Friday, August 28, 2009

The Times Versus The Truth

The lead editorial in the August 18th New York Times about climate change was predictably apocalyptic. Three quotes and counters:

1) The Times:
One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet. One would also have expected from Congress a plausible strategy for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that lie at the root of the problem.. . . Mainstream scientists warn that the longer the world waits, the sooner it will reach a tipping point beyond which even draconian measures may not be enough.
The truth:
Many mainstream scientists disagree. As do economists and statisticians such as Bjorn Lomborg in the August 20th Australian:
Cutting carbon emissions, however, requires a reduction in the basic energy use that underpins modern society, so it also will mean significant costs.

Prominent climate economist Richard Tol, of Hamburg University in Germany, has analysed the benefits and costs of cutting carbon now v cutting it in the future. Cutting early will cost $US17.8 trillion ($21.6 trillion), whereas cutting later will cost just $US2trillion. Nonetheless, the reduction in CO2 concentration -- and hence temperature -- in 2100 will be greater from the future reductions. Cutting emissions now is much more expensive, because there are few, expensive, alternatives to fossil fuels. Our money simply doesn't buy as much as it will when green energy sources are more cost-efficient.

Tol strikingly shows that grand promises of drastic, immediate carbon cuts -- reminiscent of the call for 80 per cent reductions by mid-century that some politicians and lobbyists make -- are an incredibly expensive way of doing very little good. All the academic models show that, even if possible, limiting the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees C, as promised by the European Union and the G8, would cost a phenomenal 12.9 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of the century. This would be the equivalent of imposing a cost of more than $US4000 on each inhabitant every year, by the end of the century. Yet the damage avoided would likely amount to only $US700 for each inhabitant.

The real cost of ambitious, early and large carbon-cutting programs would be a reduction in growth -- particularly damaging to the world's poor -- to the tune of about $US40 trillion a year. The costs also would come much sooner than the benefits and persist much longer. For every dollar the world spends on this grand plan, the avoided climate damage would be worth only US2c.
2) The Times:
That is why Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- no alarmist -- has warned that "what we do in the next two or three years will determine our future." And he said that two years ago.
The truth:
Pachauri isn't an alarmist? Only last year, he falsely claimed warming was accellerating. He has a "return to nature" political agenda. And, here's what he said in his speech accepting the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize:
We, therefore, have a short window of time to bring about a reduction in global emissions, if we wish to limit temperature increases to around 2 degrees Celsius at equilibrium. But even with this ambitious level of stabilization, the global average sea level rise above pre-industrial at equilibrium from thermal expansion alone would lie between 0.4 to 1.4 meters. This would have serious implications for several regions and locations in the world.
Sounds as alarmist -- and as pro-Obama -- as the New York Times! Of course in the real world, temperatures have dropped for a decade despite continued increased carbon emissions, suggesting Pachauri's fears are alarmingly overstated.
3) The Times:
Proponents of climate change legislation have now settled on a new strategy: warning that global warming poses a serious threat to national security. Climate-induced crises like drought, starvation, disease and mass migration, they argue, could unleash regional conflicts and draw in America’s armed forces, either to help keep the peace or to defend allies or supply routes.
The truth:
When did the Times start worrying about national security? After the paper leaked classified details of Bush's terrorist eavesdropping program? Or following its accusations of Republican scaremongering at any mention of national security? When did the paper drop its skepticism to U.S. military intervention in regional conflicts? And if external threats to America are rising, why is the Obama Administration cutting the defense budget, to the applause of the Times?

In any event, there is scant evidence warming would multiply disasters or threaten national security. Indeed, such assertions ignore the plausible life-saving benefits of hypothetical temperature increases. Besides, warming would allow us to shave spending on the defense of continental Europe, based on this August 17th Daily Telegraph (U.K.) article:
Prominent French chefs have given warning that the country's wines will lose their complexity and the best produce will come from Scotland if the effects of climate change are not tackled.

A group of chefs, sommeliers and chateaux has issued a call to action, urging the country to secure ambitious targets in the months ahead to limit global warming.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was posed a stark choice: save French wine by clinching a deal at the international climate conference in Copenhagen in December, or see generations of viticulture slowly die out as vineyards cross the Channel and head north.
Talk about a win-win!
(via Planet Gore, Watts Up With That?)


Matthew Avitabile said...

Maybe the Times should be more concerned with America

A_Nonny_Mouse said...

I propose a study using two enclaves of people. Let's locate them somewhere in Montana; I think that's an "empty" enough state that we could ensure no cross-contamination from the greater society.

One group will consist of 1,000 people willing to live under circumstances that guarantee zero greenhouse emissions: no cars, no cows (chickens would be OK), no electricity, no tree-burning (solar would be fine). The other group will be 1,000 people willing to be the "control group" for the period of the study (two consecutive years), with no restrictions on their activities.

After the period of the study, the survivors of the first group and the survivors of the second group would vote on whether to implement the project nationwide.

(Note: after two Montana winters without the benefit of wood stoves or fuel oil for heating, and after two growing seasons without mechanized farming either, I surmise that the experimental group's population would have declined remarkably. I predict that the survivors would vote for anything that made survival more probable, not to mention easier. Love of Mother Gaia would take a back seat to the desire to be sure your kids were fed.)

Carl said...




Given Rajendra Pachauri's extreme anti-growth views, he might be the only survivor of the first group to vote "aye."