Today [1st April] my new paper on climate change science and economics was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
, a peer-reviewed journal.
Some Unusual Features
The paper builds on my 2009 report for the US Environmental Protection Agency entitled Comments on Draft Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act
by presenting some of the material in that report in journal article format, incorporating many new or updated references, and explaining the implications of the science for the economic benefits and costs of climate change control. It is also particularly noteworthy for appearing in a peer-reviewed journal rather than the “gray literature” such as a report to EPA. Although this article was not written for EPA, it has major implications for the scientific validity (or lack thereof) of the December 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding
and the economics that EPA and many economists have used to justify current efforts to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, cap-and-trade schemes, or other approaches.
Although the paper focuses on the economics of climate change, it starts with a detailed examination of the scientific validity of two of the central tenets of the global warming hypothesis. By applying the scientific method the paper shows why these two tenets are not scientifically valid. It then develops correction factors to be used to adjust previous economic estimates of the economic benefits of global warming control for these scientifically invalid aspects of the hypothesis. It also examines the economic costs of control. The paper concludes that the economic benefits have been generally overestimated by about two orders of magnitude, or a factor of 100, and the costs of control have been underestimated by about one order of magnitude, or a factor of 10. This leads to the conclusion that it is not worth trying to do anything about global warming now or in the forseeable future.
The full abstract is as follows:
Economic analyses of environmental mitigation and other interdisciplinary public policy issues can be much more useful if they critically examine what other disciplines have to say, insist on using the most relevant observational data and the scientific method, and examine lower cost alternatives to the change proposed. These general principles are illustrated by applying them to the case of climate change mitigation, one of the most interdisciplinary of public policy issues. The analysis shows how use of these principles leads to quite different conclusions than those of most previous such economic analyses, as follows:
· The economic benefits of reducing CO2 emissions may be about two orders of magnitude less than those estimated by most economists because the climate sensitivity factor (CSF) is much lower than assumed by the United Nations because feedback is negative rather than positive and the effects of CO2 emissions reductions on atmospheric CO2 appear to be short rather than long lasting.
· The costs of CO2 emissions reductions are very much higher than usually estimated because of technological and implementation problems recently identified.
· Geoengineering such as solar radiation management is a controversial alternative to CO2 emissions reductions that offers opportunities to greatly decrease these large costs, change global temperatures with far greater assurance of success, and eliminate the possibility of low probability, high consequence risks of rising temperatures, but has been largely ignored by economists. · CO2 emissions reductions are economically unattractive since the very modest benefits remaining after the corrections for the above effects are quite unlikely to economically justify the much higher costs unless much lower cost geoengineering is used.
· The risk of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming appears to be so low that it is not currently worth doing anything to try to control it, including geoengineering.