Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Economy of Enivronmentalism

I was going to do a book review of The Skeptical Environmentalist, but I didn't want to blog about the whole book as much as I wanted to blog on the section that pertains to my pet topic: anthropogenic global warming.

His argument boils down to this:

  • Using the IPCC figures, the total cost of doing nothing about AGW over the next century is a little less than $5 trillion. (Interestingly, this assumes a non-responsive humanity. ie: No levees are built against a rising sea, no population is moved inland, no new strains of grain are created that grow in warmer temperatures, no new irrigation is created in dry land, etc. The actual cost of adaptation to a slowly-warming globe is far cheaper.)
  • The economic cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol is also roughly $5 trillion. Since 80% of the world is not required to cut CO2 emissions under Kyoto, the total reduction in temperature would be so insignificant that we would still incur almost all of the $5 trillion cost of global warming in addition.
  • The IPCC itself states that developing nations would be hit harder than developed ones, because they lack the economic means to adapt to a warming globe. Yet the IPCC does not recommend investing money to further develop these economies.
  • Conservative estimates (that were made before the recent rise of oil prices) predict that alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, will become cheaper than fossil fuels sometime in the middle of the twenty-first century. So with no regulations at all, our carbon emissions will be reduced and approaching zero by 2100 anyway.

Although he lists numerous potential problems with the way that the IPCC has collected, modeled, and presented their climate data, he is not an AGW denier. He posits that, since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, pumping more of it into our atmosphere should logically create warmer temperatures. He instead asks - how much warming can we prevent, how soon, and at what cost?

His answer is that it makes economic sense to curtail CO2 emissions by 4%, but that beyond that point the cost of reduction becomes greater than the benefit. Additionally, that money could be spent more efficiently to reduce the world's "boring problems" - like malnutrition, poor sanitation, and malaria.

Take a look at this video from TED in 2005 - here he describes the findings of the Copenhagen Consensus, which state that spending money to solve AGW is the least efficient way to help humanity:

Here is an article that "debunks" Lomborg with green rhetoric, while this one complains about the bias of the graphs in his book, without challenging his conclusions.

Trying to research climate science has been confusing for me. I'm not sure I'll ever understand the complexity of cloud cover forcing T, or carbon feedback loops, but this economic breakdown of costs and solutions makes a lot of sense. You believe in AGW? Fine, let's attack the problem by investing money in the right places, not by anti-caplitalist regulations that will only delay innovation. Let's research geo-engineering and other technologies that will help us adapt to a warming globe. Let's build more nuclear power plants. Let's spend money in an efficient way, in a way that really makes the world a better place, instead of chasing solutions to alarmist propaganda.


At 6:30 PM, Blogger millhousethecat said...

All right, I know this comment is going to piss you off, but --- you used a video! And that development is directly related to me!

p.s. Boo on global warming!

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Sweet Tea said...

Doesn't piss me off at all. It's nice to have a friend with some interweb expertise.


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