to pay. But this is not so--Mr. Stern actually tells us that his solution is "already associated with significant risks." Second, it requires the cost of action to be as cheap as he tells us--and on this front his numbers are at best overly optimistic. Third, and most importantly, it requires the cost of doing nothing to be a realistic assumption: But the 20% of GDP figure is inflated by an unrealistically pessimistic vision of the 22nd century, and by an extreme and unrealistically low discount rate. According to the background numbers in Mr. Stern's own report, climate change will cost us 0% now and 3% of GDP in 2100, a much more informative number than the 20% now and forever.
In other words: Given reasonable inputs, most cost-benefit models show that dramatic and early carbon reductions cost more than the good they do. Mr. Stern's attempt to challenge that understanding is based on a chain of unlikely assumptions.
Moreover, there is a fourth major problem in Mr. Stern's argument that has received very little attention. It seems naive to believe that the world's 192 nations can flawlessly implement Mr. Stern's multitrillion-dollar, century-long policy proposal. Will nobody try to avoid its obligations? Why would China and India even participate? And even if China got on board, would it be able to implement the policies? In 2002, China decided to cut sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 10%--they are now 27% higher despite SO2 being nationally a much bigger health and environmental problem than climate change.
Far too many on the loony left are willing to twist things to suit their agenda.