What's the cost of global warming?
Doing the maths
Analysis Let us assume global warming is happening. Let us assume too that it is doing so at a rapid pace. What should we do about it?
There are two very basic approaches. Either we can attempt to mitigate the problem by direct or indirect means, or we can go with the flow, and adapt to a warmer world. Let's examine the costs and benefits of these approaches.
First, there's the "direct approach" as advocated by the Kyoto Protocols and the Stern Review. The current Kyoto proposal for 2008 to 2012 calls for greenhouse gas reduction to 5.2 per cent over 1990 levels. Unfortunately, this is not endorsed by most of the "prime offenders". The US balks at the proposal, and India and China will not even consider it. But Europe is attempting to cajole the world into compliance, so let us consider some of the details.
The most glaring problem is that the countries who are increasing their CO2 emissions most rapidly are among the world's poorest. They did not create the "problem" in the first place, but they are the ones that will pay the highest price, economically, by complying. The estimated costs of Kyoto by 2010, range from £6.2bn for the UK (or 1.1 per cent of GDP) to £17.4bn (or 3.1 per cent of GDP), the Institute Economique Molinari estimated in September 2006. Yet exceedingly affluent Sweden, already thoroughly industrialized, and having made cuts in CO2, would actually be allowed an increase in output. But Spain, even with an more lenient goal of 15 per cent above 1990 emissions by 2012, had already increased CO2 emissions by over a third from 1990 to 2001, making compliance expensive indeed.1
Enforcing these carbon reductions is problematic. Proposed solutions are an emissions tax and/or the creation of an "emission rights market". This would penalize profitable production, so that "rights" would become increasingly expensive over time. Some companies would go out of business, while many would attempt to move to countries not covered by the Kyoto treaty. As one German cement factory manager put it, "If that's the shape the trading will take, we will simply move our cement operation to Ukraine. Then there won't be any trading here, nothing will be produced here anymore - the lights will simply go out here."2. From 2013, the price of carbon offsets for the German cement industry is estimated to be around half of current revenues.
Even if the period for implementing Kyoto proposals was extended to 2100, temperatures would only be only 0.15°C to 0.21°C lower (c. +2.3°C higher from 1990 to 2100) according to Dr M L Wigley, senior scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). With all its costs, Kyoto would delay global warming by only six years.3
The Kyoto Protocols are clearly costly to all involved, do little to mitigate warming, and place the heaviest obligations on those countries that can least afford it. Therefore it seems unlikely that these goals will ever be met. The poorer countries simply can't comply, and the richer countries simply won't. And any country that made a good-faith effort would in effect, be victimized economically by those which did not.
Let us now turn to the Review of Sir Nicholas Stern, which has been stirring controversy ever since it was released in 2006. The Stern Review, like Kyoto, favours immediate measures, but looks further into the future. However, even believers in the theory that human CO2 emissions are the primary factor in global warming take issue with Stern's numbers.
Stern asserts that the economic cost of global warming will in 200 years be between five per cent and 20 per cent of global GDP. Stern calls for a CO2 stabilization at 550 parts per million (ppm) by 2050. The current level is 385 ppm. Stern estimates that this would limit the temperature increase to between 2C and 3C/ The cost would be about one per cent of world GDP 4. This cost is comparable with that of the Kyoto protocol, but would be applied worldwide, not just by signatories to the treaty.
Stern takes the worst temperature scenario of a range published by the IPCC. He projects a temperature increase of at least 4°C and possibly in excess of 5°C by early next century. Most of the damage would occur at the high end of the estimate 5.
The Stern Review also uses the extreme IPCC estimate of population growth (up to 15 billion) by 2100, which is far higher than the UN's estimates of under 10 billion by 2150. Projections of population growth by the UN have actually been falling 6. Nor does Stern account for the most significant factor in falling projections - prosperity. As an economy develops and health and education improve, the fertility rate declines.
Since the bulk of the increase in population is projected for the less developed countries, the human cost of global warming in terms of disease and premature death - for example, 1 million to 3 million additional deaths at +3°C from famine, and 80 million additional cases of malaria7 at +5°C over the next 75 years - is magnified by between a third and half. Stern's Malthusianism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Bentime for Bonzo
"I am finding it increasing hard to stomach the alarmists."
The problem is that we NEED these people to sound the alarm in case of real emergency. But it's not as if their problem is a mere happy trigger on the panic button; they have been crying wolf.
They have been dead wrong on almost every largescale environmental/demographic issue since the 1960s, from population to resources. No only wrong (tolerable) but indescribably sanctimonious (infuriating) and utterly unable to acknowledge past mistakes or change course (downright dangerous).
And the solution (deindustrialization) is always the same, no matter what the emergency. It reminds one of a 10-year old kid who has twenty-eleven pressing social, academic, and emotional issues--all of which can be mysteriously solved if he is only allowed to stay up until 11:30.
It's frustrating. There are real wolves out there. And we need legitimate warnings. But when the alarm bell is sounding off twenty-four/seven we can't function day-to-day without shutting it off.
That state of affairs could get us all killed one fine day.
Saying that we want "all these people" to "go away" makes it too easy on them. They are too important.
We need them to buckle down, sober up, and learn to distinguish between phantom and real threats. And come up with SOME other solution that does not involve "shutting down the engine that moves the world". For a damn change.
No, you can't stay up till 11:30, kiddo. Try again.
alpha and omega
Thanks Evan. For the follow up as much as the article itself.
I am finding it increasing hard to stomach the alarmists. Pedantry would be the least of their sins. Hiding behind it would seem to be one of their best defenses.
Alarm is turning to fear. They cannot lead all of us to the slaughter so they are attempting to push.
I wish they could point to a weapons grade expose of CO2. I wish they could point to an engineer quality expose of CO2 atmospheric lifetime.
Instead they point to IPCC, rc, tamino and other blogs because anyone who creates dissonance is abruptly cast aside as retired, out of their field, previously proved second hand asbestos shouldn't be used to stuff children's toys, has a book out, worked for an oil company which now pays more to environmentalists than heretics, and other blathering tedious shite.
They have zero problem insisting that we should divert the major economies of the world to combat the phantom menace yet resist the infinitely cheaper option of debate.
They can all foxtrot oscar.
Control over cure
Liberty comes from the individuals economic freedom, not control by our governments over our choices based on a political adgenda and not scientific facts Will someone please show me the irrefutable connection between global warming and human influence on it. Also show me the connection to measures we take and the direct effects on preventing/mitigating warming The check PM is right its all about gov't control