Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More on Global Warming

A discussion of the economic component of the debate on global warming, by David Henderson, visiting professor at the Westminster Business School.

Excerpt: (credit: Greenie Watch)

In an official document headed 'Principles governing IPCC work', which can be viewed on its website, the role of the Panel is specified as being:

... to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impact and options for adaptation and mitigation. (Italics added).

Thus the responsibilities of the IPCC include that of advising and informing its member governments on the economic factors that may bear on 'human-induced climate change'.

The economic aspects are sometimes viewed as incidental or peripheral. For example, in a recent exchange in the House of Lords (15 July 2004) Lord Whitty, replying for the government to a question put by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson (now Lord Lawson of Blaby), said that

... the scientific basis for, and the physical effects of, climate change are virtually unchallenged by any serious scientists. The economic calculations are subject to some degree of dispute. I am happy to urge people to engage in discussing these questions, but they do not undermine or threaten the basic conclusion that, unless we do something, this world will get dangerously warmer.

This is a misleading statement. For one thing, economic considerations, and criteria, are relevant to deciding what form the 'something' that 'we do' should take. For another, projections of global warming are based on projected atmospheric concentrations of CO2, which in turn are based on the projections of CO2 and related emissions which emerge from the SRES; and the emissions figures themselves are linked to SRES projections of world output, world energy use, and the carbon-intensity of energy sources. In these latter projections economic factors are central. True, they act in conjunction with demographic and technical factors, but these are themselves subject to economic influences. If and in so far as the treatment of these latter influences is open to question, the basis for IPCC projections of global average temperature changes cannot be taken as assured.

Here is the whole article.

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