Why Climate Change is more relevant to everyday concerns than ever


by Guest    
2:05 pm - November 1st 2012

      Share on Tumblr

contribution by Rosie Magudia

Even as Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc and devastation along the US East Coast, climate change is absent from the US presidential debates , sidelined at the UK party political conferences, and shunned by world leaders at Rio Plus 20 .

But climate change is now interwoven throughout our lives. Not just in times of adverse weather, climate change is impacting the way we live, daily – affecting anything and everything from water security, to fuel prices, energy bills and transport.

No longer the prediction of a few – climate change has turned upfront and personal, and as such, there is a real opportunity for the Left to win votes on issues reaching far into voters’ everyday lives If they lead the way in tackling the change.

To demonstrate my point, below I describe just a few of the western problems which are the result of climate change, and will soon affect party preferences at a voting booth near you.

Food
In 2012-13, over 200,000 Britons will be fed by food banks, an 800% rise from 2008-09. This trend of deprivation is only set to continue as food prices continue their inexorable rise.

And this is an issue of climate change. Wheat yields are at their lowest levels since the 1980s , having been decimated by extreme weather across the US and Europe, and the UN is now issuing warnings of increasing meat and dairy prices. Meanwhile ocean acidification is affecting our fisheries and water scarcity (driven by climate change) is causing concern for our future productivity . Agriculture’s dependency on oil is only set to deepen the crisis, while the food banks will empty.

Food security is a hot topic and votes will be won by those standing up for affordable food for all. To do this, our leaders will need to address climate change.

Immigration
Between 50 and 200 million people are estimated to be displaced (PDF) by climate change by 2050 . And while tropical countries will often bear the brunt of emigration, the Northern hemisphere will receive the majority of immigrants.

Given that the ethical and and resource implication of such mass migration are vast, and need to be debated, they cannot be divorced from the cause of this migration.

Home Insurance
The financial impact of flooding has doubled within the past ten years and the very real concern is that climate change will soon price people out of insuring their homes.

Even those inland are at severe risk of flash flooding from rain. As Charles Tucker, chair of the National Flood Forum commented just a few weeks’ ago: “Anyone can be hit. That is a message which has got to be got out across to people without scaring the living daylights out of them” . The links to climate change are certain and well recognised by the industry. As long as ago as 2004, the Association of British Insurers acknowledged that: “Climate change is …impacting on insurers’ businesses now” .

We all want to insure our homes, to be protected against in the eye of the storm. And so the risks of climate change are high, as are the rewards for tackling it.

Future and current votes and ideologies will be won by those with a clear stance on an issue that is presently tricky and about to become a whole lot trickier.

The problems caused by climate change are here, now and everywhere, and certainly worth a care for those pursuing equality, liberty and social welfare. While intimidating, the opportunity for political leadership is clear.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Environment


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


*Yawn* Rather one sided view of the facts here.

Food prices are going up, but climate change isn’t the main driver, though this years crop has been poor. That said, there have been plenty of times this century when the crop has been a lot worse – can’t find the article but it was on zerohedge somewhere.

Food prices are going up because of a multitude of factors, including a growing population, increasing demand for meat and dairy products (which are grain/land/water intensive), biofuel growing, higher transportation costs to name but a few. Fisheries are suffering from over-fishing….simply put, food prices are going up because there are more people and people are getting richer so eat more meat.

As for displaced people – that number has been doing the rounds since the Maldives were supposed to sink in the 90s. You’ll notice that the Maldives height above sea level has barely changed, and there have not been any significant movements of people thanks to climate change.

http://www.appinsys.com/globalwarming/ClimateCash.htm

(scroll down for a good explanation).

The financial impact story again is wrongheaded, as a lot of the extra *financial* cost of damage is because of a combination of people getting richer and inflation. You’ll notice stories in the news don’t inflation adjust for the damamge caused. 20bn of damage today is not the same as 20bn of damage 10 years ago. Add in that the cost of insurance has risen thanks to the financial crisis and you’ll account for most of this story.

Rosie

The consequences of climate change are routinely exaggerated but those are some of the most tenuous links I have ever seen.

There are no votes in trying to persuade people that it is is good to pay twice as much for their energy because building windmills etc is going to reverse global warming.

Everybody understands that is nonsense.

However, the opportunity for the left is to use climate change as an excuse for increasing instances of government intervention in markets and in justifying the accelerated intrusion of the state into how people live their lives.

In 2012-13, over 200,000 Britons will be fed by food banks, an 800% rise from 2008-09. This trend of deprivation is only set to continue as food prices continue their inexorable rise.

JSA claimants can now be sanctioned up to three years – and I’d say that has more immediate impact on food banks.

Immigration
Between 50 and 200 million people are estimated to be displaced (PDF) by climate change by 2050 . And while tropical countries will often bear the brunt of emigration, the Northern hemisphere will receive the majority of immigrants.

Exploiting fears of immigration is more likely to boost the popularity of anti-immigration parties than get people to switch a few lights off.

As with Tyler. This is mostly nonsense.

Yields are down because of a bad harvest. One. This isn’t a trend.

Immigration? Erm, 200 million climate refugees is 5 million a year over 40 years. This is a pifflingly small number. For example, the current stock (stock, not annual movement) of international migrants is some 240 million. And do note: your 200 million number of climate change migrants is not the number of international ones: that includes people who move within their own countries. By far the majority of course.

“The financial impact of flooding has doubled within the past ten years and the very real concern is that climate change will soon price people out of insuring their homes. ”

As Tyler said about values. House prices have doubled in 10 years haven’t they? Thus the same amount of flooding would have double the financial impact, no?

Further, it was the last lot who encouraged people to build on flood plains. Not a very sensible thing to do but that might also have something to do with it.

5. Chaise Guevara

@ pagar

“There are no votes in trying to persuade people that it is is good to pay twice as much for their energy because building windmills etc is going to reverse global warming.

Everybody understands that is nonsense.”

If by “reverse” you meant “prevent the exacerbation of”, then I think you need to ask whether or not everyone in the world actually shares your point of view. The fact that climate change is a controversial topic would suggest not.

“However, the opportunity for the left is to use climate change as an excuse for increasing instances of government intervention in markets and in justifying the accelerated intrusion of the state into how people live their lives.”

This is totally paranoid. Yes, the left tends to support state intrusion in some areas, just like the right often supports it in others, but both sides support it as a means to an end. Why bother supporting it if you think the end in question is untrue?

Surely it’s more likely that lefties tend to support sustainable energy because they’ve listened to the majority of qualified scientists on the subject, rather than them rejecting the views of those scientists and supporting it because “That means more state intervention for no purpose, bwa ha ha!”

6. TorquilMacneil

“Surely it’s more likely that lefties tend to support sustainable energy because they’ve listened to the majority of qualified scientists on the subject”

There is nothing like a consensus among qualified scientists on this subject and anyway, scientists are not necessarily the people best placed to decide policy. Just saying.

I’m sorry but this article is a load of cobblers written by someone whos job depends on the sustained idea that we will all boil to death by 2050.

I would simply echo what Tyler and Tim have said as they seem to have addressed most of the points, but I would say to Chaise Guevara that the ‘scientists’ referred to are also the ‘scientists’ who liked to…how do I put this…jazz up climate figures.

There is nothing like a consensus among qualified scientists on this subject and anyway, scientists are not necessarily the people best placed to decide policy. Just saying.

They’re not the best people to decide policy but they are the best to assess the science.

And you seem to be confusing ‘consensus’ with ’100% agreement’. There’s no 100% agreement but there’s a definite consensus.

Just to be difficult, Scientists have agreed very strongly on things before. Recent examples:

1) There is no such thing as plate tectonics
2) Germs could not be carried in water

Don’t shout at me.

10. ex-Labour voter

Please do not use the term ‘climate change’

‘Global warming’ works better with people.

“However, the opportunity for the left is to use climate change as an excuse for increasing instances of government intervention in markets and in justifying the accelerated intrusion of the state into how people live their lives.”

This is totally paranoid.

For once, Chaise, you could be right. How can I tell if I’m paranoid after all?

4% environmental levy on gas.
10% environmental levy on electricity.
Road Fund Licence based on emissions.
Compulsory environmental audit on home when selling.
Feed in tariffs for solar power.
Free of charge loft insulation for OAPs
Airline emissions tax.
Street lights turned off to save power.

Yes, these could all be figments of my fevered libertarian imagination…..

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 11 Pagar

…And there go the goalposts. Yes, I can see why someone might believe climate change to be a myth, yet perpetrate said myth because they’re in government and think they can use it to boost revenue through punitive taxes. What I can’t see is why that same person would use that myth purely to make people spend more on their electricity bills.

What’s more, two of your examples COST the government money! Come on, you can come up with a better conspiracy than this. How about: “The government want to build windmills because windmills are sacred to our secret lizard overlords”?

13. Chaise Guevara

Torquil – Shatterface has answered for me perfectly.

Freeman – Scientists are not all paragons of virtue, but if you have deemed all scientists untrustworthy, can I ask where you get your scientific information from? If not, what’s your point?

@ Jack C

“Just to be difficult, Scientists have agreed very strongly on things before. Recent examples:

1) There is no such thing as plate tectonics
2) Germs could not be carried in water

Don’t shout at me.”

I won’t shout, but I am tempted to introduce you to Bayesian reasoning if you’re not aware of it already (not the maths, just the underlying principles).

Pretty much nothing is 100% certain. We have to work with the best information we currently have. The information is that most people who know what they’re talking about hold that man-made climate change is fact (even if they disagree on some specifics).

It’s possible that they’re all missing something. But that also applies to your handful of qualified people who don’t believe in such things – you have to apply the same degree of cynicism to ideas you like as you do to ideas you don’t. So, from my layman’s position, the sensible conclusion is that the basic concept “Climate change happens, humans contribute to it, and it can have harmful effects” is true, with a fairly good weight of confidence (i.e. it has high probability of being true).

Later evidence could turn up that blows current theories out of the water, as has indeed happened before. But it’s a black swan. To use this currently non-existent evidence to believe now that climate change isn’t real, is cheating: you’re assuming that the non-existent evidence will a) turn up and b) be on your side.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 10

“Please do not use the term ‘climate change’

‘Global warming’ works better with people.”

Why do you believe this? Because in my experience, “climate change” is way better. Firstly, it’s more accurate (or at least encompasses more). Secondly, “global warming” tends to confuse people who don’t listen to the “global” bit. Hence how, whenever we have a cold snap, some ignoramus without fail will write to your newspaper and gleefully declare that global warming has just been disproved.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why “climate change” has gained currency before: it’s less confusing, and less open to being straw manned by the dishonest.

Chaise,
Thanks, but I was just being slightly difficult.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that there are vested interests on both sides of the divide.

I would find it slightly odd if humans were having no effect at all, but what that effect is, and what we should do about it does seem rather submerged at present.

I’m quietly confidant that if climate change is largely man made, then nature will soon enough sort out all our problems one way or another.

I’m just wondering if the people above who have such faith in the scientists were the same people who had faith in the economists.

I mean, it’s all just based on computer models; isn’t it?

@TorquilMacneil

> There is nothing like a consensus among qualified
> scientists on this subject

Yes, there is. Overwhelmingly.

> and anyway, scientists are not necessarily the people
> best placed to decide policy.

It’s a pretty damning indictment of the state of our society that people can suggest experts in climate change shouldn’t be heavily involved in climate policy. A little more evidenced based policy is exactly what we need.

@wg
> I mean, it’s all just based on computer models; isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. There is plenty of observational data supporting the theoretical foundations of global warming and climate change. Sites like Real Climate discuss this stuff all the time. Any undergraduate climate dynamics text has plenty of details. And, model predictions continue to do well http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/02/2011-updates-to-model-data-comparisons/

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 wg

“I’m just wondering if the people above who have such faith in the scientists were the same people who had faith in the economists.”

I’m still wondering what all of these clever and cynical people who don’t believe the scientists are basing their beliefs on.

Could you enlighten me?

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 15 Jack C

Oh, obviously we’d adjust confidence in climate change down where the experts supporting it have vested interests. But I’ll note that many of those vested interests probably ensue from the discovery of AGW in the first place. ANY expert has a vested interest in their field not turning out to be completely made up.

@ Cyclux, “I’m quietly confidant that if climate change is largely man made, then nature will soon enough sort out all our problems one way or another.”

How? With mega deaths?

Actually we’ll be OK. All the solar panels we install will either absorb the suns rays or do the job of the melted sea ice and reflect the sun’s heat back into space. All the wind turbines we build will take the destructive energy out of the gale force winds, and all the wave power generators will save us from rising sea levels. Provided we have enough of everything in place that is.

On the other hand perhaps an era of extreme and unpredictable weather is just something we will have to cope with as part of our human evolution.

23. So Much for Subtlety

I realise there is a measure of how irrelevant climate change is to everyone’s live these days. I can’t be bother to comment on the original post. It is that irrelevant.

@Gluv

> All the solar panels we install will either absorb the
> suns rays or do the job of the melted sea ice and reflect
> the sun’s heat back into space.

I’m afraid I’m finding Poe’s law applicable here.

In case this isn’t satire:

Solar panels have a fairly low albedo, about 0.15, which is similar to worn asphalt, and much, much less than ice, which makes sense given the intended function. Furthermore, much of the absorbed energy will get re-radiated as infrared, which will then be absorbed by atmospheric CO2, so the energy doesn’t go away.

In fact, these considerations do actually have to be taken into account in the large scale roll out of solar panels, because if you were to provide the entire energy requirements of humanity via solar panels, then current designs would be equivalent to a few ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 (this is of course massively offset by a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels, so it’s not an argument against solar panels, to be clear).

So, in short, solar panels don’t physically mitigate climate impacts, its the reduction in our use of fossil fuels that counts.

It’s a pretty damning indictment of the state of our society that people can suggest experts in climate change shouldn’t be heavily involved in climate policy. A little more evidenced based policy is exactly what we need.

Why, what expertise can a climate scientist bring to policy?

The policy is going to be about changing people’s behaviour. What use is a climate scientists for that? It’s economics you want to use to study incentives and how to change them.

You know, like Nick Stern and his review maybe? Which did indeed come to the right conclusion, a carbon tax.

I do enjoy how posting a piece on climate change brings out the usual suspects from the right, who assure us every day they’re hard-working right wingers, but are very quick to respond with long tracts when such pieces are published.

I wish I had that much time to waste. There will be more pieces like this guys – you’re not convincing anyone.

@Tim Worstall

> Why, what expertise can a climate scientist bring to policy?

Unbelievable. The aim of policy is to actually achieve something. In order to achieve your goals you need to understand the system you are interacting with, and know what the implications of your actions will be. Strangely enough, the people best placed to understand the impacts of the inputs to the climate system are climate scientists. So listening to them may actually turn out to be a good idea (I’m not excluding experts from other fields, I’m simply pointing out that climate science policy should listen to climate scientists! I didn’t think that was a complicated idea).

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Andy C

“Unbelievable.”

Agreed. Tim seems to think that good economic rigour is all you need – even if your rejection of scientific data means that you’re pursuing a fool’s errand.

In fact, there’s a notable trend of anti-science attitudes among the denialists* on this thread. Can’t imagine why.

*”OMG, there’s a difference between scepticism and denialism!” There is indeed, and that difference is that denialists deny reality, hence the name. Declaring science irrelevant is a great way to do that!

@26 Sunny

Quite. It also aptly demonstrates how nasty they are.

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Cherub

“Quite. It also aptly demonstrates how nasty they are.”

Eh, Sunny’s just making ad hom attacks. Weirdly he never seems to mind when people who agree with him spend a lot of time on his website. Please don’t encourage him when he trolls his own blog.

The denialists on this thread are in an untenable position: they’re so scared of admitting they’re wrong that they’ve maneouvered themselves into rejecting science. That’s pretty desperate. We can fight the rationalist corner without resorting to ad homs.

@30 Chaise

Are you suggesting that SMFS et al aren’t deeply unpleasant based on their postings? It’s surely relevant in these sterile “debates” as it goes towards indicating their motivation.

@22 – Yep. Plus if humanity does contrive to wipe itself out, the last to die will be able to reflect on just how much we deserved it.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Cherub

1) You’ve picked the worst of the bunch as your example there – we do have anti-renewables people on LC with more reasonable concerns.

2)It’s ad hom however you look at it.

3)This is standard behaviour for Sunny. He commonly tries to respond to several people at once with irrelevant personal attacks like those above. Often calling them “trolls” while he’s at it, with no detectable irony.

Obviously Sunny isn’t a card-carrying troll, but he behaves like one when he’s too lazy/unable to hold his corner in a proper debate. Feeding the trolls is one thing, egging them on is worse.

@Tyler
@Pagar
@Tim Worstall
@Freeman

And to the rest of you who say this is piffle – I wish it was. But the facts suggest otherwise.

Food security. Sure – our food supply is facing issues other than climate change – but climate change is causing adverse weather and is a major contributor to ever increasing food prices.
Please see page 12 of this UN FAO document describing climate change’s current effects.
http://www.fao.org/forestry/15538-079b31d45081fe9c3dbc6ff34de4807e4.pdf

@Tyler – you’re correct – fisheries are suffering from over-fishing. Badly so in Europe – but climate change is also having an effect. I refer you to our Conservative Minister, Richard Benyon’s comments –
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/05/marine-environment08052012

Home Insurance. I understand your point re inflation -but the issue is that flooding is becoming more common and so more homes are being affected. Again – I refer you to the Independent Government Review of the 2007 floods – the Pitt Review.

Immigration. Seriously – Arctic ice melt reaches record leves; China’s building 59 reservoirs to capture glacier melt, and you suggest that seawater levels aren’t rising. Yes they are – the results are widely known – one link in a million here. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5985/1517.full

And finally – @Freeman. My writing style may be nasty, my arguments clumsy – but this is not cobblers – and my job certainly does not depend on us all boiling by 2050. I wrote this piece because I think that its important we take action. As does the republican Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg.

Tim W is essentially right I would say.

You get the facts from experts, but this does not mean you should also get policy from them.

One example: fuel economy in cars has been significantly improved in recent years.

Engineers did that, but the driving force was economic incentives (increased fuel duty, and company car tax based on CO2 in the UK, for example).

@27. Andy C: “Unbelievable. The aim of policy is to actually achieve something. In order to achieve your goals you need to understand the system you are interacting with, and know what the implications of your actions will be.”

Tim Worstall was deliberately making an extreme point but it is one to think about. It’s the case that when climate scientists identify a problem, identify a cause and recommend a solution, they’ve pretty much exhausted their expertise. They can recommend a solution (reduce these particular sources of emissions) but *how to deliver the solution* becomes a new problem for economists, behavioural scientists, engineers and nitty gritty politicians. It is not the role of climate scientists to write energy policy or negotiate international treaties. I suspect that they wouldn’t be very good at it.

Climate scientists still have an important role to nag government and to attain greater understanding of our world. But they have to cede the identified problem to others for resolution. There will be a few generalists with a foot in the policy camp and a foot in the science camp, but a division of labour/expertise applies. (I reckon that Tim W forgot about engineers and applied scientists who provide the facility for economists et al to deliver change.)

@Charlieman

> how to deliver the solution* becomes a new problem for
> economists…

I don’t disagree with that point (I did actually allude to that point in my previous point).

> It is not the role of climate scientists to write energy
> policy or negotiate international treaties…

Again, I agree with this point, but there is a caveat. Once a policy gets written, it is the job of scientists (including climate scientists) to assess the impact of those policies.

To give an example; Cap and Trade was proposed as part of the “solution” to global warming, but it means continuing to make extensive use of fossil fuels, which the community of climate scientists thought was a terrible idea, based on an understanding of where the trajectory of CO2 emissions goes. And yet this is the policy we have, and surprise, surprise, it’s a miserable failure.

Ignoring scientists in the writing of policy is a truly terrible idea, but getting their input before making policy and then ignoring their input on the implications of the proposed policy is also a very bad idea. Scientists should be included/consulted at every stage of policy implementation.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Jack C

“Tim W is essentially right I would say.”

Based on your generous interpretation of Tim’s words, he is at best making a good point very badly.

@38,
Well possibly, but his point is a valid one.

Making gains from expert knowledge and/or inspiration requires practical application, and this is almost always a job for someone else.

Say I could prove that children would perform 20% better if school hours were 6am to 1pm, and that the government of the day wanted to act on this information.

Discovering this piece of information wouldn’t add value to any thoughts I may have on implementation.

40. Derek Hattons Tailor

Being an expert doesn’t make you right though. Experts often hold opinions which contradict other/earlier expert opinions. Lots of experts used to think the earth was flat, that an ice age was coming, that a nuclear power station couldn’t explode, that collateralised debt obligations were a good thing, that cigarettes were good for you, etc etc etc.
Policy should be evidence *based* yes, but that doesn’t mean allowing experts to write policy, otherwise what’s the point of politicians ?

41. Chaise Guevara

@ Jack and Derek

Agreed entirely, and indeed you’re singing from a hymnsheet I’ve used many times myself. But that’s not what Tim said, so we’re being awful nice by attributing that sensible opinion to him. His comment, in effect, was “huh, experts, who cares about asking them anything?”

I want my national policy on education decided by elected politicians (all jokes aside). I want my elected politicians to listen to experts on education when forming said policy.

42. Derek Hattons Tailor

As an afterthought, Italy has done exactly that, slung the politicians out and appointed, er, an economist, to run their economy, directly. A technocracy. It’s difficult to see how he could make it any worse but be interesting to see how that pans out.

@Derek Hattons Tailor

> Being an expert doesn’t make you right though.

No, but being a very large collection of experts basing your views on the data you spend your life studying and coming to a consensus makes you much more likely to be right than the people who disagree with you.

> Lots of experts used to think the earth was flat

No, this is wrong, and separately it is a poor analogy. Eratosthenes figured out the Earth was not flat, *and* computed its circumference over 2,000 years ago, it was the uneducated masses who continued to think otherwise. Prior to that it was broadly assumed by people that the Earth was as flat as their surroundings appeared to be; this is not experts being wrong, this is an absence of expertise because of a failure to bother checking, which absolutely cannot be said from climate science.

> that an ice age was coming

I assume this is the classic “climate scientists said there would be an ice age in the 1970s” trope. Which is wrong (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/the-global-cooling-myth/).

> that a nuclear power station couldn’t explode

Citation please.

> that cigarettes were good for you

Again, citation please (Tobacco companies trying to cover up evidence does not qualify as “experts were wrong”)

More generally, saying “some experts were wrong in the past, so they can’t be trusted” is not, by itself, a good argument. Ultimately, its data that counts.

> that doesn’t mean allowing experts to write policy

I thought at this stage of the discussion it was clear that no one is arguing for scientists to *write* policy, but rather be consulted (and listened to) for the entirety of the process.

But that’s not what Tim said, so we’re being awful nice by attributing that sensible opinion to him. His comment, in effect, was “huh, experts, who cares about asking them anything?”

No, that’s not what I said at all. Or at least not what I meant.

I’m just fine with using climate scientists to look at what emissions are doing to climate. If I want to know what’s happening to the water cycle I’d use a hydrologist (quite important in this instance as whether more evaporation leads to more rain or whether more evaporation leads to just more humidity is a crucial question).

So, perfectly happy with the outputs of the technical chapters in the IPCC reports for example. Only very slight whingeing about political bias etc (you know, the Himalayan glaciers stuff etc).

But when it comes to devising socio-economic policy to deal with it. We’ve identified a problem, now, what do we actually do? What use is a hydrologist here? Quite: we either need to move to a different set of experts or do without them. But we’re certainly not going to take our hydrologist’s thoughts on the interaction of incentives across the economy seriously, are we?

And as it happens we do have an expert report on what we should actually do about climate change. That Stern Review. Which starts with the work of the climate scientists as the input. Yeah, OK, there’s a problem with climate change. Now, let us apply our expertise, that expertise about how to shape incentives so that people change their behaviour, to possible solutions to that problem.

We rule out bureaucratic rule making, politicians picking winners, because we know that is inefficient. Such a solution would cost us more to implement than other more efficient methods.

Those other more efficient methods being either cap and trade or a carbon tax.

Another way of putting this is we should only listen to experts in their own field of expertise. Economists in economics, climate scientists in climate science and so on.

Which is what I mean.

As an aside I would point out that as far as economists are concerned I’m absolutely mainstream in my proposed solution. A carbon tax and we’re done. Maybe, possibly, a little bit of subsidy for technological investigation. You can sign up everyone from Nick Stern through William Nordhaus to Paul Krugman to that policy.

Or to give another example, one that has local relevance. If you want to discuss the economics of taxation who do you think you should be consulting? An economist? Or a retired accountant from Wandsworth who skipped his uni economics lectures?

You might get better information on the economics from an economist you know…….

45. Chaise Guevara

@ Tim

Largely agree with that, but it’s not what you wrote earlier.

In passing, I’d place less weight on the views of an economist in deciding economic policy than I would on those of, say, a chemist in deciding how to deal with dangerous chemicals, because economics is a lot more debatable and it’s pretty clear that a lot of experts are massively influenced by their personal politics (amazing how all those right-wing economists believe austerity is the answer to our current situation, while all those leftie ones prefer spending. Although I suppose cause and effect could be working both ways there.).

Even better, I’d ask more than one economist.

In passing, I’d place less weight on the views of an economist in deciding economic policy than I would on those of, say, a chemist in deciding how to deal with dangerous chemicals,

I wouldn’t,. I’d want an economist……or at least someone who can do a cost benefit analysis…..to inform policy about what to do with a dangerous chemical.

Entirely delighted to us the chemist to tell us whether it is dangerous. And even how dangerous it is. But at that point we need to consider costs and benefits….and yes, that economists’ favourite, opportunity cost (just as we do with climate change).

As an example (and using made up numbers) say there’s a chemical, call it benzine, that kills people. OK, how many people? What will be the cost of the regulations to avoid exposure? What will be the benefit?

We usually value a statistical life at around £2 million. So, if our regulations save a statistical life at less than £2 million we’ll do it. More and we shouldn’t.

There are certainly US EPA regulations that cost $1 billion (yes, billion) and over per statistical life saved. These make everyone poorer: they fail our cost benefit test.

That’s why you want the economist (or at least someone who can do the cost benefit analysis) involved after the chemist has his say.

And the same is true of climate change. Yes, there will be benefits from preventing climate change. But what are the costs of the actions we must take to do so?

To be absurd we could stop climate change tomorrow. Anyone using fossil fuels after noon gets shot. Would stop the problem in its tracks: but most would regard the cost, not just of those shot, but of the 6 billion or so who would die in the next few months, as being a bit too high.

The economics, the cost benefit analysis, is central to all of these questions.

47. Chaise Guevara

@ 46 Tim

It helps if you respond what’s written, rather than fudging two separate examples together. I wasn’t claiming that cost/benefit analysis is not important. I was saying that it would be odd to trust a single economist (on a controversial question rather than routine sums) on policy, because the economist sitting next to them would tell you the opposite. So you’d try to get a broader view of expert opinion on the matter.

“because the economist sitting next to them would tell you the opposite. So you’d try to get a broader view of expert opinion on the matter.”

Fine. So let’s just go with what settled opinion among economists is then shall we? You know, the general consensus?

Good: free trade is a wondrous thing (even Ha Joon Chang says so for developed economies, infant industry protection applies only to undeveloped ones). Rent control is the best way of destroying a city short of aerial bombardment. The solution to climate change is cap and trade or carbon tax: take your pick. Corporations do not pay taxes, only people do. The Laffer Curve really does exist: the only issue is at what rate for what tax in which society.

Hey, let’s start paying attention to the economic consensus then.

And please do note, there’s no such consensus in macroeconomics. There isn’t a general macroeconomic theory that you could get all living Nobel Laureates to sign up to. But there are plenty of microeconomic ones like the above. So let’s get with the program, eh?

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

You didnt mention water,which is set to be an increasing issue in some parts of the third world and indeed has already been responsible for armed conflict.

A gateway for socialism? I dont think so somehow. I suspect the Wests spectator sport of watching emaciated black faces on the TV is likely to be the only outcome. If you want an equitable outcome then you have to have sharing on a world scale and that is just not gonna happen.

All this does assume that the world will be a fit place for anyone to live in come 2050

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 48 Tim

“Fine. So let’s just go with what settled opinion among economists is then shall we? You know, the general consensus?”

You are about to claim that several POVs are settled consensus. The first is definitely a lie, and on that basis I’m guessing the others are too (except the last, which is self-evident). I think you’re confusing yourself with the entire world.

“Good: free trade is a wondrous thing (even Ha Joon Chang says so for developed economies, infant industry protection applies only to undeveloped ones).”

Even if you weren’t lying about this being settled: Happily, we’ve agreed that expert opinion should be used to inform but not dictate policy. In the case of free trade, we have to take into account other costs that your economists probably left out of their remit, like fairness.

“Rent control is the best way of destroying a city short of aerial bombardment. The solution to climate change is cap and trade or carbon tax: take your pick.”

Could be, I dunno.

“Corporations do not pay taxes, only people do.”

I suspect this works with the unspoken caveat “as long as the system is sufficiently good at avoiding loopholes”.

“The Laffer Curve really does exist: the only issue is at what rate for what tax in which society.”

No kidding.

“And please do note, there’s no such consensus in macroeconomics. There isn’t a general macroeconomic theory that you could get all living Nobel Laureates to sign up to.”

So far, your solution to this seems to be “grab a passing economist at random and do whatever he says”, which is only slightly better than rolling a dice.

“But there are plenty of microeconomic ones like the above. So let’s get with the program, eh?”

I love how you went to great efforts to warn about the dangers of assuming experts can dictate policy, yet have forgotten about it almost immediately. Your concept of truth changes based on what argument you want to win, amirite?

51. Man on Clapham Omnibus

48. Tim Worstall

This is all very jolly but fails to recognise that the kind of economics you are talking about is ultimately the politics of greed dressed up.

Capitalism allows for the concentration of wealth and power to the extent that the man in the street has no ability to change world altering events.

I am sure that cost/benifit can be applied to a house fire but generally most people expect the fire brigade to show up not an economist.

The kind of economics you are talking about is akin to someone counting heads at an auto da fe.

@ Tim

Yeah, OK, there’s a problem with climate change. Now, let us apply our expertise, that expertise about how to shape incentives so that people change their behaviour, to possible solutions to that problem.

But that is predicated on the notion that if CO2 is contributing to, and is going to exacerbate, global warming that a reduction in CO2 emissions will stop and reverse the process.

I have seen absolutely NO science that gives that guarantee or even such a prediction- it seems the famed computer models can’t compute it. It might seem the logical outcome but it is equally possible that the damaging process is irreversible and that meeting Kyoto targets or whatever will make absolutely no difference.

So if governments want to help, would they not be better advised to work on the potential symptoms of warming- dredging rivers, building sea defences and providing new polar bear enclosures rather than bribing citizens to put solar panels on their roofs and nagging them not to leave their TVs on standby?

And we should always remember that

“Eighteen years ago scientists identified a terrifying new disease that had the potential to infect up to ten million people in Britain.

Each victim would sicken in the same horrible way: his or her brain would be eaten from within by a deadly protein, mental and physical decline would be swift and end only in silent, bedridden death. Fates were already sealed – anyone who had ever eaten a burger or a meat pie was theoretically at risk.”

http://www.organicconsumers.org/madcow/end12403.cfm

It’s quite possible that we’ve always been doomed and we actually like the excitement of being so……

Oh yes and

“New scientific evidence continues to demonstrate that the ozone depletion models -and the resulting ban on CFCs- are based on a Big Lie”

http://www.mitosyfraudes.org/Ingles/Crista.html

How did that happen?

54. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@52

Co2 absorbs infra red. Period Its a scientific fact. That energy is re radiated at a lower frequency and so does not escape back out into space.

Just because you don’t like the fact doesn’t make it any the less true.

Just to convince yourself, why not put a match to some paper and pretend it doesn’t catch fire.

55. Man on Clapham Omnibus

53 Pagar

Yes its really new isnt it – 1993.
And on a climate denier website.

56. Man on Clapham Omnibus

29. Cherub

I think he’s inferring that people are better off not contributing to this sight unless they are wastrels.

57. Man on Clapham Omnibus

26. Sunny Hundal

Maybe you could explain why climate politics is necessarily a right left split. It could easily be a scientific/non scientific divide or a divide between those that face a challenge and those that would prefer to run away.

@ MOCO

Yes its really new isnt it – 1993.

No it wasn’t. That was when he published a book.

And, by the way, someone was asking the other day for evidence that the MWP was warmer than today?

http://www.mitosyfraudes.org/calen14/esper_2012.html

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 MoCO

It aligns with the standard split because of the “big business vs little people” nature of the issue. But I agree that it’s not fundamentally a left/right thing.

60. Robin Levett

@Derek #40:

Others have picked you up on the other claims you made, but:

Experts often hold opinions which contradict other/earlier expert opinions. Lots of experts used to think…that cigarettes were good for you

The irony is delicious.

Do the names Frederick Seitz and S Fred Singer mean anything to you? Both were prominent tobacco industry lobbyists, denying the health risks of smoking and passive smoking; both are (were, in Seitz’s case) climate change denialists. The tobacco denialist industry is now the climate change denialist industry. The same tactics have been used in both campaigns; only the paymasters have changed.

61. Man on Clapham Omnibus

58. pagar

Ok I’ll check it out.

With regard to the MWP I cant remember saying it was hotter than today. In any event the MWP has nothing to do with CO2 but rather two cyclic ocean patterns interacting with each other. I am sure there is data on the web for anyone interested.

62. Man on Clapham Omnibus

36. Charlieman

Actually Tim Worstall is talking the usual bollocks of a free marketeer. Global economics is not about the nice image of a free rational economic man deciding on whether to buy a Mars bar or not in a wonderfully competitive world.

World Economics is about collusion (toxic assets ring a bell?), Government collusion and a considerable amount of Corporate power.

I would suggest that the 31 Trillion dollars in fossil fuel options will sing a big louder than anything Tim has to offer.

63. Robin Levett

@MoCO #54:

Co2 absorbs infra red. Period Its a scientific fact. That energy is re radiated at a lower frequency and so does not escape back out into space

Just as a point of detail – this isn’t quite correct.

Because the Sun’s surface is much hotter than the Earth’s, incoming IR from the Sun is much higher energy and hence at much longer wavelengths than the IR emitted from the Earth’s surface. CO2 is virtually transparent to those longer wavelengths; but absorbs the shorter wavelengths coming from the heated ground below. It then reradiates it in all directions (so a fraction under half is re-radiated back toward the surface, there to be re-absorbed and reheat it, or hit another CO2 molecule). This has the effect of slowing the average rate at which the IR radiated from the Earth’s surface reaches space – it’s like snakes and ladders for the IR energy. It is that slowing of the transmission to space that heats the Earth system.

64. Man on Clapham OmnibusV

@63 Robin

Thanks for that. I’ll try to summarise it down to a sentence when I get time. Do you know anything about quantum mechanics perchance? I need answers re Higgs.

I’m still with Tim on his original, central point, save for the use of Economists.

Re: the Benzine example, the difference between the Chemist and the Economist is that the former is a scientist. Economics is not a science; an accountant would be better for what Tim has in mind.

Once the experts have analysed a problem and presented their findings, What To Do is with the politicians.

66. Robin Levett

@MoCO #64:

I’m afraid I’m a lawyer who has retained his interest in science; I’m not sure I understand enough about quantum physics to be shocked by it.

67. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 60 Irony or not, you surely can’t dispute the fact that experts are not infallible as has been demonstrated many times. I could also point out the irony of the anti smoking lobby actually being a front for big pharmas multi million dollar nicotine replacement therapy products, or the fact the green movement only gained real traction in Europe with the demise of old style economic socialism. What you call tactics other might call “human nature”……..

68. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 43 “No, but being a very large collection of experts basing your views on the data you spend your life studying and coming to a consensus makes you much more likely to be right than the people who disagree with you.”

Er, unless the people who disagree with you have also done the same ? Believe it not different conclusions can and are drawn from the same data, all the time. You are deciding the veracity of a statement not by the statement itself but by the identity of the person making it – anyone who disagrees with me must be uninformed ?

There is no such thing as scientific consensus. Consensus is a concept from the humanities. In science there are theories which remain as theories until/unless they are falsified. A theory which cannot be falsified is not a scientific theory. Science is constantly testing and trying to falsify itself, so to talk of a scientific consensus is meaningless.

Some more examples (I’m not writing an undergraduate essay for you to mark so no references, look it up yourself): Nuclear power will be too cheap to meter, Thalidomide is safe, disease can be cured by leeches, bubonic plague is spread by bad air, the sun goes round the earth. Yes they were uninformed, but travel forward a century and what do you think we will look like now ?
Your point better made would be that political positions are often dressed up as expertise and that the expertise you get depends on the expert you ask.

@62. Man on Clapham Omnibus: “World Economics is about collusion (toxic assets ring a bell?), Government collusion and a considerable amount of Corporate power.

I would suggest that the 31 Trillion dollars in fossil fuel options will sing a big louder than anything Tim has to offer.”

So your response to big business and moral corruption is to appoint climate scientists… Have you ever discussed politics with a climate scientist?

Please read again my comments @36 which were about providing a realistic response to a problem identified by scientists.

70. Chaise Guevara

@ 67 Derek

“Irony or not, you surely can’t dispute the fact that experts are not infallible as has been demonstrated many times.”

Entirely true, of course. You shouldn’t mindlessly trust experts, you shouldn’t mindlessly believe anything. But how does this translate in terms of policy? What do you think we should do instead?

The reason I ask is that I suspect the anti-expert stuff on this thread (not from you necessarily, can’t remember exactly who said what) is one of those double-standards that people like to pull out. If the experts contradict them, they’ll act oh-so-cynical and call everyone else naive. If the experts agree with them, they might be a little slower to do that. And when it comes to saying “So what should we do instead of relying on experts?” the answer is normally “Believe me instead, a person with a chip on his shoulder and 15 minutes spent researching the issue on Wikipedia”, or more often there’s no answer at all.

Again, I’m not talking about you personally. You’re not the hypothetical guy with 15 minutes’ Wikipedia experience. But I’m wary of this sort of thinking.

71. Robin Levett

@Derek #67:

you surely can’t dispute the fact that experts are not infallible as has been demonstrated many times

Of course experts aren’t infallible; but on any individual issue the default position to adopt is they they’ve got it right, unless you can show why they’re wrong.

On, say, continental drift, the experts were entirely right to reject Wegener’s theories hen initially presented. He had a conjecture, but no conclusive evidence nor, crucially, a mechanism. The mechanism that he did suggest was simply ludicrous. Once however the proper groundwork had been done, evidence obtained and a sensible mechanism established, the theory was accepted pretty quickly.

Other examples you produce – say, thalidomide – involve misrepresenting the scientific position. For its intended purpose, thalidomide was pretty safe; and indeed it is now sued, quite safely, for a number of different applications. The safety of its use for morning sickness simply hadn’t been tested. It was the experts that pieced together the evidence that showed that thalidomide was unsafe because it could cross the placental barrier.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

More generally, you seem to have a mistaken idea of how science progresses. Very rarely does it progress from position A to position B, and then entirely reject position B and return to position A. Even if position B is shown to be not entirely correct, the evidence that led to the rejection of position A remains; usually science moves on to position “refined B”. For example, Newton’s laws of gravitation are wrong; Einstein showed that – but they’re good enough to get us to Mars. On climate change, rejection of AGW involves rejection of 150 years of scientific study.

72. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 71 I don’t wish to be patronising but I have a BSc (Hons) and understand exactly how science works. I never said it was a process of rejection and reversion I said it was continuous, critical enquiry. Which is why all genuine scientific experiments are peer reviewed, repeatable, and falsifiable. This is why the humanities graduates who try and use it support arguments become defensive, because they see gaps in knowledge as weaknesses of argument, or as an attack on expertise generally. Scientists see them as part of the natural process of criticism, inquiry and incremental improvements in the body of scientific knowledge. This is why at any given point in time and in any scientific field there will be differences of opinion *between* experts. I am not saying don’t ask experts, I am disputing that expertise is a fixed position.

73. Robin Levett

@Derek #71:

I don’t wish to be patronising but I have a BSc (Hons) and understand exactly how science works.

I don’t wish to be patronising but I’ve got an LLB and, whatever I thought at the time, I would never now be arrogant enough to suggest that that either made me a lawyer or taught me exactly how the law works.

The very examples you have chosen suggested that you had little conception either of the history of science or of the way it works.

It is true that often experts in a field disagree. On the fundamentals of anthropogenic climate change, however, there is no disagreement between experts. The experts agree it is real. The published literature is unanimous – there is a consensus of evidence that it is real. We are not going to go back to the idea that it supplanted – that humanity cannot have an effect on climate. We are not going to go back to the belief that SMFS, for example, often espouses – that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does not/may not increase average global temperatures.

74. So Much for Subtlety

26. Sunny Hundal

I wish I had that much time to waste. There will be more pieces like this guys – you’re not convincing anyone.

So you think it is a conspiracy? Bring on the debate. It is a public service. But I don’t think the warmists are winning this one.

29. Cherub

Quite. It also aptly demonstrates how nasty they are.

Does it? How interesting. You don’t think that reflects more on your problems with dissent than on everyone else?

30. Chaise Guevara

The denialists on this thread are in an untenable position: they’re so scared of admitting they’re wrong that they’ve maneouvered themselves into rejecting science.

No one is rejecting the science. Just that the scientific process involves debate and argument, it involves the evaluation of evidence. It does not involve statements ex cathedra and attempts at excommunication.

43. Andy C

I assume this is the classic “climate scientists said there would be an ice age in the 1970s” trope. Which is wrong

No it isn’t. What Realclimate has done is insisted on restricting the evidence to that peer reviewed and then imposed absurd conditions on it. Yes, no one in the 1970s said the world was about to freeze in an article in Nature. But it was widely believed the problem the Earth faced was a possible ice age. So much so that the first editions of that Gaia book suggested massive releases of CFCs to off set Global Cooling. But by all means, let’s adopt their standards for the present. By those standards no one has ever written a peer reviewed article supporting Global Warming. No consensus.

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

You didnt mention water,which is set to be an increasing issue in some parts of the third world and indeed has already been responsible for armed conflict.

I doubt water has been a cause of conflict anywhere but Israel but if it is, it is not due to climate change.

A gateway for socialism? I dont think so somehow. I suspect the Wests spectator sport of watching emaciated black faces on the TV is likely to be the only outcome. If you want an equitable outcome then you have to have sharing on a world scale and that is just not gonna happen.

Why do you think sharing is an equitable outcome? Your comments show an interesting level of self-loathing. As it happens, the West is the only place where pictures of starving faces has ever produced an actual response. The world has fewer starving people now precisely because of the West.

But yes, clearly the Green movement has been a refuge for former Communists. It is just a way to continue to act out whatever personal issues took them into Marxism in the first place.

51. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Capitalism allows for the concentration of wealth and power to the extent that the man in the street has no ability to change world altering events.

Because the average British person in the time of Henry VIII was not only much richer but also had more power to influence world events?

60. Robin Levett

Do the names Frederick Seitz and S Fred Singer mean anything to you? Both were prominent tobacco industry lobbyists, denying the health risks of smoking and passive smoking; both are (were, in Seitz’s case) climate change denialists. The tobacco denialist industry is now the climate change denialist industry. The same tactics have been used in both campaigns; only the paymasters have changed.

Those names mean nothing to me. Probably because they are irrelevant to the debate. But they do serve a useful purpose for you – they help you avoid rational debate and engage in non-scientific, indeed a-scientific, heresy hunting instead. Instead of engaging with the issues, you can simply bask in your moral righteousness. It is no wonder your side of the argument is losing.

61. Man on Clapham Omnibus

In any event the MWP has nothing to do with CO2 but rather two cyclic ocean patterns interacting with each other.

Well I am not sure the causes are well understood, but if it was two cyclic ocean patterns, why can’t the present short period of warming also be caused by ocean patterns?

71. Robin Levett

On climate change, rejection of AGW involves rejection of 150 years of scientific study.

No it doesn’t. It could rest on the simple idea that most of the feedbacks are positive. So that more clouds, for instance, cool the planet. As long as you refuse to debate the science you’re wasting time.

73. Robin Levett

The experts agree it is real. The published literature is unanimous – there is a consensus of evidence that it is real. We are not going to go back to the idea that it supplanted – that humanity cannot have an effect on climate.

No they do not. The IPCC could only go as far as saying that the likelihood it was real was high. No one is saying in the scientific literature it is real. There is no consensus it is real – remember that the IPCC had to rely on the efforts of work experience students even to get as far as they did. You can say that humans can have an effect on the climate without saying MMGW is real. I do for one.

We are not going to go back to the belief that SMFS, for example, often espouses – that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does not/may not increase average global temperatures.

I think we are. Because that is what the evidence seems to be saying. The Earth is a massive robust system – as poorly understood as it is – with many feedbacks. It has coped with worse. It seems to be coping now. That is what the science says.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

    Why Climate Change is more relevant to everyday concerns than ever http://t.co/pxjm7b6g

  2. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why Climate Change is more relevant to everyday concerns than ever http://t.co/aAE2aFBs

  3. Rosie Magudia

    Does #climatechange matter to voters? It does when they can't insure their homes, afford food & face 200M env. refugees http://t.co/Oe8DQGqU

  4. Rosie Magudia

    So #Sandy may suck -but what about the everyday issues #climatechange is hitting? #foodsecurity #immigration #insurance http://t.co/Oe8DQGqU

  5. Disappointed Cyrus

    RT @libcon: Why Climate Change is more relevant to everyday concerns than ever http://t.co/WSbU1uJP

  6. Rosie Magudia

    So #Sandy sucks- but what about the everyday issues #climatechange is hitting? #foodsecurity #immigration #insurance http://t.co/Oe8DQGqU

  7. Mihir Magudia

    slightly off topic @shutesroots for my wife's new blog post on liberal conspiracy about climate change and voters http://t.co/K4V1zi2X

  8. Mihir Magudia

    slightly off topic @RosieMagudia for my wife's new blog post on liberal conspiracy about climate change and voters http://t.co/K4V1zi2X … …

  9. Emily Howgate

    So #Sandy sucks- but what about the everyday issues #climatechange is hitting? #foodsecurity #immigration #insurance http://t.co/Oe8DQGqU

  10. The Samosa » Archive » Why Climate Change is more relevant to everyday concerns than ever

    [...] http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/11/01/why-climate-change-is-more-relevant-to-everyday-concerns-tha… Tweet [...]

  11. AlanW_PoliticsUK

    What more can the UK do to address the issue of rising food prices?

    "In 2012-13, over 200,000 Britons will be… http://t.co/04saeobR

  12. Jack Barker

    Why Climate Change is more relevant to everyday concerns than ever | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/HdclYYIG via @libcon





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.