Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, January 27, 2007

They Don't Call Him "Stern" for Nothing

Sir Nicholas Stern depressed a lot of people last fall when he issued, on behalf of the British Treasury, a 700-page analysis of the economic impacts of ignoring global warming. Make that "alleged economic impacts."

A lot has been written about the hyper-doomy pronouncements, including here at C-SM (here, there, everywhere), and about Stern himself, whom Telegraph columnist Charles Moore categorizes, as the Brits say, thusly:
Stern always uses the most doom-laden projections, omits the numerous qualifications on the other side of the ledger, employs figures that don't add up and advocates a shock to the present world economy so great that it would make the Great Depression look like a hedge fund's Christmas party.
Yeah, but this is all old news. But what is emerging news is the scientific community's response to Stern -- especially those scientists he used to justify his doomsday scenarios and calls for massive expense to stall global warming, at the expenses of all other causes (children's health, AIDS, malaria, clean water, vaccinations ... the list goes on). Again, Moore:

Professor William Nordhaus, for example, perhaps the doyen in the field, is affronted to find his own projections beyond the year 2100 treated as totally accurate by Stern, when he himself has always insisted that such projections were "particularly unreliable".

Professor Richard Tol finds Stern making free with his work on rising sea levels to warn about the terrible damage that would cause, without making any allowance, as Tol does, for the fact that people would find ways of adapting to that rise.

Professor Robert Mendelsohn, of Yale, notes that Stern assumes that the economic damage from hurricanes will rise strongly each year, when we already know that the damage last year was much less than the damage in the year that Katrina struck.

The dons get so piqued by Stern that some resort to the deadliest weapon of academic warfare — the footnote. Here is Prof Tol on Stern's calculations about the control of emissions: "This can be found in any textbook on cost/benefit analysis. It is puzzling that economists at HM Treasury [where Sir Nicholas now works] can make such basic mistakes."

Tol, in general, is the rudest. The report, he says, is "alarmist and incompetent". Others put it more politely, but in their way are just as devastating. Professor Mendelsohn points out that Stern's calculations about the future costs of climate change might easily be wrong by trillions of dollars. Sir Partha Dasgupta, of Cambridge, says: "Where the modern economist is rightly hesitant, the authors of the review are supremely confident."

Moore points out that MSM, which are supposed to be highly critical of government reports -- like those reports that convinced us all that Saddam was on the verge of using nukes -- lapped up Stern without so much as a whimpering, whispered question.

Stern gets a pass. Gore gets a pass. Stern gets a hundred front page stories. Gore gets an Oscar nomination and a hundred front page stories.

And global warming critics? Off with their heads!

But no, Virginia, there is no media bias, and remember, the global warming debate is over.

Hat-tip: Real Clear Politics. Photo: TCS
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