Monday, March 19, 2007

BBC Report on Stern

This is an interesting BBC report on global warming (click in the top right to listen to the full report), which mirrors but expands upon some of Lawson's critiques of the assumptions in the Stern Review (via DK). Essentially, there are two key criticisms.

Firstly, Stern has chosen particularly strong assumptions, at the extreme end of the IPCC's predictions or beyond. He has double-counted costs and largely ignored the possibility of adaptation. Most of the differences are in economic prediction rather than the natural science analysis. This is the strategy of a report designed to justify a preconceived conclusion. Stern's defence of this is that the IPCC is "based on consensus" and he prefers his own analysis of the evidence but when he acknowledges that his report is only really qualified for economic analysis this is rather weak.

Secondly, the vast majority of the harms Stern identifies are predicted to occur after 2100. The BBC report mainly discusses this as a divergence from the popular understanding of the report and, in particular, the "5% now and forever" soundbite. More importantly it moves the predicted costs into a more uncertain time period. Predictions over a hundred years in the future should always be taken with a pinch of salt whether they are predictions of demographic apocalypse from Mark Steyn or global warming from the green movement.

There is a brilliant bit rebutting Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, who says we can see global warming in Britain in the Thames Barrier being raised so much more in the last five years than in the five years previous. The reporter actually goes to the Thames Barrier and finds that the truth is the opposite. However, truth has been made hostage to politics. Chris Huhne's over-confident ignorance encapsulates what makes much of the global warming debate so unimpressive.

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