Monday, March 19, 2007

Questioning climate change

My current beef is climate change. Before I begin, let's organize some of the arguments:

1) Climate change is happening and we must act.
2) Climate change might be happening but the risk of catastrophe is so great that we should spend now to counteract its effects.
3) Climate change is or might be happening but we can only mitigate it's effects.
4) Climate change might be happening and we should apply appropriate cost/benefit analysis methods.
5) Climate change is not happening or the evidence is quite shaky.

Most greens would put themselves in the category (1).
The Stern Report would be in category (2)
Robert J. Samuelson fits into category (3).
The Copenhagen Consensus would be in category (4)
And writers such as Nigel Calder would be in category (5).

Where I fit is between 4 and 5. I agree very much with the Copenhagen consensus that we need to consider how best to spend our money. ie. if I give you $1, where would you get the best return on this money. The Copenhagen consensus report found out that the top 4 best returns would be from investing in eliminating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, eliminating malnutrition, eliminating subsidies and tariffs (which is a major reason why the world's poor can't climb out from the trap of poverty), and preventing malaria which has a terrible social and economic impact on African countries. Somewhere at the bottom of the list was climate change.

Of course, we must adjust our thinking as new facts come in. The problem is that with all the hysteria surrounding Global Warming and Al Gore doing his global warming dance around the world, it's hard to seperate fact from theory and politicians are climbing over each other to figure out new ways to tax us (too bad they couldn't use the same level of creativity to tackle some other issues like completing the Doha round, which would give poor countries access to Western markets). The Stern Report was the first serious attempt to put a price tag on global warming but an excellent rebuttal came from Bjorn Lomborg in the WSJ, where he dismantles some of the assumptions (such as a very low discount rate) and puts into question whether we should be basing policy on this document. Problem is that it's already too late. The Stern Report is considered Fact.

So what's the point of this rant? No point really. Just wanted to air my frustrations with this whole global warming thing. A few years ago activists got all flustered by globalization. Now the new bogeyman is global warming (and of course the old enemies remain - corporate America and evil multinationals). Sigh...

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