Lewandowsky et al. 2012 MOTIVATED REJECTION OF SCIENCE – Part 4 Political Opinions

This is the fourth in a series on Lewandowsky, Oberauer & Gignac – NASA faked the moon landing:Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science (in press, Psychological Science).

This posting is further analysis of the data set sourced by Katabasis. (The data is now available from Bishop Hill) The previous post looked at the conspiracy theory question, whilst this looks at the link that the survey makes between free market ideas and rejection of climate science. From the abstract, this was the primary theme of the survey.

Abstract

Although nearly all domain experts agree that human CO2 emissions are altering the

world’s climate, segments of the public remain unconvinced by the scientific evidence.

Internet blogs have become a vocal platform for climate denial, and bloggers have taken a

prominent and influential role in questioning climate science. We report a survey (N

> 1100) of climate blog users to identify the variables underlying acceptance and rejection

of climate science. Paralleling previous work, we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire

conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science (r≈:80 between

latent constructs). Endorsement of the free market also predicted the rejection of other

established scientific findings, such as the facts that HIV causes AIDS and that smoking

causes lung cancer. We additionally show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy

theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon

landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific

findings, above and beyond endorsement of laissez-faire free markets. This provides

empirical confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to

the rejection of science. Acceptance of science, by contrast, was strongly associated with

the perception of a consensus among scientists.

There were relatively few questions to identify the political views of the respondent.

The Free Market Questions

FMUnresBest An economic system based on free markets

unrestrained by government interference automatically

works best to meet human needs.

FMNotEnvQual I support the free market system but not at the expense

of the environmental quality.

FMLimitSocial The free market system may be efficient for resource

allocation but it is limited in its capacity to promote

social justice.

FMMoreImp The preservation of the free market system is more

important than localized environmental concerns.

FMThreatEnv Free and unregulated markets pose important threats

to sustainable development.

FMUnsustain The free market system is likely to promote

unsustainable consumption.

The Climate Science Questions

CO2TempUp I believe that burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric

temperature to some measurable degree.

CO2AtmosUp I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has increased atmospheric temperature to an appreciable degree.
CO2WillNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years will cause serious negative changes to the planet’s climate unless there is a substantial switch to non CO2 emitting energy sources.
CO2HasNegChange I believe that the burning of fossil fuels on the scale observed over the last 50 years has caused serious negative changes to the planet’s climate.

The Results

The answers for the free market questions are from 1 (reject the free market) to 4 (complete agreement to free market).

The answers for the climate science questions are from 1 (totally Reject) to 4 (complete agreement).

As in my previous posting, for the Climate Science questions I graded the answers to the four questions into groups based on the average score.


The answer is clear from the poll results. The stronger the support for free markets, the more likely one is to reject the climate science.

Taking the average score and rounding to the nearest whole number, the picture is even clearer.


The more free-market the views expressed, the greater the rejection of the science. Does this substantiate Lewandowsky et. al’s assertions?

Err No.

There are some series issues with this result.

Firstly, the survey was only available on a certain type of blog. Depending on your point of view, they are either pro-science or alarmist. These are

http://www.skepticalscience.com
http://tamino.wordpress.com
http://bbickmore.wordpress.com
http://www.trunity.net/uuuno/blogs/
http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/
http://profmandia.wordpress.com/
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/
http://hot-topic.co.nz/

If you sample some of their articles, you will find a dogmatic defence of climate change, and blocking, editing or denigration views that are contrary to their own. To regularly trawl through articles that you disagree with takes a certain kind of person that may not be representative of the wider sceptic community. Given that the sceptic blogs attract a wider audience than the “pro-science” ones, the fact that only 15% of responses were from sceptics says that only a minority regularly visit the blogs antagonistic to their views. In other words, the survey is not representative of the true population of those interested in the climate change / global warming issues.

Then there are the questions themselves.

At first glance the questions do not allow for the middle ground. Many sceptics who are not libertarian in outlook have then a number of options.

  1. Some might quit the survey in disgust, thus creating a sample less representative of the true population. There was no record kept of the numbers of part completed surveys, nor the point at which they were completed. The lack of neutrality and narrowness of the range of questions suggests that might be material.
  2. The second is to answer questions in opposition to the climate consensus. That is the join in coalition to free-marketers to oppose the environmentalist ideology. This is quite logical. Environmentalist ideology can be viewed as increasing authoritarianism, constraining economic growth (and thus the prospect of ever-rising standards of living) along with regressive cost increases in electricity and fuel for cars. In other words, those who want the status quo to be maintained join in coalition with those who want the direction of change to be the opposite of where environmentalists are pulling. There is no risk here for the moderates. Libertarianism is nowhere a major political force.

Let us look at the average response for each question to see if this is suggested.


The most pragmatic question is the least polarized. People may support a position ideologically, but will compromise if there is a demonstrable need or benefit. Conversely the last two questions are the most ideological. A lot of people are motivated to oppose a movement that is contrary to their own beliefs. In other words, the nature of the questions further drives people into opposing camps.

How should Lewandowsky have approached these problems? If he was an objective scientist, Lewandowsky would have sought advice from professional pollsters on the content of the questions. They would have advised more neutral, and a broader range of questions to enable people to express a range of views. They would have also advised validity checks to make sure the survey results were representative of the population at large. But Stefan Lewandowsky is not an objective scientist. His agenda is to prevent any opposition to the ideology he and others promote.

Are there any conclusions to be drawn?

The biases in the free market questions apply to those who reject climate science. However, as a survey of those who accept the climate science, it is more valid.

Firstly the sample size is significant. Merging the six groups into 3 gives:-


The sample size of 854 is quite large, and more than six times the size of those who reject climate science.

Secondly, the sample is likely to represent the true population of “Acceptors”, as it was placed on the blogs that they frequent.

Thirdly, as the survey was devised by people sympathetic to their point of view, the abandonment rate should not have been any higher than for more neutral polls.

The major conclusion is that those who “accept the science” have no truck with conspiracy theories. On political opinions, they strongly support an ideology which promotes the environment at the expense of economic growth and economic freedoms. That is the, planet should be given a higher priority relative to the people that live on it.

Thus the true result of the survey data is not that those who oppose climate science are nutters. Rather, it is that those who support climate science have views that are at odds to, and contrary to the best interests of, the vast majority. We have not got here the justification to silence the opposition, but giving them due weighting.


The Bias of Climatology – Pulling Recent Strands Together

David Evans has provided a succinct explanation of why climate scientists’ theories, ignore some fundamental data. The views that feedbacks amplify the effects of CO2 (see Evans’s diagram below) is due to a highly selective reading of the data in a number of different ways.


Now we need to pull the recent strands together.

On actual temperature history we are getting evermore examples of data manipulation, whether on US temperatures (A Watts), Australian Temperatures (See Jo Nova), or the GISSTEMP global surface temperatures (Steven Goddard).

On past temperature history, we have the famous hockey stick graphs, starting with Mann et al in 1998 and culminating in the recent Gergis et al Australasian temperature reconstruction. All need a combination of one, or a few, very poor data sets that are promoted to prominence by statistical techniques unique to climatologists, and ignoring better quality data sets.

Something else needs to be added to the mix to obtain the high role for feedbacks – climate modelling. If recent temperature trends are exaggerated AND past temperature fluctuations smoothed out, then running a model that tries to look at relative influence of natural and anthropogenic factors on temperature will massively over-estimate the anthropogenic over the natural influences.

But go the other way. Look at the more accurate satellite data for recent temperatures and the temperature rises do not track the CO2 rises nearly so well. Go back to the raw data from the thermometers (adjusting properly for UHI), along with homogenization techniques developed by professional statisticians and the C20th warming deflates.

Then take the widest range of proxy records over a long period (even leave in the lowest quality ones) and suddenly the picture looks very different.

Then look at the role of feedbacks from a number of different perspectives, like Sherwood Idso, (possibly further corroborated by Esper et al 2012) and the real picture becomes clearer. Global average temperatures have increased in the last 200 years. Not quite as much in recent years as the temperature records maintain, but are now significantly higher than in during the 17th century. Furthermore, there is circumstantial evidence that a part of this increase (even up to 0.4 Celsius if non-C02 GHGs are included) has been due to the human greenhouse gas emissions. But this is a curiosity for a few academics to ponder, whilst the thrust of the research effort is put into improving the accuracy and integrity of the data.

Defence of the Consensus

The response of mainstream climatology (and with it a vast array of hangers-on) is not to improve the standards and moderate their wilder comments. Instead it has been to shut down debate by attacking the opponents. Australia has the unfortunate achievement to be home to two of the vilest the proponents of this assault on dissent. Prof Stephan Lewandowsky’s latest instalment is publishing a survey which associates climate skeptics with the worst of the conspiracy theorists. John Cook, a climatologist, ignores expert etymologists to justify calling his site skepticalscience.com

Climatology does not rank as a true science, as it has long since abandoned the search for challenging questions and improvements in quality of answers. Rather than explain the anomalies and meet the challenge of alternative explanations, climatology protects itself by employing intellectual bully-boys.

A Climate Change / Global Warming Spectrum

In politics, most people’s views can be placed on a spectrum, when it comes to climate change / global warming there is no such perspectives. The views are often polarized, particularly by those who believe in a future climate catastrophe. This is an initial attempt at a grid aimed at clarifying the issues. Your constructive advice is sought on how this might be improved.

When there are contentious or politicized issues, a spectrum of opinions emerge where there is free discussion of ideas. This is true in politics and the Christian religion. In both, there is not just a one-dimensional spectrum of ideas, but multi-dimensional perspectives. For instance, in politics it has been argued that the left-right spectrum should be split into economic and moral issues. The United States Libertarian Party has had a simple survey running since 1995. A more comprehensive (but still American-orientated) survey is the Political Spectrum Quiz.

Another idea comes from Greg Craven, who did a series of zany You-Tube videos on Climate Change, particularly such as The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See” and “How it all ends“. He claimed that for the mass of non-scientists it was best to take a risk-based approach, grading the science on the credibility of those who made the claims. One objection with his analysis was it was based on polar extremes. That is either the worst climate catastrophe imaginable, or it is all a hoax. I proposed that there was a spectrum of possible outcomes, with the apocalyptic catastrophe at one extreme and the null outcome at the other. Basically there is a spectrum of views.

For this spectrum, the possible scenarios are from the null outcome on the left, rising to a huge climate catastrophe on the right.

Craven’s argument was to consider either 0 or 1000, whereas I claimed that the UNIPCC scenarios (representing the “consensus” of climate scientists), allowed for a fair range of outcomes. I have provided a log scale, as this puts clear distance between someone who believes in a low risk of catastrophe of extreme catastrophe to someone who says there is no risk at all. For instance, if someone believes that there is a 1% chance of the worst case, a 9% chance of loss of 100 and a 90% chance of a loss of 10, then their score would be 0.01*1000 + 0.09*100 + 0.90*10 = 28. In other words, for that person, especially if they are risk averse, there is still a very significant issue that should justify serious consideration of some type of global policy action.

But this measure of the prospective level of climate catastrophe needs to be based upon something. That something is scientific evidence, not people’s intuitions or gut feelings. If we imagine that the uncertainties can be measured as risks (as neoclassical economists do) then then the worst case scenario can only be attained if there is near certain, unambiguous scientific evidence in support of that prediction. If the evidence is weak statistically, gives highly variables results depending on methodology or data sets, or only tangential to the prediction, then a lower risk weighting lower than 1 will need to be ascribed. For an overall picture, we need to ascribe a weighting to the body of evidence. I propose a traffic light system. In outline green is for an overwhelming body of evidence, red is for no proper evidence whatsoever, and amber is for some weak evidence. Something along the following lines:-

Basically, an unambiguous case for impending global catastrophe must have a substantial body of strong scientific evidence to substantiate that case, with little or no contrary evidence. I will develop on another day the analogy with evidence presented to a criminal court by the prosecution. However, for the present, an analogy that is relevant is that this conclusion is only reached once the evidence fails to fall over under independent cross-examination.

This gives us a grid with the magnitude of the climate catastrophe on the X axis, and the scientific case on the Y axis. The grid, with my first opinion of where people various groups are placed, is given below. I know it is controversial – the whole aim is to get people to start thinking constructively about their views.

Alarmist Blogs (for instance Skeptical Science and Desmogblog) have an extreme black-and-white one world where they are always right, and anyone who disagrees is the polar opposite . “Deniers” is a bogeyman construct of their making.

If one reads the detail of UNIPCC AR4 report, the “Consensus” of climate scientists allow for some uncertainties, and for scenarios which are not so catastrophic.

The more Sceptical Scientists, such as Richard Lindzen, Roger Pielke Snr and Roy Spencer, view increasing greenhouse gases as a serious issue for study. However, they view the evidence as being both much weaker than the “consensus” and pointing to a much less alarming future.

The most popular Sceptic Blogs, such as Wattsupwiththat, Climate Audit and Bishop Hill I characterise as having a position of “The stronger the evidence, the weaker the relevance“. That is they allow for a considerable spread of views, but neither dismiss rise in CO2 as of no consequence, nor claim that the available evidence is strong.

Finally, the Climate Realists such as Joanne Nova and the British Climate Realists website. They occupy a similar position as the “deniers”, but from a much more substantial position. They can see little or no evidence of catastrophe, but huge amounts of exaggeration dressed up as science.

What are your opinions? What position do you think you lie on the grid? Is there an alternative (and more informative) way of characterizing the different positions?

Heartland Leak – The Implications

The stolen documents from the Heartland Institute have caused a lot of comment on the blogs. There are a number of things that will come out of this.

1. The consensus climate scientists and their cohorts cannot deal with numbers. Just as they have no sense of proportion with financial values (see Jo Nova on this), they likewise have no sense of proportion with sea level rise, temperature rise, or extreme weather events.

2. A better antonym of “sceptical” than “undoubting” or “believer” is “gullible”. Seems DeSmogBlog did not think to check out the authenticity of the damming 2012 strategy document, neither do they accept the Heartland rebuttal. It fitted the narrative, so they published within an hour of receiving the mail. Similarly The Guardian posted a number of one-sided reports (here, here, here), as did Roger Black of the BBC, without waiting to verify the facts. The most alarming 2012 strategy document is a fax (Judith Curry has other references)

3. A number of people, like me, will visit Heartland.org for the first time. They will find they have 7 policy areas employing 20 people, of which “Environment & Energy” employs 3. They specialise in providing cogent summaries of these issues to policy-makers. Whatever you think of their political stance, they are hardly the secretive, rabid backwoodsmen right-wingers that the alarmists project.

4. This support for spreading information in a concise, intelligible form also comes out in the sceptic-funding “exposes”. There is one-off support for Antony Watts who

proposes to create a new Web site devoted to accessing the new temperature data from NOAA’s web site and converting them into easy-to-understand graphs that can be easily found and understood by weathermen and the general interested public.” 

The, alleged, biggest recipient by far of monthly funding is Craig D Idso, who founded the co2science.org website. This provides summaries of climate science papers, collating their results to help give an overall picture of such as the medieval warm period, ocean acidification and the effect of CO2 on plant growth. For instance, I like this graphic summarising the proxy studies of the MWP showing that the Mannian Hockey Stick studies need to at least reconcile their claim that average global temperatures are warmer than in the last 1000 years.

5. It illustrates the upside-down nature of climatology, compared with conventional science. Conventional science is based on making bold statements and predictions that are substantiated by the evidence, with very clear and replicable methods. Over time it refines its techniques, strengthens its methods of analysis and sees its predictions confirmed. It does not need to denigrate, or attempt to silence its detractors. Like the historians of the holocaust, conventional science just points to the evidence and enlightens those who seek the truth. The real deniers of truth in history have been those who silence their opponents and fabricate distortions.

Overall, the leak exposes why the little Heartland Institute is so evil and dangerous to many. They threaten the jobs and reputations of tens of thousands of climate scientists, “policy-makers”, regulators, and powerful business interests in the alternatives to reliable energy. On the other hand, they are on the side of those made hungry by fuel crops competing with food, and of future generations globally, who will be worse-off by growth-sapping mitigation policies.

Joseph Stiglitz on the causes of the current crisis

Roger Pielke Jr. takes a critical look (here and here) at a novel theory of the recession from Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair, the eminent economics journal. This is an extended version of the comment that I made on the second posting.

The Stiglitz theory would make a bit of sense if it were not for what he misses.

  • Your evidence that other countries, like, Germany, have similar increases in productivity but not the endemic problems.
  • That output per capita is identical in National Income Accounting with income per capita. Therefore, the long term rise in per capita income is a result of increased productivity per capita.
  • Since the start of the industrial revolution, real per capita output has risen (in the wealthy economies) more than 200 times. If there has been no corresponding increase in per capita income, unemployment would be greater than 99%.
  • Stiglitz quite rightly points to the rise in personal debt. He makes no mention of public sector debt. In the USA and in Britain in the period 2000 to 2007 government finances swung from a small structural surplus to significant structural deficit. If deficit-financed investment is expansionary, it was not just the low interest rates that kept the boom going but the fiscal stimuli. Similar structural deficits were present in many European countries like Greece, Portugal and Italy.
  • In the 1990 Japan entered a prolonged slump. In the following decade the economy stagnated despite huge public works investment like Stiglitz advocates. The Japanese national debt spiralled to 300% of GDP, with nothing to show for it, except a lot of fantastic roads to nowhere.
  • Japan was fortunate in that its borrowings are at near zero interest rates. The European economies are not so fortunate. Those European economies with large deficits reached a crisis tipping point when interest rates exceeded 7%. To save the economy, radical contractionary policies have been implemented.

I would therefore contend that Keynesian fiscal expansion in the USA or elsewhere would not only be ineffective (coming on top of other fiscal expansion), but carries a huge risk of making matters dramatically worse. Morally I believe that economic policy-making has a powerful analogy to medical practice. It is not just a matter of diagnosing properly the type and extent of the ailment. It is providing, at a minimum, a remedy for which there is a reasonable expectation that the patient will be better off being treated than not. Like with a GP, an economist has a duty of care in what they advocate, particularly when there are very clear and evident risks. Joseph Stiglitz seems to take no such care.

Economic v Climate Models

Luboš Motl has a polemical look at the supposed refutation of a sceptics arguments. This is an extended version of my comment.

Might I offer an alternative view of item 30 – economic v climate models?

Economic models are different from climate models. They try to model empirical generalisations and (with a bit of theory & a lot of opinion) try to forecast future trends. They tend to be best over the short term when things are pretty much the same from one year to the next. The consensus of forecasts are pretty useless at predicting discontinuities in trends, such as the credit crunch. At there best their forecasts at little better than the dumb forecast that next period will be the same as last period. In general the accuracy of economic forecasts is inversely proportional to their utility.

Climate models are somewhat different according to Dr MacCracken.

“In physical systems, we do have a theory—make a change and there will be a response in largely understandable and calculatable ways. Models don’t replace theory; their very structure is based on our theoretical understanding, which is why they are called theoretical models. All that the computers do is to very rapidly make the calculations in accord with their theoretical underpinnings, doing so much, much faster than scientists could with pencil and paper.”

The good doctor omits to mention some other factors. It might be the case that climate scientists have all the major components of the climate system (though clouds are a significant problems), but he omits to include measurements. The interplay of complex factors can cause unpredictable outcomes depending on timing and extent, as well as the theory. The climate models, though they have a similarity of theory and extent, come up with widely different forecasts. Even this variation is probably limited by sense-checking the outcomes and making ad hoc adjustments. If the models are basically correct then major turning points should capable of being predicted. The post 1998 stasis in temperatures, the post 2003 stability in sea temperatures and the decline in hurricanes post Katrina are all indicators that models are overly sensitive. The novelty that the models do predict tend not to be there, but the novelties that do exist are not predicted.

If it is the case that climate models are still boldly proclaiming a divergency from trend, whilst economic models have much more modest in their claims, is this not an indicator of climate model’s superiority? It would be if one could discount the various economic incentives. Economic models are funded by competing in institutions. Some are private sector, and some are public sector. For most figures there is forecast verification monthly (e.g. inflation, jobs) or quarterly (growth). If a model were consistently an outlier if would lose standing, as the forecasts are evaluated against each other. If it was more accurate then the press would quote it, being good name placement for the organisation. In the global warming forecasts, there is not even an annual variation. The incentive is either to conform, or to provide more extreme (it is worse than we thought) prognostications. If the model projected basically said “chill-out, it ain’t that bad man”, they authors would be ostracized and called deniers. At a minimum the academics would lose status and ultimately lose out on the bigger research grants.

(A more extreme example is of a major earthquake forecast. “There will not be one today” is a very accurate prediction. In the case of Tokyo area over the last 100 years that would have been wrong only twice, an accuracy of greater than 1 in 10,000).

Al Gore’s faulty case for CAGW

Wattsupwiththat have an estimate of Al Gore’s Climate Reality online viewing figures. I posted at the follow-up article

manicbeancounter says:

September 22, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I was one of those who stayed for over 5 minutes.

A video they had justified the case for global warming by re-doing the CO2 in a jar experiment – very nicely as well. Only they did not say what the concentrations were compared to the atmosphere (probably >1000 times the 0.04% at the moment).

Then in the space of a sentence mentioned feedbacks amplifying the effect.

So of the predicted warming up to 6 degrees centigrade this century predicted by the most extreme alarmists, Al Gore’s little video had a flawed experiment to justify the insignificant first 20%, and a “trust the computer models” for the alarming bit.

Don’t take my word for it – I am just a (slightly) manic beancounter. Check out for yourself at http://climaterealityproject.org/video/climate-101/

By the way – don’t worry about the stats – Alexa currently ranks this site at 16,989 and Climate Reality at 64,734.

REPLY: I have a post coming up on this video, which is online here also, without the need to visit Gore’s site: http://vimeo.com/28991442
-Anthony


Feedbacks in Climate Science and Keynesian Economics

Warren Meyer posts of a parallel between Climate Science and Keynesian Economics. I posted about a subject close to his heart, and central to Keynesianism – Feedbacks. I have also attempted to update on the current debate on feedbacks.

Warren

There is a parallel between Keynes and the CAGW that is close to your heart – feedbacks. Pure Keynesianism is that an increase in government expenditure at less than full employment would have a positive feedback response. Keynes called the feedback measure the multiplier. (The multiplier is the reciprocal of the proportion of Government expenditure to GDP. So if government expenditure was 20% of GDP, then a $1bn fiscal boost would increase output by $5bn.)

By the 1950’s the leading sceptic was Milton Friedman who, in his 1962 book “Capitalism and Freedom”, estimated empirically that the multiplier was about 1 – that is it did not have any impact. Friedman was denounced as a denier and a dinosaur. (At the same time, mainstream economics adapted his verificationist methodology.) Indeed by the end of the 1960s it was generally agreed that the long-term feedback impact of government demand management was negative, as increased government expenditure crowded out the private sector, caused escalating inflation (as economic actors ceased to be fooled by the false signals 0f increased expenditure), slowed economic growth and generally undermined the very structures of the capitalist system. (see Friedman’s Nobel Prize lecture “Inflation and Unemployment“)

Keynesian thinking is that the capitalist economic system is inherently unstable. Stability is only achieved through the guiding hand of government. Keynes contrasted this with a caricature of neoclassical economics, with the macroeconomic system would rapidly come back into equilibrium. Similarly, the climate models assumption of chronic instability is contrasted by an extreme caricature of those who disagree with them. That is the “deniers” are saying that the climate is incredibly stable, with human beings having no influence. In both cases the consequence of this caricaturing is to automatically claim any extreme occurrence as vindification of their perspective.

IPCC & Greenpeace

The Shub Niggurath (Hattip BishopHill) arguments against the IPCC’s SSREN growth figures are complex. The Greenpeace model on which they were based basically took a baseline projection and backcast from there. A cursory look at the figure GDP figures shows that the economic models point to knife-edge scenario. The economic models indicate that the wrong combination of policies, but successfully applied, could cause a global depression for a nigh-on a generation and lead to 330 million less people in 2050 than the do-nothing scenario. But successful combination of policies will have absolutely no economic impact.

Shub examines this table :-

Table 10.3, page 1187, chapter 10 IPCC SRREN

(Page 32 of 106 in Chapter 10. Download available from here)

I have looked at the GDP per capita and population figures.


To see whether the per capita GDP projections are realistic, I have first estimated the implied annual growth rates. The IEA calculates a baseline of around 2% growth to 2030. The German Aerospace Centre then believes growth rates will fall to 1.7% in the following 20 years. Why, I am not sure, but it certainly gives a lower target to aim at. Projecting the 2030 to 2050 growth rate forward to the end of the century gives a GDP per capita (in 2005 constant values) of $56,000. That is a greater than five-fold increase in 93 years.

On a similar basis there are two scenarios examined for climate change policies. In the Category III+IV case, growth rates drop to 0.5% until 2030. It then picks up to 2% per annum. Why a policy that reduces global growth by 75% for 23 years should then cause a rebound is beyond me. However, the impact on living standards is profound. Almost 30% lower by 2030. Even if the higher growth is extrapolated to the end of the century, future generations are still 12% worse off than if nothing was done.

But the Category I+II case makes this global policy disaster seem mild by comparison. Here the assume is that global output per capita will fall year-on-year by 0.5% for nearly a generation. That is falling living standards for 23 years, ending up at little over half what they were in 2007. This scenario will be little changed in 2050 or 2100. Falling living standards mean lower life expectancy and a reduction in population growth. The model reflects this by projecting that these climate change policies will lead to 330 million less people than a do-nothing scenario.

Let us be clear what this table is saying. If the world gets together and successfully implements a set of policies to contain CO2 levels at 440ppm, the global output in 2050 will be 40% lower. There is a downside risk here as well – that this cost will not contain the growth in CO2, or that the alternative power supplies will mean power outages, or that large-scale, long-term government projects tend to massively overrun on costs and under perform on benefits.

Let us hark back to the Stern Review, published in 2006. From the Summary of Conclusions

“Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t

act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least

5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts

is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the

worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each

year.”

Stern looked at the costs, but not at the impact on economic growth. So even if you accept his alarmist prediction costs of 5% or more of GDP, would you bequeath that to your great grandchildren, or a 40% or more reduction lowering of their living standards along with the risk of the policies being ineffective? Add into the mix that The Stern Review took the more alarming estimates, rather a balanced perspective(1) then the IPCC case for reducing CO2 by more solar panels and wind farms is looking highly irresponsible.

From my own perspective, I would not have thought that the impact of climate mitigation policies could be so harmful to economic growth. If the models are correct that the wrong policies are hugely harmful to economic growth, then due diligence should be applied to any policy proposals. If the economic models from the IPCC are too sensitive to minor changes, then we must ask if their climate models suffer from the same failings.

  1. See for instance Tol & Yohe (WORLD ECONOMICS • Vol. 7 • No. 4• October–December 2006)

Update 27th July.

Have just read through Steve McIntyre’s posting on the report. Unusually for him, he concentrates on the provenance of the report and not on analysing the data.

Comparing Politicians to Global Warming Deniers

At CafeHayek, Don Bordeaux has a post that requires careful reading. It is an attack on politicians and overbearing government, couched in a metaphor of global warming deniers.

My comment was

Using the metaphor of global warming is apt, but like any metaphor breaks down once examined closely. I would claim that a global warming “denier” has a more tenable position once the evidence is examined in detail and from different perspectives. Conversely, a denier of the unintended consequences of interventionism, like a holocaust denier, has a less tenable position once the alternative evidence is examined.

This brings me onto a second point. Politicians are selling themselves to get elected, which implies building up coalitions of diverse interest groups. Early Public Choice theory called this Pork-Barrel politics. A more successful approach in the television era is one based on image. That is projecting personality over policy substance. It goes against the notions of weighing up the pros and cons, learning from error in one’s past judgments, and recognizing limitations in one’s abilities and knowledge. Good government requires questioning skeptics, but has a propensity to elect the smooth-talking deniers.

An early example of image-based politics – indeed the forerunner in modern times – is JF Kennedy. A more recent example in Britain is New Labour. The image-based politics justified building up a structural deficit in the boom years. The need to save face, and the political ambitions of the key player, meant that the political business cycle did not operate after the 2005 general election. That is, according to Public Choice Theory, to boost the economy to get re-elected and then take the necessary measures to reduce the deficit immediately after.