Climate scientist says costs of implementing UN report aren't worth it

This is not just any old climate scientist. This is Yale economist William D. Nordhaus, who according to the New York Times, "has spent the better part of four decades trying to persuade governments to address climate change, preferably by imposing a tax on carbon emissions." In recognition of his work he was awarded the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

William D. Nordhaus (Nobel Media)

William D. Nordhaus (Nobel Media)

Why he is skeptical about the cost-benefit ratio of steps that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is explained in "New Nobel laureate William Nordhaus says the costs of proposed CO2 cuts aren’t worth it.":

The IPCC report significantly underestimates the costs of getting to zero emissions. Fossil fuels provide cheap, efficient power, whereas green energy remains mostly uncompetitive. Switching to more expensive, less efficient technology slows development. In poor nations that means fewer people lifted out of poverty. In rich ones it means the most vulnerable are hit by higher energy bills....

The new report has no comparison of the costs and benefits of climate targets. Mr. Nordhaus’s most recent estimate, published in August, is that the “optimal” outcome with a moderate carbon tax is a rise of about 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Reducing temperature rises by more would result in higher costs than benefits, potentially causing the world a $50 trillion loss.

My own view of the global warming controversy (I use "global warming" because it more accurately describes the hypothesis underlying the "climate change" fight.):

  • The climate is always changing.
  • We are in the midst of a long-term heating of the climate that  began well before human-produced carbon dioxide entered the picture.
  • The climate is so complex that the science of measuring the cause of the change still is improving. The evidence backing the claims of anthropogenic global warming is still being developed and challenged. 
  • Until we can be certain of the anthropogenic impact on climate, I don't object to steps to reduce carbon emissions, as long as they are cost effective.
  • The IPCC analysis may or may not be credible, but its excessive politicalization of science poses a problem for me. It chokes off rational discussion.

 

Comments

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  • Dennis, thanks for bringing exposure to this question. I don't know what might stave off coastline destruction and hurricane damages, but surely we can find ways to make identified triggers to such things more expensive.
    I keep thinking of the tuna controversy of recent years, for example; tuna fisheries were accused of destroying dolphin populations with their methods. Suddenly, "dolphin-friendly" started appearing on tuna labels and ads, and the price of the dolphin-friendly brands was higher because of the expense of the conversions. But then the conversions were over, the dolphin populations recovered... and tuna prices went down. Hmm.

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