Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Why climate change is good for the world

Don't ask me, ask The Spectator and Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University.
There are many likely effects of climate change: positive and negative, economic and ecological, humanitarian and financial. And if you aggregate them all, the overall effect is positive today — and likely to stay positive until around 2080. 
Best of all, this is the result of a review of all the literature.  So this is the fabled "consensus". The science that is, apparently, "settled".  The Speccie quite properly notes that the results have a degree of scientific and economic uncertainty in them.  But there is the rub:
You can choose not to believe the studies Prof Tol has collated. Or you can say the net benefit is small (which it is), you can argue that the benefits have accrued more to rich countries than poor countries (which is true) or you can emphasise that after 2080 climate change would probably do net harm to the world (which may also be true). You can even say you do not trust the models involved (though they have proved more reliable than the temperature models). But what you cannot do is deny that this is the current consensus. If you wish to accept the consensus on temperature models, then you should accept the consensus on economic benefit.
Or you could say nothing, cherry-pick your results, shout down your opponents, and carry on wasting public money keeping your organisation's budget up:
In exchange for [£1.8 trillion], we hope to lower the air temperature by about 0.005˚C — which will be undetectable by normal thermometers. The accepted consensus among economists is that every £100 spent fighting climate change brings £3 of benefit.

1 comment:

  1. The accepted consensus among economists is that every £100 spent fighting climate change brings £3 of benefit.

    Which is similar to the argument I've been making for the last ten years or so.

    Clearly we shouldn't be polluting the atmosphere and every encouragement should be given to persuade countries/companies to look at alternatives. However, spending monumental sums of money on forcing a technological gear-change is dumb. It's sucking the lifeblood and vitality out of the world's economy... come the day we're called upon to build sea defences or rescue the inhabitants of some Pacific atoll islanders we're all going to be pulling nothing but lint from our pockets. Even today, in our first world country, people are struggling to keep their lights on, in part due to the inflated power bills which are funding giant part-time windmills across the countryside.

    By all means spend the money on researching new technologies... but let the market decide which ones are adopted. And we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that oil is getting scarce, one day, the world will need to move to alternative sources of energy regardless of climate change... so a problem that solves itself?