Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"A Useful Guide To Current Eco-Nuttery"

The backlash against the new gospel of the Warmie movement, Nicholas Stern's The Economics of Climate Change, is thundering like waves of global warming induced (or not) hurricanes. But what good will it do? The Warmies and their sensation-hungry allies in the media have memorized its projections and stats and will drum us with them until we forget how foolish the whole thing is.

Stern projects that we can reduce the impact of warming by investing 1% of global GDP each year ($400 billion a year), which he sees as quite a savings because he projects the overall impact of warming, if we do nothing, at 5% of global GDP annually ($2 trillion).

For a good taking Stern out to the woodshed and giving him a whuppin', there's this, from The Business (h/t NRO):
[Stern's] portentious study, The Economics of Climate Change, prepared for the British government, was treated as if it had been carried down from Mount Sinai rather than put together by an ordinary British mandarin. The fawning media classes, which now regard environmentalism as the new religion, immediately took it as gospel (to do otherwise is the new heresy). The Tories and the Liberal Democrats, which have both suspended their critical faculties on the matter, rushed to clamber aboard the bandwagon. Even airlines and oil companies, these new paens of political correctness, welcomed its arrival.

But consensus is always dangerous – and this one comes loaded with particular menace. As a compendium of alarmist studies on global warming, the Stern report has no rival. Few outlandish claims have not been included in his 570-page tome, making it a useful guide to current eco-nuttery. Naturally, it paints the now-familiar vision of apocalypse; malaria doubling; Bangladeshis drowning; Europeans expiring in summer heatwaves and hurricanes ripping apart America.

Stern’s novelty was to produce two figures: that global warming would eventually reduce the size of the world economy by 10% if left to fester; but that curbing emissions at his recommended level would cost only 1% of global wealth. Between those two suspiciously certain figures lies a world of conjecture, supposition and stabs in the dark.
But the real come-uppance comes from none other than Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish eco-statistician who's The Skeptical Environmentalist is never far out of my reach. His lengthy bitch-slap of Stern in Thursday's WSJ is too long to post here in its entirety, but here are some juicy excerpts:
  • Mr. Stern sees increasing hurricane damage in the a powerful argument for carbon controls. However, hurricane damage is increasing predominantly because there are more people with more goods to be damaged, settling in ever more risky habitats. Even if global warming does significantly increase the power of hurricanes, it is estimated that 95% to 98% of the increased damage will be due to demographics. The review acknowledges that simple initiatives like bracing and securing roof trusses and walls can cheaply reduce damage by more than 80%; yet its policy recommendations on expensive carbon reductions promise to cut the damages by 1% to 2% at best. That is a bad deal.

  • The most well-recognized climate economist in the world is probably Yale University's William Nordhaus, whose "approach is perhaps closest in spirit to ours," according to the Stern review. Mr. Nordhaus finds that the social cost of CO2 is $2.50 per ton. Mr. Stern, however, uses a figure of $85 per ton. Picking a rate even higher than the official U.K. estimates--that have themselves been criticized for being over the top--speaks volumes.

  • Mr. Stern suggests that there is a risk that the cost of global warming will be higher than the top end of the U.N. climate panel's estimates, inventing, in effect, a "worst-case scenario" even worse than any others on the table. Therefore, the estimated damage to GDP jumps to 15% from 11%. Moreover, Mr. Stern admonishes that poor people count for less in the economic calculus, so he then inflates 15% to 20%.
So there's Stern's now famous 20% figure -- an upward extrapolation built on a padding of a worst case scenario criticized for being unrealisitcally severe.

Warmies take advantage of the complexity of the global warming issue to convince society that their predictions are real and scientifically tested. But computer models do not reflect reality for many reasons, including the fact that they don't correct themselves for human response and ingenuity.

For example, Stern projects that global warming will drive up the cost of flooding in the U.K. four-fold, from to 0.4% from 0.1% of GDP . What he doesn't tell us is that this will occur only if Britain sits on its hands, doing absolutely nothing as flood after flood pours through the cities and countrysides.

Real world: The British government's data shows the cost of flooding will actually decline sharply to 0.04% of U.K. GDP, in spite of climate change -- because the Brits intend to improve their flood protection systems.

Stern does not want to take the edge off his Warmie hyper-panic by providing facts. Instead he sticks to his models ... models that are predicated on the assumption that humans will sit by and let warming kill them, instead of spending much, much less than 1% of global GDP to protect themselves.

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