Ran across an article titled “A Foolish Overreaction to Climate Change” in the Financial Times (a European publication) in which Lord Nigel Lawson discusses the economic impact (or suicide) of the EU in embracing Global Warming at all costs. The article is below:
Over the past five years I have become increasingly concerned at the scaremongering of the climate alarmists, which has led the governments of Europe to commit themselves to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, regardless of the economic cost of doing so. The subject is such a complex one, involving science, economics and politics in almost equal measure, that to do it justice I have written a book, albeit a short one, thoroughly referenced and sourced. But the bare bones are clear.
First, given the so-called greenhouse effect, the marked and largely man-made increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the earth’s atmosphere has no doubt contributed to the modest 20th century warming of the planet. But what remains a matter of unresolved dispute among climate scientists is how great a contribution it has made, compared with the natural factors affecting the earth’s climate.
The majority view among climate scientists, as set out in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is that “most” of the slight (0.5ºC) warming in the last quarter of the 20th century was “very likely” caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions. On that basis, and relying on computer models, its “best guess” of the likely rise in mean global temperature over the next 100 years is between 1.8ºC and 4ºC.
These projections were made, incidentally, before the recent acknowledgement that so far this century there has been no further global warming at all – in spite of a continuing rapid rise in carbon emissions.
Be that as it may, the IPCC goes on to estimate what the impact of the projected warming would be. It does so on the explicit basis of two assumptions. The first is that, while the developed world can adapt to warming, the developing world lacks the capacity to do so. The second is that, even in the developed world, adaptive capacity is constrained by the limits of existing technology – that is to say, there will be no further technological development over the next 100 years.
The first, distinctly patronizing, assumption is almost certainly false. But even it were true it would mean only that, should the need arise, overseas aid programmes would be tailored to ensure that the developing world did acquire the necessary adaptive capacity. The second is self-evidently absurd, not least in the case of food production, given the ongoing developments in bio-engineering and genetic modification.
It is, however, on this flawed basis that the IPCC reckons that, if the rise in global temperature over the next 100 years is as much as 4ºC, it would be likely to cost anything between 1 per cent and 5 per cent of global gross domestic product, albeit much more than this in the developing world and less in the developed world.
Even if that were so, what would it mean? Suppose the loss to the developing world were as much as 10 per cent of GDP, then – given the IPCC’s economic growth assumptions, on which its emissions assumptions, and hence its warming assumptions, are based– it would imply that, by 2100 or thereabouts, people in the developing world, instead of being some 9.5 times as well off as they are today, would be “only” some 8.5 times as well off – which would still leave them better off than people in the developed world today. This, then, is the scale of the alleged threat to the planet – based, to repeat, on the IPCC’s grossly inflated estimate of the likely damage from further warming, arising from its absurdly gloomy view of mankind’s ability to adapt.
Indeed, given that warming produces benefits as well as costs, it is far from clear that for the people of the world as a whole, the currently projected warming, even if it occurs, would cause any net harm at all. By contrast, slowing down world economic growth, by shifting to much more expensive non-carbon sources of energy, would be massively costly, as Dieter Helm, Britain’s foremost energy economist, has recently spelt out.
That is one good reason why the sought-after global agreement to cut back drastically on carbon dioxide emissions, embracing China, India and the other major developing countries, is not going to happen. But two very real dangers remain.
The first is that the European Union, which already has the bit between its teeth on this issue, will severely damage its own economy by deciding to set an example to the world. And the second is that it will seek to limit that damage, as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and others are already urging, by imposing trade barriers against those countries that are not prepared to accept mandatory cuts in their emissions.
A lurch into protectionism, and the rolling back of globalization, would do far more damage to the world economy in general and to the developing countries in particular than could conceivably result from the projected resumption of global warming.
It is high time this folly ended.
Lord Lawson was the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer, 1983-89. His book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, will be published by George Duckworth on Thursday
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
Lord Lawson brings up many points that many others (besides me) have that defy common sense. Among them:
- If Global Warming is so important, then why should developing countries be given a free pass not to cut back or develop other less or non-polluting means of industrialization?
- To embrace Global Warming without facts and only assumptions is a recipe for economic disaster.
- Global Warming may not be happening as the “experts” are predicting.
The proponents of Global Warming are looking to impose their “reality” upon the rest of the world. In doing so, they are in the position of causing great economic harm to the world’s economy. Considering the latest blow to the American economy (which is rippling across the world as well), this is not what is needed.
While I agree that more environmentally friendly sources of energy should be developed, I disagree that Global Warming should be the sole reason for doing so. Such sources should be developed because it would be economically feasible to do so, not because the sky is falling.
Is there a real need for developing this technology? Yes, I believe there is. The dependence of the world on the Middle East for the majority of its energy needs is almost reason enough for developing energy efficient technology and the development of alternate forms of energy. While there are many different opinions on what is the right technology to pursue, no one seems to dispute this need.
Lord Lawson said it best in regards to the blind worship at the alter of Global Warming – It is high time this folly ended.