Rupert Murdoch might be concerned about the harm that threatens from global warming, but the Australian is still in denial, printing an opinion piece by Alex Robson and Sinclair Davidson, who continue to deny the existence of scientific evidence for man-made warming:

The petition also states “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that warming of the world’s climate is ‘unequivocal’ and that it is almost certainly due to human activity”.

We are invited to think that such a statement would be backed up by IPCC research that used easily accessible data, replicable modelling techniques, and parsimonious empirical analysis. In other words, you might expect that such an unequivocal determination would be supported by standard scientific methods and practices.

Not so. The IPCC itself publicly acknowledged in 2004 that it “does not conduct new research, monitor climate-related data or recommend policies”. Its purpose is to build consensus, not to discover the truth. Disturbingly, we may never know for sure how the IPCC arrives at its conclusions, because the negotiations over what the consensus should be occur behind closed doors.

Yes, the IPCC does not itself, conduct research — it assesses the research conducted by scientists. You can read that assessment here, something that Robson and Davidson appear not to have done. To find out how they arrived at their conclusions, I recommend reading the report.

Robson and Davidson seem to be completely ignorant of even the most basic facts about global warming:

The petition states that “developed countries are responsible for (about) 75 per cent of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere”. This is a meaningless statement; over which period does the increase refer to? For academics in any discipline to even formulate such a logically vacuous statement, let alone sign a petition endorsing it, is nothing short of embarrassing.

The World Resources Institute reports

In terms of historical emissions, industrialized countries account for roughly 80% of the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere to date. Since 1950, the U.S. has emitted a cumulative total of roughly 50.7 billion tons of carbon, while China (4.6 times more populous) and India (3.5 times more populous) have emitted only 15.7 and 4.2 billion tons respectively.

It’s nothing short of embarrassing that Robson and Davidson couldn’t figure this out and couldn’t find anyone to explain it to them.

Robson and Davidson continue with:

The petition claims that “credible estimates suggest that a 50 per cent emissions reduction is achievable for less than one year’s economic growth”. What does this mean? Who made these credible estimates? Who are winners and losers from the policies that reduce the emissions?

Consider this thought experiment: in a very good year our economic growth might be 4 per cent. Do the petitioners really think a 50 per cent emissions reduction would cost less than 4 per cent of this year’s gross domestic product? Or are they saying that future GDP would permanently be 4 per cent less than it otherwise would be which, added up over Australia’s entire future, could easily exceed 100 per cent of present GDP?

Oh, if only there was some way to figure out what they mean? Maybe we could look at the Summary for Policy Makers from the IPCC’s WG3? Which was released this month to wide publicity, but apparently not wide enough to to get Robson and Davidson’s attention. Table SPM.4 says that for the lowest stabilization level, economic growth is reduced by less than 0.12 percentage points and the total reduction by 2030 is less than 3 per cent.

No credible economist has yet argued that reducing carbon emissions will increase GDP.

Robson and Davidson seem to want to ignore that not reducing carbon emissions will reduce GDP as climate change causes losses from droughts, storms, sea level rise and so on. It’s the net cost that matters and Stern has argued that reducing emissions leaves us ahead.

John Quiggin has more on the Robson and Davidson piece.

Comments

  1. #1 LogicallySpeaking
    May 13, 2007

    “Disturbingly, we may never know for sure how the IPCC arrives at its conclusions, because the negotiations over what the consensus should be occur behind closed doors.”

    Know why why they may never know? Because they refuse to ask the IPCC (apparently asking questions is unethical). It’s not that the IPCC refuses to answer these questions (indeed, someone involved with WG1 gave an extensive talk at the University of Toronto on the procedure not too long ago). It’s that refuse to look for the answer in any logical place whatsoever.

    Sheer idiocy.

  2. #2 Alex
    May 13, 2007

    Hacks. Pure unmitigated Hacks.

  3. #3 Verdurous
    May 14, 2007

    Fortunately this sort of stuff is likely to soon dry up from the Australian. It is unlikely that the paper will be immune from Rupert’s influence for long. Question is…what happens when he drops off the perch? At least one of his sons (the one who runs BSkyB cable TV in Britain) thinks sensibly on this issue. Should Rupert be allowed to manipulate so much of the world’s media in this way? No. But in the absence of strengthened media diversity rules, I’d rather he push environmental concerns than anything else one might care to think of.

  4. #4 Robert S.
    May 14, 2007

    That is a great argument!

    for the lowest stabilization level, economic growth is reduced by less than 0.12 percentage points and the total reduction by 2030 is less than 3 per cent.

    and then

    not reducing carbon emissions will reduce GDP as climate change causes losses from droughts, storms, sea level rise and so on

    Given that, it makes economic sense to reduce emissions, given the probable causes and expected effects, and taking into account that it is likely more cost effective to implement some of these controls than to not. This is the type of way the discussion should be phrased I’d think.

    Now it’s just a matter of deciding which ones make the most sense and getting everyone on board. That’s the tricky part one would imagine…..

    For its part, among other projects and various R&D, the US has created a cabinet committee on climate change science and technology integration, and budgeted 5.5 billion in 2006 for climage-change programs and energy tax incentives. The goal is to reduce GhG intensity by 18 percent in the period of time from 2002 to 2012. I don’t know if that’s enough, but it doesn’t include projects like what the EPA and USDA do on a regular basis, etc. (Or in other words, that’s not the entire amount they’re spending on the issue.)

  5. #5 Ian Gould
    May 15, 2007

    “No credible economist has yet argued that reducing carbon emissions will increase GDP.”

    Actually the recent IPCC report concluded that the range of possible outcomes from actions limiting climate change to less than 4 degrees of warming ranged from slightly positive to a cumulative cost of 3% of GDP.

    That’s before we consider the avoided costs associated with global warming or various other potential benefits not captured by the standard economic analysis (e.g. the savings on health costs from burning less coal).

    Fortunately the weasel word “credible” allows R&D to argue that the IPCC’s economists don;t count.

  6. #6 Robert S.
    May 16, 2007

    I wouldn’t see why they wouldn’t be credible (or not) just because they’re with the IPCC. Maybe there’s just too much information from too many people to put out something succinct and compelling.

    Probably no “credible economist” (or “credible hurricane expert” or….) would even be able to argue it either way in the first place, given all the variables and disciplines involved. Given that, saying “nobody’s said it” becomes a meaningless statement. (“No 12-armed 18-feet tall space alien has said the moon orbits the Earth.”)

    Then the question becomes how we can put together a group that can come up with a compelling and neutral cost/benefit analysis of limited scope that won’t be hacked up by partizan bickering (or simply mostly ignored) after being produced. The House of Lords? The US Senate? The IPCC in a separate and more economically focused SRES type of report that’s smaller and more specific? Committee X? Panel Y?

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