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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5850/britains-stern-review-on-global-warming-it-could-be-environmentalisms-swan-song/

Britain’s Stern Review on Global Warming: It Could Be Environmentalism’s Swan Song

November 6, 2006 by

Here I examine the latest warning that the end is nigh, unless we reform our ways. How easy and simple it is all supposed to be, if only we will do as we are told, and get started doing so right away. All we have to do is sit back and leave the direction of our lives in the hands of the government. It will solve the problem of changing the global technology of energy production with the same success that the Soviets and the British Laborites pursued their respective varieties of socialism and with the same success that our own government has conducted its wars on poverty, drugs, and terror, and in Vietnam and Iraq. FULL ARTICLE


Daniel M. Ryan November 6, 2006 at 8:45 am

If anyone here is interested, a strictly climatology-specific critique of Sir Nicholas’ alarm-raising was published in the Telegraph recently. The author was a life peer, Christopher Lord Monckton of Brenchley.


From the perspective of the British class system, what this means is a lord has gone after a knight, errant.

RogerM November 6, 2006 at 9:21 am

We should keep in mind that the Left cares about intentions, not actions. So let’s pass all of the laws they want, but keep them vague, and then ignore their implementation. The Left will be in 7th heaven and we’ll not destroy civilization. After all, that’s what the Europeans have done and the Left praises them for it.

RogerM November 6, 2006 at 9:40 am

Daniel, Wow! That London Telegraph article is great! Thanks for the link!

Peter E. Kellogg November 6, 2006 at 10:55 am

The salient emergent implication for me, is that (all else being peripheral/ornamental ‘fluff’..) a conclusion in which the remaining historical period of use of environtmentally objectionable fuel MUST be cordoned away from private, non-official access. That is the synthesised, implied
conclusion, as I gathered at least… much supporting ‘fluff’ notwithstanding. Going well beyond the usual sifting of categorical data, the
(actual) conclusion simply reflects the accelerating germinal agenda of terminal state conscription.
Respectfully submitted, PEKelloogg

Ana Vasconcelos November 6, 2006 at 11:53 am

Are there reliable data, namely on carbon emissions, that support the theory of global warming?
Or in fact, whether the climate is warming or cooling is just anybodies gess?
One may find it odd that under the Kyoto Protocol the countries that have emission stakes to sell are Russia, Ucraine, Belrusse, Romenia and Bulgaria. Is anyone cheking what emissions these countries or any others in the world really make?
Is not this vision of hell on earth just a stupid way of stoping capitalism or an atempt to regulate globalisation?

Yancey Ward November 6, 2006 at 12:49 pm

Anyone care to wager on how long it takes Tokyo Tom to appear?

billwald November 6, 2006 at 12:58 pm

Whatever the reason, anyone deny that local climates are changing? That glaciers are disappearing? Rain patterns changing?

David White November 6, 2006 at 1:10 pm

“Whatever the reason, anyone deny that local climates are changing? That glaciers are disappearing? Rain patterns changing?”

I would say this kind of change has been happening for, oh, five billion years or so.

Daniel M. Ryan November 6, 2006 at 1:40 pm

RogerM: Glad to. (The PDF is a bit of a download, but it’s much more detailed. A 40-page read.)

If anyone is interested, I got the link from the Free Dominion [ http://www.freedominion.ca ].

Paul Kirklin November 6, 2006 at 3:57 pm

I think it’s an excellent point that allowing technology to progress will improve our ability to manipulate nature to our needs. I’ve already heard scientists argue that we are probably capable even today of manipulating the temperature of the atmosphere by, for instance, releasing large amounts of sulphur into the upper atmosphere or by making areas of the Earth’s surface more reflective to sunlight. In the future, with economic progress, it may be possible to easily control the climate of large outdoor areas, whole countries, or even of the entire Earth. Maybe technology will one day be able to give us good weather every day, and provide a better environment for agriculture and human habitation over larger areas of the Earth’s surface. But as Reisman points out, this will only be possible with economic progress. The environmentalists are the biggest obstacle to mankind having any shot at being able to control the Earth’s climate. The environmentalists don’t really want good weather; they want weather unaffected by man. They would prefer to live in a perpetual blizzard over a world with man-made good weather.

Eric November 6, 2006 at 3:58 pm


I work for NASA, on software simulations (but not climate models). Every week week we build new versions of our simulations only to find dozens of software bugs. But at least in our case, we actually know what our models are supposed to produce. (Our models are used for training purposes and we create simulations, sort of computer games, to train our clients). The climate folks don’t have this convenience, well – maybe they do really know what their results are supposed to be.

I just got the latest Engr. & Science Journal published by Cal Tech. It is a discussion on the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) which is 17 satellites. The amount of data that is produced, yet not really understood is massive, but somehow goes into some of these climate models. The writer mentions that most measurements are made indirectly, as it is pointed out that we can’t “simply take a thermometer reading of a driveway’s temperature from space – instead we measure the intensity of infrared radiation and then infer a temperture baded on the known physical properties of the driveway”. And that’s for a driveway we know precisely. The article goes on to mention that this data is being used to try to predict rainfall since water vapor is the prime greenhouse gas. Then there’s a section on how that relates to CO2 which is so complex the diagrams in the article are nearly unintelligble.

Next there is a little section on the good bad and the ugly of ozone. It seems that at low levels it’s bad, then a little higher it’s good, then bad again, then higher still good. One of these levels apparently acts as a greenhouse gas, but at other levels not so. So, should we be trying to fix the ozone hole or widen it?

But I like best the part about how the widespread burning of cow dung in India might, ironically, lead to the cooling of the planet. Evidentaly, one cure for global warming is air polution.

So, while some, especially those that get funding to scare us, say there is a 100% concensus on the issue, there are at least some who are not so certain and work for Cal Tech and NASA. My guess is this article could well be a mistake and could severly lessen their funding in the future. I’m sure their management will correct their behavior as managers are funded by the success or failure of their underlings to scare up funds by their research.

RogerM November 6, 2006 at 3:59 pm

Here’s another article from the Telegraph that claims GW stopped in 1998! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/04/09/do0907.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/04/09/ixworld.html

RogerM November 6, 2006 at 4:11 pm

It’s often said that a conservative is a liberal who got mugged. Here’s another link to an article by a liberal environmental journalist who got mugged by environmentalists in Europe:

As the Telegraph article shows, deceit is a main tool of radical environmentalists.

RogerM November 6, 2006 at 4:11 pm
David White November 6, 2006 at 4:15 pm

Paul Kirklin:

“Maybe technology will one day be able to give us good weather every day, and provide a better environment for agriculture and human habitation over larger areas of the Earth’s surface.”

There is growing consensus in the scientific community — proponent Ray Kurzweil was interviewed for three full hours on the subject on C-SPAN2 yesterday — that we are only 25 years or so from the creation of superhuman intelligence, which will grow exonentialy greater in very short order.

If so, then whatever problems global warming may present (if any, which I doubt), then we’ll surely have the technology to combat it.

David Spellman November 6, 2006 at 4:17 pm

Laying aside the question of whether global warming exists, if we reduce modern technology we will be reducing the carrying capacity of the earth for human beings. When carrying capacity declines for a species, the immediate result is widespread and indescriminate death of the species.

Environmentalists consider humanity a plague at best and would like to eliminate as many people as possible (they would remain as the enlightened curators of gaia, of course). Since most of us are unwilling to commit suicide at their behest, the apparent plan is to persuade us to destroy ourselves by rejecting technology and reducing the carrying capacity of the earth in order to create a global holocaust.

An interesting and ingenious plan to depopulate the earth. Save the whales and spotted owls by eliminating humanity!

RogerM November 6, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Well the second link requirs registration, so try this: http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/44657.html
It’s a good story, so please keep trying!

M E Hoffer November 6, 2006 at 4:44 pm


Be careful how much you like this: “But I like best the part about how the widespread burning of cow dung in India might, ironically, lead to the cooling of the planet. Evidentally, one cure for global warming is air polution.”

It happens through massive particulate release from highly inefficient combustion that is the “burning of cow dung”. As well, before those particulates “do their magic”, in the upper atmosphere, of solar/thermal radiation reflector, they carry the unwelcome risk of lodging in your airways. Needless to say, if we pursue that strategy of “Global Cooling”, many Track & Field records we’ll stand while we can to do little other.

N. Joseph Potts November 6, 2006 at 7:22 pm

A glib and pernicious side step pervades analyses like Stern’s, and it concerns “development” of new (effective, cheap) technologies. They make the very common mistake (likely either out of wishful thinking or intent to deceive) of confusing the DESIGN of some new technology with the PROPAGATION of installed, operating units of said technology.

The two phases are, of course, not really separable in the manner that I have distinguished between them above, but of the two, by FAR the greater costs lie in the second phase (PROPAGATION, or what economists call “diffusion”). And it is this expensive, time-consuming second phase that environmentalists omit from their reckonings of the supposed “costs” of “developing new technologies.”

Don’t let their mistake become your mistake as you evaluate their self-serving half-truths.

Jim Hollingsworth November 6, 2006 at 7:24 pm

George, it has always been interesting to me that things get worse when the climate cools, and they get worse when it warms up. Actually, the warmer the climate the greater area of the earth that is habitable. Also, as the greenhouse gases increase it means that more plants will be able to grow as they need these gasses. Earth has a way of leveling out anything that is thrown at it if we are just patient (wait 10,000 years etc.)
Jim Hollingsworth jimhollingsworth@verizon.net

Peter November 6, 2006 at 11:39 pm

There is growing consensus in the scientific community — proponent Ray Kurzweil was interviewed for three full hours on the subject on C-SPAN2 yesterday — that we are only 25 years or so from the creation of superhuman intelligence

Of course, we’ve been 25 years away from superhuman intelligence for the last 50 years. (The first such prediction I know of was published at the time of the famous Dartmouth Conference in 1958)

Surely we’re closer now, but nobody can say when (or if!) it will happen.

TokyoTom November 7, 2006 at 6:36 am

Dr. Reisman:

Thank you very much for bringing the recently released report by Sir Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist of the World Bank from 2000-2003, to the attention of readers here at Mises!

I hope that your comments will stir those here who have an interest in such matters to actually read some of the report, which you have graciously linked to. You may be aware that other economists have also reviewed and commented on the Stern report; here is what some of them had to say:

“If the world is waiting for a calm, reasonable, carefully argued approach to climate change, Nick Stern and his team have produced one. They outline a feasible adjustment policy at tolerable cost beginning now. Sooner is much better.”
Robert M. Solow
Nobel Prize economist 1987

“The Stern report shows us, with utmost clarity, while allowing fully for all the uncertainties, what global warming is going to mean; and what can and should be done to reduce it. It provides numbers for the economic impact, and for the necessary economic policies. It deserves the widest circulation. I wish it the greatest possible impact. Governments have a clear and immediate duty to accept the challenge it represents.”
James Mirrlees
Nobel Prize economist 1996

“The stark prospects of climate change and its mounting economic and human costs are clearly brought out in this searching investigation. What is particularly striking is the identification of ways and means of sharply minimizing these penalties through acting right now, rather than waiting for our lives to be overrun by rapidly advancing adversities. The world would be foolish to neglect this strong but strictly time-bound practical message.”
Amartya Sen
Nobel Prize economist 1998

“The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change provides the most thorough and rigorous analysis to date of the costs and risks of climate change, and the costs and risks of reducing emissions. It makes clear that the question is not whether we can afford to act, but whether we can afford not to act. To be sure, there are uncertainties, but what it makes clear is that the downside uncertainties—aggravated by the complex dynamics of long delays, complex interactions, and strong non-linearities—make a compelling case for action. And it provides a comprehensive agenda—one which is economically and politically feasible—behind which the entire world can unite in addressing this most important threat to our future well being.”
Joseph Stiglitz
Nobel Prize economist 2001

While Stern is no longer at the World Bank, this is what Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank had to say:

“The Bank is committed to addressing the dangers of climate change and has made substantial progress in developing an Investment Framework for Clean Energy And Development. I very much welcome the Stern Review which provides a much needed critical economic analysis of the issues associated with climate change, and complements the recent IEA technology assessment and the World Bank’s Clean Energy Investment Framework paper. The Bank is today working closely with its clients and partners to turn our analysis into practice, and will seek to substantially increase its own investment flows and those of the private sector.

A crucial next step is to involve the private sector in the EIF. I am therefore pleased to support a partnership between the World Bank and the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development to stimulate private sector investment through the Energy Investment Framework. Chancellor Gordon Brown and I will co-host a conference early next year to launch the
partnership. ”

Summaries if some of the other commentary on the report can found here:

I hope to provide more substantive comments later on your own analysis, but let me make two initial remarks:

First, you miss the main point, which is not that your ideological enemies perceive a problem that you prefer to deny, but that the atmosphere is essentially an open-access resource in which no property rights exist and for which no market transactions can occur. As a result, users of the atmosphere are free to pass on the costs of their use to others and thus have no incentives to internalize costs. Hence, there is no pricing mechanism at work with respect to the atmosphere that calls forth changes in behavior, and all that we are left with are PR disputes between a number of different camps as to whether, when and how to create mutually agreed mechanisms to deal with this common resource.

At its core, this phenomenon is not different from other resource wars where clear and effective property rights have yet to be established. Clearly the chief message of the Stern report is that the problem of climate change will only worsen as long as we ignore the property rights failure and the concomitant absence of effective pricing signals to which individuals in market economies otherwise react.

Second, in this connection, it is rather surprising that you frankly suggest that “if economic progress and the enjoyment of its fruits will consume the world in flames, and thus that living like human beings means we really will all go to hell, then so be it. Better to live as human beings now, while we can, than throw it away for the sake of descendants living as pre-industrial wretches later on.” Is the responsible way to address the problems that bedevil open-access resources generally to throw up one’s hands and simply to pass on a worse problem to future generations, who one hopes will be more responsible than us?

Yet despite your buck-passing in the name of “maximum individual freedom”, it seems clear that you think that collective action may be necessary, and that you are not opposed to such collective action in the FUTURE: “It is precisely modern industrial civilization and its further expansion and intensification that is mankind’s means of coping with all aspects of nature, including, if it should ever actually be necessary, the ability to control the earth’s climate, whether to cool it down or to warm it up.”

If you acknowledge that mankind might be justified in acting collectively to deliberately manipulate the climate in the future, on what philosophical basis do you oppose mankind taking such actions now, in order to mitigate the threat of greater perceived harms later?


That human-hating irrational commie fascist environmentalist who desperately wants to destroy wealth and stifle human freedom,


PS: I recall that you commented previously about how Congress has run off the rails in its responsibilities. In that connection, I thought you might appreciate this editorial from the NY Times that heartily endorses your view: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/opinion/05sun1.html?em&ex=1163048400&en=9f52757e58119711&ei=5087

M E Hoffer November 7, 2006 at 6:57 am


Just as we have “Cap’n Crunch”, a cartoon Knave, replete w/ Technicolor flourishes, to sell us hollow sustenance fortified by accepted “scientists”, we get you, “Cap’n Trade”, ‘toonishly Naive, replete with rhetorical redundancy, to sell us, on yet more top-downism, equally “fortified”, that which will only serve to further our hollowing-out.

Person November 7, 2006 at 8:24 am

Before anyone else says it:


RogerM November 7, 2006 at 8:49 am

I apologize again for the bad links above for the article on how European environmentalists use deceit. This one should work: http://www.eco-imperialism.com/content/article.php3?id=203

If not, try search for the article “The world’s poor new enemy: Environmentalists” by Phelim McAleer. I read it first in the Tulsa World, but it has been printed in several papers and on several web sites.

Here’s an interesting paragraph from the article:

“It was surprising that environmentalists would lie, but the most shocking part was yet to come. As I spoke to the Western environmentalists, it quickly emerged that they wanted to stop the mine because they felt that development and prosperity will ruin the rural “idyllic” lifestyle of these happy peasants.”

Roland November 7, 2006 at 8:55 am

“Are there reliable data, namely on carbon emissions, that support global warming?”
The theory of global warming tells us that greenhouse gases (especially CO2) cause an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere.
This is what the german government ( an advocate of this theory)writes about the correlation of CO2 and the temperature:
“An exact analysis…shows that the temperature has a little forerun of approximately 8000 years compared with the concentration of CO2. First…the temperature changes…The increase of the temperature causes an increase in the temperature of the oceans which release CO2 (and vice versa).”
When did the last ice age end?

Roland November 7, 2006 at 9:15 am

“Or in fact, whether the climate is warming or colling is just anybodies gess?”
Yes, it depends on the time frame you are looking at. Several million years ago, it was warmer than today (approximately 8°C warmer). During the last ice age it was colder than today (approximately 5°C colder). So you can pretend everything: It can get warmer or colder.
Even the IPCC admits that it cannot predict the climate of the future.
According to IPCC: “”Climate” refers to the average weather…over a certain time-span and a certain area…Many processes and interactions in the climate system are non-linear…A complex, non-linear sytem may display what is…called chaotic behaviour…The daily weather is a good example…This does not preclude successfull weather prediction, but its predictability is limited to a period of at most two weeks.”
To sum it up: According to IPCC climate is the average weather. Weather predictions are reliable only for the next two weeks. So obviously they cannot predict the climate 50 years from now.

Roland November 7, 2006 at 9:44 am

“Is anyone checking what emissions these countries or any others in the world really make?”
Probably not. But that is not the goal. For example, the german politicians could easily sign the Kyoto protocol, because of the breakdown of the industry in the GDR in 1990. Now they can pretend to save a lot of CO2 (simply by doing nothing) and at the same time introduce new taxes, regulations and bureaucracies.

Roland November 7, 2006 at 9:51 am

“Whatever reason, anyone deny that local climates are changing?”
No, that´s what the climate always does. E.g. during the last 1000 years there were significant changes in the climate of central europe (a warm period in the Middle Ages, the little ice age) without significant emissions of greenhouse gases.

Scott D November 7, 2006 at 11:05 am

Tokyo Tom:

I don’t have time to check all of the supporters you quote above, but one name did stand out to me: Joseph “I changed my mind and now support minimum wage legistation” Stiglitz. Given that we must conclude that he is either brain-damaged or has had his ethics compromised, I think we can safely eliminate his furious hand-clapping as an indication that we, too, should support Stern’s views.

I would urge you to read the article linked near the top of the comments. It belies a certain desperation on the part of environmentalists that they would seek to skew data and rewrite physics to suit their own ends. As a matter of fact, I’d say ol’ Joe Stig is in good company.

I used to be a tentative supporter of environmentalism, but a continuous piling-up of contrary evidence and a thinly-veiled lack of objectivity from that camp has made me overwhelmingly skeptical. Top that off with the alarming undercurrent of racial self-hatred and you have the recipe for a disastrous political movement.

RogerM November 7, 2006 at 11:20 am

Scott: “I don’t have time to check all of the supporters you quote above…”

No need. They’re all socialists except for Wolfowitz, who is just blowing with the prevailing winds.

billwald November 7, 2006 at 11:50 am

Yes, the climate has always been changing from hot house age to ice age. The difference between this change and historical changes is that we now have the technology to compensate for the changes.

Whether the warming will accelerate or not, there seems to be universal agreement between people who study such things that the the great shortage in the near future is sufficient clean water. Doesn’t matter if the cause is climate change or population increase, we will get one or the other – or both.

The response should be increasing water storage and moving inland. The experts at the University of Washington have predicted that in the next 50 or 100 years that we will get more rain in the summer and have less snow pack in the winter. The state is investigating a new irrigation dam on the east side of the Cascades. The do-gooders should be encouraging this sort of activities instead of trying to destroy the economy.

Paul Kirklin November 7, 2006 at 1:49 pm

A shortage of water now? We’ve already got the technology to make seawater fit for drinking. As time goes by this will become increasingly more cost effective. All that is required to solve any water shortage problem is to make the desalinisation of water more efficient. Pipelines and pumps will take care of the rest. Then we’ll have plenty of water as long as we’ve got oceans. This seems like a hurdle that mankind should be able to overcome before very long. Desalinisation is already a reality on a pretty large scale. A plant in Saudi Arabia creates 250 million gallons of freshwater per day, and desalinisation technology is improving all the time.

Adam November 7, 2006 at 7:01 pm

“The environmentalists don’t really want good weather; they want weather unaffected by man. They would prefer to live in a perpetual blizzard over a world with man-made good weather.”

This smacks of the kind of us-vs-them ignorance that pushes people apart. It’s also obviously untrue. Environmentalists, like everyone else, want weather that allows us, as well as the variety of plants and animals that we depend on for sustinence, to live in relative comfort.

Walt D. November 7, 2006 at 8:26 pm

But I like best the part about how the widespread burning of cow dung in India might, ironically, lead to the cooling of the planet. Evidentaly, one cure for global warming is air polution.
You make some excellent points. You might be interested to know that this is already happening as is already well-documented, using methodology that would actualLY pass muster as scientific. Do a search for “Global Dimming”
. I saw a Nova show where people claim that the intensity of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface has dropped by 20%. (This is measured by photoelectric cells and pan evaporation.) They cited the Maldives as a control area – the winds from India pass over the Nortn but do not pass over the South.
Does this mean that the Global Warming models are wrong – yes, but in the sense that the magnitude of the effect of CO2, according to the researchers, must be much higher that exected!(I conjecture (cynically) that this interpretation was included so that the article coould be published.)
Also interesting was the effect of ice vapor trails made by jets – they reflect the sun’s radiation bach into space and thus cool the planet. So John Kerry and Al Gore flying around in jets is actually combatting global warming. Also, the CO2 emitted from their Suburban’s and Hummer’s is accompanied by water vapor, which also leads to
cloud formation that reflect sunlight back into space.

TokyoTom November 7, 2006 at 11:16 pm

Mark Hoffer:

1. “Cap’n Trade”? – I have taken no position here and am open to all suggestions.

2. “‘toonishly Naive”? Care to enlighten me or others?

3. “replete with rhetorical redundancy”? You are hoist on your own petard!

As this contradicts your previous point about my toonish naivete, I take this as a grudging compliment that I am more persuasive than you wish me to be.

4. “to sell us, on yet more top-downism”. Nope; I’m selling nothing other than the burden of responsibility.

I merely (a) point out that there are REAL environmental problems, due to the Austrian observation that lack of clear and enforceable propoerty rights prevent resource users from working out their conflicts through private, market transactions and (b) ask Miseans to seriously consider how these problems can be best addressed, either by private individuals/groups, governments and on an international level.

5. “will only serve to further our hollowing-out.” I disagree in principle.

As I pointed out, the discussion now underway is not fundamentally different from how users of other resources agree, in the face of increasing demand, competition and technological pressure, to move from unfettered access to the resource to managed access under shared rules. The negotiations are rife with gamesmanship as various users try to extract the maximum indiividual advantage at the expense of others.

You mock yourself with your Zen-like crypticism. Unsheath your pen!

TokyoTom November 7, 2006 at 11:46 pm

Scott D: Thanks for the favor of your comments.

Someday, Dr. Reisman may also have a Nobel. Do you mean to tarnish the medal beforehand, by discounting all other Nobel prizewinners who think that climate change is a matter that justifies more dismissal as the fevered rantings of environmental fanatics? The point is that the report deserves attention, even if one may ultimately disagree with its science, policy prescriptions or supporters.

I have looked at the link first posted above. Is “Lord Monckton” uniquely qulaiified to judge climate science? Why is he publishing his remarks in a newspaper, rather than in a scientific journal? Does that tell us anything about the reliability of his remarks or about his motivations? I am not qualified to judge myself, but note that someone has taken a quick stab at his piece here: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/11/chinese_navy_disproves_global.php

“Top that off with the alarming undercurrent of racial self-hatred and you have the recipe for a disastrous political movement.”

This is more than a bit melodramatic, don’t you think? Could it possibly be that there are real problems that concern environmentalists, but most enviros simply don’t understand either the genesis of such problems or the directions in which solutions may lie?

Why do Miseans, who understand that one of the great sources of conflicts over resources is the lack of clear and enforceable property rights, prefer to ignore the institutional problems and to simply bash environmentalists for being evil???

Can it be that Miseans simply do not want to apply their policy analysis to real problems?

TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 12:13 am

Roger, the McAleer article about the Romanian mine issue is interesting. But can you tell us its relevance to the discussion of a report by the former chief economist of the World Bank about climate change?

Also, perhaps you did not notice my questions and further data to you at the end of our last discussion, about why we should dismiss the hightened GHG levels produced by human economic activity and about my unfair/oppressive debating style: http://blog.mises.org/archives/005680.asp.

Requesting the favor of a response.


TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 2:19 am

Mr. Potts:

What is it with you and “glib and pernicious side steps”?

You say that analyses like Stern’s, “out of wishful thinking or intent to deceive”, (1) make “the very common mistake of confusing the DESIGN of some new technology with the PROPAGATION of installed, operating units of said technology” and (2) in so doing omit the “expensive, time-consuming second phase … from their reckonings of the supposed “costs” of “developing new technologies.”"

Wrong. Stern and others are vary aware of these costs and the long implementation timeframes involved with capital stock, which is why they believe that early action on climate change policy are very important. Here are a few quotes from the Stern report: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/8AC/F7/Executive_Summary.pdf

P1: “The effects of our actions now on future changes in the climate have long lead times. What we do now can have only a limited effect on the climate over the next 40 or 50 years. On the other hand what we do in the next 10 or 20 years can have a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and in the next.”

P 15
“Stabilisation at 450ppm CO2e is already almost out of reach, given that we are likely to reach this level within ten years and that there are real difficulties of making the sharp reductions required with current and foreseeable technologies. Costs rise significantly as mitigation efforts become more ambitious or sudden. Efforts to reduce emissions rapidly are likely to be very costly.

An important corollary is that there is a high price to delay. Delay in taking action on climate change would make it necessary to accept both more climate change and, eventually, higher mitigation costs. Weak action in the next 10-20 years would put stabilisation even at 550ppm CO2e beyond reach – and this level is already associated with significant risks.”

P19: “Investments such as power stations, buildings, industrial plants and aircraft last for many decades. If there is a lack of confidence that climate change policies will persist, then businesses may not factor a carbon price into their decision-making. The result may be overinvestment in long-lived, high-carbon infrastructure – which will make emissions cuts later on much more expensive and difficult.”

“The next 10 to 20 years will be a period of transition, from a world where carbon-pricing schemes are in their infancy, to one where carbon pricing is universal and is automatically factored into decision making. In this transitional period, while the credibility of policy is still being established and the international framework is taking shape, it is critical that governments consider how to avoid the risks of locking into a high-carbon infrastructure, including considering whether any additional measures may be justified to reduce the risks.”

P22: “The need for action is urgent: demand for energy and transportation is growing rapidly in many developing countries, and many developed countries are also due to renew a significant proportion of capital stock. The investments made in the next 10-20 years could lock in very high emissions for the next half-century, or present an opportunity to move the world onto a more sustainable path.”

TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 3:13 am

Dr. Reisman:

As I noted above, the atmosphere is essentially an open-access resource in which no property rights exist and for which no market transactions can occur, and the political discussion, partisan position-taking and rent-seeking we see concerning climate change and GHG emissions is a classic struggle about how to resolve conflicts regarding such an open-access resource.

Please allow me to make several additional comments that spring from this observation.

First, you cast the Stern proposals as ones whose intention is to impose government action intended to stop private action. While Stern proposes government action, isn’t it more accurate to say that he is proposing actions to create a pricing signal where none now exists, due to the absence of property rights?

Stern says: “Carbon pricing gives an incentive to invest in new technologies to reduce carbon; indeed, without it, there is little reason to make such investments.” Do you disagree with him?

Second, unless we create mutually agreed mechanisms to deal with this common resource, the absence of feedback in the form of prices and market transactions means that inevitably human economic activity will continue to generate GHG emissions and climate change.

Isn’t the chief question confronting Miseans simply that of whether the benefits of taking mitigation and adaptation measures concerning climate change exceed their costs?

There is by no means a simple answer to this question, as the Stern report (and its flaws) shows.

Third, you say that “The ability to produce the materials, components, and equipment required by these low-carbon technologies rests on the existence of previously established highly developed carbon-based technologies. Further substantial economic development on the same foundation is required for the further development of low-carbon technologies. Wherever the use of high-carbon technology is cheaper than that of low-carbon technology, forcibly curtailing its use implies the forcible reduction of the physical volume of production in the economic system, including its ability to produce further capital goods.”

The first part of this is certainly correct, but what you fail to observe in the second part is that the market currently does not price GHG emissions. At least in principle, creating a market for an open-access resource by legally enclosing the commons does not forceably reduce the volume of production, but simply aloows individual actors to adjust to the new pricing signal. As the Stern report notes, there is amply room to improve energy efficiency:

“The technical potential for efficiency improvements to reduce emissions and costs is substantial. Over the past century, efficiency in energy supply improved ten-fold or more in developed countries, and the possibilities for further gains are far from being exhausted. Studies by the International Energy Agency show that, by 2050, energy efficiency has the potential to be the biggest single source of emissions savings in the energy sector. This would have both environmental and economic benefits: energy-efficiency measures cut waste and often save money.”

Finally, what you and others seem to have completely missed is that there is a huge international gamesmanship aspect to climate change discussions, in which all sides are playing for advantage – to earn domestic political points, to build international consensus for long-term mutual benefit, to score short-term benefits, and the like. The British report is in this regard very much a political document, design to serve the purposes of those who commissioned it – certain parts of the British government.

While many strands of motivation could be parsed out, no doubt in part the Stern report is designed (1) to firm up domestic support for Britain’s international negotiating position (on Kyoto I and II) and (2) as a message to convince the US and others like China and India of the need to join in coordinated actions to reduce GHG emissions.

To circle back to my initial observation, this behavior by the UK is typical of the behaviors of resource users attempting to form a consensus on how to jointly manage open-access resources.

In other words, all of these points relate to readily discernable and analyzable matters. It is hardly insightful, or helpful, to assert as you do that “Sir Nicholas’s Review is characterized by an apparent belief in a kind of magical power of words to create and control reality.” Perhaps if you took a further step back, you might see the big picture a little more clearly.


That human-hating irrational commie fascist environmentalist who desperately wants to destroy wealth and stifle human freedom,


RogerM November 8, 2006 at 8:19 am

TT:”The McAleer article about the Romanian mine issue is interesting. But can you tell us its relevance to the discussion of a report by the former chief economist of the World Bank about climate change?”

Here’s the link: Daniel had posted a link to an analysis of the Stern report in the London Telegraph and that article mentioned the deceitful methods of the GW crowd. The article I linked also talked about the use of deceit on the part of radical environmentalists.

M E Hoffer November 8, 2006 at 9:09 am


This: “I’m selling nothing other than the burden of responsibility.” transmogrified through the prism of, yet, another, over-arching supra-/super-State apparatus, has been your constant drumbeat. That “Cap ‘n Trade” is their preferred scheme, oft parroted by yourself, is, quite, the fact of the matter.

That you, and your consorts, paper your propaganda with pleas of “Responsibility” is an act too tired to bear, especially in re-run.

Queer it is, that our “guiding lights”, our “overwhelming consensus”, is forever found propounding “Paternalism”. Their “top-downism” and, thereby, their prescribed pallatives, to purge the purported plagues, do, in fact, “hollow-out” the Individual–the One, best able, to rearrange, and organize, new, less-dischordant, Harmonies.

That nothing like:

is seen offered from these wannabe “sherpas” should be indicative that what lies at the end of their trail is the deceit of dependency, rather than the truth of Liberty.

Otherwise, the simple repetition of:
does not disclaim this charge:
petard defused.

TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 10:02 am

Mark, thanks; I know you`re into purely voluntary action. Since that`s your bag, why don`t you push it, and show links to the many, many resources that discuss what companies, communities and individuals are voluntarily doing, instead of whining to me how I do not? There are many places to start, such as the American Petroleum Institute, Business Roundtable, Pew, and others easily dug up by Googling, such as here: http://www.google.co.jp/search?hs=EJp&hl=ja&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&q=climate+change+carbon+calculator&btnG=Google+%E6%A4%9C%E7%B4%A2&lr=

But if you want to discuss it with me, why don`t you first take up my argument that, since climate change is a problem relating to a global open-access resource, that the scale of cooperation needed is much more significant than can be addressed through purely private action?

TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 10:13 am

Roger, my own view of enviros is that there is much more foolishness and misunderstanding of the causes of problems than there is deliberate mendacity about them. I think trying to understand why others think the way they do is more helpful than just dismissing them as evil. But if you want to broadly sweep away all scientists, economists and politicians who have carefully considered and are concerned about climate change matters as “deceitful” “radicals”, by all means continue to do so. You`re simply simply putting yourself on their level.

M E Hoffer November 8, 2006 at 10:47 am

“But if you want to discuss it with me, why don`t you first take up my argument that, since climate change is a problem relating to a global open-access resource, that the scale of cooperation needed is much more significant than can be addressed through purely private action?”

TT, the simple answer to your Q is: I don’t accept the validity of your “Resolved”. Simply stated: Nothing is “more significant” than that that can be “addressed through purely private action”.

Where are these Super_Seers, those that know “the right way”, if not, but, among us? If they are among us, are they of us? If they are of us, are the rest of us incapable of ascending to their rarified realm? No?!?

Francisco Torres November 8, 2006 at 7:05 pm


The carbon credit scheme is dead. Any form of generating an artificial “price system” fails miserably not due in a small part to the calculation problem. It SO happens that the atmosphere is NOT a scarce resource. Being an open source-whatever is totally irrelevant.

Please see:

http://www.reason.com/news/show/38405.html by Ronald Bailey. Basically, the so-called Emissions Trading Scheme (invented by politicians as a form of your beloved “pricing” scheme for atmosphere use) is DEAD in the WATER, due to (ta-da!) the Prisioner’s Dilemma problem.

David White November 8, 2006 at 7:10 pm

Because environmentalism is fundamentally about balancing man and nature, it is fundamentally about balancing the nature of man himself — i.e., of his psyche, which has both masculine and feminine components. Thus, since we have lived in male dominant society for millennia, having long ago abandoned our matriarchal beginnings (see, for example, Merlin Stone’s classic work “When God Was a Woman”), the environmental objective should be that of bringing the feminine back into balance with the masculine.

This cannot be accomplished, however, by employing the most male dominant of all human institutions — the state — for not only will it fail to achieve its objective; it will cause far more harm that if nothing were done at all.

As this is just as true of environmentalism as it is of other problem we face (individual rights, the family, etc.), one should not be surprised to see male dominance grow (did someone say “world government?”) as environmentalists endlessly clamor for state action.

Bottom line: I’ll take global warming over government meddling any day. There’s heat, after all, and then there’s THE heat.

TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 10:27 pm

Mark, one doesn’t need to be a seer to recognize that open-access resources are over-exploited when information, enforcement and transaction costs are too big to allow the establishment of either purely private property rights or some form of community-managed common property rights. Rothbard, Cordato and Block make the point quite well.

If It only requires honesty to admit the over-exploitation. Miseans can separately argue that the costs of government action will necessarily exceed the benefits, but no one has expressly made such an argument yet here.

I am all in favor of whatever private parties can achieve, but those who wish to deny a role for government should at least be honest in acknowledging that that is akin to leaving one’s foot on the gas despite an awareness that the road ahead may be bumpy, windy and dark.

TokyoTom November 8, 2006 at 11:42 pm


Thanks for the link to Ron Bailey at Reason. You know what, Ron has my respect – he has the courage to tackle issues honestly and not only to change his mind when he’s wrong but to admit it. Other readers might want to take a look at what Ron has to say, even though I disagree with him on a number of points.

This is the Ron Bailey who in 2002 edited a CEI book titled “Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death”, but then in August last year ran an article titled “We’re All Global Warmers Now”, with a first line that read: “Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up.”

This is the same Ron Bailey who also said:

“Since I work for a self-described libertarian magazine that should indicate to even the dimmest reader that I tend to have a healthy skepticism of government “solutions” to problems, including government solutions to environmental problems. I have long argued that the evidence shows that most environmental problems occur in open access commons-that is, people pollute air, rivers, overfish, cut rainforests, and so forth because no one owns them and therefore no one has an interest in protecting them. One can solve environmental problems caused by open access situations by either privatizing the commons or regulating it. It will not surprise anyone that I generally favor privatization. That’s because I believe that the overwhelming balance of the evidence shows that centralized top-down regulation tends to be costly, slow, often ineffective, and highly politicized. As a skeptic of government action, I had hoped that the scientific evidence would lead to the conclusion that global warming would not be much of a problem, so that humanity could avoid the messy and highly politicized process of deciding what to do about it. Unhappily, I now believe that balance of evidence shows that global warming could well be a significant problem.


Ron’s other writings on climate are here:
and here: http://www.google.co.jp/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=bailey+climate+2006+site%3A.reason.com

Francisco, it should come as no surprise, but it evidently does, that I am completely aware the prisoners’ dilemma problem bedevils the climate change issue. That problem has been more captured by the use of the phrase “tragedy of the commons” for open-access resource exploitation, and it is what I have meant when I referred to “gamesmanship” above. Didn’t I point to the Stern report itself as being a part of the effort to move the gamesmanship in a particular direction?

Ron Bailey touched on this institutional problem in the case of the

Christopher Monckton November 11, 2006 at 5:31 pm

To correct the initial comments, I am not actually a life peer, but an hereditary one, holding the title Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. The misunderstanding may stem from the fact that I was a senior policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher whilst she was Prime Minister and so likely to have been rewarded with a peerage.

Monckton of Brenchley.

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