1.1. Use of Most Relevant Observational Data and the Scientific Method as the Basis for Determining Effects
1.2. Why Science Should Be Based on Relevant Observational Data and the Scientific Method
“In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience; compare it directly with observation to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. It’s that simple statement that is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is—if it disagrees with experiment (observation) it is wrong.”
1.2.1. Why Computer Models Do Not Demonstrate Scientific Validity
1.2.2. Uncertainties in the Scientific Data Used for Rejecting a Hypothesis
1.2.3. Some Assumptions
1.3. Why Economists Also Have a Responsibility to Consider the Lowest Cost Alternative
1.4. Outline of the Article
2. The Economic Benefits of Climate Change Mitigation
2.1. The Background
- Hypothesis 1: Anthropogenic releases of CO2 are the primary cause of increases in atmospheric CO2.
- Hypothesis 2: Increases in atmospheric CO2 levels interact with the major greenhouse gas, water vapor, to create a large positive feedback capable of creating catastrophic global warming.
- Hypothesis 3: Anthropogenic GHG emissions, particularly CO2, will result in CAGW.
- Hypothesis 3a: Changes in global temperatures are primarily influenced by rising levels of GHGs other than water vapor in the atmosphere.
2.2. Hypothesis 1: Anthropogenic Releases of CO2 Are the Primary Cause of Increases in Atmospheric CO2
“[The] IPCC defines lifetime for CO2 as the time required for the atmosphere to adjust to a future equilibrium state if emissions change abruptly, and gives a lifetime of 50–200 years in parentheses (Houghton et al., 1990) . Their footnote No. 4 to their Table 1.1 explains:For each gas in the table, except CO2, the “lifetime” is defined here as the ratio of the atmospheric content to the total rate of removal. This time scale also characterizes the rate of adjustment of the atmospheric concentrations if the emission rates are changed abruptly. CO2 is a special case since it has no real sinks, but is merely circulated between various reservoirs (atmosphere, ocean, biota). The “lifetime” of CO2 given in the table is a rough indication of the time it would take for the CO2 concentration to adjust to changes in the emissions…”
A more recent reference is .“The December 1988 atmospheric CO2 composition was computed for its 748 GT C (GT = 1015 g) total mass and δ13C = −7.807 for 3 components: (1) natural fraction remaining from the pre-industrial atmosphere; (2) cumulative fraction remaining from all annual fossil-fuel CO2 emissions; (3) carbon isotope mass-balanced natural fraction. The masses of component (1) and (2) were computed for different atmospheric lifetimes of CO2.”
2.3. Hypothesis 2: Increases in Atmospheric CO2 Levels Interact with the Major Greenhouse Gas, Water Vapor, to Create a Large Positive Feedback Capable of Causing Catastrophic Global Warming
“The first 20 ppm of carbon dioxide has a greater temperature effect than the next 400 ppm. The rate of annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 30 years has averaged 1.7 ppm. From the current level of 380 ppm, it is projected to rise to 420 ppm by 2030.“The projected 40 ppm increase reduces emission from the stratosphere to space…This… equates to an increase in atmospheric temperature of 0.04 °C.“Increasing the carbon dioxide content by a further 200 ppm to 620 ppm, projected by 2150, results in a further 0.16 °C increase in atmospheric temperature.“Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased the temperature of the atmosphere by 0.1 °C.”
2.3.1. Four Critical Comparisons with Real World Data
- The atmospheric response times for volcanic sequences would be longer than they would be without the UN’s high positive feedback hypothesis.
- There is a tropical hot spot in the upper troposphere.
- There is a heating of the oceans.
- Observed outgoing radiation fluxes from the earth decrease with increases in sea surface temperatures.
220.127.116.11. The Atmospheric Response Times for Volcanic Sequences Would Be Longer than They Would Be without the UN’s Strong Positive Feedback Hypothesis
“Another line of inquiry involved noting that the time for the ocean to respond to a change in forcing increased as climate sensitivity increases. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the idea is simple. Sensitivity is essentially a ratio of a change in temperature to a change in energy flux. High sensitivity means that a change in temperature is accompanied by a small change in flux. However, a small flux takes longer to change the temperature of the ocean. In any event in papers published in 1994 and 1998, we noted that in sensitive climates, a sequence of volcanoes would lead to a secular cooling, but in an insensitive climate, the volcanoes would simply produce transient 1–2 year dips in temperature. The record seems to favor the dips.”
“The results show that for sensitive climates (>0.6 °C for a doubling of CO2), each volcano builds on the residual base of earlier volcanoes leading to a substantial long-term cooling (∼0.5 °C cooling between 1883 and 1912). For low sensitivity, the response consists in essentially independent ‘blips.’ The observed temperature record certainly shows nothing more than isolated ‘blips.’”
18.104.22.168. There Is a Tropical Hot Spot in the Upper Troposphere
22.214.171.124. There Is Heating of the Oceans
“In brief, we know of no mechanism by which vast amounts of “missing” heat can be hidden, transferred, or absorbed within the earth’s system. The only reasonable conclusion—call it a null hypothesis—is that heat is no longer accumulating in the climate system and there is no longer a radiative imbalance caused by anthropogenic forcing. This not only demonstrates that the IPCC models are failing to accurately predict global warming, but also presents a serious challenge to the integrity of the AGW hypothesis.”
126.96.36.199. Observed Outgoing Radiation Fluxes from the Earth Decrease with Increases in Sea Surface Temperatures
188.8.131.52. Conclusions from the Four Tests
2.4. Hyposthesis 3a: Changes in Global Temperatures Are Primarily Influenced by Rising Levels of GHGs Other Than Water Vapor in the Atmosphere
- 2.4.1 Correlations of various physical attributes with global temperatures.
- 2.4.2 Correlations of global temperatures with other explanations for variations.
- 2.4.3 Decrease of temperatures during periods of rising CO2.
- 2.4.4 Increases in satellite-measured temperatures show no indication of CO2 influence.
- 2.4.5 Lack of influence of CO2 on temperatures over the last three million years.
2.4.1. Correlations of Physical Attributes with Global Ground-Based Temperatures
2.4.2. Correlations of Global Temperatures with Other Explanations for Variations
2.4.3. Decrease of Temperatures during Periods of Rising CO2
2.4.4. Increases in Satellite-Measured Temperatures Show No Indication of CO2 Influence
2.4.5. Lack of Influence of CO2 on Temperatures over the Last Three Million Years
2.5. Implications of Shorter Residence Time and Lower CSF for CAGW
2.6. General Conclusions Concerning the Economic Benefits of GHG Mitigation
2.6.1. Effect of Reduced CO2 Residence Time on the Economic Benefits of Emissions Control
2.6.2. Effect of Reduced CSF on the Economic Benefits of Emissions Control
2.6.3. Combined Effect of the CSF and Residence Time Corrections
3. The Economic Costs of Climate Change Mitigation
3.1. Why the Effectiveness of Proposed Reductions in CO2 Emissions in Reducing Temperature Increases Will Be Much Lower than Assumed by Many Economists
3.2. The Cost of Reducing Carbon Emissions Are Much Higher than Usually Assumed
“Even if climate sensitivity to increased CO2 is what the IPCC says it is, the modeling work by Rive et al. suggests that it would not only be risky but also very expensive to actually achieve the two degrees Celsius limit using ERD . They find that to obtain a mere fifty percent chance of preventing more than a two degrees Celsius increase would require a global cut of eighty percent from current industrial emission levels by 2050 at a marginal cost of $3,500 per ton of carbon equivalent assuming average projections and “early action” to reduce GHGs. $3,500 is roughly an order of magnitude higher than most previous estimates of marginal costs, presumably reflecting the extremely high cost of rapidly replacing most of the energy producing and using capital stock. An eighty percent cut would imply a reduction per person of about eighty-seven percent below current levels because of predicted world population growth. This appears to be of very doubtful practicality, particularly at the extremely high marginal costs estimated by Rive et al., and has a mere fifty percent chance of “success” even in the “ideal” world of modeling. This suggests that in the real world a serious effort to achieve such cuts would be extremely expensive, require worldwide cooperation and an early start, and be much more likely to lead to catastrophe than success….Rive et al. furthermore find that if we wait an additional ten years to implement serious emissions reductions, a fifty percent change would not be achievable at all, again assuming “average” projections….The apparent implication is that even under a two degrees Celsius limit and three degrees Celsius sensitivity ERD is a very long shot with little real hope of meeting the two degrees Celsius limit even before taking into account the wide gap that is almost certain to exist between what is actually achieved and what countries and their citizens may agree to do.”
“A ‘thought experiment’ helps to illustrate. Suppose the emission reduction target is an 80% reduction in global emission from current levels by 2100. To reach the 2100 target requires a 1.8% average annual rate of decline in carbon emissions. Now suppose the expected ‘trend’ rate of growth in global world output (GWP) from 2010–2050 is 2.2%. To avoid a reduction in the growth rate of GWP would require a 4.0% average annual rate of decline in the carbon intensity of output (RCIO)….“If a policy of reducing emissions by “brute force” is adopted, irrespective of technical feasibility, even an increase in the average annual RCIO to 3.6% from its ‘historic’ rate of 1.3% (a very unlikely event in the absence of a technology-led policy) implies a reduction in the growth rate of GWP from the 2.2% ‘trend’ rate to 1.8% for the period 2010–2100. Such a reduction would cost (an undiscounted) $86 trillion in 2100 alone and an undiscounted $2280 trillion cumulative over the 90 year interval. (It is assumed GWP in 2010 is $41 trillion, measured in MER terms.) And even these huge reductions in GWP would not do the trick (meet the emission target) if we cannot push the rate of decline in C/GWP up to 3.6% (which is almost triple the “historic” rate).“The ‘thought experiment’ casts serious doubt on the credibility of estimates of the cost of stabilizing climate. Estimates in the 1 to 3% of global GDP range—or lower (Stern, 2007; IPCC, 2007) are not credible unless there is a prior focus on reducing the technology gap. The low-cost estimates reflect a variety of self-serving assumptions. Some models employ an emission scenario baseline that builds in large, automatic improvements in energy technology. Other models include a carbon-free backstop technology (often generic) that assures that once the carbon price reaches a specified level there is an unlimited supply of carbon emission-free energy forthcoming. Still others have very high implicit rates of energy intensity decline, ones that would almost surely be physically impossible to achieve. Finally, some models make very optimistic assumptions (ones generally inconsistent with the evidence) about the availability and readiness of carbon-neutral technologies and/or the responsiveness of successful innovation of new energy technologies to carbon prices.“None of these modeling conveniences or assumptions contribute to a reliable approach to estimating the cost of mitigation. Perhaps the most deceptive are models that build-in a backstop carbon-free energy technology, because this effectively assumes away what is the problem. Unless a specific effort is made to research and develop, test, and make ready-for deployment scalable carbon emission-free technologies, the cost of mitigation is likely to be as much as an order of magnitude, or more, higher than has been reported.”
3.3. Geoengineering as an Alternative to Reducing GHG Emissions Needs to Be Considered
3.4. Implications for the Costs of Climate Change
4. Implications for the Benefit-Cost Analysis of Climate Change Mitigation
5. Some Comparisons with Other Economic Analyses of Climate Change Control
- There has been an upward trend in global temperatures since the 1970s,
- “Climate models predicted this well in advance, even getting the magnitude of the temperature rise roughly right.” This “gives them enormous credibility.”
- “Models based on this research indicate that if we continue adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as we have, we will eventually face drastic changes in the climate.”
- Global temperatures have been trending upwards not just since the 1970s, but since the end of the Little Ice Age (see Figure 5 and Section 2.4.2), with what appears to be a superimposed 60-year cycle. So this upward trend existed long before there were significant anthropogenic GHG emissions, and the increases since the 1970s are hardly the most relevant observational data.
- It is highly questionable whether the climate models used by the IPCC made any such predictions (see Figure 8, which shows the divergence between various IPCC scenarios shown in red, orange, and brown, with the actual satellite temperature measurements adjusted to surface in blue and adjusted ground temperature data in green; see also the green line in Figure 5). And there is no evidence that the climate models have even managed to correctly hindcast temperatures . But even if they did so forecast, who predicted what and when provides no valid scientific evidence about whether the models can predict the future. So again this is not the most relevant observational data.
- It is probably true that the IPCC models will continue to produce such results. Whether they have any predictive capability, however, is highly dubious for the reasons discussed in Section 1.2.1 Krugman’s views on the coming apocalypse, however, are of considerable importance because they appear to form the basis on which he bases his final conclusions in the article.
5.3. Relation between Analysts’ Assumptions and Policy Recommendations
6.1. Conclusions with Respect to the Economics of Climate Change Control
- Athough there are significant uncertainties with regard to exactly what assumptions other economic analyses have made, a good case can be made that the economic benefits of reducing CO2 emissions may be about two orders of magnitude less than those previously estimated by most economists because the climate sensitivity factor (CSF) is much lower than assumed by the United Nations because feedback is negative rather than positive and the effects of CO2 emissions reductions on atmospheric CO2 are short rather than long lasting.
- The costs of CO2 emissions reductions are very much higher than usually estimated because of technological and implementation problems recently identified. Attempts to decrease these costs by a greatly expanded government funded research program to encourage technological innovation are both expensive and may or may not prove successful in reducing the technological problems.
- Geoengineering such as solar radiation management is a controversial alternative to CO2 emissions reductions that offers opportunities to greatly decrease these large costs, change global temperatures with far greater assurance of success, and eliminate the possibility of low probability, high consequence risks of rising temperatures, but has been largely ignored by economists. The costs of this promising but so far not carefully researched and validated approach appear to be many orders of magnitude cheaper, albeit with possible new and also little researched risks. It would, however, introduce the possibility of unforeseen new risks, but these risks could be reduced with relatively low cost research if carried out before any implementation. With such a modest research program a geoengineering option could provide an insurance policy against CAGW if that should ever become a realistic possibility. This approach should remove concern about low probability, high consequence events arising from increasing global temperatures since such SRM could be implemented extremely rapidly with adequate preparations, unlike (probably futile) attempts to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels decades in advance, as currently proposed by the UN and many Western governments. So there is no basis for taking any action currently to control climate change, but research on the implementation of geoengineering options such as SRM might be worthwhile.
6.2. More General Conclusions with Respect to Carrying Out Economic Analyses of Environmental Mitigation
List of Acronyms
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC published in 2007
Catastrophic AnthropogenicGlobal Warming
Climate Sensitivity Factor
Isotopic ratio of 13C to 12C defined as the standard-normalized difference from the Pee Dee Belemnite (PDB) standard
El Niño Southern Oscillation
Exclusive Regulatory Decarbonization
General Circulation Model
Gross Domestic Product
Global World Output
(UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Market Exchange Rates
Pacific Decadal Oscillation
Carbon Intensity of Output
Solar Radiation Management
Total Solar Irradiance
United States dollar
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|Factor||Years||Correlation (Pearson Coefficient)||Correlation Strength (R-squared)|
|Carbon Dioxide (CO2)||1895–2007||0.66||0.43|
|Total Solar Irradiance (TSI)||1900–2004||0.76||0.57|
|Ocean Warming Index (PDO and AMO)||1900–2007||0.92||0.85|
|Carbon Dioxide Last Decade||1998–2007||–0.14||0.02|
|Control Approach||Solar Radiation Management (SRM)||Exclusive Regulatory Decarbonization (ERD)|
|Time to modify||Months||Decades at best|
|Ability to handle uncertainties||Very great||Very limited by need for new international negotiations|
|Catastrophic changes||Capable of fully avoiding if rapid action taken||50% probability at best of achieving less than 2 °C increase using IPCC assumptionsb|
|Ocean acidification||No effect||Reduce w/difficulty, not solvec|
|Marginal cost/ton carbon equivalent||$0.02 to 0.10||$3,500 to achieve 2 °C w/50% probabilityd assuming high IPCC CSF and long CO2 residence times in atmosphere|
|Cumulative overall costs|
|(undiscounted to 2100) |
∼$0.001 × 1012
∼$0.090 × 1012
|(undiscounted to 2100) |
≫$0.45 × $1012e
∼$2300 × 1012f
|Effectiveness||Demonstrated by major volcanic eruptions to be very high||Probably fairly low given low CSF and unwillingness of humans to reduce GHGs|
|Other environmental effects||Unknown and untested but likely||Some already evident like rainforest destruction from oil palm expansion|
|Participation needed||Government involvement desirable initially; not required||Mandatory actions by most governments, companies, and people|
|Study||Warming (°C)||Impact (%GDP)|
|Nordhaus (1994) ||3.0||−1.3|
|Nordhaus (1994) ||3.0||–4.8 (–30 to 0)|
|Fankhauser (1995) ||2.5||−1.4|
|Tol (1995) ||2.5||−1.9|
|Nordhaus and Yanga (1996) ||2.5||−1.7|
|Plamberk and Hopea (1996) ||2.5||−2.5 (–0.5 to −11.4)|
|Mendelsohn et al.a,b,c (2000) ||2.5||0.0b|
|Nordhaus and Boyer (2000) ||2.5||−1.5|
|Tol (2002a) ||1.0||2.3|
|Maddison (2003) a,d,e||2.5||−0.1|
|Rehdanz and Maddisona,c (2005) ||1.0||−0.4|
|Hope (2006) a,f ||2.5||0.9 (–0.2 to 2.7)|
|Nordhaus (2006) ||2.5||−0.9 (0.1)|
|Stern (2006) ||−5 to as much as −20%|
|Garnaut (2008) ||5.1|
|Krugman (2010) ||(5.0) g||(–5) g|
|Assumption/Analyst||Krugman ||Lomborg ||Government Reports [63,64]||Carlin||Most Others [66–78]|
|Ultra-low discount rate||No||No||Yes (0.1% , 0.05% )||No||No|
|Optimistic technology costs||Assumes low costs—so yes||No||Yes||No (Sec. 3.2)||Yes|
|Energy efficiency research effective||Not discussed||Yes||Yes||No (Sec. 3.2)||Not discussed|
|Catastrophic threat high||Yes||No||Presumably||No (Sec. 2.5)||Varies|
|High CSF||Presumably||Yes||Yes||No (Sec. 2.3)||Yes|
|CO2 residence time in atmosphere||Presumably long||Presumably long||Presumably long||Short (Sec. 2.2 & 2.6.1)||Presumably long|
|Critical examination of scientific validity||No||No||No||Yes (Sec. 2)||No|
|Geoengineering valid alternative||Not discussed||Yes||Not discussed||Yes (Sec. 3.3)||Not discussed|
|Principal policy recommendation and basis||“Big bang” to reduce threat of CAGW||Energy efficiency research to reduce costs||“Big bang” to avoid “dangerous” CO2 levels||No action; geoengineering research (Sec. 3.3 & 4)||“Policy ramp” to reduce discounted costs|
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