Lord Stern: “Ignorant and reckless”

Lord Stern’s new book “Blueprint for a Safer Planet” has just been launched, with a broadside against the “sceptics”, who are “ignorant and reckless”.  He continues “the science is sound: greenhouse gases trap heat … the logic of the greenhouse effect is rock-solid”, and he proceeds to compare sceptics with those who deny the link between smoking and cancer, or between HIV and AIDS.
 
I suppose we should at least be grateful that unlike some hot-headed Warmists, at least he doesn’t compare us to Holocaust deniers.
 
Sadly, it is Lord Stern himself who is ignorant and reckless.  Ignorant of the science (he is, after all, an economist), and reckless with our prosperity.  He speaks as if the greenhouse effect were linear — that is, as if a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would lead to a doubling of the greenhouse effect.  That at least is a less egregious error than that of Al Gore, who in his disaster movie “An Inconvenient Truth” shows a graph implying that the greenhouse effect is exponential.
 
Yes, the science is solid.  But it shows a negative logarithmic relation between CO2 concentration and greenhouse effect.  A law of diminishing returns.  The higher the current level of CO2, the less effect any additional CO2 will have.  We have already reached a CO2 level where the gas, in greenhouse terms, has effectively shot its bolt.  We are on the flat section of the curve: further increases in CO2 will have a marginal effect.
 
If Stern doesn’t know this, at least the scientists at the IPCC know it: I have talked to them.  So they try to postulate speculative feed-back effects between CO2 and other trace gases, which might keep the Great Carbon Myth alive.  But they cannot demonstrate those effects.  They also know (as Stern appears unaware) that water vapour (which we cannot even start to control) is a more significant greenhouse gas than CO2; that human activity only contributes around 3 or 4% to the carbon cycle; and that without greenhouse gases the world would be locked in a permanent Ice Age.  The “Snowball Earth” would be a reality.
 
Tragically, Stern, an economist, is also wrong on the economics.  He keeps parroting the mantra “The costs of inaction are greater than the costs of mitigation”, yet most distinguished economists who have studied the question take the opposite view.  The British government’s cost/benefit analysis on its own climate and energy proposals shows costs exceeding benefits.  In his economic analysis, Stern made a number of schoolboy howlers, including a totally unrealistic long-term discount rate.  I’d rather trust Lord Lawson, who knew a bit about economics, and argues that adaptation, taking the limited steps necessary when and if it becomes clear that they are necessary, is a far more rational policy than Stern’s mitigation.
 
Stern’s plans threaten an economic meltdown (on top of the one we already have), but they will do nothing for the planet.  Maybe his book should be called “Blueprint for a Poorer Planet”.

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5 Responses to Lord Stern: “Ignorant and reckless”

  1. Roger,
    Stern probably uses Bayesian statistics. Apparently they can predict climate in the future but are unable to foresee economic disasters like the present world crisis:
    http://physicsworld.com/blog/2009/03/climate_roulette.html

    It’s sad that even the best scientific journals have been pulled down to gutter press level.

  2. Derek Tipp says:

    It is interesting that Stern has reached such prominence on this subject without having any relevant qualifications. To read a book witten by an author who is rated as one of the leading scientists in the field, I recommend Ian Plimer’s new book “Heaven and Earth”. It does seem that Australian scientists, like Plimer, are making a much more robust attempt to overcome the “alarmists” than many other Western nations including the UK.

  3. chris southern says:

    You only have to look at peoples funding and connections to see why they support such schemes.

  4. Richard J says:

    Quite apart from the harmless, benign and essential life-cycle gas CO2, and the disgracefully biased ‘science’ invoked to support a modern witch hunt projecting it a pariah of total planetary disaster, the economic costs of supposed mitigation keep being revealed as unjustifiable. In an article titled Does European Union Environmental Policy Pass a Cost–Benefit Test? by David Pearce in World Economics Volume 5, Number 3, 2004, he concludes

    ‘The European Treaty of Union … calls for a comparison of costs and benefits for all European regulations. Despite this, only a limited number of regulations have been subject to cost–benefit analysis. Using a variety of sources, this paper investigates whether or not a selection of major environmental regulations would pass a cost–benefit test. The general answer is that, while some do, most do not.’

  5. Neil S says:

    Bjorn Lomborg and more recently Chip Knappenburger over at the Master Resource site have claimed that the stringent emissions cuts proposed eg. 20% by 2020, will reduce projected temperatures by less than 0.1C by 2100. Even if applied across the globe. Why spend so much money for this. This is also why most economists argue that any mitigation plan should have most of the cuts occuring in the latter half of the century because $400bn in 2070 will be far less a hit to take when you are 6 times wealthier and far more knowledgeable (in part thanks to clever economic decisions by the generations forgone).

    According to the moderate but respected (amongst his peers if not his politicians) William Nordhaus, the Stern plan would cost $38tr while the total cost of warming this century is $23tr. This figure is based on a strict evaluation of IPCC 2007.

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