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« Stocker in Action | Main | Peiser on journal and media bias »
Sunday
May132012

A blast at Nordhaus

There's a very interesting article at the Institute for Energy Research website, looking at Nordhaus's recent critique of the 16 optimistic scientists.

Although leading climate economist William Nordhaus tries to cast himself as the messenger of objective science, his attempt to rebut the “global warming skeptics” is itself filled with misleading arguments. The actual situation is that the physical climate models have indeed predicted more warming than has actually occurred, while the economics literature casts serious doubts on the case for immediate government mitigation efforts.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Tol's review of the economics literature on the effects of AGW. That net benefits are enjoyed for warming of less than two degrees struck me as an important, and little appreciated idea.

(H/T GWPF)

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Reader Comments (49)

It's easy to misinterpret Figure 1 from Tol (2009).

Initial warming is indeed likely to be beneficial: CO2 fertilization of crops, reduced spending on heating homes, and fewer cold-related deaths are the main factors.

However, totals do not matter. The incremental impact turns negative around 1.2K. If we were able to control climate, we would warm the planet by 1.2K and stop there. However, the momentum of the climate system and the energy system is such that, if you accept the mainstream view of the workings of the climate, we cannot avoid 1.2K warming, or 2.0K warming for that matter.

The initial benefit is thus a sunk benefit: We will enjoy it regardless of what we do.

May 13, 2012 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Good find, Bish. The temperature graph looks even flatter if you plot in degrees Kelvin with the Y-axis starting at zero Kelvin.

The temperature rises from 287 K to 287.8 K. Not very scary.

May 13, 2012 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I also was astounded that so little has been publicised of the net beneficial warming. Always felt instinctively that this was the case, as indeed historic warmings (optimums!) were always traditionally viewed. But I did not realise that this was the still the (very politically suppressed) mainstream consensus. That for the next sixty years or so the economic benefits outweigh the cost of adverse impacts.

I would guess that 'not a lot of people knew that'.

I rather doubt that any future warming will ever exceed the 2-2.5 net beneficial threshold anyway, sans massaging .

The risk for overriding naturally induced cooling seems never to have been seriously considered, or if it was I've missed it. Which incidentally is why I tried before to suggest to RB compiling a formal cooling impact case, regardless of perceived chance of occurrence. It seems logically prudent. Like constant rain after the drought announcement. Twice.

May 13, 2012 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

If you accept "the mainstream view" maybe some of Skull & Bones (Nordhaus) and the mainstream "scientists" will enjoy most?

May 13, 2012 at 10:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

@Jack Hughes

You can chose a scale to make almost any data set look flat. The U.S. debt would look trivial on a Decillion dollar axis. The issue is what are the likely impacts.

May 13, 2012 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike

the blueprint for the next 100y should *NOT* be how to make ayatollah Gore/ Sir Reginald & their bolshevik minions richer with wimmills and clueless blather about doom, but:

-how to increase energy consumption a 100 fold worldwide and give everybody human and animal a decent life
-how to enlarge the liveable space: siberia sahara empty oceans and under the ground/ floor 2.0
-how to install selfsustaining spaces on the moon mars and Europa
-how to harness energy limitlessly with cold fusion, without freeloading clubs like ITER and JET
-How to create human 2.0 to step in other media and universes

but, more challenging: how to close down the Bolshevik Brainwashing Corporation and their clueless kenyan Messiah and lame political correctness narratives

May 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Pharos

"I also was astounded that so little has been publicised of the net beneficial warming."

It's not that it hasn't been our there for years. Bjorn Lomborg is just one of many who have been shouting this from the roof-tops to their own peril for many years now.

May 14, 2012 at 12:10 AM | Registered CommenterMique

Should also point out that there has already been an experiment with high bureaucrat control over the economy.

It didn't produce wealth and it was very good at producing pollution.

The experiment's name? "The Soviet Union".

May 14, 2012 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

time to hedge our bets and shake up the lethargic ITER and JET and transform them into freelance run industries instead of the gravy train with 75years planning like it is now.

a lot more money should be clunked in LENR , physics and plasma r&d and biochemistry btw.

money OUT of nannystate pooperdarry INTO r&d.. meat on the bone, not old women fat aggregation.

May 14, 2012 at 1:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

ptw (May 13, 2012 at 11:08 PM),

maybe you (or others) will be interested for example in Antony C. Suttons's rough-and-ready book "Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution" (1974) (respectively his book "America's Secret Establishment. An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones" (1983)). Kris Millegan's "Fleshing out Skull & Bones. Investigation into America's Most Powerful Secret Society" (2003) is even more sensationalist than Prof Sutton. Alexandra Robbins's book "Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Path of Power" (2002) is, although she graduated in Yale, not really a scientific book.

Just for the hell of it: All above books, except (IIRC) Suttons's "Wall Street..." link--after a fashion--S&B to the Bavarian Illuminati, which "learned society" I mentioned a few times on this blog elsewhere.

From other--all this time really scientific--books, it appears that the Bavarian Illuminati were perhaps the first organization worldwide which advocated an anthropogenic climate change (cf. e.g. for few examples http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/10/19/medics-do-climate.html ). When, or if, a Bavarian Illuminatus reached nearly the highest rank within the order, the "Priestergrad" (Mysteriengrad) (only few reached that rank), he--at least in accordance with the founder's (Adam Weishaupt) plan--had, among other things, to produce climate tables as empirical-statistical exercises (cf. Manfred Agethen, "Geheimbund...", p. 150).

What's perhaps also interesting is that the researcher Ernst-Otto Fehn ("Moralische Unschuld oder politische Bewußtheit? Thesen zur illuminatischen Ideologie etc." (in: Der Illuminatenorden 1776-1785/87, Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt am Main etc. 1997, pp. 215 and 224)) thinks he can verify Weishaupt used the word 'statistic' as euphemism ("Hüllwort") for 'politics' ("Politik") (for bibliography and further notes cf. also http://bilderberger-konferenzen.de.tl/Forum/thema-1-Test_Edit-01.htm ( or e.g. http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/4/26/a-right-royal-fail.html?currentPage=2 ). Certain members of the Illuminati should compare the weather-tables, from which should be drawn conclusions for the physics and economy (Weishaupt wrote "Wetter-Tabellen"; M. Agethen called them "Klimatabellen" (climate tables)). (See also Weishaupt: "jeden Tag die Witterung genau beobachten und aufzeichnen, z.B. den Grad der Hize, Kälte, Regen, Sonnenschein, Schnee, Nebel, Morgenröthe, Nordlichter, Gewitter. Diese Wetter-Tabellen werden verglichen, daraus für die Physik und Oeconomie Schlüsse gezogen".)

May 14, 2012 at 2:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

One thing I would be very interested to learn from Richard Tol is how sensitive his estimate of the temperature at which net effects become negative is to his assumptions.

May 14, 2012 at 4:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Heyworth

@Richard Tol

What is "momentum of the climate system and the energy system" (my bolding)?

Momentum is the product of mass time velocity. What mass and velocity does the climate and eneryg system have?

May 14, 2012 at 5:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

Pharos (May 13, 2012 at 10:30 PM)

.. for the next sixty years or so the economic benefits outweigh the cost of adverse impacts. I would guess that 'not a lot of people knew that'.
Yet it was in the IPCC report, so every environment journalist and government scientific advisor knew that. Our politicians wouldn’t know that of course, being too busy sucking up to soft porn editors to read stuff.
The Big Fear in ruling circles must now be that in the next sixty years the inhabitants of Bangla Desh learn how to build dikes and use contraceptives. It’s still going to be hard to turn the current insanity round though. How do you persuade people that we don’t need windmills because the incidence of malaria is going down?

May 14, 2012 at 6:54 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

@ Richard Toll

However, totals do not matter. The incremental impact turns negative around 1.2K. If we were able to control climate, we would warm the planet by 1.2K and stop there. However, the momentum of the climate system and the energy system is such that, if you accept the mainstream view of the workings of the climate, we cannot avoid 1.2K warming, or 2.0K warming for that matter.

At present we cannot measure global temperature with 1/10 of a degree accuracy, global datasets have a bigger discrepancy among themselves, and individual models' "recreations" vary in excess of 4K, not to mention the problems of measuring ocean temperature (to which depth?).

Yet, "we know" the precise limit of a beneficial warming to be exactly 1.2K!

May 14, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Registered CommenterPatagon

May 14, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Patagon
Exactly

Sandy Sinclair

May 14, 2012 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Please please please will somebody try to persuade me that the entire global economy will turn from positive to negative between an average temperature of 287.7K and 287.9K and that we really really know that the absolute optimum is 287.80K +/- 0.03K.

And when you've finished on that one, the easy bit will be foretelling the winners of the six races at the evening race meeting at Sandown Park on 24th May.

May 14, 2012 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

[No]

May 14, 2012 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

@Alex
Very.

@Rob
Figuritively speaking.

@Patagon
Actually, we do not know this number with any accuracy.

Figure 6 (here: http://ideas.repec.org/p/esr/wpaper/wp382.html) suggests that there is a 5% probability that the benefits are not sunk -- that is, the turning point is much later -- and that there is 10% that the sign is wrong.

@mydog
Sure. If warming is less pronounced for whatever reason, then we will enjoy the benefits of climate change for long time.

May 14, 2012 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Good ole Dog! Wooof!

May 14, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Patagon, Latimer:
The question of spurious accuracy shouldn’t be allowed to cloud the essential point: that the IPCC consensus is that the first stage of warming is beneficial. The precise point at which net benefits turn negative is unimportant.
The warmists will argue that the rich temperate regions benefit during the first stage, while the poor tropical regions lose out eventually due to flooding, drought and disease.
Hence we in the rich world should both finance their efforts to adapt, while impoverishing ourselves via expensive low carbon energy policies in order to lower the temperature rise by x thousandths of a degree. This is called shooting yourself in both feet with one bullet.
Meanwhile the unbelievably stinking rich are proposing to solve the problem by mining asteroids and eradicating malaria with their spare cash - policies which are far too expensive for the world’s richest nations to tackle.

May 14, 2012 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

geoffchambers
What the rich world should doing — and forgive me if this is turning into a hobby horse — is using whatever cash it thinks it can spare to fund development in the poor tropical regions so that they can join us in being able to make their own decisions about their own future.
Instead we insist on pouring money into the pockets of their corrupt dictators and the high-profile NGOs who are very good at firefighting but are not interested in the long-term development of these countries which would do them out of a job.
At the same time we erect all sorts of trade barriers either with the intention of protecting our own farmers or with the intention of keeping the African and Asian poor poor. I'm never sure which but the end result is the same; we spend millions on doing just enough to be seen to be doing something and to prevent the recipients of our largesse from dying in too great a number while having no effect on the overall standard of living of the countries affected.
It should hardly come as a surprise that the poorest countries are the least able to cope with natural disasters — Haiti's experience with hurricanes is a perfect example — but instead of taking practical steps to make them less poor we insist on keeping them on the verge of starvation. The logic of this has always escaped me.

May 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

As others have pointed out recently on previous threads the 'warming' is primarily a manifestation of increasing minimum temperatures, i.e. less overnight cooling (this has been extensively illustrated on the Musings from the Chiefio blog). How is this taken into account by temperature-sensitivity studies?

May 14, 2012 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Mike Jackson
Agree absolutely. Aren’t you and I supposed to be at opposite poles of the political spectrum?
(Until 1946 or so Haiti was paying reparations to France for having had the cheek to liberate itself from slavery in the 18th century. Which is why France can afford to send aid to Haiti in times of need, so it’s all for the best).

Robert Murphy’s demolition of Nordhaus is an excellent example of how to explain statistics to the layman, apart from anything else. Only two comments there so far, one from Richard Tol. It really deserves some comments from some of BishopHill’s Angels.

May 14, 2012 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

geoffchambers
I don't think there is a political spectrum any more. I would probably vote Conservative at the next election as you would probably vote Labour (I imagine). But in a world where the EU bureacracy dictates more than 70% of UK laws anyway there is little to fight about. (Worse luck!)
Anyway some things do transcend national party politics for all that the spin doctors try to convince the sheeple otherwise. One of them is a simple moral concern for one's fellow beings, especially those less fortunate than oneself, and most especially when they are being royally screwed by the very people best placed to improve their lot.
During many years as a Rotarian listening to appeals by various individuals and organisations I was always struck by the difference between the small local, often but not always church-based organisation that had identified a specfic problem in a specific area and was looking for help in solving it and the big charities who were always full of politico-speak and grandiose schemes which never quite seemed to do anything of lasting effect. We gave generously to the former, rarely to the latter.
Apologies for this being slightly off-topic, your Grace, but it is relevant to the extent that those same big charities would always be using "the effects of climate change" (always the adverse ones) as one of the mainstays of their appeal. The little people would simply be trying to give a village some simple equipment or send some medical supplies to the local doctor.

May 14, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

@Richard
"The incremental impact turns negative around 1.2K. If we were able to control climate, we would warm the planet by 1.2K and stop there."

I love this precision. It makes it sound very authoritative. But it is not. I have yet to see any biological argument, that does not involve models, that supports this particular encyclical.

May 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

@Richard
"The incremental impact turns negative around 1.2K. If we were able to control climate, we would warm the planet by 1.2K and stop there."

I just love the (spurious) precision. It makes it sound so authoritative.

And we are expected to take this encyclical on faith?
I have yet to see any biological argument that supports this.

May 14, 2012 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

@Don
It's an economic argument, not a biological one.

You can reason along biological lines too. The body of the typical human, not doing much and not wearing much clothes, performs best in the climate of northern Spain, southern France, California, North Korea, Zimbabwe.

For the majority of people, the climate is a bit too hot. For the majority of rich people, the climate is a bit too cold.

May 14, 2012 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard Tol

The body of the typical human, not doing much and not wearing much clothes, performs best in the climate of northern Spain, southern France, California, North Korea, Zimbabwe.
... and I love the precision of that.
As a human being not doing much, living in southern France, working in a university which feels pretty Zimbabwean, under a local political régime with North Korean tendencies, I must be a pretty optimum performer.

May 14, 2012 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

@Geoff
Seriously. It is not too hard to work out the optimal climate for a warm-blooded animal, and there is plenty of data (both experimental and otherwise) on how the human body responds to different climates.

May 14, 2012 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

And yet people live all over the planet. And the only thing we know about which has stopped people from living all over is ice. Optimal does not matter here. High and low limits do. Any change in climate consisting mainly of warmer low temperature at night will make little difference to habitability.

May 14, 2012 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

@Rhoda
People can live anywhere, but when given a choice (holiday, retirement) they tend to move to the same climate (or so the data tell us).

May 14, 2012 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

"The body of the typical human, not doing much and not wearing much clothes, performs best in the climate of northern Spain, southern France, California..."

Especially adjacent to a swimming pool and with a nice glass of white wine readily to hand (sadly slightly lacking in Zimbabwe or North Korea).

May 14, 2012 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan B

You would expect in 50y time that fusion works

Priority on this from the Caviar Lefties and Sir Reginald ? ZERO. ZILCH. NADA.

They have a pet project in ITERwhere all the drivel bags and sedated freeloaders seem to congrgate making plans for a working site in 2100. Not only will they not be there to be brought to qaccount, no their children and grand children can have a comfortable career as well, without being brought to account.

May 14, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Richard Tol
Seriously, I believe you. People here were getting a bit pernickety about the excessive precision of some of your figures. Which is why I suggested that everyone should read Murphy’s critique of Nordhaus as a textbook example of how to extract the essential from complex statistical data for a lay audience.

May 14, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Richard Tol, you write above (2:51 PM):

"For the majority of people, the climate is a bit too hot. For the majority of rich people, the climate is a bit too cold."

Do you know that the earth hasn't reached its optimal average temperature -- although it's warming since 150 years?

According to a main theory in climate science the optimal global average temperature is 15°C (i.e. the earth without GHG = -18°C and with GHG = +15°C), agree?

Our global average temperature is currently just 14.5°C (see WGI, AR4, SPM, page 6: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf).

So, why do you say that "For the majority of people, the climate is a bit too hot"?

(See also Rainer Hoffmann: "Warum seit über 150 Jahren keine gefährliche globale Erwärmung stattgefunden hat !" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONMUNO22oLM))

May 14, 2012 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

@Richard, just in case you don't know Man is a tropical creature, we evolved in tropical Africa and we are much more suspectable to cold stress than heat.

In any case I was talking in more general terms about the response of primary productivity (that's plants) to increased temperature and yes it is enhanced by higher temperatures and certainly not limited by a temperature increase of 1.2C.

May 14, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Richard Tol, please scratch my first question above at 4:59 PM. It should read:

You do know that the earth hasn't reached its optimal average temperature -- although it's warming since 150 years. [...] So, why do you say that "For the majority of people, the climate is a bit too hot"?

May 14, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

Richard, did you address the issue of adaptation in your work? It still seems to me that people live everywhere and will continue to do so no matter if it departs a little from optimum. At night. And if it rains more, that will likely make it better too. I can see there must be some temperature increase which would turn out to be uncomfortable but that increase seems not to be on the cards any time soon. It also seems that any attempt to put numbers on it fails immediately because one must make assumptions which are impossible to defend with confidence. That is, the errors bars are so large you might as well be guessing.

May 14, 2012 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Don K,

With all due respects, humankind may have originated in what is now Africa. At the time, the climate may have been somewhere between temperate to tropical - we don't know for sure, as we don't know 100% exactly where an when we originated. However, since this time Homo sapiens has diversified and adapted to the range of climates across the globe. You can't call Inuits tropical people, anymore than you can call Africans polar people.

May 14, 2012 at 7:12 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Salopian, isn't Africa tropical as a geographical fact, at least in the timeframe of Homo sapiens? It may have been weather/climate which forced mankind to leave Africa, but is there any way it could have been so cold near the equator? Or was it too hot in the multi-millenial timescale, and if so what caused it which could not be happening now?

May 14, 2012 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Salopian, if we are so well biologically adapted to cold, why do Inuits have to wear mutiple layers of clothes?
Believe it or not Africans can live and work in Polar regions too- again given the correct equipment.
And low and behold Inuits have visted the Tropics.

It's called behavioural adaptation- there has been little biological adaptation to these climatic extremes.

May 14, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Rhoda, Don Keiller
I lost my faith in the IPCC’s predictions of climate mayhem the day I read that two of the richest countries are Singapore (av temp 30°C) and Finland (av temp 4°C). And despite Richard Tol’s assurance that I’m living in ideal conditions, I still haven’t adapted to Southern France after twenty years, despite taking his advice and taking off most of my clothes, at least for the four months of the year when it’s too darn hot. The rest of the year it’s pullovers and bedsocks, without those balmy Atlantic breezes which made Roman historians identify Britain as a climate paradise.

May 14, 2012 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Don K; There are clear physiological and anatomical differences between Human sub-groups living in different geographical parts of the world. For example skin colour, eye colour, hair colour and distribution, nasal facies etc., and these all can be related to climate! There has been considerable biological adaptation within humankind. Check out Otzi, the Ice-man, he was crossing the Alps in pair of trousers and a grass cape.

May 14, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Salopian (May 14, 2012 at 9:01PM)

There has been considerable biological adaptation within humankind. Check out Otzi, the Ice-man, he was crossing the Alps in pair of trousers and a grass cape.
If I tried to cross the Pyrenees dressed like that I’d get short shrift from the Spanish customs, Schengen or no Schengen. Poor biological adaptation on my part, or stupidity?

May 14, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Salopian, most biological adaptation in Humans is in skin colour and this is to do with the trade off between UV protection in the ropics and vitamin D synthesis at higher latitudes.
Nothing to do with temperature.

May 14, 2012 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"Salopian, most biological adaptation in Humans is in skin colour and this is to do with the trade off between UV protection in the ropics and vitamin D synthesis at higher latitudes.
Nothing to do with temperature."

Complete rubbish, how do you explain the physiological and anatomical differences between various races? Biological adaptation is a lot more complex than you seem to think.

May 14, 2012 at 11:06 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

"The incremental impact turns negative around 1.2K."

Pseudo scientific nonsense. Nobody knows. Climate models cannot accurately describe regional impacts.

These are just best guesses piled on top of yet more tenuous assumptions.

May 15, 2012 at 6:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterWill Nitschke

@Salopian, Don
There's no need to argue as there is plenty of data. My reading is that, from an energy perspective, there is little difference between human races.

Philip Parker' 2000 book called Physioeconomics is still an excellent survey.

May 15, 2012 at 6:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard, thanks for your response to my question above. I wonder if you could expand a little, for example on which are the most crucial assumptions. (Perhaps you have already explored this elsewhere?)

May 15, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Heyworth

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