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Discussion > The thread of Phil Clarke's gripes

I would just observe that the paper proceeds on the assumption that cooling is beneficial and warming is harmful, so it was always unlikely to come to any other conclusion.

But that was not the conclusion of the paper, it was a discussion of how the health (and therefore economic) co-benefits of climate action have underestimated. I thought it relevant to Stewgreen's (not so) 'serious' question. Just as a biology paper proceeds on the assumption that evolutionary theory holds up, a physics paper assumes relativity is the case, so a paper on this topic leverages the RICE model (itself derived from DICE), which for two decades has shown that the aggregated costs of warming outweigh the benefits. Your issue seems to be with the (well-established) underlying givens of the paper, rather than its conclusions.

So the bit we were discussing above (economics/discount rates etc) is criticised by a biologist who is a non-economist who devotes a website to what looks from the outside to be a bit of an odd obsession, and you cite it as evidence that Lomborg isn't worth discussing.

An error is an error, regardless of who found it. Lomborg's books are so full of egregious and obvious howlers, a non-economist is able to document them. Did you find any errors misidentified by Fog?

 I'd be more impressed if you critiques Lomborg's work yourself, rather than cited links to the usual suspects

You think the leopard's spots may have magically transposed? Bit of a vague request, you have not cited a single relevant paper. I should review his entire oeuvre in a blog post?

But then, he hasn't published that much. I mean published in the academic literature, rather than pop sci books. As far as I know, he barely makes into double digits and the only work to garner any citations was his PhD thesis on game theory.

Lomborg is a bit of a conundrum; he accepts climate change science, and in the preface to a book on 'Smart Solutions' to the problem he wrote Climate change is undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today. But his thesis since then seems to be arguing against ant effective action on the grounds of cost effectiveness, or that resources could be better deployed on more pressing issues.

Other specialists in the area disagree, including Gary Yohe, an economist with a rather more impressive publication record, who collaborated with Lomborg on the Copenhagen Consensus Project in 2008. The resulting challenge paper coauthored with Richard Tol came up with a positive benefits/cost ratio (+2.7) for a combination of mitigation and adaptation.

Yohe later took exception to Lomborg misrepresenting the findings he (Lomborg) had commissioned:

Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Sceptical Environmentalist, makes headlines around the world by arguing that capping carbon dioxide emissions is a waste of resources. He recently published a piece in the Guardian in which he dismissed efforts to craft a global carbon cap as "constant outbidding by frantic campaigners" to "get the public to accept their civilisation-changing proposals".

To support his argument, Lomborg often cites the Copenhagen Consensus project, a 2008 effort intended to inform climate negotiators. But there's just one problem: as one of the authors of the Copenhagen Consensus Project's principal climate paper, I can say with certainty that Lomborg is misrepresenting our findings thanks to a highly selective memory.

Lomborg claims that our "bottom line is that benefits from global warming right now outweigh the costs" and that "[g]lobal warming will continue to be a net benefit until about 2070." This is a deliberate distortion of our conclusions. 

We did find that climate change will result in some benefits for developed countries, but only for modest climate change (up to global temperature increases of 2C - not the 4 degrees that Lomborg is discussing in his piece). But developed countries are relatively prepared to handle climate change's effects - they tend to be in colder areas, and they have the infrastructure to mitigate severe depletion of resources like fresh water and arable land. That is precisely why our analysis concluded - and Lomborg ignores - that climate change will cause immediate losses for developing countries and the planet's most vulnerable, millions of whom are already facing challenges that climate change will exacerbate


What should one make of this?

May 30, 2019 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke


When you cite a paper, if I have time I read it, and if I think it contains errors, I point them out. I don't rely on the work of third parties to demonstrate that it's wrong, because then I'd be trusting the wisdom of the third parties, rather than thinking about it for myself and arriving at my own conclusions. I think it's reasonable to ask you to do likewise.

I'm still waiting for you to tell me I'm wrong for concluding that the paper you linked to a day or two ago said that cooling was beneficial.

May 31, 2019 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

"I would just observe that the paper proceeds on the assumption that cooling is beneficial and warming is harmful, so it was always unlikely to come to any other conclusion.

But that was not the conclusion of the paper, it was a discussion of how the health (and therefore economic) co-benefits of climate action have underestimated."

A sidestep if ever I saw one. I don't argue that there aren't benefits from cleaner air as a result of not burning fossil fuels. However, there are also other ways of cleaning the air while burning fossil fuels - India's INDC, for instance, is predicated on massive increases in the burning of coal up to 2030 (and probably beyond) but they argue that they will be using "cleaner" coal-burning power stations, with better scrubbers and filters etc, utilising modern technology. Are they wrong?

If they're not wrong, then the paper you cited is arguably based on more than one false premise (the other being that cooling is beneficial). If they're wrong, then the Paris climate agreement is, as many of us here argue, a waste of time that will never achieve its stated objects, and the INDCs of developing countries are a bad joke.

May 31, 2019 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

I ask other people like @Mark
May 29, 2019 at 9:58 PM I asked 2 simple questions

#1 How many UK lives have been saved so far ?
in Quality Life Years if possible

#2 How much richer is each UK individual so far due to UK climate measures ?

am I right that PC just hand waved and didn't attempt to answer the questions ?

May 31, 2019 at 8:55 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I thought I'd have a look at the Copenhagen Consensus Project to see what all the fuss is about, and found this:

It includes stuff like this (it surprised me, I'm pleased to say):

"Within climate change, the targets that have the best benefit-cost ratio are:

Invest 0.5% of GDP in energy technology RD&D which will return $11 dollars for every dollar spent. In contrast to emission reduction targets, this approach allows nations to continue to develop economically until cost-effective low-carbon technologies become available. It will be necessary to use this in conjunction with incentives (intensity targets/ standards, carbon pricing) to encourage the adoption of technologies when they become available.

Invest 0.05% of GDP in adaptation which contains both highly specific location based benefits and costs, but benefits should greatly outweigh costs. This approach will be essential for the hardest hit areas, allowing for both damage prevention and continued economic development.

The analysis shows that the following targets are relatively ineffective or there is large uncertainty in the benefit-cost ratio:

Global annual carbon emission reduction targets which are extremely costly compared to benefits due to a lack of low-carbon energy sources. Returns less than one dollar for every dollar spent.

Emission intensity targets which are extremely costly compared to benefits due to a lack of low-carbon energy sources. "

May 31, 2019 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

For those interested in RICE models and DICE models and discount rates and economic assumptions, a small amount of further info can be found here:

I find it interesting that William Nordhaus, the inventor of said models, is critical of the Stern Review. It would seem that there is, after all, much to argue about as to whether economic assumptions are valid, and whether spending on adaptation is more cost-effective than spending on mitigation.

Jun 4, 2019 at 8:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

Global warming is real; it is caused by man-made CO2 emissions, and we need to do something about it. But we don't need action that makes us feel good. We need action that actually does good.

They like a technological solution over, say, carbon taxes or cap-and-trade

: The Expert Panel believes that increased research into energy technology is vital to ensure a move away from reliance on fossil fuels. There is a significant energy technology challenge to stabilizing climate, demonstrated by the lack of readiness of current carbon-emission free energy technologies. The Expert Panel finds that there is a compelling case for greater research into technologies including (among others) storage for energy, batteries, nuclear energy and nuclear reprocessing technology, fusion, second-generation biofuels, wave energy, geothermal energy, and technology that increases the conversion rate of fossil fuels. They also find that research into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS, carbon storage) is very important because this technology has considerable potential as a “bridging technology” to a zero-carbon future.

But tucked away in the section on emissions reduction they state (my bold)

The Expert Panel finds that, while a well-designed, gradual policy of carbon cuts could substantially reduce emissions at a low cost, poorly designed or overly ambitious policies could be orders of magnitude more expensive.

So they are not implacably opposed to policy designed to reduce emissions, indeed they concede that a well-designed policy could be effective. I suspect this could be a consequence of the question asked, which had a time horizon of just 10 years, perhaps biasing the outcomes towards measures with a faster payback period.

The panel references this paper by Richard Tol which recommends a carbon tax between a few tens and hundreds of dollars per tonne, and work by Gary Yohe (a previous contributor to the CCC) that found the social cost of carbon to be in excess of £20/tonne. One might well conclude one's time was better spent reading the peer reviewed literature, rather than the dubious output of Lomborg's self-selected 'panel'.

Jun 4, 2019 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Ah, Stormfront Phil,. Still pushing for increased third world poverty to help kill off the Africans.

You have been told before about the panel that read the peer reviewed literature. It is a body called the IPCC. And they concluded that mitigation may have no effect whatsoever. Or it might. Mitigation has no proven to be an unscientific boondoggle. There is no proven link between a reduction in CO2 and carbon taxes.
So are you willing to gamble on children's lives for possibly no return?

Well, as the children are poor and in the third world, obviously Stormfront Phil sees a win-win situation here.

Page 258 of the IPCC WG 3 AR5:

• Despite the importance of the cost of mitigation, the aggregate cost of mitigating x tonnes of carbon globally is poorly understood. To put it differently, a global carbon tax of x dollars per tonne 259 Social, Economic, and Ethical Concepts and Methods 3 Chapter 3 would yield y(t) tonnes of carbon abatement at time, t. We do not understand the relationship between x and y(t).
• The choice of the rate at which future uncertain climate damages are discounted depends on their risk profile in relation to other risks in the economy. By how much does mitigating climate change reduce the aggregate uncertainty faced by future generations?
We've covered this before. You know that you are urging deaths for no proven benefit.
But you still want to kill.

Jun 4, 2019 at 3:48 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney