Let’s all just get rich!

A number of people seem quite excited by a recent article in American Interest by Richard Tol, called Hot Stuff, Cold Logic. The basic premise of the article seems to be that climate change isn’t the only problem we face (which is true) and that providing cheap energy that can lead to economic growth can both solve these other problems and allow us to address climate change more easily in the future (i.e., prioritise economic growth).

The article does, however, contain the following – quite remarkable – comment,

Change, after all, can be for the better or the worse, and at any rate it is inevitable; there has never been a lengthy period of climate stasis.

which might explain from whom Benny Peiser is getting his advice.

I don’t really want to delve into the details of the article, but I thought I might make some comments. Something that many seem to have highlighted is this

The current evidence, weak and incomplete as it may be, as summarized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggests that moderate warming—say, what we might expect around the year 2075—would make the average person feel as if she had lost 0.2 to 2.0 percent of her income. In other words, a century worth of climate change is about as bad as losing a year of economic growth. In other words, a century worth of climate change is about as bad as losing a year of economic growth.

So, this sounds pretty good, but it ignores so many caveats as to be – in my opinion – virtually meaningless. If you consider studies of the economic impact of climate change (Richard’s own meta-analysis) the impact depends on the change in temperature, not the change in time. How much we warm by 2075 depends both on our chosen emission pathway and on the actual climate sensitivity. Richard’s own meta-analysis suggests that if the impact of climate change is to be about as bad as losing a year of economic growth, then we will only have warmed by about 1oC. However, this is only likely if we follow a relatively low emission pathway which, if we are to continue growing, then requires that a reasonable fraction of our energy is provided by alternatives.

Richard’s basic argument therefore seems to be that we should focus on growth because the impact of climate change will probably be small and that getting wealthier will both solve many of our current problems (poverty, disease,..) and is the best way to deal with the impacts of climate change. The problem is that his first assumption appears to be based on us not following a high emission pathway, and hence seems inconsistent with his conclusion that we should simply priortise economic growth over reducing our emissions.

However, what I really wanted to do in this post (which is going to end up longer than I intended) is use our understanding of physical climatology to illustrate why this basic just get wealthy idea promoted by Tol (and also others, like Lomborg) has some issues. Let’s assume that if we accept this argument today, then it is valid at any instant at which the damages from climate disruption are not sufficiently severe so as to require us to actively address climate change. Hence it’s essentially an argument that we should do nothing until it’s patently obvious that we need to do something. So, what’s wrong with this?

Let’s consider what we can do if/when we reach the point where climate change is doing obvious damage. Is it possible, for example, to prevent the global temperatures from rising any further? Well, yes, but this would require stopping our emissions almost instantly. Seems a little drastic and unrealistic. We could, potentially, consider geo-engineering, but that carries significant risks of its own. An alternative is to try and fix the atmospheric CO2 concentration. This is also possible, but would require almost halving our emissions instantly, and halving them again over the next 3-4 decades; also somewhat drastic (for more on this see Steve Easterbrook’s post). Additionally, this would lead to continued warming (maybe 0.5-1oC). Given that we expect the impact of climate disruption to be non-linear, this would be guaranteeing even more severe damage than what is already regarded as obviously requiring action.

So, if we follow the advice of people like Tol and Lomborg, and if our understanding of physical climatology is broadly correct, we would almost be guaranteeing drastic action some time in the future. How far into the future? Well, if we continue following a high emission pathway (as we are essentially doing now) we could pass the 2oC limit in the next 3 to 4 decades. I realise that this limit isn’t some kind of boundary between everything being fine and everything being catastrophic, but keeping below 2oC is regarded by many as being a sensible goal. Following the advice of Tol/Lomborg would appear to be guaranteeing that we will not achieve this goal, and would appear to suggest that some kind of drastic action will be required in the future if we are to avoid continued warming once (if?) climate disruption becomes severe. Of course, we could simply hope that physical climatology is wrong and that somehow the underlying law of nature is let the markets decide!

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448 Responses to Let’s all just get rich!

  1. Pingback: Tol goes emeritus – Stoat

  2. Oh, I seem to have commented already :-).

    In which case: I was going to object to Tol’s “instead of assuming the worst, we should study the impacts of climate change and seek to balance them against the negative effects of climate policy. This is what climatologists and economists actually have done for years, but their efforts have been overshadowed by the hysteria of the Greens and the Left”.

    You have to be pretty dishonest – or somehow isolated from reality – to miss the massive denialist problem with trying to discuss GW policy sanely. And not just on blogs, but in the US congress and senate. To assert, as Tol does, that the problems lie only with the left / greens makes him a nutter.

  3. Jamie says:

    But hang on, the IPCC also estimates that dealing with climate change will cost us about 0.06% per year in growth which I make to be “about as bad as losing a year of economic growth” by 2075.

  4. William,

    To assert, as Tol does, that the problems lie only with the left / greens makes him a nutter.

    Well, yes. I noticed that Richard Klein commented on Bjorn Lomborg’s facebook post about this (Richard Tol was also commenting). What was interesting is that their response to his comments was to complain about his tone which, given what you’ve highlighted, seems remarkably ironic.

    Jamie.
    Indeed. As I understand it the basic argument is that mitigating is slightly more expensive than simply accepting the damages and that that is just unacceptable. Of course, you might imagine that given the huge uncertainties associated with economic modelling that both estimates are essentially in the noise and hence that addressing climate change and minimising the damages would be the preferred option.

  5. Something I was going to add to the post, but didn’t, was that I think Tol has acknowledged publicly that the benefits are probably sunk. In other words, our past emissions will lead to the warming that might be beneficial. Any future emissions will probably lead to warming that will probably be damaging.

  6. jsam says:

    Economic models have a long history of accuracy. What could go wrong?

  7. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    In fact, the article argues that many of the worst impacts of climate change are actually symptoms of poverty and that the current policy of major donors to restrict energy access and divert money from development to climate, may do more harm than good.

    The article also argues that hysteria is not conducive to a reasoned debate.

  8. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Jamie: The IPCC did not estimate that. The IPCC estimate is the lower bound on the costs.

  9. Lars Karlsson says:

    The rest of the biosphere will not have the advantage of being any richer in the future. I would suspect that the situation will rather be the contrary.

  10. MarkG says:

    “The article also argues that hysteria is not conducive to a reasoned debate.” Which does not stop you from becoming hysterical about the Greens and the Left.

    I read your article as a political pamphlet calling for minimal action on climate of the type that is much favoured by activists from the GWPF. If I recall correctly, Matt Ridley wrote almost the same article a few weeks ago.

  11. Rachel M says:

    The article also argues that hysteria is not conducive to a reasoned debate.

    Yes, the “OMG, the economy won’t survive if we tackle climate change” argument is a bit hysterical. I completely agree. Good to see Skeptics pointing this out.

  12. Rachel M says:

    The rest of the biosphere will not have the advantage of being any richer in the future.

    Yes, I’m not really sure how coral reefs are supposed to be able to afford to solve the problem of ocean acidification or the many plants and animals, who through no fault of their own, are facing changing whether patterns and a changing climate. Ignoring the natural world is completely indefensible, selfish, arrogant and quite frankly, pisses me off.

  13. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Thanks, Rachel, for neatly illustrating the “them are hysterical but I am sane” meme

  14. Rachel M says:

    Oh I’m far from sane, Richard Tol. Just ask my husband.

  15. Richard Tol,

    In fact, the article argues that many of the worst impacts of climate change are actually symptoms of poverty and that the current policy of major donors to restrict energy access and divert money from development to climate, may do more harm than good.

    Yes, I realise that that is what you’re arguing. In the sense that if we have to face something, being wealthy is better than being poor, it is clearly true. However, the impacts of climate change are not unavoidable. There are a number of things that your article fails to do. One is that you have simply asserted that your view is correct. You haven’t actually shown that it’s better to get wealthier and address climate change as it happens, rather than addressing climate change at the expense of economic growth. Additionally, you haven’t actually shown that it’s not possible to both have economic growth and address climate change. Many highly respectable economists think that it is.

    The IPCC did not estimate that. The IPCC estimate is the lower bound on the costs.

    Really? I thought that they indicated that mitigating would probably reduce economic growth by less than 0.2% (i.e., we’d grow at something like 2.8% pa, rather than 3%). I realise that there are large uncertainties here, but that would seem to apply to the analysis you prefer too.

    The article also argues that hysteria is not conducive to a reasoned debate.

    Indeed, the economic alarmism from organisations like the GWPF does indeed make reasoned discussions difficult. Actually this isn’t quite true. Being associated with articles like this makes it appear both difficult and pointless. Why have discussions with those who clearly do not have a clue about the topic under discussion. There are two errors in the title alone! You’d think that such nonsensical articles would reflect poorly on the Academic Advisers.

    Thanks, Rachel, for neatly illustrating the “them are hysterical but I am sane” meme

    You’re describing the theme of your article here, right?

  16. Hans Erren says:

    “Depends on our chosen emissions”
    Nope, 2075 depends fully the chosen emissions of the children of the people of the BRIC countries, who also want 24/7 internet so they can react on blog posts. China and India have already chosen their priorities: get rid of poverty as quick as possible.

  17. Hans,
    By “our” I meant the human race, not Europe and the USA.

    China and India have already chosen their priorities: get rid of poverty as quick as possible.

    Sure, but that they’re doing this doesn’t invalidate what I’m illustrating in this post.

  18. Climatology is political, not physical.

  19. Physical climatology is physical.

  20. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Wotts, Jamie
    Really. The cost estimates as reported by the IPCC are for the least-cost implementation of greenhouse gas emission reduction and therefore, by definition, estimates of the lower bound.

  21. Richard,
    Okay, so we could spend more but if those numbers are a reasonable representation of what it could cost to address climate change then they inidicate that we can do so for little cost (or, more correctly, a small reduction in growth). Also, what you say seems somewhat inconsistent with this post by Brigitte Knopf, which says

    However, translated into reduction of growth rate, these numbers are actually quite low. Ambitious climate protection would cost only 0.06 percentage points of growth each year. This means that instead of a growth rate of about 2% per year, we would see a growth rate of 1.94% per year.

    Note the highlighted word.

  22. jsam says:

    You alarmist, Rachel. What has a coral reef ever done for the economy?

    All growth is good to an economagician. Just as long as we beat the French.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2888416/Who-said-crime-doesn-t-pay-Counting-prostitution-drugs-GDP-figure-seen-UK-s-economy-overtake-France-fifth-largest-world.html

    Which is the bigger increase in GDP? Is it building flood defences and moving cities? Or is it disaster recovery?

    I notice Richard thinks the lower bounds of cost are unrealistic, but not the upper bounds. Hmm.

  23. Rowan says:

    Poverty is relative, not fixed. Poverty is inequality, not wealth. Richard Tol has it all backward – the way to beat climate change is to make everyone equally unrich. More wealth requires more resources needing more energy resulting in more pollution. Unless Tol has found a way round the laws of thermodynamics?
    The problem with a predicament is that there are no acceptable solutions.
    Either humans start choosing from the unacceptable options or nature will do it for us on a far grander scale.
    [Mod : Going to just moderate the last part for tone. Not a great fan of discussing someone’s motives.]

  24. Joshua says:

    Ya’ gotta love Richard:

    We get this:

    ==> “The article also argues that hysteria is not conducive to a reasoned debate.”

    And we also get this:

    ==> “Politically correct climate change orthodoxy has completely destroyed our ability to think rationally about the environment.

  25. jsam says:

    To Joshua’s point, less Jeffrey Sachs is less hysterical than Richard.
    http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/680706

    Even Aman Singh seems comparatively calm.
    http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/dec/24/2015-predictions-business-climate-change-environment-justice-future

    Those alarmists, thinking we’ll destroy economies by taking some heed of our environment. YOu have to chuckle. I hope they’re as alarmed by income inequality.

  26. Willard says:

    > if we have to face something, being wealthy is better than being poor, it is clearly true.

    Not necessarily. Grrrowth is better than anything. It is our collective heritage. Growing poorly is therefore better than remaining rich.

    Inequality is in the eye of the non-beholders.

  27. Willard,

    Not necessarily.

    Possibly, although I just meant having the resources to deal with something is better than not having the resources. Of course, I suspect that you’re making a subtler point (joking?) than I’m able to understand 🙂

  28. Willard says:

    Grrrowth, AT, dictates the coldest logic and promulgates the hottest slogans.

    Stay tuned.

  29. Hans Erren says:

    ATTP “By “our” I meant the human race, not Europe and the USA”

    Given the fact that 80% of mankind live outside USA and Europe, “we” indeed want to get rich, you can’t stop “us”. And you can’t blame “us” for doing so.

    Environmentalists blocked the nuclear option in the 70’s (except france) so if you want to blame somebody for the rise in CO2 emissions then blame Greenpeace.

  30. Hans,

    Given the fact that 80% of mankind live outside USA and Europe, “we” indeed want to get rich, you can’t stop “us”. And you can’t blame “us” for doing so.

    I agree and I’m not trying to blame anyone. That, however, doesn’t make the potential risks associated with climate change go away.

    Environmentalists blocked the nuclear option in the 70’s (except france) so if you want to blame somebody for the rise in CO2 emissions then blame Greenpeace.

    Rubbish. Greenpeace may have some particularly stupid ideas, but they’re not our policy makers. My understanding is that in the UK, someone who was partly responsible for moving the UK away from nuclear was Nigel Lawson, while Chancellor of the Exchequer (because it would have made it much more difficult to privatise the energy industry). Not only do I doubt that he would have been influenced by Greenpeace, he happens to now be Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

  31. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP writes “Richard’s basic argument therefore seems to be that we should focus on growth because [snip]. it’s essentially an argument that we should do nothing…”

    So which is it? Something (growth) or nothing?

    As I wrote yesterday, consensus messaging is unlikely to be effective with conservatives and positively ineffective with libertarians for whom consensus is a bad word. So what should be used instead? Appeals to natural desires, that’s what. The “right” is a wide mixture of things but tends to include entrepreneurs (“growth” messages) and libertarians (“liberty from corporate utility” messages). Warmists will be upset of course because the consensus isn’t mentioned; but consensus is irrelevant to climate change. Action is relevant, consensus is not.

    As it happens, many people will be happy to use alternatives if and when they become available at less than bank-breaking cost. But it cannot be done suddenly. Everyone suddenly buy a Leaf electric vehicle? I’d love to have one but I recognize a booby-trap — it’s gonna bust the grid at a time when the United States (and England and Australia) is *removing* grid capacity!

    So that means I need my own solar power. Lots of it. About $150,000 worth of it and a house or ranch big enough to have it and live in a climate that gets plenty of sunshine. Nothing but sunshine. Arizona in other words.

    And when I’ve done all that, then what? I drive my Leaf to my meager employment that cannot pay for any of this. Somehow this all seems just a bit impossible. Rich people such as Al Gore can shingle his house with solar panels and imagine he is “saving the Earth” while I watch blogs hoping for that big breakthrough in solar power or battery technology.

  32. My comment about Nigel Lawson and the nuclear industry may be more nuanced than I at first realised. According to this he was in favour of nuclear power in the early 80s while Energy Secretary. He appears to have remained in favour of nuclear power, but it seems to have been clear that it wasn’t really possible to privatise because of the large liabilities. It finishes with

    The attempted privatisations of Britain’s nuclear power stations brought into light for the first time the enormous economic cost of the public sector nuclear programme.

  33. Michael 2 says:

    I have a thought; Richard Tol might not be crafting climate change messages in conservative language (although it almost looks that way), I think it possible he is crafting conservative messages in climate change language. Why not? If the sheep can be moved to the left, maybe they can be moved to the right. After all, they probably aren’t even looking where exactly they are going.

  34. BBD says:

    Given the fact that 80% of mankind live outside USA and Europe, “we” indeed want to get rich, you can’t stop “us”. And you can’t blame “us” for doing so.

    Nobody is trying to “stop” developing economies getting wealther. Nobody is “blaming” them for trying. Please stop posting utter strawman crap. Just make your self-serving, reactionary, dishonest argument in plain terms.

    Environmentalists blocked the nuclear option in the 70’s (except france) so if you want to blame somebody for the rise in CO2 emissions then blame Greenpeace.

    While the anti-nuclear stance of several ENGOs is obvious and reprehensible, the claim that “environmentalists” “blocked” the nuclear option in the 1970s is simply false. See above.

  35. BBD says:

    M2

    Enough rubbish from you, too:

    Why not? If the sheep can be moved to the left, maybe they can be moved to the right. After all, they probably aren’t even looking where exactly they are going.

    The politicisation of the climate problem comes entirely from the right. The positioning of physical climatology in the demesne of the liberal left exists only in the paranoid fantasies of reactionary conservatives. It is a stupid lie.

    The characterisation of those who accept the scientific consensus on the matter of AGW as “sheep” is another offensive, self-serving and stupid lie.

    Just because you assert rubbish does not make it true or any less offensive for the rest of us. Stop it.

  36. Michael 2 says:

    Willard says: (December 28, 2014 at 2:45 pm) “Grrrowth is better than anything. It is our collective heritage.”

    Precisely. The industrial revolution and all that; which took place largely in Great Britain (Bessemer steel process comes to mind, the Watts steam engine, things like that). Everything else followed.

    “Growing poorly is therefore better than remaining rich.”

    This is what the proletariat should be thinking as they remain slightly less poor. Their choice is to be dirt poor (and soon dead) or squeezing a meager living out of the industrial revolution.

    “Inequality is in the eye of the non-beholders.”

    Indeed; the act of “not beholding” inequality allows it to grow unobserved and without limit. The act of observing inequality tends to make some people do a little something about it, alms for the poor, perhaps advocate for public education, things like that which tend to accompany industrial revolutions.

    I admire your skill at packing great meaning into so few words.

  37. Michael 2 says:

    William Connolley says: (December 28, 2014 at 11:01 am)

    “Oh, I seem to have commented already”

    Didn’t take long. First comment on this thread.

    “To assert, as Tol does, that the problems lie only with the left / greens makes him a nutter.”

    Whereas asserting someone is a nutter suggests you are left/green. (Saul Alinsky Rules 5, 8 and 9: ridicule, keep the pressure on, the threat is more terrifying than the reality).

  38. M2,

    Whereas asserting someone is a nutter suggests you are left/green.

    Not necessarily. The idea that the Left/Greens are the main reason why we can’t have rational discussions about this topic is so absurd that virtually anyone should recognise that to be so.

  39. jsam says:

    M2, you are at risk of violating Alinsky’s rule 7. You do realise that Alinsky’s rules are promoted amongst the TEA Party kleptocracy. 🙂

  40. Willard says:

    Grrrowth has a cooling effect on the world:

    Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4956e/y4956e04.htm

    A growing market in e-cigarettes means more water feedback. If that does not suffice, we could geo-engineer the emanations so that CO2 could be sucked up from our atmosphere. Since the growing markets for such negative feedbacks is where we export our growth externalities, the solution can grow locally.

    Thank you.

  41. anoilman says:

    Why would anyone trust a man who invents statistics and contrives secret papers? I’m still willing to pay Richard Tol if and when he can ever find his so called 300.

    If Richard Tol is happy to invent papers to back his positions, what else is he willing to fake?

  42. Joshua says:

    M 2 -“skep

    ==> “Whereas asserting someone is a nutter suggests you are left/green.

    Jeebus. Seriously?

    Have you never read a thread in the “skept-o-sphere” that is chock full o’ “skeptics”‘ asserting that “realists” are nutters?

    Is your argument that the “skept-o-sphere” is chock full o’ left/green “skeptics.”

    Dude!

  43. John says:

    The media and politicians do a fairly poor job of communicating climate change, so I can understand some of the right’s frustration on this. But… that doesn’t give them enough excuse to act the way they’ve been acting. I liked what Scott Denning had to say in the video ATTP posted last week: Republicans are “absent without leave” on the issue of global warming.

    Unfortunately, republicans and libertarians are too busy tearing down the liberal strawmen they’ve created to give a damn.

  44. dana1981 says:

    There are a whole bunch of problems with Tol’s argument (I debunked Lomborg making essentially the same argument here, one being that the world won’t end circa 2070 when we blow past the amount of warming that’s included in his economic modeling. The IPCC report also explicitly said that we can’t even estimate the economic impact of warming above an additional 2°C because it could be incredibly expensive. Another being that economic modeling is incredibly uncertain – much moreso than the climate modeling that contrarians claim is entirely unreliable.

    Perhaps the biggest flaw is in the false dichotomy. There’s no reason we can’t reduce carbon pollution and continue to grow the economy. Which, as several people have pointed out, the IPCC concluded that we very much can. And as I’m fond of noting, studies have shown that in developed countries, a revenue neutral carbon fee can be implemented with modest economic benefit. We can help developing countries continue to develop while installing low carbon energy instead of fossil fuel infrastructure, and so on.

    We basically have two general options. One is the ‘ignore climate change and try to get rich’ option, which is incredibly risky. The other is ‘tackle climate change and try to get rich at the same time’, which minimizes the risk while still keeping most of the economic benefit. It boggles my mind that anyone can argue for the former with a straight face. Unless that person has some sort of self-interest in the former, of course.

  45. In fairness to Richard, his article does actually say

    The estimates of the total impact of climate change call for a modest tax on greenhouse gas emissions—or perhaps a cap-and-trade system with a generous allocation of emission permits. The best course of action is to slowly but surely move away from fossil fuels, and in that, as usual, both markets and the parameters governments invariably set for markets to function have roles to play.

    So, he’s not arguing for doing nothing. However, it’s hard to interpret the article as anything other than “do very little/do it slowly”. Of course, we do probably want to avoid doing anything drastic, but as I point out in the article, there is a balance between doing too little now and having the possibility of having to do something drastic in the future, and doing too much too soon now and doing economic damage now. It’s certainly my view that Richard’s article promotes the view that we should do little now (and hence increasing the chance of drastic action being required in the future).

  46. Everett F Sargent says:

    Well you just might call me crazy, or so I’ve been Tol’ed!

    I’ve also been Tol’ed, never argue with an economist.

    As passersby, might mistake you for an economist!

    Ba Dumb Ching!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sting_(percussion)

    All About The Economists!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_About_Mormons

    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, … , dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, …

    If economists know so much aboot the economy, why are their no trillionaire economists?

    Economists do not believe in their own lies!

    Ba Dumb Ching!

    What do you call of chained to the bottom of the ocean?

    A good fart!

    Ba Dumb Ching!

    What’s the difference between a scientist and an economist?

    Not everyone has done the nasty with a scientist!

    Ba Dumb Ching!

  47. dana1981 says:

    Thanks ATTP. Good that Tol at least calls for a carbon tax or cap and trade system, although “modest” is vague and I know his definition of “modest” is more accurately describe as “miniscule” (i.e. $5/ton carbon tax).

    The problem is the tone of the article. Saying change could be good, with idiocy like this:

    ust as there is no logical or scientific basis for thinking that climate change is new, there is no self-evident reason to assume that the climate of the past is “better” than the climate of the future. With just as little logic, we might assume that women’s rights, health care, or education were necessarily better in the past … The climate of the 21st century may well be unprecedented in the history of human civilization; the number of people living in countries with free and fair elections is unprecedented, too. So what? “Unprecedented” is not a synonym for “bad.”

    Wow is all I can say. As though we have no idea what the impacts of climate change will be, and maybe they’ll be just hunky dory! He does eventually talk about some of these, but the article is nearly 4,000 words long and few people are going to get that far (newspaper articles are about 20% that length for a reason).

    Plus there are all the attacks on “the Greens and the Left,” Michael Mann and Dan Kammen, etc. Just gratuitous “hippie bashing,” as though “the Right” are the reasonable ones in the discussion. Like the GWPF, right? Give me a break.

    The problem is that the tone of the article is one that promotes business-as-usual by sowing confusion and doubt and attacking the groups that are trying to actually get something done.

  48. Willard says:

    > There’s no reason we can’t reduce carbon pollution and continue to grow the economy.

    Once we accept grrrowth, anything is possible. For instance, tourists ask “but why are there are so little historical buildings or monuments in Africa?” The answer shows the power if grrrowth. They were destroyed:

    http://www.siliconafrica.com/terra-nullius/

    Has it prevented Africa to grow? Not at all. On the contrary, in fact. The African continent is one of the fastest growing one right now. There’s not reason to stop there: the best is yet to come. Take all these refineries. Aren’t they monuments to growth? In a few years from now, they will become monuments attesting the impetus provided to the place where we all cone from. By building power plants that are also cultural buildings, we double our growth rate in building construction by type.

    Grrrowth embraces a rejuvenating tabula rasa from time to time.

  49. Joseph says:

    China and India have already chosen their priorities: get rid of poverty as quick as possible.

    I think the Chinese government has looked into the mirror and seen the widespread pollution that is devastating parts of their country and has decided to something about it. The growth at all costs(using dirty energy) model is unsustainable in the long run and they know it. Eventually I believe the Indians will come to that realization as well.

  50. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    BBD
    Note that development aid is being diverted to climate policy, and that the World Bank and other donors have decelerated electrification in the name of climate change.

  51. Richard,
    Do you have any actual links/evidence for that claim?

  52. Dana,
    Yes, I did find the argument in Richard’s article about climate change not being something new or not necessarily being something bad quite remarkable. And if only it wasn’t for the Lefty/Greenies we could all sit down and have a rational discussion about this. That’s almost more remarkable than the “climate has always changed” argument.

  53. Let me guess- Tol’s evidence is in a quantum superposition just like his mythical 300 abstracts. #FreeTheTol300

  54. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Wotts
    The World Bank’s policies are documented on its website. Data on the allocation of ODA can be found at OECD-DAC.

  55. Willard says:

    Anything that does not help growth to grow hinders it. The World Bank decided to tackle climate change and help the poor instead of helping the poor to grow out of the need to tackle climate change. The World Bank is not respecting the spirit of growth. It should be disbanded.

    We need more spiritual growth:

    Tea Party groups are preparing to recruit challengers to run against high-profile Republicans they accuse of betraying them — as they did when they toppled Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader.”

    This zealous negativity has a long history. I was part of it as the nepotistic sidekick to my religious-right evangelist father. The 1970s Evangelical anti-abortion movement that Dad (Evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer), C. Everett Koop (who would be Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general) and I helped create seduced the Republican Party. We turned it into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built.

    The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.

    You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then.

    http://www.salon.com/2014/12/24/my_horrible_right_wing_past_confessions_of_a_one_time_religious_right_icon/

  56. jsam says:

    The World Banks’ Climate Change portal is here – but I don’t see a breakdown that helps Richard’s case – or otherwise.
    http://data.worldbank.org/topic/climate-change

    I’ve looked at OECD-DAC admittedly briefly. This may help.
    http://www.oecd.org/dac/environment-development/Climate-related%20development%20finance%20FINAL.pdf

    “Total bilateral and multilateral climate-related
    external development finance to developing countries
    reached USD 37 billion in 2013 (as recorded in
    OECD DAC statistics).
    Of which USD 23.0 billion (61%) addresses mitigation
    only, USD 9.6 billion (26%) adaptation only, and USD
    4.8 billion (13%) consists of activities designed to
    address both adaptation and mitigation.”

    $37B is larger than my bank account. But is about the same size as the UK government’s transport budget. No, I don’t know how many times that would fit in Wales. Sorry.

  57. Nick says:

    “Development aid is being diverted to climate policy”….so funding climate-friendly development projects is just funding ‘climate policy’ and not ‘development’?

    Hot stuff, cold logic….

  58. Raff says:

    Richard, it is nice to have an economist to talk to. Climate science skeptics with whom I have spoken haven’t a good word for development aid. You seem to imply that aid is indeed valuable. Is that reading of your views correct and if it is supported by research, can you suggest some reading?

    Also, I’ve often been told that cutting carbon emissions will lead inevitably to economic decline (usually expressed more forcefully). I have seen you advocating a carbon tax (kudos to you) so am I right to infer that you do not agree with those predicting Armageddon. Is there any evidence to suggest the effect of such taxes?

  59. Joseph says:

    Consider the following facts:

    Total Percentage of World Population that lives on less than $2.50 a day: 50%

    Total number of people that live on less than $2.50 a day: 3 Billion

    Total Percentage of People that live on less than $10 a day: 80%

    I was wondering if Richard could tell me how much growth would be necessary for the developed nations in which these people live in to adequately adapt to climate change, if the consequences turn out to be bad? As ATTP points out doing something about it at the last minute whether through rapid adaption or drastic mitigation measures probably would not be cheap and possibly not even feasible. Do you think these developing nations are going to be in a position to make those investments or do you think the developed world is going to have to bear the burden?

  60. BBD says:

    Willard

    Anything that does not help growth to grow hinders it. The World Bank decided to tackle climate change and help the poor instead of helping the poor to grow out of the need to tackle climate change. The World Bank is not respecting the spirit of growth. It should be disbanded.

    Please stop, or it’s emoticons.

  61. Marlowe Johnson says:

    a Tol thread to close out the year. Thank you thank you ATTP. And here I was thinking all my presents were done for the year ;).

    Richard, as always is wrong if the data here is anything to go by. Admittedly, it’s not a dataset I’m terribly familiar with but still it’s hard not call liar, liar pants on fire on this one. Other than coal, funding for all types of power generation and distribution have increased substantially over the 2005-2012 period.

  62. Richard says:

    Nicholas Stern, in his famous review of 2007 stated that: “… the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.”. But of course, as Michael Mann has pointed out, there is a huge procrastination penalty when it comes to emitting carbon into the atmosphere, and the longer we wait to act, the more dramatic the intervention and greater the disruption to the economy. If as seems possible, the denialists are now morphing into delayists, then that is really meagre progress for those who will be impacted, particularly for poorest in vulnerable environments and economies, and ignore the accelerating costs of procrastination.

  63. Doede Rensema says:

    ATTP, you say: “Well, if we continue following a high emission pathway (as we are essentially doing now) we could pass the 2oC limit in the next 3 to 4 decades.”
    We’ve had about 0,8 degrees warming so far, so get to the 2 degrees we need another 1.2. To reach that in 40 years we need 0.3 degrees per decade (or even 0.4 in 30 years). The long term average (per IPCC) is about 0.12 per decade. Current trend is lower than this long term trend.
    Please point out a 30 year (or longer) period where the needed warming actually happened.

  64. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says “The idea that the Left/Greens are the main reason why we can’t have rational discussions about this topic is so absurd that virtually anyone should recognise that to be so.”

    Agreed but that wasn’t exactly my argument anyway. When a comment is just a bit of ad-hominem mixed with non-sequitur, I find it entertaining to invert it and see if it still makes any sense (or even more sense than originally stated).

    On a more serious note; several reasons inhibit “rational discussions” starting with the definition of “rational”. I have gleaned that “rational” (on leftwing blogs anyway) seems to mean advocating social justice, decarbonization (and so on) and anything else is not “rational”. Consequently, by definition it is impossible to have a “rational” discussion with anyone not “green” on a green blog. I suspect this might be what the original writer of the phrase might have had in mind but expressed it poorly.

    Doubtless the same phenomenon pertains on not-left-wing blogs where what is “rational” is something else entirely.

    A more general description would be that “rational” is what conforms to the group think. Anyone challenging it is “irrational”, even though within their own group they may be the very definition of rational.

    Another facet of this definition depends on what you consider most important, the “prime mover”. The left wing seems to be primarily moved by “group” (society, clan, etc); and the right is moved by “self”. Since both exist and have always existed they clearly serve complementary and necessary roles but are also rival or in tension. There can be no group without selves, and self usually cannot live well or long without group.

    That is why you sometimes see commentary of the form “Why is he working against his own self interest?” leading to a judgment of irrationality when in fact it is a simple case that he has elevated group over self, at least for the moment or purpose of that argument. Conversely, and more commonly here, the group has elevated the idea of stabilizing all global societies such that 80 years from now nothing will have changed. So long as your reasoning is consistent with your “prime motive” I judge it to be “rational”. It would be nice to have a century without two world wars, a Great Depression and a Dust Bowl. Thinking you can actually do that might be irrational but TRYING to do that is honorable and noble.

  65. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Raff
    There is little hard evidence about the effects of carbon taxes because only a few countries have used them and never in a simple way. That evidence show, though, that a modest carbon tax does not wreck the economy. For instance, Norway adopted a carbon tax in 1991 but Somalia didn’t.

    There a plenty of model-based studies that show that a modest carbon tax would have a small effect on economic growth. See Jamie, Wotts and Dana’s comments about the estimates of the IPCC. These estimates are not very precise, but the disagreement between models is about how small the effect is.

    The problem, however, is that actual climate policy is nowhere near the ideal climate policy assumed in model studies, and therefore orders of magnitude more expensive.

    Orders of magnitude larger than a very small number is probably still a small number.

    Europe and Japan have had the most ambitious climate policies, and although vast sums of money have been wasted, the roots of their economic problems lie in their structural, fiscal and monetary policies.

  66. izen says:

    Part of a post I made in a previous thread seems apposite for repeat.

    Perhaps the expectation is that in 2074 people will be saying;
    “Phew, thank goodness climate sensitivity was not as high as they thought in the twentyteens. That extra couple of decades wealth increase we have had before the most extreme droughts, heatwaves, floods and sea level rise kicked in, have made it easy to adapt.
    Especially since we developed this Magno-Atomic Giga-Ion Converter as a source of free energy!

    It is also worth remembering that if Bangladesh grows ten times as wealthy in the next sixty years, doubling the size of its economy every few years till 2075 then it will be as rich as Mexico is now.
    Would a nation as wealthy as Mexico be better able to adapt to the sea level rise and increased monsoon variability than Bangladesh is now – well yes.
    But it hardly seems like a convincing reason to do so little to mitigate the potential climate impacts because otherwise Bangladesh might not get quite as rich as present day Mexico.

  67. Doede,

    Please point out a 30 year (or longer) period where the needed warming actually happened.

    That’s not really relevant. We’re accelerating our emissions, hence we would expect our warming to accelerate. I’m not saying that it is going to happen, but it is physically plausible if we choose to follow a high emission pathway. Climate sensitivity could be low (or we could choose to reduce our emissions) but it is still possible to have more than another degree of warming by the middle of the 21st century.

    izen,

    It is also worth remembering that if Bangladesh grows ten times as wealthy in the next sixty years, doubling the size of its economy every few years till 2075 then it will be as rich as Mexico is now.

    Thanks, I knew I’d seen this somewhere. I’ve also just looked up the numbers and, indeed, Bangladesh has a GDP of $829 per person, and Mexico is $10300 per person.

  68. Richard,
    You appear to be arguing in favour of some kind of climate policy? At the same time you seem to be suggesting that we really don’t know what will happen and that we won’t/can’t implement the ideal policy. Well, that would probably be true for almost anything and certainly doesn’t seem like a particularly good argument for not doing anything. There are things we do know, though, such as what will probably happen if we continue to increase our emissions. We may not know with certainty, but we do have ranges for what is likely and it’s hard to see how following a high emission pathway would be a good idea under any realistic scenario.

  69. Doede Rensema says:

    ATTP: “We’re accelerating our emissions, hence we would expect our warming to accelerate.”
    Seeing as the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ is logarithmic, your statement is not obviously true.

  70. Doede Rensema says:

    Izen: “It is also worth remembering that if Bangladesh grows ten times as wealthy in the next sixty years, doubling the size of its economy every few years till 2075 then it will be as rich as Mexico is now.”
    In a back-of-the-envelope calculation Bangladesh needs to grow at about 4% per year for 60 years to reach Mexico (starting at 826 as mentioned by ATTP). That’s a doubling every 18 years. Seems high, but China has shown that it’s possible to keep growth significantly higher with proper policy. At 7.5% per year they would reach Mexico’s level in about 35 years.

  71. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    I’ve been arguing for greenhouse gas emission reduction since you were in primary school.

  72. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Not Marlowe Johnson
    That’s my point exactly. Coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity. By moving away from coal, electrification is progressing more slowly than it would have.

  73. izen says:

    @-Doede Rensema
    ” Seems high, but China has shown that it’s possible to keep growth significantly higher with proper policy. At 7.5% per year they would reach Mexico’s level in about 35 years.”

    There are rather obvious reasons why such assumptions of growth are nonsense.

    If China continues to grow at half its present rate it would ‘theoretically’ become as wealthy as Australia by 2075.

    The problem of course is that there is not enough fossil fuel for every person in China to be burning as much per person as Australians do.
    Even though wealth and fossil fuel use do not scale in a linear manner.

    And it is still not apparent why Australia is able to regard with equanimity climate change problems that are ten times worse for a poorer country.

  74. Marlowe Johnson says:

    good luck with that counterfactual Richard. and consider that your definition of ‘cheapest’ might be a little myopic. while coal ODA spending o grew at 1% from 2005-2012, here’s how it looked for other sources:

    – oil 300%
    – gas 30%
    – nuclear 178%
    – hydro 164%

  75. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    RSJT-“I’ve been arguing for greenhouse gas emission reduction since you were in primary school.”

    As primary school is 4-7yrs and RSJT was active in 1998 I am frankly very impressed that in the ~16 years since and at the maximum age of 23 years old you have got so far in your subject to be researching and teaching.

    Clearly you must be a child prodigy!

  76. izen says:

    @- Richard S J Tol
    “I’ve been arguing for greenhouse gas emission reduction since you were in primary school.
    ….
    Coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity. By moving away from coal, electrification is progressing more slowly than it would have.”

    These two statements were posted about ten minutes apart.

    Apparently that time gap was sufficient to resolve the rather obvious conflict and dichotomy between the two statements.

    The only way I can make them mutually compatible is to assume that arguing for CO2 emission reductions does not include arguing for CO2 emission reductions if a high emission scenario is cheaper.
    (by some disputed measure)

  77. Richard,

    I’ve been arguing for greenhouse gas emission reduction since you were in primary school.

    As others have pointed out, this statement would appear to be untrue (I assume, however, that it was more an intent to insult than to be strictly true).

    Yes, I’m aware that you have said things that are consistent with arguing for greenhouse gas emission reduction. However, these arguments appear to be drowned out by your other argument, which goes something like this (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) : “even by the end of this century, damage due to climate change will be small, therefore whatever we do should be modest and slow. Being wealthier will allow address the damages due to cilmate change more easily anyway” (paraphrasing). What you never quite seem to acknowledge is that the damages due to climate change towards the end of this century might not be low and that once we’ve increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, there will be little that we can do if the damages do turn out to be severe.

    Also, as others have pointed out, you followed your claim that you’ve argued for greenhouse gas emissions reductions with what appeared to be an argument for an increased used of coal. Many would argue that these two positions are not consistent. Of course you can say the words “I think we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions and I think we should increase the use of coal” but that doesn’t mean that they make any sense.

  78. Doede,

    Seeing as the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ is logarithmic, your statement is not obviously true.

    Yes, I realise that the forcing response depends logarithmically on the change in CO2. I’ll explain in more detail, though. If we follow a high emission pathway we can double the change in anthropogenic forcing by 2050 (i.e., it is just over 2Wm-2 today and could be more than 4Wm-2 by the middle of this century if we follow a high emission pathway). Therefore we might expect to have as much warming in the next 40 years as we’ve had in the last 100 or so. Hence, 1.6oC is clearly plausible. However, there are also uncertainties and so we could have more than this, or less. The simple point, though is that 2oC – relative to pre-industrial times – by the middle of this century is not physically implausible and, if we choose to follow a high emission pathway, may actually be quite likely. In fact the middle of the RCP8.5 range is more than 1oC relative to today by 2100.

  79. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    A little reflection would reveal that emissions are a continuous variable.

  80. Richard,

    A little reflection would reveal that emissions are a continuous variable.

    Your point being what, that you can reduce emissions and increase the use of coal? If that is what you’re saying, then I fail to see how that is possible if the developed world does little to reduce its emissions and the developing world increases its use of coal. Feel free to elaborate and explain where I’m wrong, if I am.

  81. izen says:

    @-“A little reflection would reveal that emissions are a continuous variable.”

    A little more might expose coal as a key factor on which that continuous variable was dependent.

  82. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    A modest carbon tax would stop marginal coal, but not all coal. The World Bank have opted for an implicit carbon price that is makes coal uncompetitive with the next best alternative (gas), regardless of the prices of capital, coal and gas.

    It is strange that someone who claims to be a physicist cannot instantly solve the first-order conditions in his head.

  83. Richard,

    It is strange that someone who claims to be a physicist cannot instantly solve the first-order conditions in his head.

    In the world of physics, people are typically more than willing to fully explain their assumptions and their reasoning. It appears to be different in the world of economics.

    Let me illustrate a basic physics-type analysis. From the data I’ve seen our emissions are increasing (in terms of GtCO2 per year). Therefore, if you’re arguing for increased use of coal in the developing world without also arguing for some mechanism to reduce emissions in the developed world, it’s hard to see how global emissions won’t continue to increase (in terms GtCO2 per year). Again, if you can explain how increased use of coal in the developing world can be consistent with a reduction in overall emissions, go ahead. You may need to do more than a single, cryptic sentence, though.

  84. John says:

    Vlad: Shouldn’t we devise a way to climb out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves into?
    Est: What hole? There is no hole.
    Vlad: Yes there is. We are standing in it. And digging it deeper, no less.
    Est: Oh, this isn’t a hole. It’s a natural variation in the landscape.
    Vlad: It’s getting deeper and deeper.
    Est: Yes, but not because we are digging. It is deepening due to other factors.
    Vlad: Shouldn’t we at least dig more slowly.
    Est: Digging more slowly is not an option. I think, perhaps, a more prudent solution would be to dig much faster.
    Vlad: What!?
    Est: The faster we dig, the faster we’ll find a way out of the hole.
    Vlad: That doesn’t make any sense.
    Est: Of course it does, you are just too thick-headed to understand.
    Vlad: Please elaborate, then.
    Est: The deeper and faster we dig, the more time we’ll have to think of solutions that might get us out of the hole – er, I mean, natural variation in the landscape.
    Vlad: Yes, we’ll have more time to think of solutions, but we’ll also be that much deeper.
    Est: Shut up and keep digging.

  85. Willard says:

    > In the world of physics, people are typically more than willing to fully explain their assumptions and their reasoning. It appears to be different in the world of economics.

    In the world of ClimateBall, AT, Gremlins are sometimes willing to do lots of unexplaining to play Gotcha games.

  86. Willard says:

    > The problem, however, is that actual climate policy is nowhere near the ideal climate policy assumed in model studies, and therefore orders of magnitude more expensive.

    Or order of magnitude less expensive, the “ideal” climate policy being under the influence of an uncertain Mr. T.

  87. Eli Rabett says:

    Ah yes, coal for the developing world. Bring your breathing apparatus

  88. Joshua says:

    ==> “It is strange that someone who claims to be a physicist cannot instantly solve the first-order conditions in his head.”

    Thanks God for Richard’s contributions to “reasoned debate.”

  89. Thanks God for Richard’s contributions to “reasoned debate.”

    I presume that Richard would quite like to be able to edit his article to now say This is what climatologists and economists actually have done for years, but their efforts have been overshadowed by the hysteria of the Greens, and the Left, and people claiming to be Physicists! 😉

  90. izen says:

    @-“A modest carbon tax would stop marginal coal, but not all coal. The World Bank have opted for an implicit carbon price that is makes coal uncompetitive with the next best alternative (gas), regardless of the prices of capital, coal and gas.”

    That is because regardless of the prices of capital, coal and gas, coal always releases FAR more CO2 per unit energy than oil and gas.
    If, like the World Bank, the US Export-Import Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, you have made some sort of commitment, however token, towards zero emissions by 2100 then investing in coal is incompatible with the zero emissions goal.

    I find nothing strange in an economist focusing on the price of everything but missing the the value of logical consistency.

  91. Joshua says:

    Maybe another edit?

    This is what climatologists and economists actually have done for years, but their efforts have been overshadowed by the hysteria of the Greens, and the Left, and unscientific f**kwits claiming to be Physicists!

  92. Joshua says:

    I’ve been reading Richard’s comments on the blogosphere for a while now, and most of what I’ve seen, I certainly would not describe as contributing to “reasoned debate.”

    IMO, he rarely actually engages in debate; mostly he takes pot shots, makes drive-by comments, plays rhetorical games, argues by assertion, employs straw men, assigns guilt by association, generalizes from unrepresentative samples, and engages in “hysteria.” As near as I can tell, Richard doesn’t deal with criticism by considering the possibility that it has any merit – something that I consider to be pretty much a requisite for engaging in debate in a constructive manner.

    I will say, that to some extent, his comments over at Judith’s in the recent thread were a bit different. Not exactly what I would call engaging in “reasoned debate” but perhaps closer to that than the norm. Not sure what that means, if anything, but IMO there was a notable difference.

    Just sayin’

    It’s unfortunate that he chose to mix the subjects worthy of reasoned debate in his article, with rhetorical games and hysteria (like saying that our ability to think rationally about the environment has been “completely destroyed.”)

    Sameolsameol.

  93. Joseph says:

    That evidence show, though, that a modest carbon tax does not wreck the economy.

    What do you mean by moderate? If the tax is too low and doesn’t result in significant carbon emissions reduction, it would be useless. What do you think about the tax used by British Columbia? Here is an interesting article I found on the subject:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-insidious-truth-about-bcs-carbon-tax-it-works/article19512237/

  94. Willard says:

    Speaking of reasoned debate:

    The American Interest is one of my favorite sources for policy analysis, and I follow Walter Russell Mead on Twitter.

    Richard Tol is IMO one of the most interesting thinkers on the economics of climate change.

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/12/26/cold-logic-on-climate-change-policy/

  95. Willard says:

    More reasoned debate:

    The second thing that struck me was the left vs right hand side of the diagram. All Models are Wrong (Tamsin Edwards), Climate Lab Book (Ed Hawkins), Climate Etc. and Klimazwiebel are relegated to the left hand side of the diagram, along with Climate Audit, WUWT, and Bishop Hill. On the right hand side, the only blogs by practicing climate scientists (at least that I can identify) are RealClimate, Variable Variability (Venema) and James Empty Blog (James Annan). Although there are a number I have never heard of that might be written by practicing climate scientists (e.g. Glacier Hub)

    And Venema thinks the right hand side of the diagram represents ‘science’? With HotWhopper, Greg Laden, ThinkProgress, Rabett Run, DeepClimate? Ouch.

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/12/28/climate-blogosphere-discussion-ii/

  96. anoilman says:

    Richard S.J. Tol:

    Did you know that economics like you do is one of the fields physicists frequently drop out into? (Economists don’t drop out into the hard sciences…) Physicists drop out into economics because its easier to solve the problems or move goal posts etc.

    The head of the conservative movement said exactly this. He had 3 years of physics before he decided to drop out and get into economics. However the scientist in him is calling for a Carbon Tax, and its gaining momentum.
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/how-to-communicate-a-good-idea/article21642629/

    Anders: You neglect to mention that Lomborg has already made millions selling the idea of doing nothing. He’s been raking in the big bucks for doing public relations exercises for far right conservatives all over North America and Europe. Oh! He works with Richard Tol at the GWPF! [Mod: potentially defamatory]

    I note that people like Richard Tol do not like the idea of raising our taxes to give money to the poor to help them adapt. This is a pretty central tenant to Bjorn Lomborg’s do nothing plan. Hmm… I guess we’ll do nothing while they work that out?

  97. anoilman says:

    jsam: Actually in Alberta, when they announced Kyoto, Right Wing nut jobs all claimed it would be the end of the world, and the economy would collapse. We were paying $35 a barrel for oil, and under Kyoto oil would go to $40 a barrel.

    Yet here we are complaining that oil is down to $70(?) a barrel, and the entire economy is unaffected. Civilization didn’t collapse. Cars still drive. I wonder why that is?

    Does Richard Tol even grasp that we only extract oil with an assumption that at least $25 a barrel carbon tax will be put into place? Its already factored in, and it won’t affect the producers.

    There is a lot of bullshit in what cowards, libertarians and [Mod: Disrespectful] economists are claiming. None of it is founded on fact or reason.

    A light carbon tax is a great place to start and it doesn’t damage your economy. British Columbia Canada has already proved this for the world to see.

  98. Willard says:

    Growth needs no subsidies. Cold logic is independent from subsidies. Honest brokers omit subsidies. Subsidies do not belong to reasoned debates.

  99. Lucifer says:

    Growth needs no subsidies.

    Soar power?

  100. Eli Rabett says:

    For Rachel

  101. Rachel M says:

    Haha, that’s wonderful. Thank you!

  102. Steven Mosher says:

    “A light carbon tax is a great place to start and it doesn’t damage your economy. British Columbia Canada has already proved this for the world to see.”

    As a libertarian I would not object to a revenue neutral tax such as BC has,especially since corporate taxes were cut.
    But then again the debate is typically NOT about revenue neutral taxes damaging economies incrementally. That is, you won’t find an economist arguing that a revenue neutral tax will damage the economy. Raising BC’s experiment with revenue neutral taxes to address concerns about carbon taxes that are not promoted as being revenue neutral is rather unconvincing.

    BC is a great example of how one can make a small step first ( they started at 10 bucks and now are at 30) and how one can overcome or at least blunt objections that you will damage the economy. That is they started with a level that wouldnt work to abate emissions and have increased the rate over time. Seems to me that a few posts ago some folks were taken to task for proposing taxes that were too light to make a difference. But there you go. BC is a great example of how to get things done. start small. start local. be flexible. test what works. doh.

  103. Willard says:

    > Soar power?

    Growth subsidizes itself:

    Source: http://www.imf.org/external/np/fad/subsidies/

  104. Steven,

    Seems to me that a few posts ago some folks were taken to task for proposing taxes that were too light to make a difference. But there you go. BC is a great example of how to get things done. start small. start local. be flexible. test what works. doh.

    I agree with this in principle. However, we aren’t really starting and I certainly don’t see Tol’s article as an argument for doing so. Yes, there are some words to this effect, but the basic argument seems to be that damages this century will probably be low and therefore we shouldn’t really worry too much and that what we do should be modest. It’s not correct that damages this century will probably be low. They might be, but if we continue to increase our emissions, they probably won’t be.

    I certainly agree that we should start slowly, but I don’t think we should ignore that a carbon tax that doesn’t ultimately act to prevent us from doubling CO2 concentrations in the next 30-40 years is not really going to be a particularly effective strategy.

  105. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Eli is playing with you, Rachel. This is what he really meant:

    What we gonna do? I dunno. What do *you* wanna do? I dunno. What you wanna do? Dunno. What you wanna do? Etc.

    Few here ever say. Those few that do – Pekka Perilla, Dana Nuccitelli, Richard S. J. Tol and Stoat, plus me and perhaps a few other bozos – favour variants of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. What say the rest of you? You’re very long on chastisement, very short of practical ideas.

    Shoot! Now’s the time.

    (I blame Baloo.)

  106. Few here ever say. Those few that do – Pekka Perilla, Dana Nuccitelli, Richard S. J. Tol and Stoat, plus me and perhaps a few other bozos – favour variants of a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

    I’m sure we’ve had quite a number of discussions here about carbon tax. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think a revenue neutral carbon tax is a what we should be doing. I’m not sure it will be enough, but I would be in favour of it as a start.

    You’re very long on chastisement, very short of practical ideas.

    Remember this is a physics blog, so I’m not allowed to have ideas because I’m not qualified to express policy views 😉

  107. Vinny Burgoo says:

    That’s right. You’re not.

    Sorry for getting your hopes up. I misthought.

  108. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Pekka Pirila.

    Very sorry about that, PP. One day I’ll get both parts of your name nearly right.

  109. Steve Bloom says:

    Had you been paying attention, Vinny, you would have recalled plenty of others expressing their views on that point, me e.g. But you’ve got a meme to promote, don’t you?

    “So, if we follow the advice of people like Tol and Lomborg, and if our understanding of physical climatology is broadly correct, we would almost be guaranteeing drastic action some time in the future.”

    Anders, how you keep missing this point amazes me. The best response to worsening impacts will always be yet more growth. The hole-digging exercise quoted above illustrates the point nicely. Note also that pulling up the drawbridges is a form of drastic action. Doubtless Lomborg and Tol will have no problem developing the arguments to underpin it.

  110. Steve,

    Anders, how you keep missing this point amazes me. The best response to worsening impacts will always be yet more growth.

    I thought that was essentially the argument I made in the post. If you buy the Lomborg/Tol argument then we keep on doing nothing (or virtually nothing) until it’s too late to do anything other than things thing will be drastic and won’t actually stop us from continuing to warm. Maybe I don’t say it forcefully enough! 😉

  111. Joshua says:

    It occurs to me that Richard must have come unequivocal evidence that demonizing Greens stimulates Grrrowth. Being such a pro-growth fella, why else would he do it so much?

  112. Joshua says:

    sorry – that should be pro-grrrowth fella. Apologies, willard.

  113. izen says:

    @-Willard
    “Growth subsidizes itself:”

    I am struggling to understand how the graphic you posted supports this assertion.

    It appears to show that for Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America pre and post tax subsidies are a consistent proportion of their economies.

    The significant difference is restricted to the Advanced(?) nations, presumably W Europe/US, Versus Africa.
    for Africa pre-tax subsidies are 3x as large as post-tax subsidies, for the Advanced the ratio is greater, 10:1(?), but in the opposite direction.

    This undoubtedly means something about the global economy. I just can’t figure out what, or why it means growth subsidizes itself.

  114. Steven Mosher says:

    “I agree with this in principle. However, we aren’t really starting and I certainly don’t see Tol’s article as an argument for doing so.

    1. “We” aren’t starting? so what. My argument was with Oilman over his chracterization as
    BC as an example of a tax that didnt hurt the economy.
    2. “We” are not speaking with one voice on an approach that is working.
    3. Tol Suggests ” This implies that climate change is an economic problem, and that if economics could be rid of politics, greenhouse gas emissions should be taxed.” Well, one way to blunt the politics around the issue is to argue for revenue neutrality.

    “Yes, there are some words to this effect, but the basic argument seems to be that damages this century will probably be low and therefore we shouldn’t really worry too much and that what we do should be modest. It’s not correct that damages this century will probably be low. They might be, but if we continue to increase our emissions, they probably won’t be.”

    1. You dont put numbers on your probablies. I probably have a problem with that.
    2. whether Tol is right or wrong on damages, is separable from the question of a revenue neutral
    tax. If a revenue neutral tax could do the job, why object to it? unless you have some some other economic goals that you want to slide in just for good measure ( think no growth nuts )

    “I certainly agree that we should start slowly, but I don’t think we should ignore that a carbon tax that doesn’t ultimately act to prevent us from doubling CO2 concentrations in the next 30-40 years is not really going to be a particularly effective strategy.”

    1. The insistence that the job be done right the first time ( pick the exact right number to keep us below 2C) is exactly the kind of in flexibility that has given us 20 years of chasing a global treaty that will never happen. You made the good the enemy of the perfect.
    2. I’m not arguing that you should ignore the “ultimate” solution. I’m saying that BC has shown and effective way to GET THERE. and if people really care they would look for agreement where they can find it and move forward. Instead, you can insist on showing how Tol is wrong in this detail or that detail. I would rather, find what is agreeable in what he writes and move forward. You know, get things done.

    Now of course you could have said.

    “Hey, Steven, we agree on starting with a small revenue neutral carbon tax. Let’s move forward on that. ” But nope. You want full agreement on all your points. You basically want total capitulation from someone who agree with you on 97% of the science and a great deal of the policy. It’s no wonder that nothing has been done for a couple decades.

  115. izen says:

    @- Vinny Burgoo
    “What you wanna do? Etc. Few here ever say. Those few that do – Pekka Perilla, Dana Nuccitelli, Richard S. J. Tol and Stoat, plus me and perhaps a few other bozos – favour variants of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. What say the rest of you? You’re very long on chastisement, very short of practical ideas.”

    Because given the historical failure of the various options, including a revenue neutral carbon tax, it is much easier to point out the problems in implementation and outcome than advocate a method of mitigation with either a proven track record or a good argument supporting its effectiveness.

    The devil tends to be in the details.
    A ‘revenue neutral carbon tax’ is certainly a leading contender, but as ATTP mentions a tax, or any method that fails to prevent us from doubling CO2 concentrations in the next 30-40 years is not really going to be a particularly effective strategy.

    There are some revealing unstated assumptions in the advocacy of a revenue neutral carbon tax, (RNCT). Why does it have to be revenue neutral? This means revenue neutral in terms of government revenue, presumably because this makes it more politically acceptable.
    It is difficult to find data that would support a correlation between low taxation and national wealth, never mind any support for a causation… and yet the enthusiasm for low taxation continues in the face of data on tax levels and standard of living/quality of life measures correlating positively.

    For the RNCT to be effective in reducing emissions it must distort the market by being anything BUT revenue neutral to the targets. the main producers and consumers of carbon generating products. If it is revenue neutral that means it must be significantly redistributive. Taking wealth away from those that produce and consume carbon sourced energy and goods requiring high energy usage. Giving it to to those who produce energy without generating carbon and who consume products with a low carbon footprint to combine the carrot and stick.

    Unfortunately it is apparent that the carbon costs can be passed onto the end consumer by those targeted by the tax. Little change in emissions may occur, all that happens is that business and personal tax rates may be reduced to offset the increased costs and maintain revenue neutrality. Fossil fuel use can remain unchanged, only the route by which the government gathers its revenue has altered. Systemic inertia in the business and industrial community prevents any significant innovation or adoption of alternative energy consumption patterns.

    Take the example of coal.
    If you accept the desirability of a zero emission target by the end of the century then it is very difficult to justify ANY future investment in coal use. Much easier in fact to justify the DIS-investment in coal as any sort of generating resource.

    Coal should be viewed as the equivalent of CFCs.
    Yes it exists, it performs a useful function and is a resource that is cheaper and easier to use than the alternatives.
    But we banned CFCs in response to scientific risk assessment.
    However coal is MUCH more deeply embedded in the global economy and has a much stronger grip on the energy market. The industry is defending its position with the ‘War on Coal’ rhetoric and the claim that failing to exploit the wealth that coal represents will condemn the poor to further avoidable poverty.

    That is a problem for a RNCT. It claims to be no more than a mild distortion of the ‘free market’ in energy generation, but because that is probably true it has no effective role in persuading the nations and industrial interests that still see coal reserves as exploitable national/private wealth that they are mistaken.

    In the recent UK/Scottish referendum much was made of the value of the oil that would be Scottish as a result of independence. Recently the UK government has tried to encourage further development and prevent reduced investment by granting tax subsidies to oil firms operating in the North sea. I suspect similar encouragement is given by the US government for shale oil and fracking.

    That would be a policy in direct contradiction with a zero emissions goal or a RNCT.
    But then the UK and US government show no sign of adopting a RNCT and pay little more than lip service to a zero emissions target.

  116. Steve Bloom says:

    This from the post is a little more relevant to our (very minor) point of dispute:

    “Let’s assume that if we accept this argument today, then it is valid at any instant at which the damages from climate disruption are not sufficiently severe so as to require us to actively address climate change.”

    So to clarify my view: The sort of damages that today Tolborg (mashups good!) might have to admit were bad enough to require stronger mitigation measures are ones they a) deny (via some quite selective analysis as you point out) and refuse to engage on, and b) will have no problem rationalizing away with future analyses. Ultimately there will be a seamless transition away from advocating for helping the poors by increasing fossil fuel use to arguments for the sad necessity of raising the drawbridge (i.e. global triage) due to the cost of adaptation for rich countries having become overwhelming. (There’s also the matter of increasing inequality paving the way for triage withing rich countries, but that’s another discussion.)

  117. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s still early days, izen. FWIW I think a well-designed carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime can be part of the solution, but that other forms of regulation will be needed seems unavoidable. Fortunately continuing progress on solar and wind technology is having a big impact on the discussion, although arguments over the sunk costs of fossil fuel assets and related infrastructure will only increase in volume. The present dispute about the need for north-south HVDC transmission in Germany is an interesting case in point, since as far as I can tell the primary motivation for it is to compensate utilities being hit hard by ongoing reductions in nukes and coal (with the former planned to go to zero very soon and the latter by mid-century, although I suspect the coal schedule will be quickly accelerated as solar/wind/storage tech improves).

  118. Ssully says:

    Tol: “Thanks, Rachel, for neatly illustrating the “them are hysterical but I am sane” meme”

    so, you recognize the meme exists. Yet:

    Tol: ” …we should study the impacts of climate change and seek to balance them against the negative effects of climate policy. This is what climatologists and economists actually have done for years, but their efforts have been overshadowed by the hysteria of the Greens and the Left”.

    You can’t be this unself-aware. And you must know that forces on the right side of the political spectrum work determinedly against a calm ‘study’ and ‘balancing’; that in the United States, for example we have powerful Senators and media outlets that don’t even accept the reality of AGW, much less the need for study of climate change impacts and their effects on policy.

    So, what excuse can you give for the extraordinary *one sidedness* of your argument, Dr. Tol?

  119. Steve Bloom says:

    Judy has good reasons to cater to her customer base, Willard, by which I do not mean her blog commenters.

  120. Marlowe Johnson says:

    start local Mosher? you’re obviously working from a different definition than the rest of us. not the biggest province/state in the world, but it’s not exactly Monoco either. oh, and fwiw, as a resident of Cali, you’re indirectly paying a carbon tax on your gasoline via the LCFS. at one point credits were up to $85 t/co2e but they seem to have come down to $30-40 range with the addition of new pathways (e.g. renewable diesel, biogas, etc.).

    How have you guys been managing the riots?

  121. matt says:

    Dammit. Santa gave me Willard Translator for christmas but it must be faulty 😉

    @Michael 2

    Keep calm. I think we can find a solution that won’t require you buying a Leaf, moving to a ranch in Arizona and spending $150k on solar.

  122. Steve Bloom says:

    That’s actually too bad, Matt. I’ve always been a big fan of karmic retribution.

  123. Willard says:

    > I am struggling to understand how the graphic you posted supports this assertion.

    There’s no need for any graphic to support grrrowth, izen. Growth supports itself, and everything else.

    There is no need to struggle in understanding growth, as it grows beyond our power of intellection. The simplest process that regulates everything that exists also rules what does not exist yet and also what will never be. Its complexity surpasses what we can comprehend, and will always escape us. See Wolfram on more of the same:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_New_Kind_of_Science

    It’s better to just take the graphic as it reveals itself, and work from there. At least this task is accessible to us.

    Thank you.

  124. matt says:

    Not really sure what you mean Steve, but you will probably appreciate this then
    http://www.collegehumor.com/post/6981034/people-who-suffered-instant-karmic-retribution

  125. izen says:

    @-Willard
    “It’s better to just take the graphic as it reveals itself, and work from there. At least this task is accessible to us.”

    Ah, right.
    My mistake.

    I had thought that beneath all the jokey hyperbole about ‘GrowtH’ there was some consistent or coherent point… or at least blunt edge to it all.
    Slightly disappointing to be honest to find that the graphic was an arbitrary and apparently irrelevant choice…

  126. John says:

    Mosher-

    You want full agreement on all your points. You basically want total capitulation from someone who agree with you on 97% of the science and a great deal of the policy. It’s no wonder that nothing has been done for a couple decades.

    Efforts to mitigate have clearly been kiboshed by the right wing hooligans in congress and elsewhere. To accuse ATTP is slanderous, dubious, mischievous, egregious, outrageous! How dare your, sir! How dare you!

  127. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher: Dude. I’m quoting a far right conservative Preston Manning. So please by all means, say something nasty about the Canadian Conservative brain trust.

    My stance is significantly simpler than you are trying to portray. Ethically I believe we should do something about global warming. Its one thing to see people starve or die on TV, its quite another to know I could have prevented it. To that end, I simply like putting a positive message out there.

    As an engineer I find it laughable when people like you say problems as dead simple as this one can’t be solved. That’s an intellectually bankrupt approach to life. What are you so afraid of? I’m the one who’s going to be out of a job. But you? You’re afraid you might not get rich enough sooner? You’re so afraid of that? For real? Grow up and put on some big boy pants.

    Can anyone name 1% of goods today we could do without? 1% less car is another generation without butt warmers. 1% less house? Built in vaccum cleaners? 1% less transportation? Lower speed limits?

    Seriously what’s to be afraid of?

  128. Tuppence says:

    You have to be pretty dishonest – or somehow isolated from reality – to miss the massive CAGW truebeliever problem with trying to discuss GW policy sanely. To deny, as William Connolly above does, that the hysteria and vested ideological interest of the left and greens is NOT overshadowing rational disinterested debate, makes him either dishonest or a nutter.

  129. Tuppence,

    To deny, as William Connolly above does, that the hysteria and vested ideological interest of the left and greens is NOT overshadowing rational disinterested debate, makes him either dishonest or a nutter.

    That isn’t what William said. Try reading it again!

  130. Tuppence says:

    Yes it is – he dimisses the notion that left / green ideological hysteria is crowding out proper debate.

  131. jsam says:

    Tuppence – it seems you may be unfamiliar with the hysterical tones of the likes of a Mr Inhofe or a Mr Watts. You are fortunate not to have been exposed to their ilk to date. Whose hysteria is crowding out proper debate?

  132. Tuppence,
    No, he dismisses that the problem is only with the Green/Left. His point is that if you think it is only with the Green/Left then you’re either dishonest or a nutter.

  133. austrartsua says:

    ATTP, you did not read the article very carefully. To quote Tol: “The estimates of the total impact of climate change call for a modest tax on greenhouse gas emissions—or perhaps a cap-and-trade system with a generous allocation of emission permits.”

    Tol is indeed in favor of gradually reducing greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps even with the help of a carbon tax. Why does it have to be a sudden change? We can change to other technologies over decades as they become available.

    The main point of the article (that you seem to have missed) is that the risks of climate change have to be balanced with the risks associated with each of the various emissions reduction policies. The climate change problem has to be balanced with other problems the world faces. When one does this – when one considers, just for one example, the horror of starving to death in a war-torn african village – the statements by Jon Kerry and Ban Ki Moon and the rest seem utterly absurd. Their priorities are those of deluded fools. Or, more likely, sly politicians looking for a purpose.

  134. jsam says:

    Tol’s choice is a false dichotomy. We can do two, or even more, things at the same time.

    “Deluded fools” is good hysterical wording.

  135. austrartra,

    you did not read the article very carefully. To quote Tol: “The estimates of the total impact of climate change call for a modest tax on greenhouse gas emissions—or perhaps a cap-and-trade system with a generous allocation of emission permits.”

    Yes, I did see that.

    Tol is indeed in favor of gradually reducing greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps even with the help of a carbon tax. Why does it have to be a sudden change? We can change to other technologies over decades as they become available.

    It doesn’t have to be, but here is what I was trying to get at in my post. If climate sensitivity is near the middle of the IPCC range and if we follow a high emission pathway (as we currently are) we could reach 2oC within the next 3-4 decades. Once we get there, if it turns out to be damaging, there is little we can do to stop ourselves from heading towards 3oC (little that isn’t drastic). In my opinion, ignoring this type of risk is foolish.

    The main point of the article (that you seem to have missed) is that the risks of climate change have to be balanced with the risks associated with each of the various emissions reduction policies.

    I agree with this, but if someone says a century worth of climate change is about as bad as losing a year of economic growth, they’ve essentially minimised the risks associated with climate change well below what is likely if we continue on our current emission pathway. Of course, it’s a risk assessment issue. But it has to be a proper risk assessment, not one in which we assume (incorrectly) that the risks due to climate change will be small this century, as this is not true.

  136. John says:

    So, the right wing’s stance is essentially: We can’t do anything about climate change because our feelings have been hurt by liberals? Grow up. Ignore liberals, in that case, and instead focus your energy on trying to convince other libertarians and conservatives that the problem is real and requires solutions. Rational libertarians are in a unique position to do so, and it would be a valuable service. But this endless crowing about persecution at the hands of liberal tyranny is dishonest and evasive. It’s just another in a long line of excuses to DO NOTHING.

  137. Steve Bloom says:

    Matt, the karmic retribution reference was to the delightful vision of m2 having to buy a Leaf, move to a ranch in Arizona and spend $150k on solar. Speed the day.

    Link appreciated, 4, 14 and 16 especially. Always root for the kitties.

  138. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Austrartsua
    The problem is not so much Wotts’ inability to read, but rather his inability to absorb. Wotts’ starting point is that 2K warming is Dangerous if not Catastrophic (and 3K is even catastrophicer). Wotts holds this position despite all evidence to the contrary, and he seems determined to close his eyes to anything that might prove him wrong.

  139. izen says:

    @-Tuppence
    “You have to be pretty dishonest – or somehow isolated from reality – to miss the massive CAGW truebeliever problem with trying to discuss GW policy sanely. To deny, as William Connolly above does, that the hysteria and vested ideological interest of the left and greens is NOT overshadowing rational disinterested debate, makes him either dishonest or a nutter.”

    I must be somewhat isolated from reality, or perhaps slightly dishonest to have missed the rational debate on this issue being overshadowed by Greens and the Left hysterically pursuing their ideological interests.

    To be honest I thought that the debate in the public realm was rather skewed to include far more of the contrarian POV than is warranted by its numerical magnitude. MSM is notorious in fact for false balance.

    But then one person’s’ truebeliever hysterical vested ideological interest, is another persons’ 97% consensus.

    My personal impression is that any rational debate on GW policy is overshadowed by vested interests in the economic status quo, political inertia and mainly, massive public indifference to a potential problem that has no perceived significant impact on next week/month.

    YMMV.

  140. Richard,

    The problem is not so much Wotts’ inability to read, but rather his inability to absorb.

    The problem is Richard’s inability to have a discussion without throwing around insults.

    Wotts’ starting point is that 2K warming is Dangerous if not Catastrophic (and 3K is even catastrophicer).

    No it’s not and I’ve never stated any such thing (you keep claiming that your English comprehension is good, but it’s hard to believe that it is – well, unless I accept that you’re incredibly dishonest). However, even your own work suggests that the damage is non-linear. You’re starting to play rhetorical games, Richard, which makes me think that you know that your actual argument is weak.

    Wotts holds this position despite all evidence to the contrary, and he seems determined to close his eyes to anything that might prove him wrong.

    Go ahead, convince me that it’s worth risking 3oC of warming before 2100 (or at any time, for that matter) because the damage will be low enough that the risks/costs associated with mitigating are likely to be more severe than the risks/costs associated with climate change. You could also acknowledge that you understand that reversing climate change itself is virtually impossible (without geoengineering).

    In fact, here’s an actual challenge for you. Lay out an explicit argument in which you make the case that the risks to economic growth are sufficient that we should simply accept 3oC or more of warming this century. If you think this is true, you should have no problem making a public argument along these lines, or are you actually not willing to lay it out quite that explicitly because you know that you’ll be wrong and don’t want it to be remembered for posterity?

  141. John says:

    My personal impression is that any rational debate on GW policy is overshadowed by vested interests in the economic status quo

    And it’s ironic, isn’t it? Because if they truly want to maintain the status quo, mitigating would be the most conservative response. Our present civilization, and the economy that blossomed along with it, occurred during this pleasant and stable Holocene period. There is no doubt that humans would be able to thrive in a +2 or 3C world, it’s just that we didn’t build our civilization in that +2C world. And adaptation won’t necessarily be easy. So, the status quo is going to change whether they like it or not.

  142. victorpetri says:

    Thanks mr Tol, for the article. A point of view that I very much agree with.
    Don’t really know why people react so emotionally and defensive on such a rational stance. If only people here would respect economists half as much as the respect they insist climate scientists deserve.

    Looking forward, I do think that we will follow this point of view. Everywhere, economic growth is the highest priority. A global carbon tax which marginally hurts economic growth, but steers the economy in a low CO2 emission direction, seems to be the highest achievable anti warming goal.

  143. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    If you cut through the rhetoric, there is nothing in the literature that suggests that climate is a major problem. Just read the IPCC. Skip past the sexed-up summaries and look at the numbers.

  144. izen says:

    @-Richard S.J. Tol
    ” Wotts’ starting point is that 2K warming is Dangerous if not Catastrophic (and 3K is even catastrophicer). Wotts holds this position despite all evidence to the contrary, and he seems determined to close his eyes to anything that might prove him wrong.”

    I am sure that ATTP can speak for himself, but this analysis reduces a complex question of relative risk to a binary dichotomy. That is nearly always a mistake.

    The starting point is there is a risk of damage at doubled CO2 or 2K. The difficulty is balancing that risk with the risk of damage from responding to that risk by pursuing a policy of zero emissions by 2100 (or sooner).

    The magnitude of both risks are uncertain. some on each side claim that the risk is negligible. That either AGW, or a fast reduction to zero emissions would cause little harm to the agricultural, industrial and societal infrastructure.

    There is evidence to the contrary for almost any position anybody might hold. Sometimes it is even good evidence, However claiming there is willfully ignored evidence that contradicts a particular position in a debate is rather more convincing if you can actually PRODUCE that evidence.

    Do you think that a global ban enacted on the use of coal within two decades would do more damage to the global economy than the 2008 financial meltdown?
    Or do you think the risk is not worth taking just because the climate of Sussex may become like the French Riviera?

  145. izen says:

    @-“If you cut through the rhetoric, there is nothing in the literature that suggests that climate is a major problem.”

    Ah, its all ‘rhetoric’ that can be skipped.
    Thats a relief, I thought that ocean acidification, the shift in climate agricultural regions and rising sea levels were real and ongoing problems!
    How foolish-(snark off)

  146. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @izen
    Please be a bit more specific. Why are ocean acidification, agriculture, or sea level rise major concerns? Why is greenhouse gas emission reduction the best way to lessen these concerns?

  147. izen says:

    @-victorpetri
    ” A global carbon tax which marginally hurts economic growth, but steers the economy in a low CO2 emission direction, seems to be the highest achievable anti warming goal.”

    Oddly enough, I agree with you on this.
    Although I view this conclusion as the result of ingrained cynicism and a BAD THING. (grin)
    The scientific consensus (?!) seems to be coalescing around a goal of zero emissions by the end of this century.

    @-“Everywhere, economic growth is the highest priority.”

    Now you just sound like Willard.
    I am still waiting for an explanation why economic growth that over several decades might make Bangladesh as rich as Mexico is now, would make adaptation to sea level rise by Bangladesh much easier than slightly less economic growth and less sea level rise.

  148. milopete says:

    John,
    ‘Rational libertarians …”
    Seriously?
    http://www.sethf.com/essays/major/libstupid.php

  149. izen says:

    @-Richard S.J. Tol
    “Why are ocean acidification, agriculture, or sea level rise major concerns?”

    It seems unlikely someone in the field is truly unaware of the extensive literature on these issues.
    But I’ll play along and provide some illustrative links as if I am credulous enough to believe you are honestly ignorant.

    Ocean acidification.
    There has already been a collapse in the food we harvest, or more accurately hunt, from the seas. The potential collapse of tropical reef ecologies does not help maintain the near shore regions as a food source for a large percentage of the global population.

    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n3/full/nclimate1122.html

    Agricultural shifts.
    There is a story that when told that global warming would enable Chinese farmers to grow crops on what are presently barren cold Northern hills, the official replied, ” so we can grow crops when the weather is better where there is no soil, no crops, no farmers, no roads and no irrigation.
    When?”

    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00282.1
    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2470.html

    Sea level rise.
    Back in the 1970s when the Thames barrier was being planned, the question was what level of sea level rise should it be designed to manage. The answer was to consider how long it would be likely to last before requiring a rebuild, which was about a 100 years. So they built it to cope with the most pessimistic upper limit of what was then considered possible for sea level to rise over the next century.
    The figure in the late 70s was about a yard, so that is as much as the Barrier can cope with before it is an absolute necessity to replace it.

    Large scale infrastructure to protect our coastal resources, or large scale projects to adapt to rising sea level need accurate estimates of the scale of the problem because of the long timescale and cost of such projects. In the case of the Thames barrier the most pessimistic prediction, to which they designed, is looking increasingly likely to be the most accurate.

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/10/104008/pdf/1748-9326_9_10_104008.pdf

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-148

    This is just a selection of links of the top of a simple search, if you choose to quibble or nitpick about the legitamacy of a specific example I would be forced to conclude ytou were noty acting in good faith or with any integrity.

    If however you have a rational argument that has been drowned out by Left and Green hysteria until now why such extensive research, of which this is just the tip of an iceberg, should be discounted as NOT indicating a major problem?…..

    @-“Why is greenhouse gas emission reduction the best way to lessen these concerns?”

    Well ocean acidification can ONLY be resolved by reducing the partial pressure of CO2 over the oceans. If you can think of any method in physics or chemistry to achieve that other than by reducing emissions I would be fascinated to hear it.

    Climate shifts altering agricultural production can be adapted too. Wheat is at the limit of its optimal temperature range at present so some clever GM could provide a better hot drought resistant crop.
    I suppose you could argue that all the new roads, irrigation schemes and agricultural infrastructure that will need to be built as part of adaption is ‘growth’ and wealth. Perhaps it is economically productive to adapt by rebuilding our agricultural infrastructure than acting to protect the present.
    All those new roads in Northern China!

    Sea level rise is directly linked to temperature.
    with a joker in that beyond a certain tipping point the Greenland and West Antarctic icecaps melt out whatever else happens. A tipping point we may have already reached.
    So perhaps you have a point there.
    WE are already locked into a damaging amount of sea level rise that will require adaption of all our coastal cities and ports within the next century, probably not worth zeroing emissions to reduce the total when you HAVE to rebuild for at least a metre anyway.

  150. guthrie says:

    Izen – Willard is mocking the growth idolators that infest economics and politics.

  151. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Izen
    So, if I follow you correctly, you argue that ocean acidification is a problem because we’ve already emptied out the ocean?

    On agriculture and sea level rise, why is mitigation better than adaptation?

  152. victorpetri says:

    @guthrie,
    I idolate human well being and happiness, economic growth is just a means to those ends.

  153. Richard,

    If you cut through the rhetoric, there is nothing in the literature that suggests that climate is a major problem. Just read the IPCC. Skip past the sexed-up summaries and look at the numbers.

    Yes, I guess if you remove anything that sounds remotely alarming, then there’s nothing remotely alarming. Okay, I guess you have a point that much if what is presented is simply what will probably/likely (choose your terminology) if we continue to increase our emissions. We will continue to warm, we’ll see an increase in the intensity and frequency of heatwaves, we’ll see an increase in the intensity and frequency of intense precipitation events, we’ll see continued acidification of the oceans, we’ll see continued sea level rise, extra energy in the climate system will likely influence other extreme events but in less certain ways. Fine, whether or not we should be concerned about this is a judgement. I take it that you think we shouldn’t be, that we should prioritise growth over mitigation and that my assessment of your article is broadly correct.

    Here’s a number for you to consider. Mammals cannot survive, without technology or without going underground, if the wet-bulb temperature exceeds 35oC. If the temperature rise exceeds 6-7oC, then we will probably see regions of the planet where there are extended periods of time where this temperature is exceeded. If we continue to follow a high-emission pathway, then such a temperature rise is possible. Do you think we should take that risk?

  154. Richard,

    On agriculture and sea level rise, why is mitigation better than adaptation?

    I get the feeling that you think that continuing to increase our emissions is somehow the natural way forward and that any attempt to reduce our emissions needs to be justified. Others might argue that substantially changing our climate is what is intrinsically unnatural.

    Oh, and I’ll add that this

    In other words, a century worth of climate change is about as bad as losing a year of economic growth.

    is still wrong, even if you think the risks associated with more than 2oC of warming are not worth worrying about.

  155. izen says:

    @-guthrie
    “Izen – Willard is mocking the growth idolators that infest economics and politics.”

    I know, and I have found it amusing.
    But I made the mistake of thinking it was done with some intelligent theme and the graph of subsidies was relevant, rather than just arbitrary.

  156. izen says:

    @-Richard S.J. Tol
    “So, if I follow you correctly, you argue that ocean acidification is a problem because we’ve already emptied out the ocean?”

    No you have not followed me correctly, not even close.
    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and put that down to a lack of clarity on my part and ESL on yours rather than a malicious mistake.

    Ocean acidification is a problem because of our significant dependence on a food chain that acidification threatens.

    @-“On agriculture and sea level rise, why is mitigation better than adaptation?”

    It is cheaper.
    And less people die.
    Think Bangladesh and coastal flooding.

  157. jsam says:

    I’m enjoying the spectacle of a an economist betting against the house.

    Having heard Stott speak the summary was sexed down.

  158. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Please be specific. You list vague, unquantified concerns, and seem to assume that these are a function of climate only.

  159. Richard,

    Please be specific. You list vague, unquantified concerns, and seem to assume that these are a function of climate only.

    What? I listed some of the consequences of continuing to increase our emissions. If you think that rising sea levels, increases in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and intense precipitation events, ocean acidification, and other possible changes could somehow be happening by chance while we are increasing our emissions, you really haven’t been paying attention in class (no more Candy Crush for you!). And, no, I’m not going to be specific. If you want to believe that warming by 3oC or more probably won’t carry any risks that we should be concerned about, carry on. There’s clearly nothing I can say that can convince you and nor is that my goal. In fact, the more you say that continued warming probably doesn’t carry risks worth worrying about, the better.

  160. guthrie says:

    Hmm, that’s funny. Growth isn’t actually making normal people richer in the USA:
    http://www.chn.org/2014/12/10/fact-week-young-adults-likely-poor-now-1980/#.VKGBoADWi
    More charts here:
    http://www.epi.org/publication/the-top-10-charts-of-2014/

    So, if we’re all supposed to be much richer and more able to afford to deal with climate change in 50 years time, how is that supposed to happen?

  161. guthrie says:

    Hey Victor, I just posted a link to charts showing that the economic wellbeing of USA’ians is worse than it has been or stagnated. Yet growth has continued. Perhaps you might like to consider investing in a more complex view of the world and how it works.
    (After all, happiness and such are linked to eceonomic wellbeing and social disparities in the same)

  162. Punksta says:

    “Growth isn’t actually making normal people richer in the USA:”

    And if we are forced to to use more expensive energy, they will be even worse off.

  163. victorpetri says:

    @guthrie,
    I am not particularly interested in the well being of humans in a single anomalous country. Nor am I particularly interested in discussing the policies that enabled inequal growth in that country.
    It is not a very representative country for how economic growth affects people, nor is it an argument to not aspire for economic growth per se.

  164. victorpetri says:

    @guthrie
    Graphics like these:

    are in my opinion much more telling about economic growth and improvements of all human beings globally, than the lack of improvement for the American middle class.

  165. Willard says:

    > Slightly disappointing to be honest to find that the graphic was an arbitrary and apparently irrelevant choice…

    An arbitrary and irrelevant choice for what, Izen?

    Reminding the size of the overall subsidies for energy seems quite relevant against the claim that any substantial carbon tax would hurt the economy.

    ***

    Another point to consider is that if you want to reduce consumption, it’s better to hide the tax than to add it post-sale:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/11/22/246743018/whats-the-best-way-to-tax-marijuana-it-depends-on-what-you-want

    The same should apply to subsidies, inversely.

  166. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    I don’t believe in the impacts of climate change, I research them.

    You concerns about climate change are about as specific as my 7-year-old’s worries about the monster under her bed.

  167. izen says:

    @-Punksta
    “And if we are forced to to use more expensive energy, they will be even worse off.”

    That sounds logical… and yet normal Americans (all but the top quintile) were richest during the 70s when energy prices were highest, and the period when normal Americans have lost the most wealth, their household incomes shrinking, has been when energy prices were falling.

    Perhaps there is something wrong with the assumption that expensive energy makes normal people worse off, perhaps other factors in the economy dominate the distribution of wealth than the retail price of fossil fuels.

    http://www.macrotrends.net/1373/oil-prices-vs-the-cpi-historical-chart

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/upshot/the-american-middle-class-is-no-longer-the-worlds-richest.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0

  168. Punksta says:

    @izen
    The issue here is not distribution of wealth generation, but overall wealth generation. With energy more expensive, then for any given set of other factors, there will be less wealth generated in total. Breaking this down in any number of ways will not change this.

  169. Robert Grumbine says:

    Before you all go around answering Tol’s not actually a question, it be a good idea to get Tol to provide detail on

    If you cut through the rhetoric, there is nothing in the literature that suggests that climate is a major problem. Just read the IPCC. Skip past the sexed-up summaries and look at the numbers.

    — Just what would he consider a ‘major problem’? He hasn’t told you, and (not that I look much) I’ve never seen him do so. Yet, he demands numbers from you all. It’s an easy game for him to play. No matter what you present, he can just sit back and say that that’s not a major problem, or you didn’t document it well enough. (Could any degree of documentation be ‘well enough’? Another question you’re failing to ask him.)

    The one time I ever got one of the folks who said climate change would not be a ‘major problem’ to define what he meant, it turned out that he (for reasons he couldn’t or wouldn’t give) didn’t consider anything less than 10 C change in less than 50 years to be a ‘major problem’. Given his definition, I agree that climate change is unlikely to be a major problem.

    What would Tol consider a ‘major problem’?

  170. Joshua says:

    vp –

    ==> “Don’t really know why people react so emotionally and defensive on such a rational stance. ”

    Hmmm.

    Perhaps if you tried to avoid argument from incredulity and instead thought about things more objectively, you wouldn’t be confused?

    Do you think this is a “rational stance?”

    This is what climatologists and economists actually have done for years, but their efforts have been overshadowed by the hysteria of the Greens and the Left

    I don’t think so. And I think that people tend to react emotionally and defensively to hyperbolic rhetoric. In fact, I think that generating emotional responses (both defensive and aggressive) is usually the main function of such hyperbolic rhetoric.

    But it’s not a one-off. Here’s another example:

    “Politically correct climate change orthodoxy has completely destroyed our ability to think rationally about the environment..”

  171. jsam says:

    Tol 1: “On agriculture and sea level rise, why is mitigation better than adaptation?”
    Tol 2: “I don’t believe in the impacts of climate change, I research them.”

    I look forward to reading the results of your research. Will that change your op-eds? Probably not.

  172. jsam says:

    Oi, Willard, getcher gnashers into this load of self-serving guff.
    http://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2014/12/Lee-Ethics-climate-change.pdf

    It is hysterical to at least two meanings.

  173. Tony Lurker says:

    @Richard S.J. Tol
    “I don’t believe in the impacts of climate change, I research them.”

    I have seen no evidence of this to date. Please tell me how much it will cost the economy to improve the coastal infrastructure to cope with sea level rise worldwide. If your are claiming that it is lower than mitigating carbon emissions, I would expect you to know this.

  174. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @jsam
    This is a good place to start: http://ideas.repec.org/e/pto90.html

    @Robert G
    Instead of discussing the absolute size of problems (or their symptoms), let’s do relatives:
    The Euro has cut 1/3 of the income of the average Greek. Civil war has devastated Syria. Indoor air pollution kills millions per year, as does outdoor air pollution.

    All of these problems do more harm now than climate change is projected to do by the end of the century.

  175. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Tony H
    Our latest estimates of the former are here: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/3292.abstract

    Our latest estimates of the latter are here: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/7/11/6886

  176. Joshua says:

    Serious question –

    Can someone help me out here? Is Richard one of the participants in the climate wars who expresses concern about the corrupting influence of activism among scientists?

    I seem to recall that he does, but I don’t remember for sure.

  177. jsam says:

    Thank you, Richard, but your repec link is broken.

    It is far from obvious to me that mitigating climate change would have made the Greek situation worse. And not a few have argued that climate change was, in part, a contributor to the situation in Syria. As for pollution, coal is a factor.

    Joshua – you don’t understand. Activism is bad. Inactivism is good.

  178. Robert Grumbine says:

    @Tol
    What is it that’s burned to produce that indoor air pollution, and large fractions of the outdoor? oh, right, carbon. If that were a real concern of yours, you’d be recognizing that problems can be addressed jointly, not as solely one or the other.

    But, then, if you were interested in serious discussion, you’d also define what you consider a ‘major problem’, rather than demand other people produce evidence of there being one, and reject whatever they present. You’d also at least say by what measure you are assessing ‘major’.

    I learned long ago to be very wary of what definitions an economist is using. Relatively recent example is the University of Chicago economists who decided that the Great Depression occurred because everybody felt like taking a vacation in the 30s. That’s not how the people who lived through it describe their lives. But such consideration is irrelevant to a large fraction of economists, of which the UC department is a leading examplar.

  179. I note the last sentence in the abstract of R Tol’s first link: “…protecting large parts of the developed coast increases the risk of catastrophic consequences in the case of defense failure.”.

    Ever since I first read Richard Tol’s comments it seemed that he is somewhat reckless with regards to possible outcomes of increased CO2. What he’s written in these comments suggests he disregards anything that a number can’t be put on.

    He seems to think uncertainty is our friend. In the history of Earth, it never has been.

  180. jsam says:

    Thank you Richard. Which of your citations best answers the question you posed “On agriculture and sea level rise, why is mitigation better than adaptation?””

  181. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Robert G
    I asked people to specify why they think climate change is a major problem, and why greenhouse gas emission reduction is a major part of the solution. I did so because people tend to assert this without any evidence or reason. This may be because they think it is self-evident, in which case providing evidence is trivial, or because it is an article of faith.

    Indoor air pollution has little to do with coal. Outdoor air pollution has a lot to with coal. In Europe, Japan, and North America, this was solved by putting on scrubbers, which reduce emissions of air pollutants but increase emissions of carbon dioxide.

  182. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @jsam
    The PNAS paper talks about sea level rise (linked to above). Agriculture is less sharp, but the Calzadilla papers are a good start.

  183. Joshua says:

    ==> “In Europe, Japan, and North America, this was solved by putting on scrubbers, which reduce emissions of air pollutants but increase emissions of carbon dioxide.”

    Hmmm… I think that the U.S. is in North America, isn’t it?

    Our comprehensive review finds that the best estimate for the total economically quantifiable costs, based on a conservative weighting of many of the study findings, amount to some $345.3 billion, adding close to 17.8¢/kWh of electricity generated from coal. The low estimate is $175 billion, or over 9¢/kWh, while the true monetizable costs could be as much as the upper bounds of $523.3 billion, adding close to 26.89¢/kWh. These and the more difficult to quantify externalities are borne by the general public.

    Still these figures do not represent the full societal and environmental burden of coal. In quantifying the damages, we have omitted the impacts of toxic chemicals and heavy metals on ecological systems and diverse plants and animals; some ill-health endpoints (morbidity) aside from mortality related to air pollutants released through coal combustion that are still not captured; the direct risks and hazards posed by sludge, slurry, and CCW impoundments; the full contributions of nitrogen deposition to eutrophication of fresh and coastal sea water; the prolonged impacts of acid rain and acid mine drainage; many of the long-term impacts on the physical and mental health of those living in coal-field regions and nearby MTR sites; some of the health impacts and climate forcing due to increased tropospheric ozone formation; and the full assessment of impacts due to an increasingly unstable climate. The true ecological and health costs of coal are thus far greater than the numbers suggest. Accounting for the many external costs over the life cycle for coal-derived electricity conservatively doubles to triples the price of coal per kWh of electricity generated..

    http://www.chgeharvard.org/sites/default/files/epstein_full%20cost%20of%20coal.pdf

  184. Robert Grumbine says:

    @Tol

    Do read what I actually write. Inconvenient, I know. I said carbon, not coal. The indoor carbon-derived pollution can be addressed by, for instance, non carbon-based energy sources. Which would also, lo and behold, address issues of atmospheric CO2 levels.

    No, you did not merely ask for people to say why they considered climate change a major problem. You’ve also promptly rejected every answer given. What they consider major, you don’t. I’ve been hoping against hope that you would actually describe what you would not reject. If you’re interested in reasonable discussion, that’s pretty much a requirement after all. As with the person I mentioned originally, it is possible that if you would define what you meant by ‘major problem’, I’d agree that climate change was not one such.

    As long as you refuse to define your terms, it’s impossible for us to agree.

  185. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Robert G
    Sorry for substituting “carbon” for “coal”.

    Indoor air pollution has little to do with carbon. It’s about conversion rather than fuel.

    Outdoor air pollution is mostly coal (not oil, not gas). The obvious solution is more coal, not less.

  186. anoilman says:

    victorpetri: Economics doesn’t get the same lip service as climate science because its not a real science. There are no facts in economics, only values. This is the reason real scientists drop out into into economics. Its much much easier.

    You and Richard Tol believe its OK to dispense great misery on the poor people of the world. I can’t debate that fact.

    You and Richard think this can be solved or reversed in the future. And you say that with zero evidence. None. Nada. Zippo.

    So… you’ve chosen a position devoid of facts, with no clue what the result will be. That doesn’t sound sane to me.

  187. Robert Grumbine says:

    @tol:
    ‘conversion’ — of what? Burning dung et al. has quite a lot to do with indoor air pollution. The energy therefrom is substantially carbon-based.

    My wife and I have a running joke, which, sadly, it doesn’t look like you’re joking. Namely, any time we say something is ‘obviously’ the case, it means that we have no evidence to support the statement. If, as you seemed to indicate earlier, outdoor air pollution is a problem (one of the apparently many by your never-given standards) greater than climate change, and coal contributes to that problem, indeed — according to you — is the major contributor to it, how is it that burning more coal, thereby creating more of this problem, is the solution to its own problem?

    As it’s obviously the case, at least if you don’t mean it the way my wife and I do, you can easily explain it.

  188. jsam says:

    WHO estimates indoor air pollution was linked to 4.3 million deaths in 2012 in households cooking over coal, wood and biomass stoves.
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

    Eh? “Outdoor air pollution is mostly coal… The obvious solution is more coal, not less.”
    That is truly Est-worthy. Stunning.

  189. victorpetri says:

    @anoilman
    “You and Richard Tol believe its OK to dispense great misery on the poor people of the world. I can’t debate that fact.”
    Why do you continue to say this?

  190. Joshua says:

    vp –

    Is the following a “rational stance?”

    “Politically correct climate change orthodoxy has completely destroyed our ability to think rationally about the environment..”

  191. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Robert G
    Indoor air pollution is because of poor ventilation and incomplete combustion, largely independent of the fuel.

  192. victorpetri says:

    @Joshua
    That is the reason why you guys are all this defensive? Really?

    And yes, I think he makes a good point.
    When students demonstratively stood up and left during a talk of Lomborg, just because he is putting the costs of climate change in perspective, I think rational thought lost out. Examples of emotional comments on this blog are plenty.

  193. jsam says:

    vp – yours?

  194. Robert Grumbine says:

    @tol
    There are ways to produce energy other than burning things. But you know that. Ignoring it is another sign of your lack of interest in serious discussion.

    Another, of course, being your failure to explain the ‘obvious’ about burning more coal being the solution to coal-produced pollution.

  195. Willard says:

    > That is the reason why you guys are all this defensive?

    No, that’s the reason why they beat their wives, VP:

    Low, sneaky ways that some people use to win arguments:

    Use punchy one-liners. You can sometimes throw your opponent out of his stride by interjecting a confident, concise cliché. Here are some good ones:

    That begs the question.
    That is beside the point.
    You’re being defensive.
    Don’t compare apples and oranges.
    What are your parameters?

    http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/how-to-win-arguments-dos-donts-and-sneaky-tactics.html

    Vp’s question begs the question, obviously.

  196. BBD says:

    vp

    Examples of emotional comments on this blog are plenty.

    Stop sniping. You have a commenting history here of arguing from assertion, of refusing to define your position, of claiming to have said things you did not in fact say and claiming *not* to have said things you did in fact say. In short, you have embarrassed and belittled yourself substantially here. You are in absolutely no position to snark, so don’t.

  197. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Robert
    Scrubbers use energy. Lots of it.

  198. Joshua says:

    vp –

    ==> “That is the reason why you guys are all this defensive? Really?”

    Again, arguing from incredulity?

    I don’t think I’m being defensive. I’m saying that Richard is employing the hyperbolic rhetoric. More counterproductive, in terms of “reasoned debate,” IMO, is hyperbolic rhetoric as compare to “activism” per se. What matters is the type of activism. I’d say that Richard’s type of activism is counterproductive.

    ==> “When students demonstratively stood up and left during a talk of Lomborg, just because he is putting the costs of climate change in perspective, I think rational thought lost out. Examples of emotional comments on this blog are plenty”

    First, Lomborg is putting the “cost of climate change” in a particular perspective – not perspective in some generic or objective sense. I would say that the perspective that puts addressing climate change in some kind of practical opposition to addressing poverty is a skewed perspective. There are many factors that underlie poverty, and addressing climate change is certainly not mutually exclusive from addressing many of those factors. I have seen that point brought up many times in these threads and in other discussions. Yet I don’t see that point addressed seriously. Perhaps you would like to? I would think that “rational debate” would include addressing that point. Instead, what I see, is grandstanding that exploits serious problems like poverty to score cheap points in the climate wars.

    Second, if we look at the overall range of perspectives, there are certainly those at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Pointing at the perspectives at one extreme end, and declaring that “thinking rationally” about the environment has been “completely destroyed” is, IMO, a very emotional act. I don’t see it as conducive to “rational debate.”

    It is completely unnecessary for “rational debate,” and is founded more on the notion of zero sum gain debate, where simplistically demonizing other perspectives is seen as some kind of gain offset against a loss to people of other views. That doesn’t fit my definition of “rational debate.” If you think that reacting “defensively” is counterproductive, then there are at least two way to address that problem. One is to consider what kinds of behaviors provoke “defensive” responses.

  199. afeman says:

    If you think this is true, you should have no problem making a public argument along these lines, or are you actually not willing to lay it out quite that explicitly because you know that you’ll be wrong and don’t want it to be remembered for posterity?

    Hasn’t stopped him yet.

  200. jsam says:

    @tol
    “The PNAS paper talks about sea level rise (linked to above). Agriculture is less sharp, but the Calzadilla papers are a good start.”

    To my readings, these appear to tilt towards mitigation.

    Mitigate, adapt and suffer. Just choose your mix. Less of one is more of another.

  201. Ian Forrester says:

    Robert G, indoor air pollution has been decreased substantially but it still involves carbon. More than 10 million home sized bio-gas digesters are in use in many parts of Asia and some in Africa.

    http://www.ashden.org/files/factsheets/ashden_biogas.pdf

    There are many positives to this change in fuel. One which does get as much mention as the ones in the linked article is that the women and mothers can spend more time with their children rather than spending large amounts of time out gathering wood and other fuels that they used to use. This has resulted in the children getting a better start to their education.

  202. Robert Grumbine says:

    @tol
    This is embarassing. Your comment has no connection to the question. And ignores my repeated comment that there are ways of producing energy other than burning stuff. If you’re not burning stuff, you don’t need scrubbers for the effluent.

    And, still, you do not say what you consider a ‘major problem’, nor how you would ever consider climate change to be one, nor even by what measures you are deciding what constitutes a ‘major problem’.

    @attp:
    I showed up following your tweet asking for someone who does climate research to comment. As I think you and all see, my being a scientist, much less what in, is entirely irrelevant to Tol’s claim about climate change not being a major problem. It’s a religious claim of his — not only incapable of disproof, but he’s incapable of even defining his terms.

    There are other essentially religious (unprovable, un-disprovable) assumptions made by other people. On ocean acidification, inferred badness comes about largely by way of concern about mass extinction. Or at least that’s one route. But the badness of it is decided on a value — that mass extinctions are bad. Clearly so, if you’re one of the species that goes extinct. But if you’re not …? A matter of values.

    People have values and that influences the discussion (when there is discussion rather than debate, which is seldom). No problem. Confusing their values for reality, though, doesn’t help.

  203. Willard says:

    An alternative viewpoint:

    In developing the basis on which climate change should be priced, I do five things. First, I review the ethical foundations for valuing future consumption relative to present consumption (i.e. social discount rates). Second, I report that the criterion for both assessing and prescribing economic policies should not be an economy’s GDP, but an inclusive measure of an economy’s wealth adjusted for the distribution of wealth. Third, I apply the resulting analysis to the problem of pricing carbon concentration in the atmosphere. I give prominence to future uncertainties. Fourth, I show that the existing models of human behaviour on the basis of which these questions have been analysed by economists have serious deficiencies, in as much as the idea of personhood embodied in them has been built on the psychology of confirmed egotists. Fifth, I sketch the motivations of a social being and show how the altered specification of the human person affects the social price of climate change.

    http://m.ppe.sagepub.com/content/13/4/394.abstract

  204. Robert Grumbine says:

    Thanks for the pointer Ian. I was aware of this (hence my saying carbon, vs. coal, or dung et al. vs. just dung, though that one is significant). For small-world effect, V. Ramanathan was on my thesis committee when he was at U. Chicago. Long before he took up this particular effort, but does mean I’ve seen more than I otherwise would have.

    The family effects also accrue from moving to solar cooking vs. burning stuff. A friend was engaged by the WMO (I think unpaid) to examine the meteorology of this. Not just cloudiness, but altitude. Cooking at elevation (Andes, Himalayas) with attendant pressure drop makes for many effects on cooking ability. (Regardless of energy source, but she was examining a particular solar cooker.)

    Perhaps even bigger than the time in getting wood (et al.) is time in getting water (again, mostly women). Solar or wind-power water pumps (no need to get burnables for energy, nor need for massive infrastructure to carry electricity) have made a big improvement here, too.

  205. Richard,

    You concerns about climate change are about as specific as my 7-year-old’s worries about the monster under her bed.

    Once again, you’re doing a wonderful job of illustrating how to engage in a rational, grown-up, discussion.

    I asked people to specify why they think climate change is a major problem,

    As you probably quite well know, this question is (intentionally?) ill-posed. Climate change isn’t, by itself, a major problem. Whether or not it becomes a major problem depends on a number of factors, namely our chosen emission pathway, and what climate sensitivity turns out to actually be. The real issue – IMO (and I’m amazed you would think differently) – is not whether or not climate change is a major problem, but whether or not we want to actually risk finding out. Additionally, if we do decide that finding out is better than avoiding, there will be virtually nothing we can do to reverse things if climate change does turn out to be a major problem. Also, given the inertia (you do know what inertia is, don’t you?) if it does become a major problem, it will almost certainly continue to get worse.

    As Robert Grumbine suggests, maybe you should define what you mean by “major problem”. My working assumption is that our goal is to do our best to ensure that the planet continues to support a population of humans in excess of 7 billion people and allows these people to have standards of living (or wealth) that is ideally better than it is today. I get the impression that your assumptions are somewhat different. It seems that you think that the markets can adjust to any eventuality. Therefore, as long as climate change doesn’t actually destroy the market, it – by definition – is not a major problem. Is that right, or have I misunderstood your position?

    I did so because people tend to assert this without any evidence or reason.

    Yes, it can be annoying when people assert things without evidence or reason (you should probably have added “that I’m willing to accept” though). Let’s consider an example. You say

    Instead of discussing the absolute size of problems (or their symptoms), let’s do relatives:
    The Euro has cut 1/3 of the income of the average Greek. Civil war has devastated Syria. Indoor air pollution kills millions per year, as does outdoor air pollution.

    All of these problems do more harm now than climate change is projected to do by the end of the century.

    This appears to be an assertion and I see no evidence or reason. Maybe you could clarify this. Your own meta-analysis suggests that the welfare impact of climate change for 5oC of warming is somewhere between -3 and -21% of income. Projected warming by the end of this century, if we follow a high-emission pathway, could exceed 5oC which would suggest that the welfare impact could exceed -21% of income. Is it, therefore, really true that the problems we have today do more harm than climate change will do by the end of the century? Doesn’t seem true to me (or, rather, it’s only conditionally true).

    Furthermore – as others have pointed out – even if the problems you describe are today independent of climate change (and some think that they’re not) it seems highly unlikely that this would remain true in future. The idea that you can address these problems without considering the impact of climate change seems woefully naive.

  206. Robert,

    I showed up following your tweet asking for someone who does climate research to comment. As I think you and all see, my being a scientist, much less what in, is entirely irrelevant to Tol’s claim about climate change not being a major problem. It’s a religious claim of his — not only incapable of disproof, but he’s incapable of even defining his terms.

    Thanks for turning up and trying. I agree that Tol’s claims appear to be based more on belief than anything and it is unfortunate that he won’t define his terms. If he did, we may actually understand why he thinks it isn’t a major problem.

  207. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    So, you argue that “30% for sure today” is bigger than “20% perhaps in a century”?

    You, by the way, still argue as if climate change is the only thing that matters for the impacts of climate change.

  208. John says:

    Vlad: Aren’t you concerned about what life will be like at the bottom of this hole?
    Est: Not in the slightest.
    Vlad: Well, there’s a risk that conditions might not be so good down here.
    Est: No one can say with any certainty what the conditions will be like. I am, therefore, positive that everything will be fine.
    Vlad: Huh?!
    Est: Bull up. Think of it as an adventure.
    Vlad: I was quite comfortable before, thank you.
    Est: And you’ll be quite comfortable in the hole, as well.
    Vlad: Are you sure?
    Est: You’ll adapt.
    Vlad: How much will that cost?
    Est: Less than getting out of the hole.
    Vlad: I thought you said there was uncertainty?
    Est: Oh, yes. A great deal of it.
    Vlad: Then, how can you be so certain things will be fine?
    Est: OMG, look! A squirrel!

  209. Richard,

    So, you argue that “30% for sure today” is bigger than “20% perhaps in a century”?

    Where does the “30% for sure today” come from? Greece? Maybe it was once the centre of the known world, but I don’t think it is today. And, it’s “perhaps more than 20% in a century”. Do you dispute that this is really a risk issue, or do you really think that we need to “know” what will happen before considering whether or not to avoid it?

    You, by the way, still argue as if climate change is the only thing that matters for the impacts of climate change.

    Given that this doesn’t even appear to really make sense, this isn’t what I’m arguing.

    Maybe you could address the question regarding what you would consider a major problem. It’s quite possible that we just define it differently and addressing that may clarify this issue substantially.

  210. Steve Bloom says:

    Whack-a-Tol. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, wore it out, used it for a rag for a while, finally disposed of the filthy tattered remnant.

  211. BBD says:

    Richard Tol

    For goodness’ sake, stop.

  212. Willard says:

    Perhaps audit problems are bigger than climate, AT:

    The Greeks have never managed to stick to the 60 percent debt limit, and they only adhered to the three percent deficit ceiling with the help of blatant balance sheet cosmetics. One time, gigantic military expenditures were left out, and another time billions in hospital debt. After recalculating the figures, the experts at Eurostat consistently came up with the same results: In truth, the deficit each year has been far greater than the three percent limit. In 2009, it exploded to over 12 percent.

    Now, though, it looks like the Greek figure jugglers have been even more brazen than was previously thought. “Around 2002 in particular, various investment banks offered complex financial products with which governments could push part of their liabilities into the future,” one insider recalled, adding that Mediterranean countries had snapped up such products.

    Greece’s debt managers agreed a huge deal with the savvy bankers of US investment bank Goldman Sachs at the start of 2002. The deal involved so-called cross-currency swaps in which government debt issued in dollars and yen was swapped for euro debt for a certain period — to be exchanged back into the original currencies at a later date.

    http://m.spiegel.de/international/europe/a-676634.html

  213. Joseph says:

    Richard, to add to what has been said we will also likely see more intensified droughts due to increased temperatures as well as longer wildfire seasons. These wildfire effects are already seen in the United States

    To me we are conducting an experiment on our climate and I think a tripling (or more) of the current increase of .8 degrees in this century (.24) would be quite a trial to put our climate through. The unpredictable effects from such a rapid increase are what worry me.

  214. dana1981 says:

    The IPCC summarized a variety of anticipated climate impacts in some useful graphics discussed at Carbon Brief. Just one example:

    A large fraction of species faces increased extinction risk due to climate change during and beyond the 21st
    century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors (high confidence).

    Global climate change risks are high
    to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels in
    all reasons for concern (Assessment Box SPM.1), and include severe and widespread impacts on
    unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional
    food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal
    human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year
    (high confidence).

    On economic costs, the IPCC said:

    the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income … Losses are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than this range … Losses accelerate with greater warming, but few quantitative estimates have been completed for additional warming around 3°C or above.

    Along those lines, William Nordhaus has noted:

    In reality, estimates of damage functions are virtually non-existent for temperature increases above 3°C.

    We’ll likely exceed 3°C even in RCP 4.5, which involves pretty substantial mitigation efforts. In short, as ATTP has repeatedly noted, any pathway that involves anything less than major mitigation efforts represents huge risks to biodiversity, food security, the global economy, etc.

    As for who’s obstructing the climate policy debate, it seems that most of us agree that a revenue-neutral carbon tax would at least be a good start. In the USA, Canada, and Australia, it’s the “Greens and Left” who are proposing this policy, and the Right who are obstructing it. In the USA, we could have a revenue-neutral carbon tax implemented immediately if it could get any support from Republicans in Congress, who refuse to even debate climate policy. Criticisms of “Greens and the Left” are grossly misplaced in this context.

  215. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Joseph
    There is more to wildfire than climate. If you worry about wildfire, would it be cheaper and more effective to work on fire suppression or on greenhouse gas emissions?

    @Wotts
    It is hard to say whether a problem is “major” or not. It is much easier to say whether problem A is larger than problem B.

    A problem that wipes a third of people’s income in five years’ time strikes me as larger than a problem that may wipe a fifth of people’s income in hundred years’ time. As the comparison is like with like, I am surprised that you can find fault here.

  216. Robert Grumbine says:

    @tol As that greek problem derives in significant part from following, or trying to, economists’ advice, I reach a rather different conclusion about your predictions re climate costs in 100 years.

    Still no definition of what you consider major problem.

    30% of 10 milllion peoples’ income for a year versus 20% of 10 billion peoples’ for a century … even given your own comparatives, you are obviously using some things you are not stating in dismissing the climate cost.

  217. pbjamm says:

    Every time R.Tol comments here he is so hostile and rude that I wonder if someone is impersonating him or has hacked his account. Apparently though he needs no assistance to look bad.

  218. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Robert
    That’s not the comparison I’m making.

    I’m not a monetary economist, and my name is not Dana, but I dare say that about 97% of economists argued, ex ante, that the eurozone is not an optimal currency area.

  219. dana1981 says:

    A problem that wipes a third of people’s income in five years’ time strikes me as larger than a problem that may wipe a fifth of people’s income in hundred years’ time. As the comparison is like with like, I am surprised that you can find fault here.

    It’s really not hard to find fault. The former problem directly impacted a country with a population of 11 million, the latter a population three orders of magnitude larger. Moreover, Greece’s economy will recover, but many climate impacts are irreversible and hence will have a long-term depressive impact on the global economy, as Robert Grumbine already noted.

  220. Richard,

    It is hard to say whether a problem is “major” or not. It is much easier to say whether problem A is larger than problem B.

    So, you’re not even going to try. Also, what you seem unwilling to actually do is illustrate that reducing the impact of problem A will definitely prevent us from addressing problem B.

    A problem that wipes a third of people’s income in five years’ time strikes me as larger than a problem that may wipe a fifth of people’s income in hundred years’ time. As the comparison is like with like, I am surprised that you can find fault here.

    Just to be clear, you are arguing that the Greek’s losing 1/3 of their income now, is worse than the global economy losing 20% (or maybe more) of it’s income in 100 years time? Have I really understood you properly?

    As Dana points out, if we end up in a position where we are losing 20% of income due to climate change, that is likely irreversible (or extremely difficult to reverse). Additionally, if we’re considering only 2100, then it is also likely to continue getting worse into the 22nd century.

  221. pbjamm,

    Every time R.Tol comments here he is so hostile and rude that I wonder if someone is impersonating him or has hacked his account.

    Yes, I have often wondered if the real Richard Tol is a quiet, retiring academic who is completely unaware of the social media, and that the Richard Tol commenting here is an imposter. I have asked Richard if this is the case and he assures me that it isn’t.

  222. Joseph says:

    There is more to wildfire than climate. If you worry about wildfire, would it be cheaper and more effective to work on fire suppression or on greenhouse gas emissions?

    So let’s invest more in adaptation measures than we would have to if not for climate change? What if our adaptation measures fail? What if climate change is worse than we thought and the adaptation measure are not adequate?

    I have mentioned before that government policies can always be modified if they result in too much economic harm, but we can’t change the climate magically with a new law if things go bad.

  223. Joseph,

    I have mentioned before that government policies can always be modified if they result in too much economic harm, but we can’t change the climate magically with a new law if things go bad.

    Yes, but I’m still waiting for Richard to confirm that this is fine because the markets will adapt if that were to happen. As long as climate change doesn’t destroy the market, then it can’t be a major problem.

    In addition to what you say, we can always burn the coal later.

  224. anoilman says:

    The real deficiency here is that Richard Tol mistakenly believes that Global Warming can be reversed. It cannot. Its an indefensible position to take.

  225. Robert Grumbine says:

    As my econ prof observed about economists years ago, “Assume you have a can opener”. It was the punchline to a joke about a physicist, chemist, and economist who are stranded on a desert island. They have plenty of canned food, but no can opener. The physicist says “Ok, we can solve this with physics. We’ll take the cans to the top of a tree and drop them on a rock. They’ll split open and we can scrape up the food.” The chemist says, “No, better is to use chemistry. We’ll heat the cans over a fire, and they’ll split open under the pressure. A little scraping maybe, but the food remains mostly in the can.”

    The economist’s solution is, per above “Assume you have a can opener.”

    There’s an important item buried in any of the discussions about costs in the future. Not least being how to represent them today. (So we see non-sequiturs like Tol’s intervening response about not doing monetary economics — there has to be some way of comparing the numbers, call it what you may. Somehow he considers 30% of income for 10 million people today to be a bigger issue than 20% of income for 10 billion people in 100 years. He just won’t say how or why. Yet religiously claims to have compared like to like.)

    As a starter, consider the US from 1980 to 2014 (end of 1980 to Sep 2014). GDP grew on average about 2.7%/year. Figures like this, afaik, are used in doing the ‘it’s too expensive to do anything about climate change now’ calculations, so seems a fair starting point. The ‘we’ll all get wealthier in the future, so it’s cheaper to proceed as is and let the future take care of itself’ reasoning relies on this. John McCarthy (computer scientist, futurist, and frequent participant in sci.environment in the 1990s) liked this argument, and I agree that he has a point.

    The point is here, though. Let’s take 30 years as the time frame. At 2.7% per year, $1 today is $2.22 in 30 years. So, the rational economics argument (time value of money) is, we all should not spend $1 today in prevention of a problem in 30 years unless we will prevent more than $2.22 in damage. Today’s $1 is that much harder to come by than $1 will be 30 years from now (at 2.7%).

    One issue I’ll point to is that “We all” in the ‘we all will be wealthier’. As a different joke concludes “Who’s we, white man?” The US 1950-1980 saw growth (somewhat faster than 2.7%/year in fact) in its GDP. That growth was distributed pretty evenly across income brackets. “We all” did indeed get wealthier. On the other hand, 1980-present has seen greatly disparate rates of growth in income by brackets. Most of the money landing in the top 20% (and less) of households. And if you take 2001-present, some may have seen a decrease.

    iow, even though the average is a nice big figure, “We all” _do_not_necessarily_ experience it. Piketty’s take on long term figures is 1%/year increase in incomes, 5%/year increase in wealth (accrued assets, i.e., if your money works for you, this is what you see). I don’t know if he’s right, but those are also the numbers I’d found 20-some years ago in arguing with McCarthy.

    So let’s consider a $100 Billion (2005 dollars) weather disaster. Consider it agreed by all and sundry that it will happen in 30 years’ time. Also consider it agreed that we can prevent those $100 Billion in damages (or that much of damage from an even larger disaster) by spending money today. If ‘we all’ experienced that 2.7%/year growth, it makes sense (in our toy scenario) to spend up to $100/2.22 Billion, about $45 billion in damage prevention (whether that means dikes, relocation, co2 mechanisms, etc.). If the cost were only, say, $30 billion, you’re net $15 billion to the good (in today’s dollars at today’s difficulty of getting dollars).

    But, by the same reasoning, the folks getting richer at 5%/year would not (_should not_, as ‘rational economic actors’) be willing to invest more than $23 Billion (5%/year is 4.3 in 30 years). On the other hand, the 80+% who see 1%/year in the long term would actually be better off by spending up to $74 Billion. (1%/year is 1.35 in 30 years).

    If you’re one of the Koch brothers, on the other hand, or one of the sorts whose wealth is increasing like theirs, it’s not worth more than $0.7 B to prevent a $100 B disaster in 30 years (or to mitigate that much damage). (Forbes lists them as $6B (jointly) in a 1998 article, $85.4 B today, 18%/year average.)

    Whether prevention or mitigation of $100B in damage in 30 years’ time is ‘worth’ $0.7, 23, 45, or 74 B depends a great deal on how you assume that growth is distributed. It also depends on whether that ‘growth’ even occurs. The record of economic predictions succeeding at century, or even decadal, scale is underwhelming. (Anyone with counterexamples, please do cite the studies.)

    Last item on ‘growth’ — Hurricane Hugo produced an extra about 0.1% growth in US GDP the quarter or year it occurred. GDP treats rebuilding from disasters as a positive. I’m not enough of an economist to agree, any more than I agree with the economists who say the Great Depression was caused by people deciding to take vacation for the 1930s.

  226. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts, Dana, Robert
    I take it, from your attempts to twist my words, that you all agree that losing 1/3 of your income now for sure is worse than maybe losing 1/5 of your income in 100 years.

  227. Joseph says:

    Yes, but I’m still waiting for Richard to confirm that this is fine because the markets will adapt if that were to happen. As long as climate change doesn’t destroy the market, then it can’t be a major problem.

    Right, I think Richard seems to ignoring your point that we may not be able to adapt/mitigate if negative consequences are on the high side.

  228. Robert Grumbine says:

    @tol

    Indeed you cannot read what other people write.

    _My_ income did not drop 30% now. And, for that matter, won’t drop 20% in 100 years. I’ll be long dead by 2100

    What _you_ are pointing to is Greece, about 10 million people, losing 30% of income now. Versus _global_ 20% (possible, you agree) loss of income. Globe is already 7 billion people. By 2100, ballpark 10 billion (in any scenario that includes the growth in wealth that you assume).

    Perhaps you should refine your argument or clarify your terms to clarify how the former is worse than the latter. Or maybe say what you really mean. (I kid. You won’t.)

  229. Richard,

    I take it, from your attempts to twist my words, that you all agree that losing 1/3 of your income now for sure is worse than maybe losing 1/5 of your income in 100 years.

    I’m not trying to twist your words. I’m trying to understand what the f*ck you’re getting at. Plus, you’re the classic word twister. Maybe try avoiding projection.

    Yes, if we were to lose (globally) 1/3 of our income today that would be worse than losing 1/5 in 100 years time (with the caveat that losing, and recovering, 1/3 of our income today would be different to losing, and not recovering, 1/5 of our income in 100 years). Here’s what I’m trying to understand. Why are we likely to lose 1/3 of our income today? The only reference you’ve made to that is Greece. Is that what you’re referring to?

  230. nicholbrummer says:

    Richard, it looks like the only way you could be correct is if you don’t really care about many things that many other people do care about. Biodiversity and the resilient ecosystem that it can support, to start with. But maybe economics cannot measure the value of anything we care about?

  231. dana1981 says:

    I take it, from your attempts to twist my words, that you all agree that losing 1/3 of your income now for sure is worse than maybe losing 1/5 of your income in 100 years.

    As Robert says, none of this is about me. 10 billion people losing 1/5 of their income in 100 years would be much worse than 10 million people losing 1/3 of their income now, temporarily. Are you being intentionally obtuse about this? It’s not a difficult concept, especially for an economist.

  232. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Let’s relish this moment of agreement.

    The Greece example serves two purposes. First, there are many problems in the world that matter much more to the people affected than climate change.

    Second, Greece reminds us of Christine Lagarde, who as minister of Finance was co-responsible for creating the euro-crisis and as director of the IMF is co-responsible for not solving it. Yet, Ms Lagarde claims that climate change, a problem outside her mandate, is her primary concern. This may be because Ms Lagarde is genuinely worried, but it may be also be to district from the problems that are hers to solve.

    Ditto for John Kerry and Syria.

  233. Richard,

    Let’s relish this moment of agreement.

    If you really are suggesting that a single country with a population 1000 times less than the global population losing 30% of its income today is worse than a global drop in income of 20% in 100 years time, then we don’t agree. To be honest, if that is what you’re suggesting it appears completely absurd. That’s not to say that the situation in Greece isn’t serious, simply that I fail to see how it’s remotely relevant to how we should address climate change.

    First, there are many problems in the world that matter much more to the people affected than climate change.

    Yes, of course there are. This does not mean that climate change will not be a major problem though.

    Second, Greece reminds us of Christine Lagarde, who as minister of Finance was co-responsible for creating the euro-crisis and as director of the IMF is co-responsible for not solving it. Yet, Ms Lagarde claims that climate change, a problem outside her mandate, is her primary concern. This may be because Ms Lagarde is genuinely worried, but it may be also be to district from the problems that are hers to solve.

    Ditto for John Kerry and Syria.

    What? Is this some form of not so subtle conspiracy ideation? Maybe you should take BBD’s advice.

  234. Rachel M says:

    I don’t really understand why ocean acidification is not considered a major problem. Perhaps someone can explain? There’s the threat to our food supply through collapse of ocean ecosystems as Izen points out; there’s also the loss of species which I accept is a value judgement but one which can probably be quantified; but there’s also the loss of something beautiful. This third one might sound ridiculous but I think it’s important. Beautiful things give us pleasure and enrich our lives. Losing one of the natural wonders of the world – like The Great Barrier Reef – is not just an economic loss (the economic loss being from lost tourism), it’s also the loss of something which gives us pleasure and enchants us. It might be hard to put a value on it but just because we find something hard is not a reason for not doing it. We think it worthwhile to protect things like the Houses of Parliament and Sydney Opera House because they give us pleasure and enrich our lives; coral reefs do the same thing.

  235. dana1981 says:

    Now Tol’s arguments are really getting bizarre. We shouldn’t worry about the immense global threats posed by climate change because they might distract us from other threats? One would hope that our leaders could manage to think about more than one issue.

    Rachel,

    I don’t really understand why ocean acidification is not considered a major problem.

    Richard Tol may not consider it one, but climate scientists certainly do.

  236. matt says:

    Tol,
    > Please be specific.

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  237. jsam says:

    We are merely seeing the formalisation of the meme “we have more important problems”. This argument has been put forward by faux sceptics for a year or so now – as if someone was testing the receptivity of the argument.

    The atmosphere may not be warming; but if it is, this is probably due to natural variation; but if it isn’t, the amount of warming is probably not significant; but if it is, the benefits should outweigh the disadvantages; but if they don’t, technology should be able to solve problems as they arise; but if it can’t, we shouldn’t wreck the economy to fix the problem; but if the economy wouldn’t be wrecked then “Al Gore!”

  238. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Don’t tell me you’re naive about the nature of politicians. You’re a physicist remember.

  239. Richard,

    Don’t tell me you’re naive about the nature of politicians. You’re a physicist remember.

    I may well be, but am not sure why it’s relevant. However difficult certain policy options may be, does not change physical reality. Don’t tell me that you think that if we can’t do anything to address climate change, that the risks associated with it will simply go away in a moment of political reality?

  240. BBD says:

    Don’t tell me you’re naive about the nature of politicians. You’re a physicist remember.

    Now tonight, I shall read from the fable of the scorpion and frog…

  241. jsam says:

    The GWPF is a political organisation.

  242. matt says:

    > Just what would he consider a ‘major problem’? He hasn’t told you, and (not that I look much) I’ve never seen him do so. Yet, he demands numbers from you all. It’s an easy game for him to play. No matter what you present, he can just sit back and say that that’s not a major problem, or you didn’t document it well enough. (Could any degree of documentation be ‘well enough’? Another question you’re failing to ask him.)

    Roberts question is an important one that is under-utilised, and still unanswered (although I haven’t read the whole comment thread).

    Tols arguments have been exquisite,

    > Indoor air pollution kills millions per year, as does outdoor air pollution. All of these problems do more harm now than climate change is projected to do by the end of the century

    Therefore, more fossil fuels.

    Greece/Syria. Someone already dealt with this. Need I say more?

    He also likes to take one or a few consequences of CC (instead of all of them) and ask the question why mitigation is better than adaption.

    > “If you worry about wildfire, would it be cheaper and more effective to work on fire suppression or on greenhouse gas emissions?”

    > “Why are ocean acidification, agriculture, or sea level rise major concerns? Why is greenhouse gas emission reduction the best way to lessen these concerns?”

    As if we are meant to answer “Fire suppression, therefore burn, baby, burn”.

    Done for 2014. Hope to see more of Vlad and Est in 2015. Happy New Year everybody.

  243. Robert Grumbine says:

    … and the goalposts fly away …
    Tol now drops entirely the argument that there’s economic reason to not consider climate change a ‘major problem’.

    Instead, we’re lectured about ‘the nature of politicians’. Yet that’s only an argument against doing something in the present if you believe that in the future the nature of politicians will be better than it is now.

    Try that again?

    I agree that there’s a constancy to the nature of politicians (or rulers, or ruling classes, etc. — however you define the relevant beasts). Several thousand years of history attest to that. But that’s a reason not to trust to the hands of the politicians in the future. That’s reason to do whatever good you can today. There’s no reason whatever to expect that people 30 years from now, or 100 years from now, will be nobler, wiser, or have better politicians than we do today.

    So, from the dubious — that we’ll be so much wealthier in 2100 that 20% of 10 billion people’s income is less than 30% of 10 million people’s income today (a growth rate about 8%/year in real terms, shared evenly through all people) — to the absurd, that the politicians in some unspecified future date will be wiser and gooder than they are today.

    He doesn’t say exactly that. I only get to that point by assuming that he is trying to be responsive to the discussion at hand. Since I don’t believe that (even) he thinks future politicians will be nobler than today’s, it’s more sensible to reject that assumption.

    Better fit to observation, I’ll suggest, is that his comments about Greece, or indoor pollution, or the ‘obvious’ nature of the solution to coal pollution being to burn more coal, or his rantlet about the nature of politicians, etc., are red herrings. Purpose being to let you expend energy chasing them while screening the fact that he never will define his terms.

    But remember, it’s your fault (mine too, of course) for being a bunch of greenies/lefties/libtards/eco-nazis/(insert label of the day) that he refuses to engage in discussion and is throwing out red herrings instead.

  244. Ken Fabian says:

    I think growth built on methods that make the climate problem worse as being the best way to ensure we develop the best means to solve it seems to embody some serious logical flaws. Perhaps, theoretically, if backed with real commitment to solving the problem, combined with levies that put funds into R&D&D (and deployment) aimed at obsoleting fossil fuels – but it seems to me that those most enamoured of this approach are the ones with the least commitment to solving the energy/emissions/climate conundrum and are determined that fossil fuel “wealth” stranded. ie, those who most like this approach are those with the least interest or commitment to soliving the problem, and who would probably oppose significant funding be diverted to such causes. Curiously this approach seems to appear most to be those most confident that climate change is unlikely to result in significant consequences and costs ie there is an absence of great concern that delay (whilst a cumulative problem accumulates some more momentum) might be a serious mistake.

    The essential problem is a large bloc that includes influential captains of commerce and industry don’t want to face the problem at all and know they can influence politics sufficiently to avoid or delay any strong commitments to dealing with it. The potency of economic fears are more immediate and more able to move people than long term, long running, cumulative environmental fears, especially when the available tools for influencing communities and governments – political donations, lobbying, PR, advertising and tankthink – are put to full use in persuading everyone that the climate problem is overblown, the science is dodgy, the problem either too insignificant to spend pointless effort on, or too intractable to spend pointless effort on – and generally insist that facing the problem head will be ruinious whilst making the most of long-term-climate-costs-don’t-really-count loopholes.

  245. Ken Fabian says:

    Oops, A couple of typos above – “… those most enamoured of this approach… are determined that fossil fuel wealth NOT be stranded” and “… this approach seems to appeal (not appear) most to those most confident that climate change is unlikely to result…”

    Thanks for an interesting discussion and opportunity to add my 2c worth.

  246. Eli Rabett says:

    Bob

    Now some, not Eli to be sure, may say that Ricard is arguing that all those dykes have been a net loss to the Netherlands, a waste if money that could have been spent on chocolate and weed over the centuries, and perhaps some snorkels? Yet, if, indeed, that had been the case, perhaps Richard would have been mellower but then again scarcely more fanciful.

  247. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Rachel M
    Thanks for being specific about your concerns. You write that you are worried about ocean acidification because it would endanger
    1. food supply
    2. biodiversity
    3. recreation

    ad 1. Only a fraction of our food comes from the sea, and only a fraction of that is affected by the alkalinity of the ocean which, to a first approximation, affects composition rather than abundance. Besides aquaculture is rapidly replacing fishing, and is under no threat as alkalinity can be controlled.

    ad 2. If we believe Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, projected pH by the end of the century is unprecedented only in some 400,000 years, which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution. Indeed, the biological literature on ocean acidification is worried about growth rates, composition, competition but only rarely about local extinction, let alone global extinction.

    ad 3. Snorkeling and diving are only a fraction of tourism and recreation, and the vast majority of participants cannot tell a healthy from a dead reef. This is a niche concern.

  248. Richard,
    Phew, we can replace the ocean ecosystem with aquaculture, it’s only unprecedented in the last 400000 years, and tourism can continue on the Great Barrier Reef because people can’t tell the difference between a healthy and a dead reef (tell me, were you advising the Italian circus that painted a couple of dogs to look like Pandas?). It’s good of you to come along and put our minds at rest. If it wasn’t for you, we’d all be thinking that climate change was a major problem.

    Oh, and here’s the abstract from one of Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s papers on coral reefs. Are you sure you read it properly

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to exceed 500 parts per million and global temperatures to rise by at least 2°C by 2050 to 2100, values that significantly exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved. Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems. The result will be less diverse reef communities and carbonate reef structures that fail to be maintained. Climate change also exacerbates local stresses from declining water quality and overexploitation of key species, driving reefs increasingly toward the tipping point for functional collapse. This review presents future scenarios for coral reefs that predict increasingly serious consequences for reef-associated fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, and people. As the International Year of the Reef 2008 begins, scaled-up management intervention and decisive action on global emissions are required if the loss of coral-dominated ecosystems is to be avoided.

  249. Punksta says:

    @anoilman
    “There are no facts in economics, only values. ”

    Yes, for example the idea that we have finite resources; so that if the cost of energy goes up, you have less to spend on everything else, and so you end up poorer. This is just an economics opinion, completely unsubstantiated. Progressives know better.

  250. Punksta says:

    @joseph
    “we will also likely see more intensified droughts due to increased temperatures as well as longer wildfire seasons. These wildfire effects are already seen in the United States”.

    Even though surface temperatures have plateaued for nigh on 20 years now?

  251. John says:

    It’s good of you to come along and put our minds at rest. If it wasn’t for you, we’d all be thinking that climate change was a major problem.

    Yes, if you look at it just the right way, you can see that our natural ecosystems are virtually worthless, and significantly altering them won’t cost us a penny.

    Also, didn’t you read about that airplane that crashed? I don’t imagine those people are very concerned about global warming. Are you honestly trying to say that eating less fish a hundred years from now is worse than being on an airplane crash? I think you’ve got your priorities a bit mixed up, Wotts. But then again, communo-greenie-fascistic-globo-tryannical-leftist zealots like you are prone to that sort of absurdity.

  252. Punksta,

    Even though surface temperatures have plateaued for nigh on 20 years now?

    No, they haven’t.

    John,
    You make a good point 😉

  253. Punksta says:

    @pbjamm
    “Every time R.Tol comments here he is so hostile and rude ”

    A patently ludicrous claim, induced I suspect by the fact that this is a heavily moderated pro-consensus site, and Tol is in a tiny minority of dissenters.

  254. Punksta says:

    Even the IPCC has accepted the temperature plateau. As I understand it there are 40 or more attempts at explaining it.

  255. Punksta,

    A patently ludicrous claim, induced I suspect by the fact that this is a heavily moderated pro-consensus site, and Tol is in a tiny minority of dissenters.

    Yes, it is heavily moderated and describing Tol as a dissenter is probably right. You’d be hard pressed to guess that he was actually actively researching this topic, rather than simply a typical online commenter making stuff up.

    Even the IPCC has accepted the temperature plateau. As I understand it there are 40 or more attempts at explaining it.

    Nope, they have not accepted that temperatures have plateaued. Try harder!

  256. Rachel M says:

    … vast majority of participants cannot tell a healthy from a dead reef.

    Following this line of argument, the Louvre may as well sell the Mona Lisa and replace it with a fake since the vast majority of visitors probably won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. They could then use the proceeds of the sale to spend on something else.

  257. Punksta says:

    @Joseph
    “So let’s invest more in adaptation measures than we would have to if not for climate change? What if our adaptation measures fail? What if climate change is worse than we thought and the adaptation measure are not adequate?”

    What if climate change turns out to be mild? Given the uncertainties this is just as likely. It would mean we have needlessly impoverished ourselves and tied ourselves up in more red tape.

    “government policies can always be modified if they cause too much economic harm”

    Only with great difficulty. The state all to easily becomes addicted to tax revenues and powers, and wll fight and drag its feet to maintain them.

  258. Punksta,

    What if climate change turns out to be mild?

    Then we’ll be very fortunate. By the way, if your children’s school asks you to do a risk assessment for the next school trip, say no!

    Given the uncertainties this is just as likely.

    Well, this depends on our future emissions pathway. There are some for which even the uncertainties wouldn’t make it likely that warming (and the consequences of warming) won’t be severe.

    It would mean we have needlessly impoverished ourselves

    People seem to think this is self-evidently true and yet many experts disagree.

  259. Punksta says:

    THERE are experts who argue that having to spend more on energy* will not leave with less to spend on everything else (iow make us poorer) ? Any idea what their supposed rationale is?

    * and of course all the goods and services we use that themselves consume energy in being created.

  260. jsam says:

    It is worthwhile googling the posting history of new entrants to a blog commentary. Rather than argue with a rock you might consider blocking it. Rocks refuse to learn.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php?a=11&p=5

  261. Punksta says:

    The IPCC may not have accepted that temperatures have plateaued indefinitely, but they certainly have accepted the post-1998 plateau. (Given what a a bitter pill for them to swallow this is, this gives their position credence).

  262. Punksta,

    THERE are experts who argue that having to spend more on energy* will not leave with less to spend on everything else (iow make us poorer) ? Any idea what their supposed rationale is?

    No, there are experts who argue that we can mitigate climate change at little cost to economic growth. A few things to bear in mind. It seems unlikely that fossil fuels will remain cheap. Maybe if we use coal without scrubbers and without considering externalities (pollution, CO2 emissions) then coal would be cheaper in the short term, but someone would pay for it’s use eventually. Additionally, it seems unlikely that alternatives won’t become cheaper as their use becomes more common and as we develop new technologies. So, maybe you should consider that your assertion that acting on climate will definitely increase energy prices may not necessarily be true.

    I will add, however, that it is probably true that acting will not come without any costs, but then one should at least acknowledge that not acting isn’t cost free either.

  263. Punksta,

    The IPCC may not have accepted that temperatures have plateaued indefinitely, but they certainly have accepted the post-1998 plateau.

    No they have not. Try reading things more carefully.

  264. jsam says:

    In my prior link, punksta can be found at comment 221. He’s been arguing, and losing, the “no warming” meme for at last two years.

  265. MikeH says:

    @Richard Tol

    According to the Queensland Government “The Great Barrier Reef supports a range of tourism and other activities worth $5.6 billion a year to the economy and supports 69,000 jobs.”
    http://www.reeffacts.qld.gov.au/documents/reef-facts.pdf

    What the tourists come to see

    bleached

    I think you would notice

  266. jsam says:

    Pfft. Bright colours have marginal economic value. The tourists will still come to hear the history. They come to battlefields to hear about the dead after all. There will be no net loss.

  267. dmcrob says:

    “ad 3. Snorkeling and diving are only a fraction of tourism and recreation, and the vast majority of participants cannot tell a healthy from a dead reef. This is a niche concern.”

    Now there is an economist speaking. “One bit of silica next to the water is indistinguishable from the next, there is no economic reason why beaches in North Scotland should be less popular than those in Spain”.

  268. Richard,
    I must admit that when you say something like you did about the Great Barrier Reef, I start to wonder if you’re just pulling our legs. It is patently ridiculous. The reason I’m confused though, is that much of what you say appears ridiculous, so if you are just joking in some circumstances, it might be worth making that clearer.

    Maybe we can address this, though. You said,

    If we believe Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, projected pH by the end of the century is unprecedented only in some 400,000 years, which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution.

    Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s abstract says,

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to exceed 500 parts per million and global temperatures to rise by at least 2°C by 2050 to 2100, values that significantly exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved.

    The above is not consistent with your claim. What is being said above is that the values significantly exceed those during the time period when most marine organisms evolved. Given your apparent desire to provide evidence and reasoning when asserting something, would you care to issue a correction? In fact, it might be good if your next comment were to directly address this issue, rather than brushing it under the carpet and moving onto something else.

  269. Punksta says:

    It may well be true that for political reasons the IPCC has not been exactly upfront about it, but they are certainly well aware of the plateau. Others may be plateau-deniers, but not the IPCC, not in their hearts anyway.
    Numerous references here :
    http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_Chapter09.pdf
    Sample:
    “Almost all CMIP5 historical simulations do not reproduce the observed recent warming hiatus” (emphasis added).

  270. jsam says:

    As a polite request to the moderators, would you mind moderating out erroneous, repetitive, denialist chants, please?

  271. Punksta says:

    jsam
    The path to the truth is never easy, and inherently involves interacting with those with whom ones disagrees. Which to be sure is not easy-going or reassuring.
    But do you *really* want to shut yourself off and only preach and be preached to by the converted?

  272. MikeH says:

    Punksta. You are linking to a draft report which says “Do Not Cite, Quote or Distribute”. Given the final version is now available, I assume that is just laziness.

    From the final version (and unchanged from the draft), a few lines above your quote mine, a definition of “warming hiatus” – “In summary, the observed recent warming hiatus, defined as the reduction in GMST trend during 1998–2012 as compared to the trend during 1951–2012 …”

    Global warming denial is boring as batshit. If you need a New Year’s resolution you could do worse than starting right there.

  273. Punksta says:

    Mike H
    The objective fact remains that the IPCC is aware of the plateau.

    This obviously doesn’t mean that CO2 is not a concern. It may just be that is matters less than we have been relentlessly urged to believe. Or that the heat is going into the oceans maybe.

    But denying what even the IPCC admits is just pointless.

  274. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Rachel
    Do you recall the world tour of the Terracotta Army? Recent replicas, each and every one of them. Big crowds nonetheless. You don’t need the real thing to make money.

  275. Punksta says:

    jsam
    The path the truth also takes a detour around credulousness.
    Which is a suggestion to both deniers and truebelievers to be skeptical at all times.

  276. jsam says:

    Deniers reading comprehension needs improvement. Mishandled cherry picking backfires.

    “The observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years ” AR5 p769

    A slowdown is not a plateau. Getting hit by a car at 40mph rather than 100mph does not mean the car had stopped.

    The Arctic is melting more quickly than thought. It may just be that it matters more than we have been relentlessly urged to believe.

    Are you denying the oceans are warming?

  277. jsam says:

    @Tol
    I thought I had Poed you with “Pfft. Bright colours have marginal economic value. The tourists will still come to hear the history. They come to battlefields to hear about the dead after all. There will be no net loss.”

    And then you respond with “Do you recall the world tour of the Terracotta Army? Recent replicas, each and every one of them. Big crowds nonetheless. You don’t need the real thing to make money.”

    It’s turtles all the way down.

  278. jsam,

    It’s turtles all the way down.

    Yes, I must admit that I’m somewhat confused by this discussion. It’s hard to believe that Tol is being serious given that much of what he says seems particularly silly. On the other hand, that is consistent with things he’s said elsewhere so either it’s an ongoing parody, or he’s serious. Maybe Richard should consider that it’s not the Left/Greens who are making rational discussion impossible, it’s that he’s neither able to recognise nor hold one.

    Richard,
    You do realise that the Terracotta Army was never actually alive. I notice that you’ve also not addressed your apparent mis-interpretation of what Ove Hoegh-Gulberg said. Are you planning to do so, or are you just going to – as per usual – let it hang?

  279. Robert Grumbine says:

    @tol
    Wow. Any fraction less than 100% is ‘only a fraction’. Anything less than 100% of people is ‘only a niche concern’. What an easy game to play. Getting back to your Greek example, then, it’s only a ‘niche concern’, since Greece isn’t the world. And they lost ‘only a fraction’ of their income. Why, then, did you mention it at all? In context, it seemed that you considered this a real issue, even ‘major problem’ (at least compared to climate change, which is not, to you).

    To take up one of those ‘only a fraction’ dismissals of yours, fish supply the main source of animal protein to over 1 billion people. (WHO). Only a fraction, just a niche concern, you say. (Besides — I hear the keyboard already — that doesn’t matter, they can all just eat cake .. er, vegetable protein .. instead.)

    @Rachel
    As I suggested above, there are value issues. You value healthy coral reefs, Tol, or the character he is playing here, does not. To borrow a phrase — incommensurable paradigms.

  280. Given economists’ inability to accurately predict long -term movements in the economy—even though they are, by and large, the people tasked with manipulating it—it’s not surprising that they have such difficulty in imagining the economic impacts of climate change over the next century.

    There’s another point. From what I’ve seen, economists are very much believers in the “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” principle. In practice this works like the ‘inverse-square law’ and means that they believe a small benefit today might not be a terribly good idea if it produces a negative impact a decade hence, it certainly overrides in importance any negative effect in 50 years’ time, however large.

    So do different types of people just think in different time scales?

  281. Rachel M says:

    Richard Tol,

    Do you recall the world tour of the Terracotta Army? Recent replicas, each and every one of them. Big crowds nonetheless. You don’t need the real thing to make money.

    I didn’t mention anything about making money. Indeed that was partly the point I wanted to make: there is value in things like coral reefs, works of art, magnificent architecture, that is completely separate from and in addition to the income they may or may not generate. This value comes from the enrichment they bring to our lives and although I acknowledge that this is difficult to quantify it should not be a reason to ignore it. If you personally see no value in these things then you must recognise that this is just your personal opinion and it should not interfere with your evaluation of the benefits delivered to other people and to society as a whole. World leading economists should be able to find a way to measure these benefits and to put a number on them.

  282. @Punksta

    Climate models were never built to predict short term trends. The models that predict those are used by weather forecasters.

    The current slow down in the rate of temperature rise is well within the variability that was to be expected, much like the exceptional warming that led up the 1998 peak was well within the expected natural variability. How many times does it need to be said that all that matters is the long term trend?

    This might help (In particular fig 3): http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/2011-earths-11th-warmest-year-where-is-the-climate-headed

  283. @Rachel

    It’s not for nothing that we call some things, ‘priceless’. I wonder if that word is in Prof Tol’s lexicon?

  284. andrew adams says:

    Robert and Rachel have it spot on. Even if one disregards the importance of the barrier reef for the wider ocean ecosystem, it’s still something which many people value highly, as are other natural environments and the flora and fauna which they contain, even if they hold no particular attraction for Richard. That is why the economic comparisons between mitigating or adapting to climate change aren’t necessarily sufficient to dictate which course of action we should give priority to. I don’t doubt that it’s possible to assign an economic value to the barrier reef and other natural resources for the purpose of such calculations, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that people are in practice happy to give up such resources in return for saving that amount in climate mitigation costs. So although economics can certainly inform the debate the question of whether and to what extent to act on climate change is a political one and not merely an economic one.

  285. jsam says:

    This should be tattooed on every denier’s forehead.

    The 30 year trend is 0.17C per decade – right where models said it would be.

  286. As Oscar Wilde supposedly said

    “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market place of any single thing.”

    I would still quite like to see Richard both address his apparent error with respect to what Ove Hoegh-Gulberg said and to attempt to define the assumptions he’s making with respect to his preferred options. It does appear that his view is based on completely ignoring the possibility of severe events in the future since the cost today of minimising these risks is not worth it, and because the market would both respond to any future event and correct for any future event anyway. If that isn’t Richard’s basic premise, he’s welcome to clarify.

  287. dikranmarsupial says:

    I have to say that I am deeply unimpressed by Prof. Tols style of argument on this thread. If he wanted to appear to be an internet troll rather than an academic, he could have done little better than engage in the sort of transparent rhetorical devices he has used on this thread. For example:

    Earlier in the thread Prof. Tol was asking for detail from those with whom he was arguing, and did precisely nothing constructive with the answers. This is a very old rhetorical trick, the basic idea is to avoid dealing with the central question by asking for a detailed basis for the argument in the hopes that the list will include a weak point to exploit, and if no such weakpoint could be found, then you could always scoff at the level of detail. This is pretty much what Prof. Tol did.

    Just to show how transparent the rhetoric is, look at his replies to the points made by others:

    “ad 1. Only a fraction of our food comes from the sea, and only a fraction of that is affected by the alkalinity of the ocean which, to a first approximation, affects composition rather than abundance. Besides aquaculture is rapidly replacing fishing, and is under no threat as alkalinity can be controlled.”

    Notice the utter lack of any detail here or evidence to suggest that the values of these fractions actually supports his position. All this does is spin the argument out a bit longer by putting the pressure on others to provide the evidence that the fractions do not support his argument. This is pretty shabby behaviour in a rational discussion IMHO.

    However he spoils this by writing

    “ad 3. Snorkeling and diving are only a fraction of tourism and recreation, and the vast majority of participants cannot tell a healthy from a dead reef. This is a niche concern.”

    which is just such obvious “nonsense” [not the word that initially came to mind], which he himself must know isn’t actually true.

    Sorry Prof. Tol, you are scoring an own goal here, if you want to talk to people who don’t already agree with you, you have to take the discussion seriously and drop the rhetoric.

  288. Willard says:

    Richard’s just testing his talking points, AT. See how he used the Greek tragedy to get at Lagarde.

  289. Willard,

    See how he used the Greek tragedy to get at Lagarde.

    Yes, that was clever (for want of a better word).

  290. Michael 2 says:

    dikranmarsupial says: (December 31, 2014 at 2:32 pm) “This is a very old rhetorical trick, the basic idea is to avoid dealing with the central question by asking for a detailed basis for the argument in the hopes that the list will include a weak point to exploit.”

    A good response is to go ahead and provide a detailed answer. It doesn’t matter much whether you convince the asker of the question or he finds a weak point — in fact, you hope that he does so you can then offer another detailed answer. You’ll notice that readers here are usually careful not to ask me questions requiring a detailed answer after using that technique on me. But mostly I don’t have detailed answers on science (I can do quite a bit more with politics and belief systems; regarding which climate change invokes both at the same time).

  291. M2,

    A good response is to go ahead and provide a detailed answer.

    Not if you’re trying to actually have a rational discussion.

  292. Joshua says:

    M2 –

    ==> ” You’ll notice that readers here are usually careful not to ask me questions requiring a detailed answer after using that technique on me.”

    That;s interesting. I have asked you questions asking you for detailed answers and found that your tendency is either to not respond (as in the thread downstairs) or provide responses where I can’t see the connection between the details in your answer and the details I asked for in my question.

  293. SDK says:

    I’ve sometimes wondered if Tol is the Stephen Colbert of climate change. The amount of ridiculousness that he manages to get off his shoulders is astounding. And growing… Has to be satire, right?

    Then again, back at Uni we were all laughing at the Libertarians, although most outgrew the adolescent, one-dimensional worldview with time. And the pattern is most always the same: Write the conclusions first, and then go scavenger-hunting for the evidence afterwards. It’s logic done completely and utterly arse-backwards.

  294. dikranmarsupial says:

    M2 no DNFTT is a better approach. Rational discussion requires both parties to be making a genuine attempt to reach the truth, and that will usually mean both side willing to give direct answers to direct questions, to make use of the answers they are given to their questions, and agreeing with those parts of the answers which they agree are correct. If someone indulges in rhetorical devices is it an indication that they are not interested in reaching the correct conclusion, just winning the argument (and is normally an also an indication that they know their position is weak, as otherwise they would be keen to keep the discussion to the facts).

  295. dana1981 says:

    As long as we’re citing Ove H-G,

    [Coral reef] Extinction has never been the issue here. The issue is as follows: If corals become rarer (and/or calcify less) due to ocean warming and acidification (e.g. (Bruno and Selig 2007; De’ath et al. 2009) then their ability to build and maintain coral reefs will be diminished. This in turn will decrease the ability of coral reefs to provide ecological services and support to over 500 million people worldwide.

    And to correct Tol’s error, the IAP statement on ocean acidification says (emphasis added),

    Global atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now at 387 ppm. If current trends in CO2 emissions continue, model projections suggest that by mid-century CO2 concentrations will be more than double pre-industrial levels and the oceans will be more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years. The current rate of change is much more rapid than during any event over the last 65 million years. These changes in ocean chemistry are irreversible for many thousands of years, and the biological consequences could last much longer.

  296. dana1981 says:

    As a side note, you would hope that someone who says

    I don’t believe in the impacts of climate change, I research them.

    would research them a little more carefully.

  297. Dana,
    Indeed, also I suspect that Richard means “economic impact” not just “impact”.

  298. dhogaza says:

    Richard Tol: ” Snorkeling and diving are only a fraction of tourism and recreation, and the vast majority of participants cannot tell a healthy from a dead reef.”

    This should be saved, and trotted out wherever Tol posts, as a sort of summary of the set of values that those unconcerned with the effects of climate change on the biosphere adhere to.

    It is not an argument that the average person on the street will find convincing. In fact, I believe that most would be repelled by it.

    Though SDK’s suggestion that Tol might just be a parody of a right-wing economist in the style of Colbert is an interesting one.

  299. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Rachel
    Valuing natural resources is something that many environmental economists do for a living. A common finding is that the vast majority of people cares a little about these matters, and a small minority cares a lot.

  300. Richard,
    Can I remind you that this statement of yours:

    If we believe Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, projected pH by the end of the century is unprecedented only in some 400,000 years, which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution.

    appears to be wrong. Care to clarify? (of course you don’t, but I feel I do have to at least ask again)

    Can I suggest that given this

    A common finding is that the vast majority of people cares a little about these matters, and a small minority cares a lot.

    you should qualify all of what you say with my work is based on the assumption that most do not regard natural resources, such as the Great Barrier Reef, as having any intrinsic value. At least we would all then understand the basic assumptions that underpin your research into the impact of climate change.

    I will add that I would be interested in seeing some evidence for your claim, as it would not appear to be obviously true.

  301. Joshua says:

    I wonder how many times Anders will ask Tol for clarification before it happens?

    I think that’s four now.

  302. Joshua says:

    ==> “my work is based on the assumption that most do not regard natural resources, such as the Great Barrier Reef, as having any intrinsic value.”

    I’m beginning to see a noble cause to Richard’s advocacy. He is dedicating his life and his work to the things that matter to a lot of people, and to fighting against the elite who are trying to steer the world towards issues that only matter to a few. For example, he is concerned about white males focusing inordinately on issues like the Great Barrier Reef. He’s a champion of the people.

    But I don’t quite get how that explains spending so much time on Cook13? Maybe because Cook13 is “completely destroy[ing] our ability to think rationally about the environment?”

  303. BBD says:

    If we believe Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, projected pH by the end of the century is unprecedented only in some 400,000 years, which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution.

    Not this again.

    The marine ecosystem challenge is not simply the size of the pH change it is primarily rate of the change. The same is true of warming and applies equally to terrestrial ecosystems.

    The relevant study is Hönisch et al. (2012) which indicates that the rate of ocean acidification is greater now than at any time in the last 300 million years.

    I did suggest to RT that he just stop. He should have done.

  304. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Recall that Rachel started all this, giving “the loss of species” as her second reason for concern on ocean acidification.

    The (unprecedented in) 400 kyr is from OHG et al. in Science (as you know since you found the paper without me referring you to it). It is the highest-cited (according to Google Scholar) paper with keywords ocean, acidification and extinction.

    Reefs go back hundreds of millions of years, so it is immaterial whether OHG is off by an order of magnitude or two.

    As Dana rightly notes (again channeling OHG) “[e]xtinction has never been the issue here”.

  305. BBD says:

    And Richard Tol simply ignores the key issue of rate of pH change and keeps on peddling.

  306. Richard,

    Recall that Rachel started all this, giving “the loss of species” as her second reason for concern on ocean acidification.

    I don’t really care who started it. That doesn’t justify responding with information that is not correct.

    The (unprecedented in) 400 kyr is from OHG et al.

    This is not what it says! Try reading it again, slowly this time. I repeat: your interpretation of OHG is wrong, what you claimed on the basis of OHG is wrong. You can’t just take a bunch of words and rearrange them to suit the interpretation that you want. You have to leave them in the order that they were presented and, ideally, interpret what was said as it was intended, not as you wish to interpret it. If you really want, I’ll go through the abstract with you to explain where you’re going wrong, but I find it hard to believe that you’re unable to do this yourself.

  307. BBD says:

    The alternative would be that RT is lying, ATTP.

  308. dana1981 says:

    Tol goes from (emphasis added)

    If we believe Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, projected pH by the end of the century is unprecedented only in some 400,000 years, which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution.

    to

    The (unprecedented in) 400 kyr is from OHG et al. in Science … Reefs go back hundreds of millions of years, so it is immaterial whether OHG is off by an order of magnitude or two.

    while Ove H-G actually says (emphasis added)

    values that significantly exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years

    and IAP elaborates further

    by mid-century CO2 concentrations will be more than double pre-industrial levels and the oceans will be more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years. The current rate of change is much more rapid than during any event over the last 65 million years. These changes in ocean chemistry are irreversible for many thousands of years, and the biological consequences could last much longer.

    It must be gremlins at work again.

  309. Richard Tol should strongly consider BBD’s point that the rate of pH change is more important than the absolute pH change, because adaptation via migration and evolution is rate limited. He should also click on BBD’s link to Hönisch et al. (2012), and ask himself if he really wants posterity to remember him for spreading all this GWPF civilization-paralyzing misinformation. There are other hobbies which don’t involve permanently staining one’s legacy. If you really want to be destructive, just play Grand Theft Auto.

    Anyone who seriously thinks coral reefs are immune to ocean acidification because they’ve been around for hundreds of millions of years might want to read these papers:

    Payne and Clapham 2012: End-Permian Mass Extinction in the Oceans: An Ancient Analog for the Twenty-First Century?

    “The greatest loss of biodiversity in the history of animal life occurred at the end of the Permian Period (~252 million years ago). This biotic catastrophe coincided with an interval of widespread ocean anoxia and the eruption of one of Earth’s largest continental flood basalt provinces, the Siberian Traps. Volatile release from basaltic magma and sedimentary strata during emplacement of the Siberian Traps can account for most end-Permian paleontological and geochemical observations. Climate change and, perhaps, destruction of the ozone layer can explain extinctions on land, whereas changes in ocean oxygen levels, CO2, pH, and temperature can account for extinction selectivity across marine animals. These emerging insights from geology, geochemistry, and paleobiology suggest that the end-Permian extinction may serve as an important ancient analog for twenty-first century oceans.”

    Kiessling and Simpson 2010: On the potential for ocean acidification to be a general cause of ancient reef crises

    “Anthropogenic rise in the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere leads to global warming and acidification of the oceans. Ocean acidification (OA) is harmful to many organisms but especially to those that build massive skeletons of calcium carbonate, such as reef corals. Here, we test the recent suggestion that OA leads not only to declining calcification of reef corals and reduced growth rates of reefs but may also have been a trigger of ancient reef crises and mass extinctions in the sea. We analyse the fossil record of biogenic reefs and marine organisms to (1) assess the timing and intensity of ancient reef crises, (2) check which reef crises were concurrent with inferred pulses of carbon dioxide concentrations and (3) evaluate the correlation between reef crises and mass extinctions and their selectivity in terms of inferred physiological buffering. We conclude that four of five global metazoan reef crises in the last 500 Myr were probably at least partially governed by OA and rapid global warming. However, only two of the big five mass extinctions show geological evidence of OA.”

  310. Willard says:

    A message from the Grrrowth Worth Power Foundation:

  311. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Not sure what you’re getting at. I paraphrased “exceed those of at least the past 420,000 years” as “unprecedented in 400 kyr”. That doesn’t change the meaning, or does it?

  312. Robert Grumbine says:

    Just a reminder folks: It’s yet to be established that Tol would consider the extinction of all non-human life on earth to be a ‘major problem’.

    The actual biology of coral, et al., is interesting in its own right. Well, interesting to me, not Tol (per his dismissal of his glaring error in reporting a scientific result).

  313. Richard,
    Firstly, you missed out the word significantly. Furthermore, your actual statement included

    which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution

    If you read the OHG abstract it says

    the past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved.

    Therefore, the last 420000 years is the period during which most extant marine organisms evolved. By the end of this century atmospheric CO2 – and hence pH – levels are expected to significantly exceed those of the last 420000 year. Therefore this suggests that most current species have not experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution.

  314. Robert,

    Just a reminder folks: It’s yet to be established that Tol would consider the extinction of all non-human life on earth to be a ‘major problem’.

    As long as we can maintain a market, and as long as it could adapt to this scenario, then I get the impression that Richard wouldn’t see this as a ‘major problem’. He is, of course, welcome to clarify.

  315. dana1981 says:

    ATTP,

    By the end of this century the pH levels are expected to significantly exceed those of the last 420000 year

    I think this is a pretty big understatement. First, I don’t know how quickly ocean pH responds to changes in atmospheric CO2 (pretty quickly I would think), but since current CO2 levels are higher than they’ve been in millions of years, I would guess that ocean pH levels may already exceed those over the past 420k years. In any case, again, the IAP statement (signed by 70 academies of science) went much futher:

    by mid-century CO2 concentrations will be more than double pre-industrial levels and the oceans will be more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years. The current rate of change is much more rapid than during any event over the last 65 million years. These changes in ocean chemistry are irreversible for many thousands of years, and the biological consequences could last much longer.

  316. BBD says:

    FFS, Richard. Really.

  317. Robert Grumbine says:

    @attp
    I’ll leave aside tol for now. He’s boring at best.

    As a physicist, you’ll appreciate this observation — Economists (Tol included) are applying differentials to integral quantities. Differentials are their hammer. By way of example, consider the value of a US life. Economists measure this in various ways, all of them being differentials. ex: How much more do you have to pay somebody to take a job that is riskier than some other job. Extrapolate from there over a person’s entire life, and bingo, value of a human life. In the US, the answers, last I looked, are in the range of $2-10 million. (Though, if you applied this to smokers, they give negative value to their lives — they’re paying money to engage in something that reduces their live expectancy.) In going to things like ecosystems, Tol et al., do the same things.

    But … would you really consider yourself properly compensated of someone gave you a check for $10 million after murdering your child? The integral value expressed by human response is quite a bit different than the differentials.

    That conflict between market and morals was recognized back to the origin (give or take) of free market thinking. Adam Smith himself noted the issue. And was upfront about the fact (he felt) that it was _necessary_ for moral considerations to be applied to how the market was allowed to operate as the market itself could not do so.

    Within the realm of differential changes, economics can be pretty informative and useful. But it is problematic at best to scale up to integral situations — murder, slavery, extinction, ….

    imnsho, of course.

  318. John says:

    Vlad: I’ve just done some analysis. If we keep digging down deeper, there will come a point where we’ll no longer be able to see the sky.
    Est: So what?
    Vlad: What do you mean, “so what?”
    Est: What’s the sky ever done for you, huh? Ever made a dollar off it?
    Vlad: Well, no…
    Est: See? It’s utterly, completely void of value.
    Vlad: I think you’re missing the point. It’s just kind of nice to look at sometimes.
    Est: Here, then.
    Vlad: What’s this?
    Est: It’s a picture of the sky.
    Vlad: Ah. It’s lovely, but it’s not quite the same.
    Est: Of course it’s not the same. Unlike the sky, the picture has value. It cost two whole dollars.
    Vlad: How did you afford it?
    Est: I had a speaking engagement.
    Vlad: Oh, where?
    Est: I gave the keynote address at the American Policy and Legislation Think Tank for Freedom and Prosperity and Liberty Foundation.
    Vlad: Oh, I see. Wait, aren’t they funded by a shovel-making company?

  319. Joseph says:

    A common finding is that the vast majority of people cares a little about these matters, and a small minority cares a lot.

    Well the topic may not come up much, but here in the US I think the public would in an uproar if we closed down our national parks. That is one of the primary concerns every time we go through one of our end of the year budget showdowns. So I really think you are underestimating how much people value these type of natural resources.

  320. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    I guess we’re talking at cross-purposes. That reefs are old (Very Old) was something I added — assuming that (a) this is well known and (b) uncontroversial (unless you’re a creationist like He Who Should Not Be Named).

  321. pbjamm says:

    You guys are missing the point here. If those reefs had a stronger economy the Polyps could afford to adapt to the minimal changes to their environment. Adding burdensome regulations and taxes to cheap, plentiful fossil fuels will hinder their effort to deal with the problems those fuels exacerbate.

  322. BBD says:

    Well I’d just like to thank Richard Tol for his gracious and prompt acknowledgement of error. Always speaks well for a man, that.

  323. Lucifer says:

    Just a reminder folks: It’s yet to be established that Tol would consider the extinction of all non-human life on earth to be a ‘major problem’.

    I like science fiction as much as the next demon, but I may have missed that movie.

    Look – warming is a trend.
    Extrapolate ANY trend enough in the future and adversities ensue.

    But if we’re going to worry about science fiction, we might consider the other ones that will occur a lot sooner and appear to be happening, like dehumanizing artificial intelligence and technological police states.

  324. Joseph says:

    Maybe Tol thinks that we should not be concerned about regional impacts because they are so small compared to the whole(The Australians will get over it eventually). Robert said something similar earlier.

  325. dana1981 says:

    I guess we’re talking at cross-purposes.

    I think that’s right. For most of us, our purpose is to accurately evaluate the full costs of climate change impacts. Tol’s purpose seems to be to downplay them in an exceptionally biased manner. Tol’s other purpose seems to be to never admit that he’s wrong, even though he seems to be wrong quite frequently.

  326. Robert Grumbine says:

    @lucifer
    You may not have missed the science fiction movies, but you did miss the commentary in this thread. I’m quite confident that climate change will not, on the scale of several hundred million years at least, extinguish all life on earth.

    Tol said that climate change was not a ‘major problem’. I’ve invited him a few times to tell us how he defines ‘major problem’. He refuses. He also gives no example of ‘major problem’. As far as his statements go, it is an open question whether even the extinction of all nonhuman life on earth would qualify. There may be, for Tol, no such thing as a major problem, making it more disingenuous than usual in climateball(tm) to be asking people for evidence of one.

  327. jsam says:

    @Lucifer

    “Look – warming is a trend.
    Extrapolate ANY trend enough in the future and adversities ensue.”

    True.
    Advocating continuing the addition of CO2 drives that trend that leads to warming. Adversities will ensue.

    It’s a choice. Tol is in the hope for the best plan for the best camp.

  328. Richard,

    That reefs are old (Very Old) was something I added — assuming that (a) this is well known and (b) uncontroversial (unless you’re a creationist like He Who Should Not Be Named).

    So, by using the word recent you actually meant old( Very Old)? Good thing I wasn’t yet sipping my Champagne or I might have just spat it all out over our new lounge suite. Happy New Year everyone!

  329. Lucifer says:

    Robert Grumbine,

    Tol said that climate change was not a ‘major problem’.

    You indicate the present tense – it’s not clear that climate change is a problem at all in the present tense. Were warming to continue indefinitely, someday, well beyond our natural lifespans, problems would emerge.

    Extinctions are a hypothetical extreme, and given the exposure to change through the evolution of speices, unlikely. Warming from CO2 in comparison with the variability of day-to-day, and local year-to-year temperature changes is small, not to mention day-to-night and winter-to-summer. Species that were so fragile as not to withstand natural variance were selected out of the gene pool very long ago.

  330. jsam says:

    It’s not certain that if I hit the wall I’m approaching at 30mph that I won’t survive.

  331. pbjamm says:

    It is New Years Eve and yet reading Lucifer’s comments I feel like I am traveling back in time. Like Billy Pilgrim reliving, and rehashing the same old arguments.

  332. dana1981 says:

    Extinctions are a hypothetical extreme, and given the exposure to change through the evolution of speices, unlikely.

    I think the word for this is “denial” (or possibly just ignorance).

  333. Meow says:

    Once more I am puzzled by the argument that we easily can adapt to widespread crop failures, diminished ocean productivity, stronger storms, and coastal flooding, but any attempt to reduce fossil fuel use will cause economic collapse.

  334. Meow says:

    Warming from CO2 in comparison with the variability of day-to-day, and local year-to-year temperature changes is small, not to mention day-to-night and winter-to-summer.

    Love this one. Also too, the difference in global average surface temperature between the peak of an ice age and the peak of an interglacial is < 6 degrees C, which is small "in comparison with the variability of day-to-day, and local year-to-year temperature changes…not to mention day-to-night and winter-to-summer."

  335. Steve Bloom says:

    Well, coral reefs. It’s strange and IMO not a little dishonest to appeal to the antiquity of present corals without mentioning how the whole story. For those who don’t know, the old coral species were wiped out entirely by the P-T extinction event and the current ones (scleractinians) had to evolve (probably from sea urchins).into the vacant niche(s) over the course of millions of years. Arguably the P-T event was the last time the climate system got pushed on to a degree comparable to the present. But no worries, right, Richard?

  336. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP’s in-house conjugation:

    I correct misrepresented science

    You nitpick

    He is a big smelly poo

    Happy new year, doomwankers. May 2015 bring your nightmares appropriate support from the peer-reviewed literature (or, failing that, from a video or two by Thom Hartmann) and may it be the year when apocaloptometrists and catastrophilatelists finally get to be taken a bit more seriously by people who should know better.

  337. izen says:

    @-Richard S.J. Tol
    ” That reefs are old (Very Old) was something I added — assuming that (a) this is well known and (b) uncontroversial (unless you’re a creationist like He Who Should Not Be Named).”

    Reefs are quite young, the Great Barrier Reef is a product of the Holocene, and the species that make up present day reefs are often younger than man.
    The geological history of coral reefs is one of boom and bust. Driven at least in part by small shifts in ocean chemistry. Reefs have grown in the same locations for many millions of years, but it is not the same reef species.

    Trees are old (Very Old) but that does not mean the same species of tree form the forests now that form the forests of the Dinosaurs.

    It is not that I would expect that Richard Tol to know this about coral reefs.
    But I would expect a careful and intelligent person to check before making a claim about how acidification of the oceans is not a threat to reefs because they are – ‘old (Very Old)’.
    Unfortunate as well to then claim this egregiously inaccurate ‘knowledge’ is uncontroversial, except with YECs.

    I can only conclude that someone with exceptional satirical skills has entertained us all most ably during this festive season and commend whoever has been imitating Richard S J Tol for the wonderful work.
    However I do hope that whoever has perpetrated this extended POE manages to retain anonymity given the surpassingly effective job that you have done in making R Tol look malicious, hypocritical and ignorant.

    Happy new year – grin

  338. Steve Bloom says:

    Oops, missed DS’s 5:25 pm comment, basically making the same point with references. Thanks for that, DS.

    Just to add, OHG and others are very worried about the corals in part because they are excruciatingly aware of this history.

  339. pbjamm says:

    I think Vinny must have started drinking already.

  340. I think Vinny must have started drinking already.

    Seems that way. Maybe we should all find out what he’s had and have some ourselves?

  341. izen says:

    @-” That reefs are old (Very Old) was something I added — assuming that (a) this is well known and (b) uncontroversial (unless you’re a creationist like He Who Should Not Be Named).”

    A further reflection on this comment, coral reefs form a well recognized geological stratigraphy. A reef is continuously eroded by the sea and survives by continually growing. Like a rain forest it is a dynamic system that can persist in good conditions, but will vanish if ocean currents, chemistry or levels shift. Cf the Sahara.

    Decoding the pattern of active coral reef formation, its halt and subsequent erosion followed by later new reef formation in the geological record was one of the key clues in the early years of geology that indicated the vast geological ages that stretch behind us.
    And the pattern of growth and extinction it recorded.

    So in the light of the comment about reefs being very old, something uncontroversial except amongst creationists, it is ironic that one of the early researchers who did a lot of work on this cyclic pattern of reef formation and failure was Darwin.

  342. Lucifer says:

    “the difference in global average surface temperature between the peak of an ice age and the peak of an interglacial is < 6 degrees C"

    Right! And there wasn't a mass extinction when this happened!

  343. Lucifer,

    Right! And there wasn’t a mass extinction when this happened!

    Nice dodge. The point – in case it wasn’t obvious – is that you suggested that a few degrees change in global temperature was much less than what is seen regionally or in variations between the seasons. And yet, a 6 degrees change in global temperature is enough to move us from the peak of an ice age to an inter-glacial.

    This is the point where you go “oh, I see. There’s a big difference between regional and seasonal variations and a change in the global average temperature”…isn’t it?

  344. dana1981 says:

    And there wasn’t a mass extinction when this happened!

    That’s because the temperature change happened over about 7,000 years as opposed to a couple centuries. A lot of species did go extinct nonetheless.

    Why do contrarians have such a difficult time grasping the concept that it’s the rate of change that’s the biggest problem? That seems to be a running theme in this discussion.

  345. Good grief. Glacial to interglacial transitions take ~10,000 years. If we follow the GWPF’s advice and keep treating the atmosphere like a free sewer, we could warm by that much in ~100 years. Anyone notice a few zeros difference between those rates? Apparently it’s impossible to convince contrarians that adaptation via migration and evolution depend on the rate of change. What a ridiculous and depressing epitaph for a civilization.

  346. Robert Grumbine says:

    Oh well. New Year on the way. I’ll be returning to blogging more regularly.

    Hope everyone has a happy and healthy 2015!

  347. Rachel M says:

    Richard Tol,

    A common finding is that the vast majority of people cares a little about these matters, and a small minority cares a lot.

    The 2 million or so people who visit and get pleasure out of the Great Barrier Reef annually is not a small minority of people who care. That some people are unconcerned is not a reason to ignore that others, however few, think the issue is important. What matters are our reasons for caring. I think I also read somewhere once that for every letter of protest to a politician, there is a much larger group of people who feel the same way but who, for various reasons, remain silent.

    Self-proclaimed climate “Skeptics” will often argue that those of us who want effective action to combat climate change are trying to lower their quality of life. Things like coral reefs, forests, parks, splendid landscapes to admire, and a natural world to be enchanted by, are part of our quality of life. Climate change threatens some of these finer aspects of our lives.

    I feel I should add here that although I see intrinsic value in coral reefs, this in no way trumps the more basic needs of the 30 million or so people who are completely dependent on them for their livelihoods. It just happens to be a happy coincidence that the existence of something that brings pleasure to so many, also happens to provide the basic necessities in life to so many others. Seems like a protecting them should be a no-brainer.

  348. Infopath says:

    Robert, I hope you do.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  349. Rachel M says:

    Happy New Year to all!

  350. Robert,
    Thanks and hope you have a happy and healthy 2015 too. Looking forward to someone else doing some more blogging 🙂

    Hope everyone else has a happy and healthy 2015 too.

  351. Eli Rabett says:

    Robert and John are doing so much better at this, perhaps Eli might make a point. When Robert writes

    To take up one of those ‘only a fraction’ dismissals of yours, fish supply the main source of animal protein to over 1 billion people. (WHO). Only a fraction, just a niche concern, you say. (Besides — I hear the keyboard already — that doesn’t matter, they can all just eat cake .. er, vegetable protein .. instead.)

    Eli rather expects they would prefer Soylent Economist. Preferably after singeing and plucking.

  352. Lucifer says:

    Dana, temperatures can change 20C from dawn to mid afternoon – rate of change is meaningless.

  353. Dana, temperatures can change 20C from dawn to mid afternoon – rate of change is meaningless.

    Okay, you really aren’t getting this. Happy New Year anyway!

  354. Michael 2 says:

    izen says: (December 30, 2014 at 9:53 am) “Thats a relief, I thought that ocean acidification, the shift in climate agricultural regions and rising sea levels were real and ongoing problems!”

    Many think it. Occasionally I think it too; then I visit the waterfront at Seattle and realize that no visible change in sea level has taken place in 50 years; one must go to a NOAA tide chart to see that it’s declining, but not by enough to actually notice it. The ocean is still alkaline. My cousins that farm in Minnesota are still farming in Minnesota and seem not to have had significant change in climate since they started farming Minnesota about 150 years ago. So, while change appears to be real, it appears not to be a “problem” for most people and completely nonexistent outside of universities. I accept the possibility that considerable inertia exists and that by the time most people think it is a problem it will then be way too late to do anything about it; but the alternative seems to be to deliberately create a serious problem right now in hopes that so doing will alleviate a problem in the future. An obvious problem is that if the catastrophe is indeed avoided, how shall anyone know it was going to be avoided anyway or was avoided by the sacrifices some here wish me to make?

    Astoria:
    http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9439040

    Seattle:
    http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9447130

    It is interesting to note that Seattle’s rising goes flat at about the year 2000. In an earlier review I had noticed that all tide gauges in the pacific northwest showed decline, including Seattle, but when I verified it just now I see that it has changed to rising. I made screenshots earlier so if I find time I’ll compare my earlier screenshot of the same gauge.

  355. jsam says:

    M2 can’t see sea level change. Thank goodness scientists can.

    Global averages.
    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/global-mean-sea-level-time-series-seasonal-signals-removed

    Local maps.
    http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends.html

    At what point do conspiracy theorists ever start to think maybe I’ve got this all wrong? Ever?

  356. dana1981 says:

    Dana, temperatures can change 20C from dawn to mid afternoon – rate of change is meaningless.

    *forehead slap* DNFTT.

  357. Peter Jacobs says:

    Did Tol just try to reject the premise of insurance altogether? By claiming it’s stupid to take a known, present loss to mitigate a potential, future, larger loss?

  358. Punksta says:

    jsam says
    “The GWPF is a political organisationth

    So is Greenpeace and the WWF.
    And the IPCC.

    And also all the universities etc that employ the climate scientists.

    All the latter are politically funded, and hence unavoidably politically motivated (given the obvious political implications of climate alarm), to the tune of amounts that dwarf funds available to the likes of the GWPF and all other skeptics

    In essence, the politicisation of climate science emanates from its political funding. There’s probably not much that can be done about that, but it does at least need to be recognized but anyone trying to size up the arguments.

  359. Punksta says:

    @ATTP
    Re: can we cut CO2 emissions without causing major economic damage?

    “A few things to bear in mind. It seems unlikely that fossil fuels will remain cheap.”

    Quite the contrary. There is no shortage of coal and oil, and now fracking is starting to make a big impact on top of that.

    “Additionally, it seems unlikely that alternatives won’t become cheaper as their use becomes more common and as we develop new technologies”

    Nuclear is a viable option, but wind and solar are very far away from being practical on any significant scale. Also, fossil technology won’t be standing still either.

    However, if viable alternatives do in fact emerge, they will then naturally start taking over – no artificial action (like subsidies or other privileges) needed. A scenario that EVERYONE can be happy with.

  360. Rachel M says:

    I had a quick look at the IPCC report chapter 6: Ocean Systems and pulled out a couple of relevant quotes.

    FAQ 6.1 | Why are climate impacts on oceans and their ecosystems so important?

    Oceans create half the oxygen (O2) we use to breathe and burn fossil fuels. Oceans provide about 17% of the animal protein consumed by the world’s human population, or almost 20% of that protein consumed by 3 billion people. Oceans are home to species and ecosystems valued in tourism and for recreation. The rich biodiversity of the oceans offers resources for innovative drugs or biomechanics. Ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves protect the coastlines from tsunamis and storms. About 90% of the goods the world uses are shipped across the oceans.
    All these activities are affected by climate change.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/WGIIAR5-Chap6_FINAL.pdf

    From the same report, page 423:

    The current rate and magnitude of ocean acidification are at least 10 times faster than any event within the last
    65 Ma (high confidence; Ridgwell and Schmidt, 2010) or even 300 Ma of Earth history (medium confidence; Hönisch et al., 2012).

  361. Rachel M says:

    Punksta,

    And also all the universities etc that employ the climate scientists.

    All the latter are politically funded, and hence unavoidably politically motivated (given the obvious political implications of climate alarm), to the tune of amounts that dwarf funds available to the likes of the GWPF and all other skeptics

    Universities are not political organisations. It depends a bit on your definition of a political organisation but using the Wikipedia definition – A political organization is any entity that is involved in the political process – this is not what a university is. Universities are places for education and research. They are funded by government just like schools, hospitals, and police stations.

  362. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Rachel
    With 2 million visitors a year, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t even Australia’s top attraction; the Sydney Opera House has 8 million.

    Note that I’m not saying that people don’t care. Rather, the empirical evidence has that the average person cares a little.

    If you’d let your climate policy be driven by your concerns for marine biodiversity and amenity, then Tony Abbott would be deep green in your eyes.

  363. Rachel M says:

    Richard Tol,

    If you’d let your climate policy be driven by your concerns for marine biodiversity and amenity, then Tony Abbott would be deep green in your eyes.

    I don’t understand this bit, sorry. Perhaps I’m tired from a late night last night. I’m not sure what my climate policy is. My main requirement is that climate policy be something rather than nothing. You also seem to presume what my policy – if I had one – is driven by. What do you think it is? I am concerned about marine biodiversity and amenity. I haven’t seen any evidence that Tony Abbott is concerned about these things.

    Does it matter if species go extinct? I think it does. Some species – keystone species – are important to the ecosystem and without them the ecosystem collapses. Some species might be a source of drugs that we are yet to discover.

  364. Oceans create half the oxygen (O2) we use to breathe and burn fossil fuels.

    That’s a very strange statement. The little contribution oceans have on the O2 balance is equal to their removal of CO2 as the only way they can create O2 is to take the C to form unoxidized organic material and store it. It’s well known that this is a really, really small effect even as a contribution to carbon removal from the atmosphere. As the amount of O2 is so much larger than that of CO2, the effect is totally negligible for “creation of O2”.

    Otherwise the statement is as ridiculous as the claims of the skeptic that human releases of CO2 have little to do with the increase in atmospheric CO2.

    It’s amazing that this kind of stupid errors can be found in IPCC reports.

  365. jsam says:

    I’m no expert, Pekka – far from it. But the IPCC statement appears to have wide support. I just picked something very public friendly as an example.

    “The sources of atmospheric oxygen through photosynthesis are phytoplankton, such as cyanobacteria in the ocean, and trees and other green plants on land. The amount that each source contributes is under debate: some scientists suggest that over half comes from oceans, for example, while others put the number at closer to one third. What is clear is that the numbers have fluctuated over geological time, depending on the balance of life on Earth. When the atmosphere was first developing, for example, cyanobacteria contributed most of the oxygen.”
    http://www.wisegeek.com/where-does-atmospheric-oxygen-come-from.htm

    “According to some estimates, green algae and cyanobacteria in marine environments provide about 70% of the free oxygen produced on Earth and the rest is produced by terrestrial plants.[43] Other estimates of the oceanic contribution to atmospheric oxygen are higher, while some estimates are lower, suggesting oceans produce ~45% of Earth’s atmospheric oxygen each year.[44]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen

    Also see,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_cycle

    May I ask upon what you base your opinion please?

  366. jsam says:

    Then, Punksta, you’ll share Richard’s cynicism over the GWPF.Good to hear it. And a near first for a “climate sceptic”. Maybe, one day, you’ll graduate to being a full sceptic.

  367. izen says:

    @-”With 2 million visitors a year, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t even Australia’s top attraction; the Sydney Opera House has 8 million.”

    So by that ‘logic’ Australia should spend 4 X as much protecting the Sydney Opera house from climate change as the Great Barrier Reef.

    It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion you are a POE trying to make Tol and economists look very stupid by making such comparisons.

    You really are pursuing the stereotype that economists are only capable of measuring the price of things and not their value.
    But in claiming the Sydney Opera House is four times as important as the Great Barrier Reef you have probably pushed it beyond the point where most people would find it credible.

  368. jsam,
    The error is the same as in the other case I mentioned, i.e. discussing gross flows, when net flows should be discussed. Oxygen is released, when organic matter is created by photosynthesis, and consumed, when that organic material gets oxidized. In oceans these two processes cancel almost totally on a short time scale, because the total amount of organic material in oceans is rather small and most of it very short lived. Land areas are somewhat different, because forests and soils store much more and may keep on storing or releasing for much longer.

    The photosynthesis in oceans is important for many forms of life. In this respect it’s very important, and the rest of the list is fine, but for the oxygen balance the net effect is insignificant.

  369. jsam says:

    Pekka – thank you for your words. Where is your reputable citation? It would seem the science stands against you.

  370. jsam,
    Everybody is using the same numbers from science. Just check any presentation on carbon cycle and remember, how closely the carbon cycle and the oxygen cycle are related.

    The common claim is simply an error in logic, not in facts or disagreement on science.

  371. jsam says:

    It would seem the error in logic is yours. You appear to be unable to support your claim.

  372. Isn’t Pekka simply suggesting that the phytoplankton absorb as much oxygen as they release?

  373. jsam says:

    He may well be. But that doesn’t make the IPCC wrong.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_cycle#Capacities_and_fluxes

  374. jsam,
    From your link we can read:
    – Total gains: ~30.000
    – Total losses: ~30.000

    From that we can calculate

    – Net gain: ~0.

    This explains, why IPCC is wrong on that point. The equality is more accurate for oceans than it is for land areas over relevant periods of time.

  375. If someone is interested in more details on the production and decay of biomass, one good source is the book: Vaclav Smil: Harvesting the Biosphere. Vaclav Smil has collected a lot of interesting data on those issues.

  376. Pekka,
    Yes, but that’s the total gain and total loss, not simply for the oceans. Presumably some of that is oxygen use by land and sea animals? Hence, it would seem that the point that jsam is making is correct. Photosynthesis by phytoplankton is an important source of oxygen.

  377. aTTP,
    On the scale of oxygen, the balance of oceans alone is really close to zero. So close that the statement of IPCC does not make sense at all. That stupidity is emphasized even more by putting it as the first on the list.

  378. Pekka,
    Okay, but doesn’t that still imply that phytoplankton provide oxygen for the animals in oceans? I’m still not quite seeing why the statement is as stupid as you seem to be suggesting.

  379. jsam says:

    “the balance of oceans alone is really close to zero”. Over, say, a year this is true. The supply of oxygen is relatively fixed after all. It will be somewhere. The entire system has a fixed balance. But it is a cycle. There is flux. And that seems the key point – not the overall balance.

  380. andrew adams says:

    It doesn’t particularly surprise me that a lot of people say they care “a little” about natural resources such as the barrier reef. They take them for granted and assume they will always be there, it’s not something they think they need to worry about. Then someone proposes building a road through local woodland and suddenly people realise they actually care about it a lot. I live on the outskirts of London, close to a lot of “green belt” land – there is always big local opposition to anyone wanting to build on it, and we’re not exactly talking about areas of outstanding natural beauty here .

  381. BBD says:

    Vinny sez:

    Happy new year, doomwankers.

    We should be thankful for such honesty on New Year’s Day.

    Cheers!

  382. aTTP,

    Phytoplankton provides biomass for the animals in the oceans, that’s important. The sum of oxygen and CO2 stays essentially the same, and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is presently about 500 times as large as that of CO2. Oxygen and CO2 of the near surface ocean are both essentially in balance with the atmosphere following Henry’s law, dissolved carbonates are further in balance with dissolved CO2.

    All the circulation takes place on the scale of CO2. We would suffocate in CO2 very much earlier than we would notice any change in the amount of oxygen. The problem is not in the oxygen cycle, it is in the carbon cycle. (I’m not discussing the very early atmosphere that may have been quite different.)

  383. BBD says:

    Which reminds me:

  384. BBD says:

    Sorry Pekka, we crossed there. Just to be clear: you don’t remind me of U2 in any way.

    Happy New Year.

  385. Pekka,

    and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is presently about 500 times as large as that of CO2.

    I presume you meant O2 is 500 times as large as that of CO2.

    We would suffocate in CO2 very much earlier than we would notice any change in the amount of oxygen.

    Yes, but this would seem to confirm the importance of phytoplankton.

    Anyway, it’s New Year’s Day and I think I get your point.

  386. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @izen
    Don’t put words in my mouth.

    @rachel
    I asked you why you worried about ocean acidification.

    You answered that you are concerned about its impact on food, recreation and biodiversity.

    I replied that the impact of ocean alkalinity on food supply is minimal, and Dana replied that the impact of ocean alkalinity on species abundance is minimal.

    You replied that two million people visit the Great Barrier Reef per year, which does not even put it in the top spot in Australia. Even if ocean acidification would completely destroy the Great Barrier Reef, which it will not, then the impact on the global tourism industry is small. Even the Australian tourism industry is unlikely to take a big hit, as capital and labour in tourism are rather mobile. The more likely scenario, however, is that local tourist operators will preserve that bit of the Great Barrier Reef that attracts tourists. After all, that’s what they do with Venice, ski slopes, and sandy beaches.

    So, you should either adjust your level of concern about ocean acidification — as the worries you express are not something a rational, well-informed person should worry about — or you should learn to express your worries in a manner that is supported by evidence.

    That said, I commend you for expressing your concerns. Others on this threat prefer to say “I’m scared” without specifying what it is they’re afraid of.

  387. Richard,

    So, you should either adjust your level of concern about ocean acidification — as the worries you express are not something a rational, well-informed person should worry about — or you should learn to express your worries in a manner that is supported by evidence.

    Maybe you could try and do the same. Maybe you should learn to express your lack of concern in a manner that is supported by evidence.

    I replied that the impact of ocean alkalinity on food supply is minimal, and Dana replied that the impact of ocean alkalinity on species abundance is minimal.

    If you’re using the OHG paper to justify this, you would seem to be interpreting this paper in a manner that is not consistent with what it actually says. The abstract itself ends with

    Climate change also exacerbates local stresses from declining water quality and overexploitation of key species, driving reefs increasingly toward the tipping point for functional collapse. This review presents future scenarios for coral reefs that predict increasingly serious consequences for reef-associated fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, and people. As the International Year of the Reef 2008 begins, scaled-up management intervention and decisive action on global emissions are required if the loss of coral-dominated ecosystems is to be avoided.

    So, this – according to you – is minimal?

    Maybe instead of insisting that everyone else provides evidence to justify their concerns, you really should start properly reading the evidence that supposedly justifies your lack of concern. It appears that you have the remarkable ability of interpreting everything to suit your own biases, without ever acknowledging when you’ve very clearly interpreted something completely incorrectly. It’s a remarkable skill that many might describe in a less positive manner.

  388. aTTP,

    You are right on my typing error.

    Just to add some numbers. The book of Smil goes trough available estimates of biomass. The estimates of terrestial phytomass (photosynthesizing plants) vary significantly, but it’s something like 650 Gton of carbon. In addition to phytomass the amount of microbes in ground may also be large even comparable to phytomass.

    The marine biomass is much more difficult to estimate. The abundant phytoplankton lives only weeks (up to 12 weeks in cold water, less in warm). Therefore it’s mass is small relative to the annual amount of photosynthesis. No good overall estimate is given, but the the short lifetime tells that it is 10-20% of the annual production, and less than 10% of the terrestial phytomass. (The information collected by Smil is not easy to interpret, but this much seems to be known.) That’s small relative to the phenomena we are discussing, and therefore cannot affect much the balance of O2.

  389. BBD says:

    That’s right, Richard. Keep hammering away at your misrepresentation of OHG and keep refusing to acknowledge that you are flat-out wrong. And on no account acknowledge that the killer problem for marine and terrestrial ecosystems is the rate of change not simply the magnitude.

    To a casual observer, you come across as profoundly ignorant of ecosystems science and really quite deranged in your determination to push your obviously wrong views in the face of repeated correction.

  390. Pekka,
    Okay, but that seems to be a slightly different argument to what you suggested before. If photosynthesis by marine phytoplankton plays a minimal role in the overall cycle, then it may not be that important. That does not, however, appear consistent with jsam’s links which suggest that almost 50% of the oxygen in the cycle is from ocean photosynthesis.

  391. I see that BBD has confirmed my suggestion that it is possible to describe it in a less positive manner 😉

  392. BBD says:

    I was straining to be charitable, ATTP.

  393. Contrarians often use the “Serengeti strategy” of singling out individual scientists (e.g. ATTP, Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, Phil Jones, Katharine Hayhoe, Ben Santer, etc.) who express concerns consistent with mainstream science. By pretending that these scientists are expressing concerns as specific as a 7-year-old’s worries about the monster under her bed, contrarians try desperately to distract the public away from the fact that most scientists are concerned about climate change.

    For instance, a dozen national science academies have already said that “the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.”

    Why should we ignore that strongly worded statement in favor of GWPF misinformation from someone who doesn’t have a single, solitary credential in physical science? Isn’t it remotely possible that taking physical science courses gave those physical scientists a broader understanding of climate effects on species abundance than, say, taking economics courses?

    Presumably we’re also supposed to pretend that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society (U.K.) never wrote a joint publication (PDF) saying:

    “CLIMATE CHANGE IS ONE OF THE DEFINING ISSUES OF OUR TIME. It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. …”

    “What is ocean acidification and why does it matter? Direct observations of ocean chemistry have shown that the chemical balance of seawater has shifted to a more acidic state (lower pH) [Figure 7]. Some marine organisms (such as corals and some shellfish) have shells composed of calcium carbonate which dissolves more readily in acid. As the acidity of sea water increases, it becomes more difficult for them to form or maintain their shells.”

    “CO2 dissolves in water to form a weak acid, and the oceans have absorbed about a third of the CO2 resulting from human activities, leading to a steady decrease in ocean pH levels. With increasing atmospheric CO2, the chemical balance will change even more during the next century. Laboratory and other experiments show that under high CO2 and in more acidic waters, some marine species have misshapen shells and lower growth rates, although the effect varies among species. Acidification also alters the cycling of nutrients and many other elements and compounds in the ocean, and it is likely to shift the competitive advantage among species, with as-yet-to-be-determined impacts on marine ecosystems and the food web.”

    “Are climate changes of a few degrees a cause for concern? Yes. Even though an increase of a few degrees in global average temperature does not sound like much, global average temperature during the last ice age was only about 4 to 5 °C (7 to 9 °F) colder than now. Global warming of just a few degrees will be associated with widespread changes in regional and local temperature and precipitation as well as with increases in some types of extreme weather events. These and other changes (such as sea level rise and storm surge) will have serious impacts on human societies and the natural world.”

    “Both theory and direct observations have confirmed that global warming is associated with greater warming over land than oceans, moistening of the atmosphere, shifts in regional precipitation patterns and increases in extreme weather events, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels (which increases the risk of coastal inundation and storm surge). Already, record high temperatures are on average significantly outpacing record low temperatures, wet areas are becoming wetter as dry areas are becoming drier, heavy rainstorms have become heavier, and snowpacks (an important source of freshwater for many regions) are decreasing.”

    “These impacts are expected to increase with greater warming and will threaten food production, freshwater supplies, coastal infrastructure, and especially the welfare of the huge population currently living in low-lying areas. Even though certain regions may realise some local benefit from the warming, the long-term consequences overall will be disruptive.”

  394. aTTP,

    The starting point was the text of IPCC. That contained as first point the connection between oxygen used in burning fossil fuels and stated that it’s important that half of that is returned to the atmosphere by marine photosynthesis. That’s the statement I consider to be false. The role of ocean photosynthesis is insignificant in maintaining the level of oxygen in the atmosphere. Without that photosynthesis the life in oceans would essentially vanish, but the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere would be affected only by an insignificant amount.

    Of course the life of the oceans is important, but why to start a list of important factors by something that’s not relevant at all.

  395. Rachel M says:

    Richard Tol,

    As much as I’d like to buy into the “there’s nothing to worry about” theme you’re selling here, what you say seems to be at odds with what the IPCC report says and with what coral reef ecologists are saying.

    There’s an article in Nature Climate Change from 2011 by marine ecologist, Peter Sale title Reef Grief. It’s written in an FAQ style. Here are some of the questions and Peter Sale’s answers –

    Have coral reefs ever totally disappeared in the two billion years since they evolved?

    In each of the five previous mass extinctions, the coral reefs have disappeared all over the world for a very lengthy period of time — tens of millions of years.

    With global warming, ocean acidification, pollution, overfishing and other anthropogenic damage, what’s the prognosis for reefs?

    This is the first ecosystem threatened with extermination on our planet. I think that by 2050 coral reefs will not resemble anything like what people were used to in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. And that is a very short time frame. When my granddaughter is 40 years old we won’t have the coral reefs we have now. We’ll still have corals, we’ll still have things we’ll call ‘reefs’, but they will be massive limestone structures that were built in the past, with little patches of living coral struggling to survive on them, and they will be getting smaller and smaller over the years. Perhaps, by 2100 there will be nothing resembling the biotically rich, topographically complicated, complex structures we now call reefs.

    Will people notice the loss?

    Coral reefs make an enormous contribution to the economy of many tropical countries, through fisheries, tourism and other services. Over 50% of the gross domestic product of many Caribbean nations comes from coastal activities delivered by reefs. The white sandy beaches in front of the hotels are created by reefs, for example, so lose the reef and you lose the whole reason for going there for those tourists who go on tropical vacation simply to lie in the sand — and the whole economy of that country declines as a result. The economy of many of these small countries literally depends on the kind of coastal environment they currently have, which includes an abundance of reefs. Reefs provide tremendous protection of coast, which is even more important in a time when tropical storms are predicted to become more severe. Reefs naturally grow upwards, so as sea-levels rise, the reefs will grow up with it, and the presence of that rocky rampart offshore provides major shoreline protection against coastal damage from wave action and storms. Reefs are also very productive both as a generator of income and simply to feed people. They are often the major fishing ground for most coastal populations in the tropics. Around 16% of our protein comes from the ocean, and in developing countries, poor people fish to feed their families and sell a little bit of extra — that’s how they survive.

    I’d love to copy and paste the entire article but there are probably copyright restrictions so I’ll leave it at that.

    You also haven’t understood that there are people who value coral reefs for non-monetary reasons. You might call this “recreation” and that’s fine, it doesn’t matter what word is used to describe this. That only a minority of us value coral reefs – so you say as you haven’t provided me with any evidence that this is indeed true but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt – is not a valid reason to ignore our wishes to retain them for the benefit of our own lives and of those yet to be born. Minority groups matter.

  396. Pekka,

    The starting point was the text of IPCC.

    Yes, I realise that that was your issue.

    Without that photosynthesis the life in oceans would essentially vanish, but the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere would be affected only by an insignificant amount.

    It’s not clear to me that this is true. I would have thought that we might see a reduction in life both in the oceans and on land. As I understand it, the oxygen formed by photosynthesis doesn’t remain only in the oceans. There is an oxygen cycle. Therefore if all photosynthesis were to stop in the oceans, that doesn’t immediately mean that the oceans would be unable to remain oxygenated.

  397. I should perhaps add that precipitation of organic material within the oceans has the effect of net transfer of O2 from deeper ocean to near surface ocean and the opposite effect for CO2. In near surface ocean photosynthesis consumes CO2 and releases O2. While very little of that organic material reaches the bottom of ocean, a more significant fraction precipitates and gets oxidized at some depth consuming O2 and forming CO2 or carbonates.

    Another real effect is related to inflows of organic material from continental areas by river discharges, but in this case the photosynthesis has taken place on the continental areas meaning that this effect moves the oceans toward the direction of sinks of O2.

    Thus there are some real effects, but what caused my reaction was the specific formulation that’s very similar to the much discussed fallacy that rain forests are the lungs of the Earth and the source of the oxygen we breathe.

  398. jsam says:

    Rachel – now honestly. The coral reefs might disappear in a century. So what? At a 3% discount rate they had no value anyway.

    Marginally yours, An Economissed

  399. jsam says:

    Those alarmists and their fatalism…

    Against Tol’s “there has never been a lengthy period of climate stasis” I set

    Paleoclimatologist J.P. Steffensen in the January 7, 2002 issue of The New Yorker Magazine (Kolbert, 2002) comments on how paleoclimatic research may help provide perspective on the development of civilization: “Now you’re able to put human evolution in a climatic framework. You can ask, Why didn’t human beings make civilization fifty thousand years ago? You know that they had just as big brains as we have today. When you put it in a climatic framework, you can say, “Well, it was the ice age. And also this ice age was so climatically unstable that each time you had the beginning of a culture they had to move. Then comes the present interglacial– ten thousand years of very stable climate. The perfect conditions for agriculture. If you look at it, it’s amazing. Civilizations in Persia, in China, and in India start at the same time, maybe six thousand years ago. They all developed writing and they all developed religion and they all built cities, all at the same time, because the climate was stable. I think that if the climate would have been stable fifty thousand years ago it would have started then. But they had no chance.”

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/ctl/clihis10k.html

  400. Willard says:

    > However, if viable alternatives do in fact emerge, they will then naturally start taking over – no artificial action (like subsidies or other privileges) needed.

    You may also like:

    In 2013, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that consumer subsidies for fossil fuels amounted to US$548 billion, while subsidies for renewable energy amounted to US$121 billion. However, a simple comparison of subsidy expenditure does not reveal the extent to which renewable energy is disadvantaged. To understand the exact impact of this distorted playing field, it is necessary to explore how different kinds of subsidy can affect investment decisions in different ways in specific energy sectors.

    http://www.iisd.org/GSI/impact-fossil-fuel-subsidies-renewable-energy

  401. izen says:

    @-Richard S.J. Tol
    “izen
    Don’t put words in my mouth.”

    I apologise if that is what I have done, but perhaps you could point out which words I have orally inserted which are NOT the logical conclusion of your own words?

    YOUR WORDS –
    “With 2 million visitors a year, the Great Barrier Reef isn’t even Australia’s top attraction; the Sydney Opera House has 8 million.”

    MY DERIVATION –
    “So by that ‘logic’ Australia should spend 4 X as much protecting the Sydney Opera house from climate change as the Great Barrier Reef.”

    If your comparison between the Sydney Opera House and the GBR was not to show the 4X greater importance in any risk/cost analysis, then why did you make it ?

    I think we are all still waiting for you to admit that the assertion about ocean acidification and the evolutionary resilience of corals in the face of unprecedented chemical changes since the last mass extinction event; was in error.

  402. izen says:

    @-Pekka Pirilä
    “Thus there are some real effects, but what caused my reaction was the specific formulation that’s very similar to the much discussed fallacy that rain forests are the lungs of the Earth and the source of the oxygen we breathe.”

    I suspect there is some confusion here with the idea of a source when applied without context to a dynamic cycle in (relative) balance.

    It is a fallacy that rainforests are lungs because they also consume about as much O2 as they emit.
    There is no big change in O2 levels because the sources and sinks match.

    But then so does every other ecology that is part of the carbon/oxygen cycle. The oxygen we breath, and use to burn fossil fuels comes from the TOTALITY of the biochemical processes that constitute the oxygen cycle. if someone asks where we get that oxygen then the relative size of each part, ocean, land, is a meaningful answer as to the source even though no specific part may be a significant net source.

    Although I gather that measurement indicates that we are a net sink.
    http://scrippso2.ucsd.edu/

  403. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @izen
    You made three leaps there: You assumed that average consumer surplus is the same for the Sydney Opera House as for the Great Barrier Reef, that the threat is the same for SOH and GBR, and that the remedy is equally costly.

  404. izen,

    The basic point is that state of the oceans is essential for life in oceans and to everything dependent on products of that life. Rainforests are essential for their ecosystem, etc. O2 is not the limiting factor in the present and foreseeable Earth system. Every major change in the ecosystems leads only to very small changes in the balance of O2. Therefore stating the balance of O2 as an important environmental concern is equally irrelevant in all cases. Something else changes catastrophically much before anything significant happens for the balance of O2. One of those other factors is typically CO2 concentration, and that has its effect first through the climate and only in much more extreme cases directly as too much CO2 for life.

  405. Joshua says:

    willard –

    Thanks for that link.

    And I note that the article you linked doesn’t discuss the contribution of geo-political costs to ensure the flow of fossil fuels – such as the war in Iraq. I don’t understand why those costs should not be considered a form of subsidy.

    And then there is the “opportunity cost” in human capital that results from enriching totalitarian governments that deprive large %’s of their citizenry of the fundamental institutions that contribute to poverty alleviation. I guess considering those costs as a subsidy would be a stretch – but it boggles my mind that people want to discuss the relative merits of different energy sources without including a consideration of those costs in the discussion. In particular, if they want to introduce counterfactual arguments about how climate mitigation would cause poverty.

    Has anyone seen a discussion take place with those of a perspective similar to Tol, or Lomborg, or The Breakthrough Institute, where they address the questions of externalities and subsidies (as described in the article you linked) in good faith?

    And no, “Tax breaks aren’t subsidies,” and “But, but. there are positive externalities too,” and “But externalities can’t be estimated” are not what I’m talking about.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the economic modeling that “skeptics” rely on necessarily fails to examine the economics of energy supply on a level playing field.

  406. Richard,
    If you disllike people mis-interpreting you, maybe you should try being clearer in the first place. You may think that you can read people’s minds, but most of those who comment here are sufficiently scientifically aware to realise that that isn’t actually possible.

  407. Joshua says:

    ==> ” but it boggles my mind that people want to discuss the relative merits of different energy sources without including a consideration of those costs in the discussion.”

    Uh oh. Rhetorical overreach. Argument from incredulity. It doesn’t boggle my mind. It is commonplace and entirely predictable. Anyone who might doubt that need only to read this thread.

  408. Pingback: Things I thought were obvious! | …and Then There's Physics

  409. The source for the amount of fossil fuel subsidies is IEA. It’s essential to understand the nature of these subsidies. The IEA report World Energy Outlook 2014 tells

    Ten countries account for almost three-quarters of the world total for fossil-fuel subsidies; five of them – all oil and gas exporters – are in the Middle East or North Africa. Most of the other leading subsidisers are also important hydrocarbon producers. They generally set domestic prices above the cost of production, but well below the prices those fuels could reach on the international market, net of transport costs.

    The largest subsidizer is Iran with 21% of all consumption subsidies ($84 billion), next comes Saudi Arabia with 16%, India 12%, Russia 12%, and Venezuela 10%. (This implies that about $400 billion is classified as consumption subsidies, but I didn’t find the exact number.)

    In many of these and other strongly subsidizing countries government has a controlling role in oil production. Thus the subsidy is actually of the nature that government subsidizes private consumers for political reasons. That kind of subsidies cover surely a great majority of all fossil fuel consumption subsidies.

  410. Pingback: It Tol’s for thee | izen

  411. jsam says:

    Ahem. Tax breaks are subsidies.

    DEFINITION OF ‘SUBSIDY’
    A benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction. The subsidy is usually given to remove some type of burden and is often considered to be in the interest of the public.
    http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/subsidy.asp

  412. Willard says:

    “But socialism” and “but Humpty Dumpty” are irrelevant to the fact that fossil fuels are still more subsidized that renewables and that appealing to invisible hands is irrealist, Pekka.

    Here’s where we’d need auditors:

    6. KBR – Bonny LNG – Nigeria. UKEF decided to finance a UK subsidiary of Halliburton, despite specific allegations of the company’s corruption in relation to the Bonny LNG project being common knowledge. After international investigations started into the bribery, minutes of meetings between UKEF and Halliburton show UKEF failing to ask Halliburton for crucial details of the allegations, telling the company that it did not wish to ‘delve into the finer details’ of the consortium’s arrangements. The Halliburton subsidiary eventually plead guilty in both the USA and UK[8].

    7. Shell – Sakhalin II – Russia. Shell’s drilling, pipelines and LNG plant in Arctic conditions on the Sakhalin Island in Russia threatened indigenous populations and highly endangered populations of whales. Nonetheless, UKEF gave a secret but legally-binding commitment to support the project in March 2004 worth £1 billion, before an adequate EIA had been completed and before UKEF’s own assessments were complete.[9] The application to UKEF was only withdrawn because of a judicial review over its illegality.

    8. BP – Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline – Azerbaijan / Georgia / Turkey UKEF chose to support this project to the tune of at least £81.7 million, despite a multitude of reported and documented infringements on citizens’ rights. There were over a hundred violations of World Bank standards[10], emergency powers were invoked to acquire land in Turkey, and the UK government itself ruled that BP had violated international rules by failing to investigate complaints of intimidation by state security forces in Turkey.[11]

    9. Petrobras – ultra-deep drilling – Atlantic Ocean In 2011-12, UKEF agreed a $1 billion credit line to support Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras conduct ultra-deep drilling in the pre-salt oil deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.[12] This drilling is more complicated and dangerous than the deep Gulf of Mexico waters where BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster took place.

    10. Other fossil fuel subsidies provided by the UKEF in the last two years include: £65 million for a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia, £22 million to a Norwegian offshore oil contractor, £6m for a petrochemical plant in Azerbaijan and £6m for a gas plant in Nigeria.[13]

    11. Lisa Nandy MP, chair of a parliamentary inquiry into UKEF said: “It is a cause of real concern that, despite the coalition commitment to end all export finance for dirty fossil fuels, particularly the risky Atlantic oil drilling, UKEF still funds so many fossil-fuel-related projects and has so far failed to support a single green energy project.”

    http://platformlondon.org/p-publications/energy-subsidies-submission/

    Notwithstanding diplomatic and military subsidies, that goes without saying.

  413. Eli Rabett says:

    Pekka is both right, and incomplete. Photosynthesis has little effect on the oxygen in the atmosphere because it basically is the middleware in the O2–CO2 cycle, and the mixing ratio of CO2 in the atmosphere is 400 ppm while that of O2 is 200000 ppm. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions per year are only a small part (contributing a few extra ppm of CO2) and the O2 flux into the atmosphere from photosynthesis is of the same range. You can eyeball the CO2/O2 fluxes by looking at the annual cycle of CO2 in the northern hemisphere. W/O photosynthesis the net effect on the O2 would be tiny over a few hundred years.

    However, there are a couple of things that Pekka is leaving out. First the biological pump, which moves a lot of the phytoplankton mass into the deeper ocean, burying the carbon in a place where it cannot rapidly be recycled into the atmosphere. Kill off the phytoplankton and that goes, so the capacity of the oceans to absorb CO2 decreases and the atmospheric mixing ratio of CO2 increases quickly. Second, increasing the temperature of the sea surface decreases the oxygen content of the surface waters. Oxygen solubility is a lot easier to figure out than CO2 (the later involves some complex equilibria, the former is pretty much a trivial Henry’s law problem). Given high enough temperature rises in tropical oceans, large areas could become oxygen poor or even anorexic (the 37 C wet bulb limit for sea life). That would be not be a good thing.

  414. Willard says:

    Money does not grow on trees. Grrrowth does not require trees.

  415. Meow says:

    Dana, temperatures can change 20C from dawn to mid afternoon – rate of change is meaningless.

    If global average temperature dropped by 6C tomorrow, everyplace poleward of at least the 6C line would freeze solid overnight. Actually, probably everything poleward of the 10C line, because of polar amplification. Any idea where that line is? Yeah, it’s about 42 degrees S and 41 degrees N (http://paoc.mit.edu/labweb/atmos-obs/temperature.htm ). So it’d probably be iceover time for, e.g., nearly all of Europe, everything from Chicago northward in north America, and much of China. Good times. You need better talking points.

  416. Ken Fabian says:

    In the face of a recent heatwave, during drought conditions, with extreme fire danger the prospect of temperatures 4 to 6 degrees C higher looked highly significant – something that ought to be glaringly obvious. With a hot wind blowing and record dry conditions preceding it, the prospect seemed terrifying to me. Raised temperatures compared to long term averages in the period leading up to that heatwave did raise the fire risk, but another 3 or 5 degrees (4 to 6 less about 1 degree of warming to date) would have taken it into uncharted territory due to much increased evaporation (with the same rainfall) making the aridity more extreme, making the small window for winter burning off to reduce fuel loads with relative safety (and with low manpower and equipment requirements in an area such as this (Eastern Australia) would have been reduced to zero. Just the larger geographic areas not getting cool enough to go below dew point reduced the presence of this natural fire retardant – fires that would have gone out or slowed significantly would keep burning, move faster and do more damage.

    Being wealthier may help – but it looks more likely to be essential for keeping keep the fire risk to human lives and property (leaving out forests and natural ecosytems) at the same level and stand in place – but will that raised level of wealth, derived from allowing the problem to get irreversibly worse, really be expected to endure and allow people to continue living in places like this safely, for the next few thousand years?

  417. dana1981 says:

    OMG, the irony and hypocrisy that is Richard Tol.

    @izen
    Don’t put words in my mouth … Dana replied that the impact of ocean alkalinity on species abundance is minimal

    What I actually said, quoting Ove H-G:

    [Coral reef] Extinction has never been the issue here. The issue is as follows: If corals become rarer (and/or calcify less) due to ocean warming and acidification (e.g. (Bruno and Selig 2007; De’ath et al. 2009) then their ability to build and maintain coral reefs will be diminished. This in turn will decrease the ability of coral reefs to provide ecological services and support to over 500 million people worldwide.

    I just can’t believe Richard Tol also says stuff like this:

    The more likely scenario, however, is that local tourist operators will preserve that bit of the Great Barrier Reef that attracts tourists. After all, that’s what they do with Venice, ski slopes, and sandy beaches.

    I just can’t take him seriously anymore.

  418. Grrrowth is so powerful it can divide by zero.

  419. Presumably Eli means anoxic waters, which would actually be really awesome… for green sulfur bacteria.

  420. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    I love it when people rather contradict their previous selves than acknowledge that I agree with them.

  421. Richard,

    I love it when people rather contradict their previous selves than acknowledge that I agree with them.

    Do you not realise how much you sound like a classic pseudo-skeptic? I’ve had discussions like this on Bishop-Hill where people will claim that I agree with them, when I clearly don’t and they won’t bother to explain how we agree. Let’s clarify that you’re the one who has claimed that the impact of ocean acidification will be minimal. People here do not agree with that. If you think that you made a mistake in your earlier comment, then you could clarify your position and maybe we could agree. Simply stating that there’s agreement isn’t really good enough when noone actually agrees with you. This isn’t all that complicated a concept.

  422. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    I know. But somewhere deep inside, in a week or two, you’ll admit to yourself that some of your strongly held opinions, derived from the first principles of physics no less, are actually just a reflection of your visceral desire to maximize the distance between your moral high ground and despicable me.

  423. Richard,

    are actually just a reflection of your visceral desire to maximize the distance between your moral high ground and despicable me.

    Why would you think that I regard you as despicable? That’s not true in the slightest. A little ridiculous, maybe, but not despicable.

  424. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    See, you’ve developed a Pavlovian urge to disagree with me.

  425. Richard,

    See, you’ve developed a Pavlovian urge to disagree with me.

    No, I’d be more than happy to agree with you. You just need to say something sensible and I will, with pleasure 🙂

  426. Peter Jacobs says:

    Richard Tol writes: “projected pH by the end of the century is unprecedented only in some 400,000 years, which suggests that most current species have experienced more acidic conditions in their recent evolution. Indeed, the biological literature on ocean acidification is worried about growth rates, composition, competition but only rarely about local extinction, let alone global extinction.”

    This seems to be a statement based on a number of fallacies.

    – That because something is said to be unprecedented in 400,000 years, that means it is not unprecedented relative to earlier dates just beyond this number. Look at the ice core record. When we have said current atmospheric CO2 levels are unprecedented in 400,000 or 650,000 or 800,000 years, that doesn’t mean we believe that CO2 was higher 500,000 or 750,000 or 900,000 years ago, it means our records were only 400,000 or 650,000 or 800,000 years long at the time.

    – That because something has experienced a greater magnitude of change in the distant past, that means it can survive a more rapid but equivalent or even somewhat smaller magnitude change in the future. I would think the silliness of this would be so trivial as to not need to be pointed out.

    – And lastly, that because some literature that looks at one aspect ocean acidification does not discuss extinction that means ocean acidification is not likely to lead to extinctions.

    From the conclusions of Manzello et al., 2015 (in press, GRL):

    “Coral calcification and reef structural persistence correlate with the regional trend in seawater pH in the Galápagos Islands. Interestingly, values of Ωarag where the sole remaining reef persists today in Galápagos were identical to the critical Ωarag value experienced by all reefs prior to the industrial revolution [Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007]. The “CO2 tipping point,” whereby coral reefs cease to exist in PNG is pHT = 7.7 [Fabricius et al., 2011], whereas in Galápagos it is pHT = 8.0. In the absence of CO2 emission reductions, the warming and acidification that eliminated coral reefs from the Galápagos Islands will occur for nearly all reefs by midcentury [van Hooidonk et al., 2014].

    Increased nutrients may stimulate coral growth with high CO2, but the response of the low pH Galápagos reefs to warming suggests that elevated nutrients ultimately increases reef sensitivity to acidification by reducing skeletal density and further stimulating bioerosion already accelerated by low pH. Excess nutrients can also exacerbate coral sensitivity to warming [Fabricius et al., 2013]. The recent history of Galápagos coral reefs provides field evidence that reefs exposed to elevated nutrients may be the most affected and least resilient to changes in climate and ocean chemistry.”

    I am not making the claim that ocean acidification on its own will cause all corals to go extinct. But ocean acidification in combination with SST warming, elevated nutrient levels, and decreased oxygen levels (all of which occur in response to increased GHG levels) can set the stage for normally survivable natural variability to extirpate them, or indeed do the job directly (e.g. the Permian-Triassic mass extinction; see also Vernon et al., 2009).

  427. jsam says:

    Richard, if you note any little yellow creatures surrounding you then you will have succeeded.

  428. mikkel says:

    It’s pretty clear that Tol doesn’t understand the difference between intelligence and wisdom, or being alive and living.

    And as a “leading expert” in economics of climate change, he is certainly committing severe intellectual dishonesty by pretending that outcomes are even calculable considering the long tails of infinite risk. Mathematically, the sorts of distributions we’re talking about don’t have bounded variances and therefore *no one* should be trying to make any weighted expectation of outcome. Nicholas Stern himself has expressed regret about his famous study because he now understands the very premise of cost-benefit analysis is fundamentally flawed for this topic.

    Economists and financiers as a profession are terrible at this game, leading to absurdities such as Black-Scholes and CDOs, which have repeatedly brought the finance sector to its knees and held society at large hostage — the underlying reason behind most of the recent economic crises. The reasoning that Tol advocates is referred to as “picking up nickels in front of a steam roller” when it is applied to options trading.

    Anyone that’s interested in this critique can read Nassim Taleb about how to evaluate risk in context of catastrophic failure.

    But that said, the climate community shares some of the blame for enabling this sort of pedantry. It consistently has focused on steady state models and calculable impacts with the belief that the outcomes would “obviously” lead people to avoid them at all cost. There has been a lot of hand wringing about being cautious about saying what we know for sure, and therefore stating that it’s likely impacts will be bad but not devastating, when informally the same community bluntly states they believe in complete collapse of civilization under BAU. The current argument among the experts I know is whether we’re only looking at collapse of civilization, vs extinction at geological extremes (80%+ of all species). So while I greatly admire the professional climate community, it is unwittingly acting as an enabler. It should just stop it.

    The IPCC itself contains a section of abrupt climate change risks, any of which would throw Tol’s logic out the window. However, these aren’t integrated into the general assessment, because it’s too hard to calculate the exact probabilities, which of course is true for any catastrophic event.

    So as much as Tol likes to castigate people for not looking at the underlying risk or whatever, the real point is he is abusing the very tools he purports to rely on, to the point that his conclusions have no merit whatsoever.

  429. Steve Bloom says:

    +1 jsam. Not that I’d want to actually see it, but I wonder what Tol looks like under that hair…

  430. Lotharsson says:

    Very late to this party, but every time Tol turns up somewhere like this (and presuming he’s not Poeing himself or being Poed here) I am astounded at his inability (or unwillingness) to either argue his case, or even to avoid violating basic logic in many cases. I usually find at least a couple of facepalm comments, sometimes reaching double facepalm status (multiple on this thread). And I’m (sadly) not in the least surprised by his bravura performance in deploying large swathes of the Bad Faith Debating Bingo card. But what is most staggering is how often I come away with a yet again reduced estimate of his credibility in this field, a reduction I had barely considered plausible after the last time, and barely considered plausible the time before that, and so forth…

    I also suspect he suffers a great deal from the Dunning-Kruger Effect in areas where he is not an expert (including apparently ecosystem resilience and the ways that ecosystems underpin much of the very wealth he is apparently concerned about harming, let alone the basic principles of risk analysis with unbounded risks as mikkel points out).

    On the other hand there have been some excellent skewers of his stupidities, and some of the satirical responses on this thread have been ROFLworthy so there’s some meagre value arising from his activities 😉

  431. Pingback: Economics supports immediate action on global warming - Go Zambia JobsGo Zambia Jobs

  432. John Hartz says:

    I suspect that the results of the new study summarized below are going to cause Richard Tol and his cronies quite a bit of consternation.

    The economic damage caused by a ton of CO2 emissions-often referred to as the “social cost of carbon-could actually be six times higher than the value that the United States uses to guide current energy regulations, and possibly future mitigation policies, Stanford scientists say.

    A recent U.S. government study concluded, based on the results of three widely used economic impact models, that an additional ton of CO2 emitted in 2015 would cause US$37 worth of economic damages. These damages are expected to take various forms, including decreased agricultural yields and harm to human health related to climate change.

    But according to a new study, published online this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, the actual cost could be much higher. “We estimate that the social cost of carbon is not $37, as previously estimated, but $220,” said study coauthor Frances Moore, a PhD candidate in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources in Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences.

    Social cost of climate change too low, scientists, Phys.org, Jan 12, 1025

  433. Climate change does affect growth, but so does mitigation. In the short term the strongest effect would surely be the influence of mitigation in countries like China and India, but in the long term the situation may change dramatically. Nobody can tell, what the changes will be in the long term, or how their economic value could be determined properly. These new analyzes do not give any more convincing results than the earlier ones, but they tell once more how impossible it is to make convincing estimates.

  434. jsam says:

    That sounds remarkably like “we can’t know so carry on”. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly sophisticated approach to a very serious question.

  435. Infopath says:

    Tol: “…in a week or two, you’ll admit to yourself…”

    There’s science… And Then There’s Psychics.

  436. jsam,

    That sounds remarkably like “we can’t know so carry on”. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly sophisticated approach to a very serious question.

    That may be your conclusion, that’s not mine.

    Long term economic comparisons have been misused by both sides in the policy argument.

    The unfortunate reality is that the lack of better understanding of the long term economics is not any better argument against strong measures than in support of them. On the other hand all significant policy decisions have in some fundamental way quantitative. Choosing the quantitative levels implies some judgment about economics. The big question is, how that judgment should be done, when long term calculations of the type discussed are too dependent on virtually arbitrary choices.

    Long term issues are essential in deciding on climate policy, but some better approaches are needed. As long as no agreement has been reached on any approach, there are no other choices than to base decisions on the limited information we have available. One possible choice is to use results from IAM’s weighing in some way the highly contradictory results different IAM’s have produced. That’s not a good solution, but what is better and why?

    The first area where I would expect clear improvements is in handling properly shorter term economics including long term considerations in the analysis in a consistent way. That should help at least in choosing between alternatives that are likely to have similar long term consequences. Even this part of the question seems to be badly understood.

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