Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More Climate Economics

Professor Anderson passes along a good read in today's NYT.

14 comments:

sarah tilbor said...

After reading this article, I immediately thought of a man that I recently heard about in the context of global climate change. Jim Hansen is well known for his testimony about climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s. He was a big player addressing the issue of GCC from the start.

James Hansen appeared on 60 Minutes saying that the White House altered climate-related press releases reported by federal agencies to make global warming seem less threatening. Hansen said he was unable to speak "freely", without the backlash of other government officials. "In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," he said in one of his many public appearances.

I thought that this was interesting because it shows the middle ground of the dichotomy from the NYT article. In the article a dichotomy exists between the scientific beliefs and the skeptics. Hansen addresses the middle people that potentially lead to the skepticism. If the government edits raw scientific data, then what is the public to think?

Thomas Gift said...

Hmmm...interesting point, Sarah, but I don't think that the "government" (read: Bush administration) is necessarily in the business of "editing raw SCIENTIFIC data" so much as it is in the business of questioning the extent to which the Stern and IPCC reports represent a true ECONOMIC "consensus" (e.g. Is there a consensus on what is a reasonable discount rate to use when measuring future costs of climate change? - probably not; Is there a consensus on whether tradable emission permits or "Mankiwian" taxes are more effective at limiting greenhouse gases? - probably not, etc.). Of course, consensus plays a vital role in economics and economic progress, but so does well-intentioned debate. Reasoned argument is a requisite for effective economics, and competition of ideas is a requisite for economic progress. The debate between Sir Nicholas and Mr. Nordhaus seems to be a quintessential example of this.

Lucinda and Melyse said...

We believe that no matter how richer our great-grandchild will be, because the damages could be irreversible.

Hartley said...

I agree with Thomas that the government is not going to spend their time and energy editing scientific data. I do think however that as energy becomes more and more of a pressing issue that those in government may be tempted to mis-interpret data. They may also shed a different light on the data that sends a different message to the public than the data was orginially made for.
I do think this is a good step in terms of finding alternative sources of energy. If an area has plenty hog waste, then why not use it to the advantage of the people?

Kris Brake said...

The argument that the effects of climate change will not effect future generations as much because of technology could be true. Obviously, we are uncertain about what exactly will pan out. However, I find it absolutely ridiculous to rely so much on technology. Instead of developing technology aimed at preventing or hedging the problem, we should rely on technology to solve the problem once it has occured? I'm not so sure this is the path to take.
It was also interesting to see how scholars who agree that global warming is a problem debate the extent and the solutions so much. As we've said, the numbers don't have to be flawless in order for us to deduce that something needs to be done. So what if people are exaggerating or presenting data on the high-end of the range. Maybe this is what we need to hear in order to spur action.

Anonymous said...

the middle ground the author of the article tries to reach sure sounds similar to an enviormental insurance. We have implemented this type of insurance in the past with the creation of an independent Central Bank system. The problem with this is that it has become a political problem instead of a issue of facts. Adolfo

Laura said...

I agree with Tilbs that the article stresses the dichotomy of the argument, which I find a little hard to believe. While I'm sure Sir Nicholas feels strongly about immediate action, he must have some understanding of the Yale professors' views on adaptation and the value of a dollar now vs. the future. On the flip side, I find it also hard to believe that two professors as reasonable as their reputations suggest truly believe that the future will solve all of its own problems. I feel like the article stresses the dichotomy to keep it interesting and make a point, but that most of what we have been learning about these academic economists is that they are quite capable of seeing a good middle ground, which isn't really represented in the article.

Kyle Wichser said...

I think the Stern-Nordhaus conversation is important, simply for the fact the climate change is involved in the dialogue between economists/politicians/environmentalists, etc. This is certainly a positive step. I certainly commend Nordhaus for challenging the Stern Report, for no research should go without close scrutiny. However, it seems Nordhaus is missing a key point. I don't mean to oversimplify the climate change concern; but, I will do so nonetheless. Climate Change is clearly a vital concern - as both scientific evidence and actual events (e.g. Katrina) have proven. A carbon tax will not only be an effective step in curbing the externalitites of carbon emissions, but it will also encourage the R&D associated with new cleaner technologies. As other articles and reasearch has pointed out, this investment may hamper corporate bottom lines in the short-run, but the long-term effects will mean cost-saving, cleaner output. A carbon tax seems like an obvious step in the right direction, regardless of one's perception of Stern's Review!

Anonymous said...

I really admire the author's neutrality in dealing with the issue. No matter how uncertain we are about the risk of climate change, we cannot idle around the problem hoping that future technological and economic development will adapt to the perceived risk. Prevention is always better than cure.

Felix

Anonymous said...

Regardless of future generations, the effects of global climate change may very well be observed during our lifetime. While discounting is definitely an important issue to consider, uncertainty as to the effects of an increase in temperature should be enough to promote action now. The major thrust of the Stern report which can not be ignored is that action needs to take place now if we wish to stabilize green house gas emissions at an already elevated level. The math may be argued with but the immediacy of the problem cannot be.
dave dreibelbis

Tom said...

I don't agree that the government manipulates raw scientific data to a great extent. We live in a relatively open, democratic society, so if the government did change data on a significant scale, don't you think we would hear a little more about it?

After reading the article, I have to question the competence on Sir Nicholas, because of his failure to include the discounting of money over time in his assesments. How could this so called pundit make such an egregious error?

-Andrew Sims

Kelly Hishta said...

MSNBC report:
"Bust policies stir up scientific debate"
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5722898/

I wouldn't be so sure that information hasn't been altered.

Whitney Dickson said...

I think there is a big difference between mis-interpretation and information alteration. It is human nature to want to read data according to your preferences. Politically speaking, information is constantly picked and filtered, keeping the good stuff. It is one thing to be presented with scientific fact and another to witness propaganda, and it's the public's duty to separate the two.

Mackenzie Hutton said...

It is interesting how many analysts say that the key to preventing serious damage in the future is to act now. It is great that many articles stressing the severity of global climate change are receiving public attention but at the same time this is still just talk. It seems that most scientists agree that action now is our best policy, so it is disturbing that we are not seeing large changes in policy.