Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cost of Climate Change

I read an interesting article in the National Post today from a climate change activist laying out the cost of climate change. It was a vain attempt to deconstruct the economics of global warming, painting a very bleak picture that concludes doing nothing would be literally murdering poor people. Really his argument had more holes than a Michael Moore movie. As an economist, I would like to quickly address his main talking points individually.

1) "The Global Humanitarian Forum argues that a gradual rise in temperature has already displaced 26-million people, and kills about 315,000 people a year through hunger, sickness and weather disasters, with the annual death toll expected to rise to half a million by 2030."

Are you saying that those are 315,000 people who would not have died had the world climate stayed in steady state equilibrium? Since we have started measuring weather in an archive, we have observed that temperature patterns are constantly cycling around equilibrium, rarely resting at a consistent temperature. Interesting how they shift back to temperature increases when making the case on how you are murdering people by driving to work. I thought the world stopped warming a decade ago. If the world hasn't warmed, then shouldn't those people still be alive? Or is global cooling worse? A lot of people die around the world every day for a lot of reasons. I would like to see the data that these "experts" are using to make these forecasts. Where does "half a million will die annually by climate change" come from?

2) "Second, the economic costs of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are significant. Nicholas Stern argues that doing nothing to mitigate carbon emissions could result in a 5%-20% loss of world GDP due to rising temperatures. Others (including big insurers) argue that global warming already causes over $125-billion in annual economic losses worldwide."


"The United Kingdom's Stern Report posited that 90% of the economic losses will be borne in the developing world, even though the world's 50 least-developed countries contribute only 1% of global emissions."

This is my favourite mathematical contradiction. A possible 20% loss of GDP, with 90% of the loss suffered from the poorest 50 countries who contribute 1% of the world's carbon. According to the World Bank, the world's 100 poorest countries contribute roughly 2% to global GDP. If 90% of the losses will be incurred by 2% of the world economy, how can the world's economy decline by a maximum of 20%? That is mathematically impossible! Honestly, if the 30 richest countries in the world produce roughly 90% of global economic output, then a clever wealth distribution scheme could certainly destroy 20% of world GDP. Unless we are going to include Europe as part of the developing world.

Again, when you are debating these people, just focus on the numbers. I would not speculate that every climate change activist is a Marxist, but there is a significant proportion in the global warming community who are now promoting global socialism as the cure to a problem that isn't even there.

I have asked it before and I will say it again, where does environmentalism end and Marxism begin?

1 comment:

  1. Seems to me the environmentalists have to choose between this shiny new world wealth redistribution scheme or a cleaner environment.
    Chinese industry pollutes more per unit of production than industry in the developed world.
    So moving production from the cleaner industry here to the dirtier industry there will result in more real pollution and C02, not less.
    And we'll ship our raw materials there and the finished products back here which will cause even more pollution.