Friday, November 3, 2006

The climate is changing?

I am in my mid-thirties. I have lived through a lot of doom-saying, none of which has come to fruition. The new ice age, nuclear winter and overpopulation have all come and gone. Today it is global warming and, in a world without debate, it has become the accepted truth that the world is warming as a result of human activity and we are all going to die. The latest salvo from the doom-sayers is the Stern Report.

Here is an article from a skeptical environmentalist who just isn't buying the economics or the priorities. He's also getting no press coverage. An excerpt:

The report on climate change by Nicholas Stern and the U.K. government has sparked publicity and scary headlines around the world. Much attention has been devoted to Mr. Stern's core argument that the price of inaction would be extraordinary and the cost of action modest.

Unfortunately, this claim falls apart when one actually reads the 700-page tome. Despite using many good references, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change is selective and its conclusion flawed. Its fear-mongering arguments have been sensationalized,
which is ultimately only likely to make the world worse off.


Why does all this matter? It matters because, with clever marketing and sensationalist headlines, the Stern review is about to edge its way into our collective consciousness. The suggestion that flooding will overwhelm us has already been picked up by commentators, yet going back to the background reports properly shows declining costs from flooding and fewer people at risk. The media is now quoting Mr. Stern's suggestion that climate change will wreak financial devastation that will wipe 20% off GDP, explicitly evoking memories of past financial catastrophes such as the Great Depression or World War II; yet the review clearly tells us that costs will be 0% now and just 3% in 2100.

It matters because Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Nicholas Stern all profess that one of the major reasons that they want to do something about climate change is because it will hit the world's poor the hardest. Using a worse-than-worst-case scenario, Mr. Stern warns that the wealth of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa will be reduced by 10% to 13% in 2100 and suggests that effect would lead to 145 million more poor people.

Faced with such alarmist suggestions, spending just 1% of GDP or $450 billion each year to cut carbon emissions seems on the surface like a sound investment. In fact, it is one of the least attractive options. Spending just a fraction of this figure--$75 billion--the U.N. estimates that we could solve all the world's major basic problems. We could give everyone clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education right now. Is that not better?
We know from economic models that dealing just with malaria could provide economic boosts to the order of 1% extra GDP growth per capita per year. Even making a very conservative estimate that solving all the major basic issues would induce just 2% extra growth, 100 years from now each individual in the developing world would be more than 700% richer. That truly trivializes Mr. Stern's 10% to 13% estimates for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Last weekend in New York, I asked 24 U.N. ambassadors--from nations including China, India and the U.S.--to prioritize the best solutions for the world's greatest challenges, in a project known as Copenhagen Consensus. They looked at what spending money to combat climate change and other major problems could achieve. They found that the world should prioritize the need for better health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education, long before we turn our attention to the costly mitigation of global warning.

We all want a better world. But we must not let ourselves be swept up in making a bad investment, simply because we have been scared by sensationalist headlines.

Here is a related article.

David Janes is also a skeptic.

UPDATE: More on the Stern Report at The Volokh Conspiracy


Honey Pot said...

...friggen' cold out there now. I just went and ran my truck up and down the driveway for 20 minutes in hopes of hurrying up the global warmin.

Fenris Badwulf said...

If the thought of Lake Winnipeg boiling away this winter does not make you rush to your cheque book and send some money so that Global Warming activists can buy some canary yellow paper for the photocopier for fundraising flyers, then you are beyond hope. I was so upset that I put left slipper on my right foot.

Anonymous said...

Always useful to read Lomborg. When the enviro-left stops calling CO2 a pollutant, and gets over the Montreal Protocol on CFCs, then I'll know sanity has returned to the debate.

Anonymous said...

I generally enjoy your blog but please don't post this scientifically illiterate nonsense.

The evidence for climate change is overwhelming and has a sound scientific basis.

What's next, denying the existence of gravity? Please!!!

For all so-called skeptics, here is a plan

1. Return to high-school and take (or re-take) Gr11 and 12 physics.

2. Spend several years at university brushing up on atmospheric physics and statistical mechanics.

3. Take at least 2 years of calculus, complex analysis, and linear algebra.

4. Then, say something relevant about the subject.