In a feeble attempt to rebut my arguments as to why the EPA must be stopped in its pernicious efforts to over regulate and stifle what little economic growth our country currently exhibits, one of my critics recently pointed to the Stern Review as a definitive work linking the effects of purported man-made climate change to future global economic cataclysm.
On one level, one should first dispel the belief in the underlying premise that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is in fact occurring. By way of any number of studies from highly accredited scientists, the facts show that the causal linkage between CO2 and temperature change is tenuous at best (if anything, temperature increases precede increases in C02). In fact, given the last 16 years of continued growth in CO2 levels without a corresponding increase in global temperatures, the alarmist community is starting to become … well, I guess you could say, alarmed.
Their global circulation models held up as the consummate forecasting tools are currently being challenged as the current flat-lining trend in global temperatures threatens to pierce the lower end of the model-predicted temperature ranges. This issue was highlighted in a recent piece in The Economist [“A Sensitive Matter,” March 30, 2013] as the United Kingdom (and frankly much of Europe) emerged from a brutal winter that brought record cold and snowfall. Without going into a detailed discussion on the underlying science, it should suffice to say that other variables such as solar cycles, multi-year atmospheric oscillations and other factors in the climate equation should be given greater attention relative to the impact of the trace gas CO2.
Refocusing our attention on the Stern Review, one needs to first understand the backdrop for this study before assessing its legitimacy or lack thereof. In short, the 700-page study was commissioned by British government in July 2005 and released in October 2006. The study was, at the time, revered by many who worshipped at the altar of the IPCC (the United Nations’ backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Gaia-embracing environmentalists.
Unfortunately for this crowd, the flaws revealed in the study, even by many fellow AGW believers, largely undermine its credibility. Its author, Nicholas Stern, was an economist with solid academic credentials. Nonetheless, his study calling for significant and prompt spending for CO2 remediation to prevent the damaging effects (his opinion) of climate change did not hold up under scrutiny by his peers.
One fellow environmentalist, Robert Mendelsohn, noted several flaws within the study, most notable among these being: 1) the questionable use of a low 1.4% discount rate that inflated the present value of societal damages from climate change , 2) the ignorance of offsets to the costs of climate change through human adaptation, 3) the blind extrapolation of existing trends in weather and the forecast of increased extreme weather event occurrences and 4) the understatement of the negative impacts of remediation costs.
A number of other flaws have been cited in various studies critiquing the Stern Review, though one of the most glaring critiques came from environmental economist Richard Tol who stated the following: “If a student of mine were to hand in this report as a Masters thesis, perhaps if I were in a good mood I would give him a ‘D’ for diligence; but more likely I would give him an ‘F’ for fail. There is a whole range of very basic economics mistakes that somebody who claims to be a Professor of Economics simply should not make…”
Back in the post-Katrina period when the alarmist community had many believing that 2005 had established the new standard for hurricane occurrence (there were 28 named storms that year in the Atlantic Basin), the Stern Review seemed to carry great appeal. But in 2013, after sixteen years of flat trends in global temperatures, it has become increasingly apparent that other factors besides CO2 levels are at work in determining climate trends.
Perhaps it is time that the OECD countries, many drowning in debt with flagging economies and unemployment levels making new highs, reconsider the wasteful spending on carbon credits, uneconomic green technologies and other remediation measures. I would also like to recommend to my detractors that they spend a few years updating their understanding of climate change science, and then come back to the debate when they are better prepared.