Sunday, February 24, 2008

Indur Goklany on What to Do about Climate Change

Indur Goklany's paper (PDF) for Cato's Policy Analysis is excellent. He goes through, using the Stern Review and DEFRA's Fast Track Assessment as his sources, why even pessimistic accounts of the costs of climate change cannot find more than marginal harms within the foreseeable future. This builds into a case that humanity will actually be better off in the warmer but richer scenarios that were purported to be the worst-case scenarios by Stern and DEFRA's researchers than in a cooler but poorer world.

Goklany argues that adaptation to the specific problems that might be worsened by climate change, such as malaria, is the way forward. His study provides yet more support for the now reasonably well established three-pronged response to climate change; that such an approach is a better idea than aggresive attempts to curb emissions. Technological development, adaptation and resilient free-market institutions can all contribute to an effective response to global warming.

4 comments:

Edd said...

We will be fine because we can adapt. But that is hardly the point.

Those who will not be fine are those who are least equipped financially and infrastructurally to deal with the effects of climate change and sure enough they happen also to be the ones that have played no part in causing the problem. With mild warming northern Europe will probably find that crop yields rise but nearer the equator crop yields will drop. Minor levels of rising seas won't have too big an effect on the UK and the effect that it does have we can mitigate hence the increase in spending on flood defence systems. Bangladesh however doesn't have that luxury. Unless we are prepared to transfer significant amounts of our GDP to many parts of the developing world which are extremely vulnerable - as we would be morally obliged to do so as it is us and not them that caused the warming -it is time we started trying to prevent the cause of the worst affects

Matthew Sinclair said...

Edd,

Read Goklany's piece. It sets out why the assumptions underlying your argument there don't hold.

Matt

Anonymous said...

Matt,

Read the original sources Goklany uses from Global Environmental Change and you'll see that he grossly underestimates the impacts of climate change - global food production will become increasingly unequal and adverse impacts will only grow into the next century, coastal flooding only becomes significantly apparent in the 2080s (Goklany's target year) though it is clear that they will worsen into the next century as well. The point is that changes from climate change are irreversible and major, and simply choosing a relatively near point in the future to argue that things aren't that bad (in gross, aggregate terms) isn't that comforting.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Anon,

I'm well aware that Stern finds larger harms further in the future. However, that is far less meaningful than it initially sounds. While the climate scientists may be as confident as they like with their models there is no way you can realistically hope to understand the priorities and pressures faced by a society so far in the future.

Half of the harm's in Stern's study come after 2800. Would you be alright with us invading Chad in case they got the bomb in six hundred years time? No, the very question is absurd.

I've written about this at more length here:
http://sinclairsmusings.blogspot.com/2007/06/discounting-for-adaptation.html