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“Like Treating a Cold with Chemotherapy”

No sooner do I post last night’s item about the walkbacks coming in the next IPCC report on the impacts of climate change due out Monday than I come across Matt Ridley’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal saying much the same thing.  Some highlights:

The forthcoming report apparently admits that climate change has extinguished no species so far and expresses “very little confidence” that it will do so. There is new emphasis that climate change is not the only environmental problem that matters and on adapting to it rather than preventing it. . .

The IPCC’s September 2013 report abandoned any attempt to estimate the most likely “sensitivity” of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The explanation, buried in a technical summary not published until January, is that “estimates derived from observed climate change tend to best fit the observed surface and ocean warming for [sensitivity] values in the lower part of the likely range.” Translation: The data suggest we probably face less warming than the models indicate, but we would rather not say so. . .

In short, the warming we experienced over the past 35 years—about 0.4C (or 0.7F) if you average the measurements made by satellites and those made by ground stations—is likely to continue at about the same rate: a little over a degree a century.

But here’s my favorite bit from the article:

And if renewable energy had proved by now to be cheap, clean and thrifty in its use of land, then we would be right to address that small risk of a large catastrophe by rushing to replace fossil fuels with first-generation wind, solar and bioenergy. But since these forms of energy have proved expensive, environmentally damaging and land-hungry, it appears that in our efforts to combat warming we may have been taking the economic equivalent of chemotherapy for a cold.

Along the way, Ridley cites the work of Richard Tol, one of Europe’s foremost climate economists.  Tol’s work was cited dozens of times in the infamous 2006 “Stern Review” by the British government that concluded the economic costs of climate change would be 5 – 20 percent of global GDP.  Tol repudiated the use of his work in the Stern Review, saying that if a first-year graduate student had submitted that analysis to him, he would have flunked the student.  The report due out next week will conclude that the economic cost of a 2.5 degrees C increase in temperature will be below 2 percent of global GDP.

But even though the next IPCC report is scaling back its economic gloom, Tol has decided to withdraw as a contributing author anyway, because he finds the report’s residual alarmism unjustified:

“The drafts became too alarmist,” said Richard Tol, a Dutch professor of economics at Sussex University in England, to Reuters.  Mr. Tol was part of a team of 70 authors working on revisions to a U.N. report on climate change, to be issued in Japan on March 31.

Mr. Tol said many of the other authors “strongly disagree with me,” but that he found the IPCC’s emphasis on climate change alarmism — and focus on risk — came at the expense of providing solutions for the world’s governments to adapt and overcome.

He also decried the fact the U.N. report downplayed possible economic benefits of warming. For example, he said: Warmer winters could mean fewer deaths among the elderly and possibly better crop growths in some areas. “It is pretty damn obvious there are positive impacts of climate change, even though we are not always allowed to talk about them,” Mr. Tol said.

Stay tuned.  Power Line Spring Climate Week is just getting started.

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