Not many words out yet about WeatherAction’s “Climate Change, The Solar Weather Technique & The Future of Forecasting”, the conference organized by Piers Corbyn and hosted by the Imperial College in London on Oct 28. Amazingly, BBC’s Roger Harrabin just spoke about it during the midnight BBC Radio4 news, in rather neutral and very appropriate tones as far as I can remember (nothing has surfaced in the BBC News site as yet).
Myself, I have been able to get to the conference and back, just in time and only to hear Corbyn’s opening remarks, when he lamented the immorality of the mainstream obsession with CO2 and compared his work to longitude measurer Harrison, rejected by the scientific and political establishment for a long time despite being right and only winning acceptance by winning the acceptance and trust of users (the Royal Navy, according to Corbyn)
Kudos to the climate-change-believers at the New York Review of Books for providing almost 3 full pages to climate-heretic Freeman Dyson’s review of William Nordhaus’ “A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies” (Yale University Press) (and of Ernesto Zedillo (ed)’s “Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto”).
Dyson (whose article has been rebuked on RealClimate with way too quick a contempt) doesn’t actually deal with the reasons for his skepticism on the dangers of global warming. After a long preamble on how efficient vegetation is at capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the NYRB article deals (among other things) with Nordhaus’s conclusions about costs and benefits of various possible climate-related policies, in a 100- and 200-year timeframe.
First of all, Nordhaus is very convinced about the need to put a “price” to carbon, to avoid “economic inefficiencies”.
It doesn’t sound such a bad idea, if the majority of people are truly convinced CO2 is a harmful emission. My main concern is, how does anybody find out what that “carbon price” should be, if not an arbitrary value?
As Dyson reports, Nordhaus follows “the conventional wisdom of economists” and does all computations for a 4% discount rate.
For mysterious reasons, this has become a point of contention, with the Stern Report using a discount rate close to 0%, and the RealClimate guys rather naively trying to argue for an equivalence between people actually living today and people possibly living in the future. Luckily, an AGW-believer with a solid experience in economics has torn such equivalence to pieces. It simply makes no sense, morally-economically speaking.
What is the point of stealing from the people of the present thereby removing plenty of resources from the very people of the future one is trying to provide resources to?
And what is the moral case, outside of economics? Well, let’s say you have a sick child and a single dose of medicine…would you really withold it just in case you would have another child, five or ten years in the future?
My criticism of Nordhaus is different. I would have rather preferred computations based on a progressively fuzzier discount rate, since the future gets harder and harder to predict (obviously) the further we try to look into the…future!
Leaving the rate at 4%, Nordhaus’ 1-century results are the following, compared to a “do nothing/business-as-usual” (BAU) situation:
(a) with a continuously-adjusted carbon tax, a $3 trillion net gain
(b) with an updated Kyoto protocol, a $1 trillion net gain (with the US), and zero (without the US)
(c) with draconian, Stern-like limits on emissions, a $15 trillion net loss
(d) with drastic-but-gradual, Gore-like limits on emissions, a $21 trillion net loss
(e) if a cheap way to capture and store CO2 (“low-cost backstop”) is discovered, a $17 trillion net gain
Dyson reports the conclusions as:
(1) Avoid the ambitious proposals
(2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop
(3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails
(4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent.
These objectives, according to Dyson, are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.
I am not sure I can agree with the above.
What I see is a strong case for doing absolutely nothing.
In scenario (a), in fact, the total loss for BAU is about $15 billion per year. Not much to cry about, really.
Just the complex mechanism that needs to be setup and run for a continuously-adjusted carbon tax, with its load of intrinsic inefficiencies, should be more than enough to bring such a loss to zero.
Kyoto-like interventions (scenario (b)) look absolutely irrelevant, and of course both Stern and Gore (scenarios (c) and (d)) have the single-minded goal to make us all miserable (starting with the Chinese).
The one “hope” is in carbon capture and storing, something presented by Dyson in his preferred terms of genetically-modified trees that could reduce the atmospheric CO2 content “by half in fifty years”.
But…if you believe in CO2 as a greenhouse gas, reducing its atmospheric concentration by half will surely sound like absolute madness…a one-way trip to a worldwide refrigerator?
All in all, then, it looks like the work of a convinced AGWer such as William Nordhaus has been useful in identifying what to do regarding CO2 emissions: nothing, zero, zilch, nada.
Will that accelerate the end of the AGW madness? I don’t think so. Perhaps the above is why Lord Stern, well aware of the overall situation, went through all the pains of trying to argue for a quasi-zero discount rate.
If logical arguments show the best course of action is to do nothing, that concept by itself will simply convince AGWer to become gloomier prophets of doom than ever.
You see…there simply is no AGW worry without catastrophism.
There are at least two key omissions in John Broome’s “The Ethics of Climate Change” (Scientific American, June 2006). One is about the uncertainties of predicting the future. The other concerns the unethical stance of considering Climate Change as purely a collection of negatives.
(1) There are many things we do not know about future climate. The IPCC itself is not in the business of predicting anything, rather of working on projections of where the global climate may be heading to, for those variable that we can compute. There are other variables involved, that are not captured by climate models (for example, of course volcanoes cannot be foretold). In other words, there is no way to know what the climate of 2058 or 2108 will actually be.
There is no trace of such uncertainty in Broome’s discourse. I would go as far as to say, Prof. Broome completely disregards the concept of risk management.
And so we are told at some point that we should take a “temporally impartial” stance, that is the death of a child today is as important as the death of a child in 100 years’ time (Broome rather unethically recommends to read his books to find out why).
But a child dying today is a certainty, whilst little can be said about children decades in the future: their very lives, and their deaths are a matter of probabilities. And surely the longer we try to see in the future, the fewer the chances of getting those probabilities right.
A Victorian scientist would have had no idea of how many children would survive today into adulthood. To claim that we are better today at seeing the XXII century is truly preposterous.
(2) As many sad articles about Climate Change, Broome’s is a collection of negatives.
Now, does one have to be a philosopher to understand that, as in almost everything else, in climate matters too there are positives and negatives whatever happens? Because the alternative would be, to consider a cooling world as a collection of positives…
We are told for example of how many deaths and disasters will Climate Change bring. Is Prof Broome aware of the fact that heat waves kill the already-dying, whilst cold waves simply kill? Death rates get below average at the end of a heat wave: they only get back to normal at the end of a cold wave.
Where are the people whose lives will be saved by an increase in global temperature? Certainly nowhere to be seen or taken care of in Broome’s article. And why not? Are some deaths more equal than others?
WIll people matter if they die because of heat, and matter less or not at all if they die because of cold?
Until such huge reasoning and moral gaps are not filled up properly, I will say thank you, but no thank you, I don’t need your ethical lessons, Prof. Broome.
(thanks to LM for pointing this out)
Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella (AD 4-70) writes in De Re Rustica (“Agriculture”, or perhaps “Affairs of the Land”) (Book III, Chapter 20):
For there is never a year so mild and temperate as not to inflict some injury upon some variety of the vine: if it is dry, that kind which thrives on moisture is damaged; if rainy, that which delights in dry weather; if cold and frosty, that which cannot endure blighting cold; or if hot, that which cannot bear heat. 2 And, not to run through, at this time, a thousand rigours of the weather, there is always something to work harm to vineyards.
I received this among the Comments yesterday
Consumer perception of climate change and its potential impact on business
A global survey from Havas Media
Havas Media the umbrella group which draws together the full global media expertise of Havas invites you to the weblaunch of their global survey on consumer response to climate change.
Date: Monday 12 May 2008
Time: 3.00pm British Summer Time
To register for the webcast go to http://events.ctn.co.uk/ec/havas/513/
The webcast will begin with an interview on the results and then be followed by a Q & A session.
Details of how to obtain an advance copy of the research findings will be sent to all who register.
With more than 11,000 respondents, this is one of the largest pieces of research of its kind.
Qualitative and quantitative research across nine key markets – UK, US, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, India and China.
Vast majority of consumers highly engaged with the issue and keen to further demonstrate their green awareness in how they shop.
Considerable expectation from consumers that brands should lead the way in tackling climate change.
Numberwatch looks like already updated today with the latest scare: beer shortages due to climate change. Notably (or maybe not) there has been a quick jump from the original observation of problems growing barley during a drought in Australia, to the “news” of beer going to disappear world-wide due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions (no, there is as yet no long-term climate model providing meaningful predictions at a regional level, Australia included).
Yawn. No more beer at the end of the century? Let’s drink to that!
Boris “Boba” Winterhalter, Retired Senior Research Scientist (marine geology) has just opened a new blog about climate: “Ilmastonmuutos –
Ilmastoskeptikon mielipiteitä” that must mean something like “Climate Change – Skeptical Opinions on Climate“.
It’s in Finnish. I wish I could read it myself!!