Friday, October 20, 2006

Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, Part I

In just a few days time the long-awaited “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change” will be released. Sir Nicholas Stern has attempted to 'review of the economics of climate change, to understand more comprehensively the nature of the economic challenges and how they can be met, in the UK and globally'. Stern will present the conclusions to the UK Royal Society on October 30. This review was initiated following an earlier report on the same subject by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs (SCEA). The SCEA’s report was well received in denialist circles, as it cast doubt on the scientific consensus behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and the role of the IPCC in particular. Unsurprisingly, a disproportionate number of skeptics presented to the SCEA, including Ian Castles, Richard Lindzen, Bjorn Lomborg, Nils-Axel Morner, Ross McKitrick and Fred Singer, among others. Some of the conclusions and recommendations for the SCEA report included:

147. The scientific context is one of uncertainty, although as the science progresses these uncertainties might be expected to diminish and be resolved, one way or the other. Hence it is important that the Government continues to take a leading role in supporting climate science, and encourages a dispassionate evidence-based approach to debate and decision making (para 18).

149. Whatever the validity of temperature projections, the science of measuring impacts remains speculative. Many of the adverse effects of warming can be offset by adaptation and we believe that the economic and social returns from investing in adaptation should be properly weighed against the cost of mitigation (para 27).

154. We think it important that the IPCC moves towards clearer judgements on the probabilities of the projected global temperature increases (para 41).

155. We are clear that fuller consideration needs to be given to the literature on the positive effects of warming (para 43).

156. We conclude that there are weaknesses in the way the scientific community, and the IPCC in particular, treats the impacts of climate change. We call for a more balanced approach and look to the Government to take an active role in securing that balance of research and appraisal (para 44).

162. We received a significant amount of evidence on the realism of the IPCC emission scenarios, and doubts were raised, particularly about the high emission scenarios. The balance of this evidence suggests to us that the high emissions scenarios contained some questionable assumptions and outcomes. While errors do not translate into equal magnitude errors in concentrations or warming, it seems to us important that the IPCC emissions modellers give serious attention to adopting the correct procedures (para 72).

Stern’s review, I suspect, will be a different kettle of fish. The discussion paper he released in January, 2006 clearly upset many denialists as it was based on the consensus view of AGW science. From the executive summary:

Climate change is a serious and urgent issue. The underlying science of global warming through greenhouse gases has been understood for more than a century. There is now an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that human activity is increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and causing warming. We are already seeing significant impacts. There remain uncertainties about the nature and scale of impacts in the longer term, but the most recent science indicates that some of the risks are more serious than had first appeared.

The shills quickly responded with this paper containing some gems like:

The only recent survey of climatologists of which we are aware, which was conducted by the highly-regarded Institute of Coastal Research (GKSS) in Germany, concluded that ‘These results…seem to suggest that consensus is not all that strong and only 9.4% of the respondents “strongly agree” that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes.’

The [Lavoisier Group in Australia] document concludes with the observation that ‘Climate change is poorly understood, and industrial emissions of greenhouse gases may be a small, even negligible, factor’.

Stern’s smackdown makes enjoyable reading. This says it all, really:

The overwhelming body of evidence leaves no doubt that the threat of climate change is real and serious. Counter-arguments or hypotheses have been undermined and discredited as new evidence has come in. Increasingly, apparent inconsistencies in the evidence are being reconciled. This is not a theory that is fraying at the edges. On the contrary, it is sound basic science building on ideas from the nineteenth century which have stood the test of time, and for which the evidence, already strong, is becoming still stronger.

Coming up in part II, a look at some of the review submissions. Lots of laughs there.

UPDATE: The Stern Review has already been condemned by Jennifer Marohasy of the IPA as it will boost economic alarmism when released. You'd think critics would actually wait to read the report first, wouldn't you?