Home > Environment > Another own goal for the denialists?

Another own goal for the denialists?

February 19th, 2007

Blogospheric opinion has divided on predictable lines over the Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal’s rejection of objections to a new coal mine by environmental groups who wanted offsets for the carbon emissions of the mine. Brickbats have come from Andrew Bartlett, Tim Lambert and Robert Merkel, while Jennifer Marohasy and Andrew Bolt have cheered the Tribunal and its presiding member, President Koppenol.

But this looks awfully like an own goal for the denialists to me.

The environmental groups relied on the IPCC and Stern reports, but the Presiding Member did a little digging on the Internet and came up with the responses recently published in World Economics. These were two papers, one on the science of global warming and one on the economics (there was also a separate piece by Tol and Yohe, to which the comments below do not apply).

I plan a full-length response when I get some free time, but for present purposes its sufficient to observe that the list of authors coincides pretty closely with the promoters of, and witnesses at, the bogus House of Lords inquiry, set up and run by Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher.

This effort seemed like a modest success at the time, since it was one of the few occasions when a body with an impressive sounding title came down in support of denialism, but it turned out to be a massive strategic error, since it led directly to the establishment of the Stern Review, which not only discredited the climate science denialism being promoted by Lawson, but also challenged the view, supported by a number of prominent economic modellers in the field, that policy responses should incorporate a large preference for current over future generations, and therefore a strong bias against short-term action. Debate over this is continuing, but (in my view at least) the advocates of immediate action have gained the ascendancy.

Having been prosecutor, judge and jury in the case against climate science, Lawson is now appearing as a witness in the appeal against the judgement of the Stern Review. His already weak position is undermined by the inclusion of well-known hacks like Ross McKitrick of the Fraser Institute in the team.

Coming back to the Land and Resources Tribunal, a judge in an ordinary court who made a decision based on stuff he found on the Internet, which had not even been led in evidence, would be lucky to get off with a stern talking to from the Court of Appeal. Certainly, no such judgement could stand, even if the material on which the judge relied stood up to critical scrutiny, as the Lawson-McKitrick piece most certainly does not.

The Tribunal is not a court, but I imagine there must be some sort of review process to respond to such an obvious breach of standard procedure. Even if this decision stands, the reliance of the Tribunal on such a weak reed is hugely problematic for the denialists. The weight of evidence is so strong that future cases fought on the same ground will inevitably be won by environmentalists. A far worse result for environmentalists would have been one that ruled climate change considerations out of court on statutory or procedural grounds.

I’m not convinced that legal actions like this are necessarily the best way to go in achieving a coherent national and global response to climate change. But I’m confident that this will turn out to be a Pyhrric victory for denialism.

Update An interesting aside is that Greg Koppenol’s bio reports that he “appeared as counsel in a large number of cases including some of the most important in Australia’s history – Mabo (No. 2) and Wik.” I was of course interested to find out what role he played in those cases, and unsurprised to find that he appeared for the state of Queensland against both Eddie Mabo and the Wik people.

The legal tactics employed by the state government throughout the Mabo case were deplorable, including personal attacks on Mabo that were irrelevant to the main legal points at issue, but relied on fomenting division among potential claimants. As we have seen in numerous recent cases, the Queensland legal establishment protects its own, and it’s not surprising to see that Koppenol’s career hasn’t suffered in the slightest from this episode.

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  1. rog
    February 19th, 2007 at 17:55 | #1

    Theres seems to be some confusion as to what the tribunal actually is eg

    “The Tribunal is not a court…..I’m not convinced that court actions like this are necessarily the best way to go….”

    This is what they are http://www.lrt.qld.gov.au/LRT/general_info/about.asp

  2. jquiggin
    February 19th, 2007 at 18:19 | #2

    Thanks, Rog, fixed now. The website states that the Tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence, but I still doubt it will be able to get away with this.

  3. Richard Tol
    February 19th, 2007 at 18:26 | #3


    I would prefer it if you did not use the word “denial”, if only because it is an insult to all those who suffered from the Holocaust.

  4. chrisl
    February 19th, 2007 at 20:26 | #4

    Well said Richard. It is a horrible word with horrible connotations and used quite deliberately.

  5. Richard Tol
    February 19th, 2007 at 20:31 | #5


    Why do you think the House of Lords enquiry was bogus? Did you actually read it?

    Nigel Lawson was a member of the committee, but he was not the dominant force. If anyone, David Pearce was. Do you want to besmirch his memory?

  6. jquiggin
    February 19th, 2007 at 20:48 | #6

    Richard, feel free to suggest a different term. Clearly neither skeptic nor contrarian is appropriate, since these people are credulously willing to accept any claim that supports their political preferences.

    As regards Lawson’s role, he and several rightwing economists wrote to the Times in 2004 attacking climate science and Kyoto. The Committee then decided to hold an inquiry, invited Lawson’s friends and a lot of well-known call-them-what-you-wills as witnesses and reported in terms almost exactly the same as those of the letter. Subsequently Lawson (along with the same group) has emerged as one of the main critics of the Stern Review which rejected the Committee report. Pardon me if I see a pattern here.

  7. Uncle Milton
    February 19th, 2007 at 20:49 | #7

    According to Wikipedia

    “Denialism occurs when government, business or interest groups purposefully seek to publicly deny or discount the findings of social or scientific research, and influence the way the research is disseminated, reported, interpreted and acted upon in the formulation of public policy. Common forms of denialism are holocaust denial, AIDS reappraisal, global warming controversy, and the creation-evolution controversy.”

    This seems like an accurate definition.

    Richard, take it from someone who lost relatives in the Holocaust(me). There are all kinds of denialism. Holocaust denialism is the worst, but it’s not the only kind.

    On David Pearce, he was an IPCC author. The besmirchers of his memory are those who say the IPCC authors are unscientific and politically motivated.

  8. jquiggin
    February 19th, 2007 at 21:23 | #8

    Coming to the substance of the House of Lords Economics Committee report, it was terrible. The Committee had no qualifications in climate science and heard from hardly any qualified witnesses, instead entertaining the likes of McKitrick, the George C. Marshall Institute and so on.

    The Report began by conceding ignorance, but instead of deferring to qualified bodies like the IPCC, the Committee decided to work on the assumption that its witnesses were just as likely to be right as the real experts. The economic analysis that followed was necessarily worthless, since the inputs were garbage.

    And, if you look at the publicity arising from the House of Lords report, most of the what-you-wills who made use of the report knew this. They touted the rejection of climate science and the grossly overheated interpretation of the Castles-Henderson stuff. The rest was, rightly enough, ignored.

  9. Brian Bahnisch
    February 19th, 2007 at 22:48 | #9

    One doesn’t like to use terms that give offence, but the term ‘denialist’ does seem to have a warrant in both logic and usage in the context of climate change.

    But looking at the abstract of the Tol and Yohe article it’s clear that Tol accepts AGW and the need to do something about it. The Stern Review, in his estimation, is born of alarmism and dubious economics thereby distracting from the important message:

    that climate risks are approaching more quickly than previously anticipated, that some sort of policy response will be required to diminish the likelihoods of the most serious of those risks, and that beginning now can be justified by economic arguments anchored on more reliable analysis.

    The article looks exceedingly interesting. Unfortunately those of us on the fringe can’t read it without paying.

    Nevertheless Tol has been pressed into service as a “denier” at this Canadian site. I can’t imagine he’d be happy about that.

    From his home page and his cv (pdf) (both in need of an update) he is clearly a man of considerable achievement. I’d question whether it is necessary or appropriate to pin a label on him.

  10. February 19th, 2007 at 23:28 | #10

    JQ, it’s important to note this from the Tribunal’s judgement:

    “Apart from having no demonstrated impact on global warming or climate change, any such condition would have (as Dr Stanford said) the real potential to drive wealth and jobs overseas and to cause serious adverse economic and social impacts upon the State of Queensland. Absent universally applied policies for GHG reduction, requiring this mine (and no others) to limit or reduce its GHG emissions would be arbitrary and unfair. That cannot be what our law requires.”

    The GHGs are a side issue, especially since 98.3% of emissions will be generated at end use, mostly overseas.

  11. Richard Tol
    February 20th, 2007 at 01:23 | #11

    Here is the abstract of the House of Lords report. It is clearly the work of raving lunatics and racists. Their call for more Treasury input has given us the Stern Review. Inbreds!

    I quote verbatim:

    The Committee, having considered various aspects of the economics of climate
    change, calls on the Government to give HM Treasury a more extensive role, both
    in examining the costs and benefits of climate change policy and presenting them
    to the United Kingdom public, and in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on
    Climate Change (IPCC).

    We have some concerns about the objectivity of the IPCC process, with some of
    its emissions scenarios and summary documentation apparently influenced by
    political considerations.

    There are significant doubts about some aspects of the IPCC’s emissions scenario
    exercise, in particular, the high emissions scenarios. The Government should press
    the IPCC to change their approach.

    There are some positive aspects to global warming and these appear to have been
    played down in the IPCC reports; the Government should press the IPCC to
    reflect in a more balanced way the costs and benefits of climate change.
    The Government should press the IPCC for better estimates of the monetary costs
    of global warming damage and for explicit monetary comparisons between the
    costs of measures to control warming and their benefits.

    Since warming will continue, regardless of action now, due to the lengthy time lags
    in climate systems, and since there is a risk that international negotiations will not
    secure large-scale and effective mitigation action, a more balanced approach to the
    relative merits of adaptation and mitigation is needed, with far more attention paid
    to adaptation measures.

    We are concerned that UK energy and climate policy appears to be based on
    dubious assumptions about the roles of renewable energy and energy efficiency
    and that the costs to the UK of achieving its objectives have been poorly
    documented. We look to the Government, with much stronger Treasury
    involvement, to review and substantiate the cost estimates and to convey them in
    transparent form to the public.

    We think that current nuclear power capacity, before further decommissioning
    occurs, should be retained.

    We urge the Government to replace the present Climate Change Levy with a
    carbon tax as soon as possible.

    We are concerned that the international negotiations on climate change reduction
    will be ineffective because of the preoccupation with setting emissions targets. The
    Kyoto Protocol makes little difference to rates of warming, and has a naïve
    compliance mechanism which can only deter countries from signing up to
    subsequent tighter emissions targets. We urge the Government to take a lead in
    exploring alternative “architectures� for future Protocols, based perhaps on
    agreements on technology and its diffusion.

  12. February 20th, 2007 at 02:04 | #12

    You are wasting your breath Richard. Quiggin and others use the word “Denialist” precisely because of the pro-nazi connotations. They aren’t going to stop using it in the interest of politeness.

  13. Richard Tol
    February 20th, 2007 at 05:42 | #13

    Uncle Milton, the IPCC is not a monolith. David Pearce was an author in AR2, and did not return in AR3 or AR4 because he thought that the IPCC was too politicised.

  14. Richard Tol
    February 20th, 2007 at 06:24 | #14

    Brian, I do not deny that climate change is real, but I do deny that disaster is imminent and that Kyoto is a step in the right direction. That makes me a two-thirds denier. I’ll wear that label if it helps to ridicule the awful campaign against free speech and unprejudiced scientific inquiry.

  15. jquiggin
    February 20th, 2007 at 06:45 | #15

    Richard, I agree that the abstract wasn’t too bad. But oddly enough, the press release announcing the report led off with the sentence

    “The science of climate change leaves considerable uncertainty about the future.”

    which appears nowhere in the abstract, and was obviously outside the competence of the committee to decide. Of course, the abstract had to get past the whole committee whereas the press release could be written by the promoters of the exercise.

    If the analysis had taken uncertainty seriously, it would have noted that it goes both ways, and because of convex damanges strengthens the case for action. As I noted, what is meant here by “uncertainty” is splitting the difference between the IPCC and the Exxon shills.
    The coverage of the report followed the line of the press release not the abstract

    Here’s a fairly typical example, from Bob Carter, one of the science authors for the world economics piece.

    the House of Lords delivered the coup de grace to the naive theory of human-caused global warming. A report from the influential Economic Affairs Committee asserted, among other things, that the Kyoto Protocol was not worth supporting; that the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change’s advice was tainted by political interference; that the benefits of global warming were underplayed; and that the science of climate change was uncertain.

    Presented with these opinions, The Times was moved to comment “Britain’s environmental policy is a costly shambles based on dubious predictions about the future”.

    Oddly, it this kind of shift from report to summary to press release that critics of the IPCC complain about. It happens all the time, but rarely as blatantly as in this case.

  16. jquiggin
    February 20th, 2007 at 07:04 | #16

    Yobbo, as I said to Richard, feel free to suggest another term for people who reject scientific evidence on the basis of ideological prejudice or financial self-interest.

    Obviously “skeptic” won’t do for people who swallow any piece of evidence, no matter how shoddy that supports their preconceived views. I used “contrarian” for a while, but gave it up. It applies somewhat to Lindzen and a few others, but the majority of these guys are marching in lockstep with the Exxon/Republican machine. If their next sheet of talking points said that global warming was good for the Right, they’d change their tune in an instant.

  17. Richard Tol
    February 20th, 2007 at 07:15 | #17

    Yobbo, we may refer to people who reject scientific evidence on the basis of ideological prejudice as Quigginites.

    John Q believes that people have zero time preference, that Nick Stern delivered a high quality report, that Greenpeace is an honest scientific organisation, that a report can be judged by its press release, and that there is no uncertainty about climate change.

    John Q clearly rejects the science, and he seems to do so because of ideology. Quigginite is an appropriate term for people with similar attitudes.

  18. jquiggin
    February 20th, 2007 at 08:25 | #18

    As I’m sure you’re aware Richard, most of your claims are false, so I’ll only point out the most blatant lie and leave it at that.

    *You say I believe “that there is no uncertainty about climate change”.

    *Two comments previously, I said “If the analysis had taken uncertainty seriously, it would have noted that it goes both ways, and because of convex damages strengthens the case for action.” And you have read numerous posts from me emphasising and amplifying this point.

    For the record, I do believe that Nick Stern delivered a high quality (though certainly not perfect) report, and that, as far as the political impact of reports is concerned, the content of the press release is at least as important as what is actually in the report (as it happens, I noted similar concerns about the press release of the Stern report).

  19. observa
    February 20th, 2007 at 08:26 | #19

    Perhaps we could all empathise a little and call them the ‘one percenters’ like the new left green denialists John? You know those that peddle the nonsense that reductions of CO2 emissions to 40% of 1990 levels, will only cost us around 1% of GDP. Now none other than the World Bank has reported a 1% fall in Asian GDP last year due to oil supply constraints, largely due to price increases. (I quoted in the Hair Shirts post previously) Presumably this 1% GDP fall was accompanied by massive falls in GG output in Asia then John? What, orders of magnitude of 60% or so John?

  20. observa
    February 20th, 2007 at 08:29 | #20

    Or should we call them the 1990s sixty percenters, as it’s a bit more flattering than 2007 one percenters?

  21. jquiggin
    February 20th, 2007 at 08:31 | #21

    Observa, maybe you should take a course in economics before continuing on this line. I suggest you look at the distinction between welfare losses and transfers (hint: check the report on Russia). There are other errors in your post, but I’ll only pick the most relevant.

  22. snuh
    February 20th, 2007 at 09:01 | #22

    “that Greenpeace is an honest scientific organisation”

    what an odd accusation.

  23. snuh
    February 20th, 2007 at 09:04 | #23

    also, i think “dead enders” is a better term than “denialists”.

  24. observa
    February 20th, 2007 at 10:37 | #24

    Well John I can afford to wait till the verdict is in on these finely nuanced calculations of welfare transfers over the decades to come, but I gather some Mexicans are getting a little nervous about the expert one percenters wanting to pour the world’s crops into their petrol tanks, among other things.

  25. observa
    February 20th, 2007 at 10:43 | #25

    I guess the trogs just need to appreciate that in the long run we’ll all be dead but the calculations must go on.

  26. wilful
    February 20th, 2007 at 10:45 | #26

    I think that climate change denialists are a far greater risk to the welfare of society than David Irving and his fringe fellow travellers.

    I think the Tribunal could have handled their issue far more delicately, and still achieved their predetermined outcome.

  27. Uncle Milton
    February 20th, 2007 at 11:12 | #27

    Koppenol didn’t just do his own web searches, he made his own scientific conclusions from those searches

    “[18] If a comparison is made of temperatures over the last 55 years (1951-2006), as the IPCC presumably did in reaching its conclusion, the chart shows that average temperatures increased from 13.85¡C (1951) to 14.45¡C (2006)—an increase of 0.6¡C. As “mostâ€? of that increase is said by the IPCC to be due to increases in GHGs, it follows that the temperature increase of concern is about 0.45¡C (0.45¡C being 75% of or “mostâ€? of 0.6¡C ). With all respect, a temperature increase of only about 0.45¡C over 55 years seems a surprisingly low figure upon which to base the IPCC’s concerns about its inducing many serious changes in the global climate system during the 21st century ”

    Koppenol has set himself up as an expert witness, which as is obvious from the above he clearly isn’t, accepted uncritically and without cross examination his own expert evidence, and then made a judgment based on that evidence.

    There are presumably limits to this kind of abuse of process, even in Queensland. If the decision is appellable (and decisions from these kinds of bodies are usually appellable on process grounds) the lawyers for the environmental groups will have a field day.

  28. snuh
    February 20th, 2007 at 12:04 | #28

    going back to quiggin’s point about the decision, this comment sticks out:

    “a judge in an ordinary court who made a decision based on stuff he found on the Internet, which had not even been led in evidence, would be lucky to get off with a stern talking to from the Court of Appeal”

    section 49 of the land and resources act makes interesting reading. on the one hand, as has been pointed out by others, the tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence. moreover, it “may inform itself of anything in the way it considers appropriate”, presumably including randon internet searches not suggested by counsel. but on the other hand, the tribunal “must…observe natural justice.”

    lawyers will note the use of discretionary and mandatory language (“may inform itself” vs “must observe”). it seems clear from the decision that the tribunal member’s consideration of the “Carter-Byatt critique of the Stern Review” was objected to by the qld conservation council. how it could possibly be appropriate for the tribunal to consider this material anyway is left as an exercise for the reader.

  29. observa
    February 20th, 2007 at 13:01 | #29

    “I think that climate change denialists are a far greater risk to the welfare of society than David Irving and his fringe fellow travellers.”
    With news of the banning of the humble light globe wilful, some of us are having severe doubts about that.

  30. February 20th, 2007 at 13:17 | #30

    Not clear on the meaning of the update.

    Which principle is being objected to:
    1) Koppenol working as hard as he can for his paymaster?
    2) Koppenol working for the government?
    3) Koppenol’s brief being to oppose aboriginal claims?
    4) Koppenol working on a brief, or for a party which was not “approved”?
    5) Koppenol years later (now) writing a judgement which wasn’t the “approved” outcome?
    6) A lawyer using courtroom tactics which are not as dry as a public reading of the telephone directory?

  31. frankis
    February 20th, 2007 at 13:19 | #31

    Are you confident Richard that you don’t yourself suffer from an ideology, perhaps “anthropocentrism”?

    Weitzman (PDF):

    “… I think that contemporary economic practise goes too far and leads to a mindset that all-too-easily identiÂ…es subjective probabilities with sample frequencies from past data.”

    “Here I just want to point out that if something like radioactive decay is close to being a pure case of objective frequencies, then climate change, and especially the economics of climate change, is as close to being a pure case of modeling probabilities by subjective judgements as we economists are ever likely to encounter in practice. To paraphrase the language of the Stern Review yet again, the economics of climate change is the greatest application of subjective uncertainty theory the world has ever seen.”

    There won’t be any good meaning to our “adaptation to climate change” if we lose too many ecosystems and other species along the way through climate change that our negligent actions have wrought. Somewhat analogously we may as individuals be able to adapt to such things as life in a prison cell, isolated from most of what for others is “life”, but nobody wants to have to do that. What too-rapid climate change will bring us is an age of damaged natural systems dominated by weeds and “pest species”, surviving at the expense of the myriad complex (read “beautiful” if you like) ecosystems that have crystallised into existence over the ages of more stable climate in a cooler world. This is not good and is a consideration beyond the purview of economics, at least of economics as we have known it, so we need much more than just economic analysis of the IPCC’s science.

  32. jquiggin
    February 20th, 2007 at 13:45 | #32

    Steve, I think it’s pretty clear that (6) is the point, at least if by “not as dry as …” you mean what I think you mean.

  33. February 20th, 2007 at 14:21 | #33

    1. Koppenol P was right, that new coal mine in and of itself will have a close to nil impact on global emissions of CO2-e, as those involved in mining the coal amount to only 1.37 mt of CO2-e over mine life. That will add (using Tim Lambert’s data) 0.000049 per cent to the current global total of atrmospheric CO2-e. Shock, horror, definitely this mine should not be allowed to proceed!
    2. JQ’s commentary failed to notice Hugh Saddler’s crucial point in his evidence to Koppenol that in Kyoto and the approved accounting mechanisms and protocols, it is the final user/emitter who counts, not the first except for its own direct emissions. JQ’s support for refusal of permission for the mine to operate is of a piece with his general “witches of Salem� approach and with his tacit support for the Garrett/Brown/Flannery campaign for phasing out coal mining and exporting, which logically will also extend under Rudd’s ALP to phasing out iron ore mining, iron and steel processing, and the whole bauxite/alumina/aluminium production process, all of which are (a) wholly dependent on cheap electricity generated by cheap coal and (b) liable under Kyoto for their emissions. Ironically, his blog and its server are major contributors to global emissions of CO2-e – servers and their cooling absorbed the power from fourteen 1,000 MW power stations in 2000, more now, almost wholly produced by coal in the Australian case. Koppenol P should have directed the QCC to sue for closure of the JQ server as that would save more CO2-e than the coal mine project they attacked.

  34. Anti-alarmist
    February 20th, 2007 at 14:40 | #34

    Richard Tol:

    “John Q clearly rejects the science, and he seems to do so because of ideology.”

    Most unfair. John Q doesn’t reject the science out of ideology. He rejects it because he doesn’t understand it. Try pinning him down on one substantial scientific climate issue and you’ll see what I mean. He will quickly start attacking the scientists themselves rather than their science.

    “Quigginites” is rather too kind. But more appropriate descriptions are not printable here.

  35. February 20th, 2007 at 15:19 | #35

    Denialist is obviously a prejorative term and I think it is used to try and shame people into following the mainstream and/or alarmist view.

    I propose four levels of GW opinion:

    1. denial — those who deny things that are all but impossible to deny. Examples would include people who say that temps haven’t increased or people who say that greenhouse gases don’t have a warming effect.

    2. skeptics — those who question that GW will really be that bad or the solutions that good. Basically somebody who is skeptical of any of the mainstream main points

    3. mainstream — those who believe all of the following: we’ll see 3-4 degree warming this century; it will lead to significant (though not catastrophic) negative consequences and that Kyoto (and other similar) steps should be taken now.

    4. alarmists — those who believe we are heading quickly into a catastrophy and who use over-blown scare stories to try and encourage fear so that people support drastic government action

    Obviously, (1) and (2) are GW non-activists while (3) and (4) are activists… however it seems to me that the real debate is between the skeptics and mainstream and both sides use the tag “denialist” and “alarmist” in an attempt to insult their opponents. It’s easy to find an idiot on the other side of the debate, but we would all be better served by looking at the strongest parts of our opponents arguments and dealing with those.

  36. chrisl
    February 20th, 2007 at 15:45 | #36

    Good Analysis John I would agree with your 4 categories.
    It is annoying that people who disagree with one aspect of climate science(for example climate models predicting future temperatures) are lumped together as denialists.Is everybody supposed to agree with every aspect of climate science? What sort of wierd world is that?

  37. FDB
    February 20th, 2007 at 15:55 | #37

    Excellent analysis JH.

  38. Uncle Milton
    February 20th, 2007 at 16:11 | #38

    The science says that whether its 3 or 4 degrees will make a big difference. 2 degrees (which is pretty much locked in) will give us what we’re experiencing now only more so (such as irreversible damage to coral reef systems ansd the disappearance of small mountain glaciers). 3 degrees is qualitatively different, with the Greenland ice sheet irreversibly melting and large scale species extinction.

    At four degrees, we start to get sea level rises that threaten major cities and huge declines in crop yields.

    So while 3 degrees might hot be catastrophic, 4 degrees probably will be.

  39. Richard Tol
    February 20th, 2007 at 16:49 | #39


    John H, the overwhelming majority of game theorists believe that an international treaty for climate policy will not work. The majority would be mainstream I guess, but they are clearly skeptical of one of the basic tenets of the current climate consensus.

    I think the only distinction is between those who are open to debate, and those who are not — who close their eyes for facts and doubts just because it does not fit their position.

    Current climate policy is full of taboo subjects, and saying that someone who breaks a taboo is a skeptic only reinforces that.

    Uncle Milton, please read the literature.

  40. observa
    February 20th, 2007 at 18:45 | #40

    Fair enough with the 4 categories JH but I’d quibble about the Kyoto luvvy bit in 3. We may have to bear in mind this category is a broad church and may include some of us alarmists at Kyoto/plastic shopping bag/light bulb ban economics we’re being lumped in together with. Perhaps 3a and 3b delineating market men from the quantity control freaks.

  41. conrad
    February 20th, 2007 at 19:32 | #41

    JH: Excluding (1), what about those of use that believe how bad the effects are likely to be lies on a probabilistic distribition, rather than categorical groups (unless you are saying where people believe the mean to be)? This is after all what the models predict.

  42. Tim Curtin
    February 20th, 2007 at 20:34 | #42

    Koppenol P was right, that new coal mine in and of itself will have a close to nil impact on global emissions of CO2-e, as those involved in mining the coal amount to only 1.37 mt of CO2-e over mine life. That will add (using Tim Lambert’s data) 0.000049 per cent to the current global total of atrmospheric CO2-e. Shock, horror, definitely this mine should not be allowed to proceed!
    JQ’s commentary failed to notice Hugh Saddler’s crucial point in his evidence to Koppenol that in Kyoto and the approved accounting mechanisms and protocols, it is the final “Scope”) user/emitter who counts most, not the first and second “scopes”, which are its own direct emissions. JQ’s support for refusal of permission for the mine to operate is of a piece with his general “witches of Salemâ€? approach and with his tacit support for the Garrett/Brown/Flannery campaign for phasing out coal mining and exporting, which logically will also extend under Rudd’s ALP to phasing out iron ore mining, iron and steel processing, and the whole bauxite/alumina/aluminium production process, all of which are (a) wholly dependent on cheap electricity mostly generated by cheap coal and (b) liable under Kyoto for their emissions.
    Ironically, JQ’s blog and its server are major contributors to global emissions of CO2-e servers and their cooling, which absorbed the power from fourteen 1,000 MW power stations in 2005, more now, almost wholly produced by coal in the Australian case (see Financial Times, 16 Feb 07, re Koomey of Stanford, a vastly inferior university to UQ of course). Koppenol P should have directed the QCC to sue for closure of the JQ server as that would save more CO2-e than the coal mine project they attacked.

  43. jquiggin
    February 20th, 2007 at 22:25 | #43

    “the overwhelming majority of game theorists believe that an international treaty for climate policy will not work”

    Richard, you keep making these claims about the beliefs of “the overwhelming majority” of economists, with no supporting references or when pressed, references that are totally irrelevant.

    Having followed this topic at least since the Pethig volume in 1993, I can assure readers that Richard Tol’s claim here is wrong. There’s a huge literature on this topic which does nto reach the negative conclusions he claims.

    And of course reaching such a conclusion on purely game-theoretic grounds would be highly suspect, given the success of the Montreal protocol on CFCs. Of course, the scale of the problems is different, but most game-theoretic reasoning is scale invariant.

  44. frankis
    February 21st, 2007 at 06:57 | #44

    If there’s a problem and international treaties are claimed to not work, what would work? (Disclosure: yes I’ve read some of Richard’s published analysis)

    If there’s no problem but scientists agree there is one, why is there no problem?

  45. Richard Tol
    February 21st, 2007 at 07:21 | #45

    John Q

    You’re calling the kettle black.

    Henry Tulkens is the only game theorist who argues that international environmental treaties work, and only because he assumes that utility is linear in income. Release that assumption, and even his model falls apart.

    If you want to know why Montreal is no model for climate, read Scott Barrett’s work. If you want to know why Montreal did work, read Dick Benedick’s work.

    For future reference, just read stuff before you form let alone express an opinion.

  46. February 21st, 2007 at 08:27 | #46

    “feel free to suggest another term for people who reject scientific evidence on the basis of ideological prejudice or financial self-interest”

    That describes about 95% of the world JQ, including a great many on your side of politics who reject basic economic theories. But we don’t refer to them as “denialists”, because it is a perjorative term used to silence debate, no different than calling someone “racist” at any opportunity (also a long-favoured tactic of the left).

    And there’s no point with me suggesting alternative terms because we both know you’re quite happy with the one you already use. Ecstatic even.

  47. Simonjm
    February 21st, 2007 at 09:16 | #47

    JQ since the shoe fits let them wear it. After all Creationists often wear it with pride.


    AAAS: front group for dirty hippies?

    “The American Association for the Advancement of Science joins the ranks of the alarmists”

    Gez when will these pro-science scientists learn not to get in bed with the hippies?!!

    If these guys are alarmists, I’m in good company 🙂

  48. Uncle Milton
    February 21st, 2007 at 09:17 | #48

    Richard, my source is Stern, Figure 13.4, page 294. Original sources are in the Figure.

  49. Simonjm
    February 21st, 2007 at 09:21 | #49

    Oh I forgot for the “denialists� here is your poster boy.

    Charlie Rose – CRICHTON (FROM 11/26/02) / RIPERT – Google Video

  50. snuh
    February 21st, 2007 at 09:32 | #50

    For future reference, just read stuff before you form let alone express an opinion.

    perhaps you should tell me what specifically i should read, before i express an opinion about this charming comment.

  51. February 21st, 2007 at 12:20 | #51

    “Denialist” is likely to be worn with pride. “Rat” of Tobruk was meant to be a perjorative. (for just one example)

    Climate “McCarthyist” is a very apt term I have heard used for those who look down at unbelievers of their climate change religion.

  52. Paul Norton
    February 21st, 2007 at 12:26 | #52

    The silent majority agrees with John Q and me. See http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21261284-2702,00.html

  53. jquiggin
    February 21st, 2007 at 12:36 | #53

    Richard, before I respond can you clarify your claim? You’ve said that the overwhelming majority of game theoretic analysts agree that “international environmental treaties don’t work”. Now you apparently want to exclude Montreal as a special case. I have a couple of queries
    (a) Is Montreal the only exception you want to make or are there others ?
    (b) Is your statement that “Henry Tulkens is the only game theorist who argues that international environmental treaties work” meant to be taken literally, or is there some hidden clause such as “approved of by Richard Tol”?
    (b) Is your claim that treaties don’t work, or that they don’t work in the absence of side payments, multi-dimensional bargaining, sanctions on free-riders and so on ?

  54. February 21st, 2007 at 12:51 | #54

    Richard Tol – “I think the only distinction is between those who are open to debate, and those who are not — who close their eyes for facts and doubts just because it does not fit their position.

    Current climate policy is full of taboo subjects, and saying that someone who breaks a taboo is a skeptic only reinforces that.”

    The thing I see written here is that there is a debate about basic climate science. The actual basics of climate science as applied to the enhanced greenhouse effect are not really debated anywhere in the scientific community. This is not because they are not open to debate or question its just that it is very basic physics. A team of scientists plotting the course of a space probe does not have a lively debate on the n-body problem but they use the tools that work and the known and accepted science of gravity etc to accurately plot the course of spacecraft. Climate scientists really must wonder sometimes if they are in the right profession and whether they should have spent the 6 or 8 years getting a Phd when everybody seems to be an expert and questions basic science that they have not bothered to learn properly. There are no taboo subjects but again climate scientists are human and get annoyed with repeated demands to prove things that are very well accepted.

    Very few scientifically credible skeptics like Pielke and Christie question the basic science of the enhanced greenhouse effect. They question the very different problem of the degree of warming, how large the forcings are, and the eventual result of the warming. These are very different things from whether the greenhouse effect exists, that our economy emits CO2, and that the CO2 level is rising and trapping more heat.

    The eye closing is not only on the AGW proponent side. Have you ever given any thought to what would happen if the worst of the climate change scenerios actually happened? Have you given any thought to the fact you may be wrong? What about your position? Does it really fit the facts and how do you know that it does?

  55. jquiggin
    February 21st, 2007 at 13:24 | #55

    Steve, Yobbo and others, please keep on digging. As I pointed out in the post, at this point everyone who tries to keep the political right on the denialist bandwagon is kicking goals for those who want to permanently discredit this whole line of argument.

    In this respect, Minchin’s latest gaffe (that is, politically untimely statement of what most people on his side really think) has been very useful, and the continued efforts of the right wing punditariat, even more so.

  56. Simonjm
    February 21st, 2007 at 13:30 | #56

    Given the long term numbers I think the connotations of Denialist are right on the money Richard T.

    SATP will “Denialist� be worn with pride when we have the deaths of thousands or tens of thousands-if not more- and refugees in the millions? Maybe with could combine the Rat with ‘Denialist’ and have Denialist Rats as it is often the case the rats will often leave a ship before it sinks saving themselves, unlike the many millions of future climate refugees who may not have anywhere to go.

    At least SATP will be a moral rat -after the case- as he will demand that his country have an open door policy for any climate refugee. Won’t you SATP?

    BTW since climate science uses the same scientific method and techniques as other sciences nice to know that from your POV we can consider all science nothing more than a religion. How Post Modernist of you!

    Or it like all others who cannot respect mainstream science when it goes against your core ideology, a scientific discipline is only a religion when it disagrees your fixed position.

  57. February 21st, 2007 at 13:59 | #57

    Simonjm: I am only a few feet from the high tide mark, and my elevation above sea level is too small for me to measure. Furthermore my area is a supposed “hot spot” for rising sea levels.

    Thus if it transpires that the alarmist case comes to pass, I won’t be making ANY demands, either open door, sliding door, or revolving door.

    For I will be among the first washed away.

  58. Simonjm
    February 21st, 2007 at 14:24 | #58

    SATP lets play shoe on the other foot.

    Lets say AGW OK it’s alarmist, in my opinion while we have some movement for caps and carbon trading I don’t think any hard decisions will be made until we have a few years of natural disasters or a few big Katrina’s. Benefits from energy efficiency and new technology will add to economic prosperity and with the carbon economy still there but being used more efficiently, its a all round win/win.

    You also get plenty of egg on the faces of your opponents. Hey I can live with that and would be the first to say I got it wrong, no harm done.

    How will you feel the reverse happens, even if you lose your home, you have plenty of other places to go, plus live in a society that has the wealth to try to adapt.(lets forget any national dept or the chance of a financial collapse)

    Pls don’t side step, how will you feel about the moral consequences of your stance and do you think since that this has also been official stance of your government for some time now, shouldn’t this mean that if the worse happens that your country like ours has a major requirement to make amends, and at the very least should have an open door policy for climate refugees?

  59. February 21st, 2007 at 14:47 | #59


  60. Richard Tol
    February 21st, 2007 at 16:40 | #60


    You are right. If the alarmists are correct, the skeptics are irresponsible assholes. However, are the alarmists correct? Did you ever read the papers that suggest that climate change may, on net, save lives? Or the papers that suggest that, even discounting that, climate policy may kill hundreds of thousands?

    John Q:

    Side payments flow from polluttee to polluter, that is, from poor to rich. To stabilise an asymmetric global commons, you need a global commons with opposite asymmetry. This has yet to be identified. You cannot stabilise a commons with a club good, because the club would not play. Sanctions are incredible threats. And so forth. People (incl. myself in a minor role) have spend the last 15 years looking for a solution — only to confirm the early Barrett / Carraro pessimism (or increasing it, if you look at Ulph’s work).

  61. jquiggin
    February 21st, 2007 at 17:19 | #61

    Richard, your theoretical conclusion seems already to be problematic in empirical terms, since all the rich countries except the US and Australia have already signed on to Kyoto, and the US appears highly likely to sign as soon as Bush goes. Australia would certainly sign if the US did or if the current government goes out (looking highly likely at the moment) . Moreover, while there has been slippage so far in meeting commitments, the EU appears set to deliver large cuts, over and above Kyoto. Of course, this has been accompanied by various messy side deals, just as game theory, properly applied, would predict.

    The big problem is getting China and India to join a post-Kyoto agreement. So it seems to me your analysis has the required direction of side payments (or sanctions) back to front. The rich countries (except US and Oz so far) seem willing to make at least an initial round of unilateral cuts without compensation, when you say they should be demanding payments from the poor. The obvious reason is that, whatever the long-term distribution of costs and benefits, the currently rich countries are a lot more concerned about GW than China and India. Of course, the literature is divided on this, as on your more general negative conclusion.

  62. Richard Tol
    February 21st, 2007 at 18:20 | #62


    You’re in Australia, so I will forgive you your ignorance on Europe. The EU is on track to miss its Kyoto targets (see the recent report by the European Environment Agency); the only way to meet them now is a renewed recession in Germany and France. The current noise from the political scene is history repeated. The EU missed its earlier targets; before that became obvious, the targets were replaced with more stringent targets at a later date (about two elections removed). The same is going on now. We will miss Kyoto, but have targets for 2020 instead. The EU’s climate policy was accurately summarised as aspirational pole-volting.

    The Kyoto Protocol neatly illustrates the predictions of game theory. The treaty was never global. Two or three countries abandoned it. The few that remain were never very ambitious. Barrett wrote, in the early 1990s, that this would happen: Shallow and narrow is the most you can expect.

  63. jquiggin
    February 21st, 2007 at 19:55 | #63

    Richard, I assume you’re referring to this report which opens “Latest projections indicate that the 15 States which were EU members before 2004 (EU-15) will only just reach their Kyoto Protocol target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

    In my understanding “will only just reach” is not the same as “on track to miss”.

    Of course, it’s possible that the EU will come up a percentage point or two short, and the report makes plenty of noise about the dangers of complacency. But a shortfall of a couple of percentage points (assuming it happens) would scarcely vindicate you and those like you who asserted that such a deal could never deliver results.

    And you’re misunderstanding (I assume deliberately) the idea behind Kyoto. The emergence of more stringent targets for subsequent periods is not an ex post response to shortfalls in the original – the whole idea of Kyoto was to be a first step.

  64. Richard Tol
    February 21st, 2007 at 20:50 | #64

    Of course, John, they give a positive spin on this. The EEA is not a neutral observer. But if you read carefully, you’ll see that there is additional policy needed. And if you read the background material, you’ll see that that additional policy should be in an advanced state of legislation now, but it isn’t. And there is reason to assume that the EEA projections are too optimistic. The missing of Kyoto will be presented as force majeure; combined with the new targets and fake measures (e.g., aviation emissions), this will placate the environmental movement. The lack of real climate policy placates those who favour cheap energy. It’s a win-win policy that will get them through the next elections.

    The pole-volting in my previous post was about steps. Kyoto should be a first step. The EU wants to make the second step without making the first. Or rather, as Kyoto is the third try for the EU, the EU wants to make the fourth step without making the first three. You are a native English speaker, right? Do Australians pole-volt or pole-vault, or is it too dry?

    There is a broader issue here, though. You keep lecturing me on things for which I can reasonably claim expertise, but you cannot claim such expertise. Are you really that arrogant?

  65. February 21st, 2007 at 21:02 | #65

    JQ: The IEA shows that the EU-15 is way off target, being actually 3% up on 1990 by 2003, and as little as that only because of the collapse of most industry in East Germany after 1990, producing a 20% drop in CO2 emissions for reunified Germany between 1990 and 2003. Obviously you never saw the late superb actor Ian Richardson in the BBC series The Gravy Train which so brilliantly portrayed my former EU employers as systemically corrupt and therefore not to be trusted (my own contacts in the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg tell me they have not been able to sign off EU accounts for about the last 10 years). The whole Kyoto set up is a license to coin it, and I expect former Australian Wheat Board directors to be right up there. Do take time out to watch the Bell Shakespeare production of Gogol’s The Government Inspector to see how emissions trading will make all too many politicians and bureaucrats seriously rich as already in NSW and Victoria (have you noticed the exemptions granted to major industries by Iemma and Bracks, abviously only for the purest of motives?).

  66. jquiggin
    February 21st, 2007 at 21:19 | #66

    Richard, you cited the EEA report yourself. It’s a bit late now to disclaim it. I already noted the warnings against complacency and the possibility of a shortfall, so I don’t need you to tell me about spin.

    As regards expertise and arrogance, you should really take a look in the mirror. I’ve pointed quite a few times to research I’ve published on risk and discounting in top-rated journals (AER, Econ Letters, JET, Economica) and you’ve ignored it, and repeated lectures on issues about which you clearly know less than I do. You’ve made numerous comments suggesting that you are massively better qualified in economics than I am, but a look at any of the standard rankings (RePeC, Coupe etc) will show that this is not true. Your similar comments with respect to Stern, someone who is justifiably far more eminent than either of us, indicate that the problem is not just with me.

    Quite honestly, you appear in my dealings with you as one of the most arrogant people I’ve ever encountered. If you don’t intend to come across this way, you should revise your approach.

  67. Richard Tol
    February 21st, 2007 at 21:31 | #67

    John, as I said before, your papers on risk and discounting are void of empirical content. I only ever referred to that.

    Stern is a decent development economist, but he knows nothing about climate, energy, or environment. The fact that he did some interesting papers in a distant past is irrelevant. The fact that he was not able to assemble a capable team, and that he did do quality control himself is relevant.

  68. frankis
    February 21st, 2007 at 22:36 | #68

    Perhaps some people may believe that others believe the Kyoto Treaty to be a marvellous thing. I don’t think anyone believes that; hope this helps to further rational discussion.

    It’s terribly easy to criticise and come up with almost mathematically proven reasons for why there’s nothing (rational) to be done, in more areas than just climate change. But it’s a choice we all get to make all the time, whether to resign ourselves to glass half-empty-and-unfillable negativity or, deciding that something needs best be done, to set to and get it done one way or another.

    On the wishful notion that there may be some early gains for some from some warming, and even though I think the idea is plain wrong, you can relax and just wait for it because it is coming no matter what we do now. It’s what comes after the warming we’re locked into that our actions tomorrow can have some effect upon.

    So what do we replace Kyoto with, and is there a single good reason for the rational countries of the world to not be implementing low start carbon taxes right now as economists from Nordhaus to Quiggin and back would have had us doing years ago? We could keep waiting around but is there anything better to tax than carbon? Let’s tax it now, and sort out details and adjust rates as (the many) problems emerge.

  69. Peter Wood
    February 21st, 2007 at 23:20 | #69

    Richard Tol said:

    Did you ever read the papers that suggest that climate change may, on net, save lives? Or the papers that suggest that, even discounting that, climate policy may kill hundreds of thousands?

    I am highly sceptical of both propositions, even when taking into account effects such as carbon fertilisation, but would be very interested in having a look at these papers.

  70. Richard Tol
    February 22nd, 2007 at 01:10 | #70


    Peter, you should be skeptical of anything in climate change. The model that says that reductions in cold deaths will swamp all else is due to Martens, but there are a range of other studies that back it up. The model that says that climate policy will take away from health care is due to Tol and Yohe (Exeter book), but the hypothesis goes back to Schelling.

  71. Richard Tol
    February 22nd, 2007 at 01:15 | #71


    John, Coupe is out of date, and EconLit is limited. IDEAS/REPEC is very limited.

    If I look at Scopus (also limited), I find that you have an h-number of 12 (mine is 17) and are cited 365 times (I am 786). You are twenty years my senior? This is irrelevant, though.

    You lecture me on climate economics, and on European climate policy. You are not known to have contributed much to the literature on climate economics, and you are not known to be deeply involved in European climate policy. Indeed, you lecture me on my area of expertise.

    You may have noted that I do not return the favour, and lecture you on Australian politics or something I know nothing about, but you might.

    And yes, I do have experience in bibliometry.

  72. Uncle Milton
    February 22nd, 2007 at 07:56 | #72

    John & Richard

    Now that the debate has degenerated to “my dick is bigger than yours” I have a question for you both: are you two going to be appearing at the same conference any time soon, say on a panel to discuss the economics of climate change? If so, it alone should be worth the price of admission!

  73. jquiggin
    February 22nd, 2007 at 07:57 | #73

    Indeed, the debate has degenerated, Uncle M. In my defence, I’ll observe that Richard has been rude and offensive pretty much from day one, and I’ve done my best to exercise restraint until now.

  74. Richard Tol
    February 22nd, 2007 at 08:28 | #74

    John, again, data are not your forte. That was not day one.

  75. Simonjm
    February 22nd, 2007 at 08:38 | #75

    Richard T no I haven’t I basically try to get a overview form quality science journalism from a number of different sources & in my opinion having done that for quite a number of years that gives a pretty idea about trends and who is saying what and what stands the test of time. It doesn’t mean that I cannot miss something.

    While anti-environmentalists would want us to think it is all a myth cooked up by hippie types environmental degradation of the global environment has been highlighted as a concern by mainstream science for years.

    I would be interested though to learn more if you have a link for these all the same.

    For instance will the decrease in cold deaths be offset by heat stress deaths not to mention given that climate change is likely to affect a number of things vital for human survival water, food crops, disease -esp in places like Asia with millions that rely on a relatively consistent monsoon- I would be surprised to think a decrease in cold deaths would easily outdo all these.

    I often find that like anything you can pick a few papers highlight a point that while true in a limited context doesn’t really disprove a stack of other research that goes in the opposite direction. Deaths from an increased risk of malaria is one example. There was an earlier debate here that some experts doubted this but I note new research coming out saying they expect more deaths from a number of different vectors including malaria.

    One or even a few papers does not an argument make.

    Basically I don’t get into google debates -here’s my paper where’s yours- while quite aware of the fallacy from authority as a lay person I’ll use an overview from a number of sources including an overview from respected science publications, which I’ve found to be more reliable and a better indication, rather than getting into debates with anti-environmental types that have a bad history of confirmation and disconfirmation bias. Given the crap that has been going on about AGW itself I for one will not argue with same types who now pick and choose there facts and want to discount any harmful effects. This by no means you are one, it just I cannot be bothered wasting my time to find you are indeed one.

  76. Roger Jones
    February 22nd, 2007 at 08:47 | #76

    The debate between John and Richard (the substance, not the size, aspect) is interesting and seems to me to relate to some of the issues that Heilbroner writes about in his book Behind the Veil of Economics, in the chapter on the Problem of Value. He discusses the empirical valuation of social provisioning and refers to a further level of abstraction behind this is some structure or principle behind the facts.

    In that abstraction one gets into issues of the theory of value. One particular area is in the normative approach to value and consequently, price.

    He states that “The gravamen of the normative approach is therefore that the order manifested by an economic structure should be that which its ruling element (including the most broadly defined democratic constituency) desires it to be. Two objections have been lodged against this… The first is the undeniable arbitrariness of political valuation, always open to challenge from a different political starting point. This argument brings us to the affirmation and defense of moral and political principles in general… The second is more germane … it is the charge that political or moral intervention will be of no avail because some other ordering principle will assert itself over and above the wishes of the moralists. …The point can also be made that politically or morally determined prices may not be compatible with the technical requirements of provisioning. This objection thus leads logically to the second of the answers to the value problematic in itself – an answer that eschews all reference to moral standards and that seeks the value of principle of value in some entirely nonmoral element or principle discoverable within the economic world.” Heilbroner 1998, p 110-111.

    Any comments?

  77. Mark Leggett
    February 22nd, 2007 at 09:48 | #77

    Richard (Tol)

    In the abstract to your paper with Gary Yohe, A Review of the Stern Review, you state:

    “…a strong case for emission reduction even in the near term can nonetheless be made..
    “…doing nothing in the short term is not advisable even on economic grounds.
    “…its (the Stern Review’s) more important messages: that climate risks are approaching more quickly than previously anticipated, that some sort of policy response will be required to diminish the likelihoods of the most serious of those risks, and that beginning now can be justified by economic arguments anchored on more reliable analysis.�

    From this it sounds like you believe that climate risks are real, and that early action should occur.
    Yet your comments on this blog seem in the main to be critiquing the work and comments of those who support action, and much less on the opposite.

    I find this inconsistent, and maybe you can throw light on it.

  78. Simonjm
    February 22nd, 2007 at 10:06 | #78

    Yes I know many don’t like old Phillip Adams but this is a good talk.
    Climate Change and Human Security

    BTW thanks SATP no surprise there just like your government the only moral leadership you have is self-interest.

  79. Majorajam
    February 22nd, 2007 at 10:24 | #79


    In addition to the balance of lives to be lost due to global warming and the true parameter values of sacrosanct economic parameters capable of determing the value of all things except financial assets, Tol could tell you how many angels fit on the head of a pin if he chose to lend his weighty expertise. However, as it seems the only thing he appears to have time for is his homoerotic obsession with JQ’s crimes against economics, I figure we should leave him to it.

    Just thank your lucky stars you didn’t go for a PhD.

  80. Simonjm
    February 22nd, 2007 at 10:45 | #80

    Majorajam I prefer my mental gymnastics in philosophy and by the rate I’m going I’ll be 80 before I get to put some letters behind my name.

    BTW rather than how many angels fit one can fit on a pin head I rather know how many fat rich Americans have passed through that eye of a needle and are currently in Heaven? 😉

  81. Richard Tol
    February 22nd, 2007 at 16:49 | #81

    Simon: Changes in cold-related cardiovascular deaths are an order of magnitude larger than changes in heat-related ones. The scenarios that generate emissions also have that infectious diseases will disappear, while cardiovascular disorders will surge. That is why cardio dominates the other health problems. This is a taboo subject.

    Roger: All true. The ethical tradition (what the price ought to be) runs from Aristotle via Marx to Quiggin and Stern. The thinking is that there is an enlightened scholar who is so smart and wise that he can decide how you and I should think and feel. The empirical tradition (this is what the price is, and who am I to argue) is much younger (140 years or so). The thinking is that people will express their ethical choices in the market, and that the market price thus reflects the will of the people (albeit on the basis of one dollar, one vote).

    Mark: Yes, an economic case for emission reduction can be made. The choice is not between whether or not to reduce emissions. The choice is about how much to reduce emissions. The problem with analyses like Stern’s is that anybody with half a brain can pick holes in it, and that it therefore makes a case for debate rather than action.

  82. Simonjm
    February 22nd, 2007 at 22:11 | #82

    Richard T I’ll take in the cold-related cardiovascular for the moment- though I wonder if given water scarcity whether heat stress could get much worse at least in some regions- but what is the rationale that “infectious diseases will disappear”? From what I’m seeing the increased temp will enable disease vectors into new regions, plus extend their breeding season.

  83. Richard Tol
    February 23rd, 2007 at 01:38 | #83

    People will be richer, at least according to the scenarios that’ll give you substantial climate change. They’ll have better sanitation, better health care, and surfaced roads.

    Water scarcity and heat stress have no obvious relationship, as water stress does not mean that drinking water is scarce.

  84. Majorajam
    February 23rd, 2007 at 05:39 | #84

    Indeed Simonjm, malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis and the like may have a reputation as pernicious diseases, but they’re nothing compared to a good cold snap. After all, people will be richer, and they will spend their increased riches on sanitation and better health care and roads, while spending on carbon emissions AND blankets and sweaters is a bridge too far. And while it may seem contradictory to the mere lay reader to have such vast improvements in public goods in a world so profoundly debilitated by the tragedy of the commons they can’t get it together to reduce carbon emissions, the experts know better.

    If it’s not clear by now that Tol is telling stories, it should be. He advocates modest cuts in greenhouse emissions while claiming that environmental treaties are unworkable and extolling the virtues of a warmer tomorrow. He rattles on about cardiovascular disease but hand waves the far more pertinent, (which is to say, pertinent), and complex issue of drinking water. It’s denialism repackaged, (and let’s face it, the allusion to CVD is retro). At best, Tol wears his science like a straight jacket, at worst, he’s pushing an agenda. In any case, he’s not worth listening to.

    The challenge that confronts us is not to derive precise and precisely meaningless cost-benefit estimates to quibble over as Rome burns, it is to discern the salient information from the noise in the face of the massive uncertainty that characterizes the issue of climate change. In other words, to adapt our thinking to the problem at hand, rather than seeing it as a nail because we happen to be holding a hammer.

    What we know is that human activity has been and is changing the atmosphere dramatically in a way that has a theorized, (physically demonstrable), effect on climate which, if not confirmed, is certainly not contradicted by the empirical evidence. We furthermore know that there are feedback effects from a changing climate and that these give rise to the possibility of severe climate change, the effects of which all can agree would be cataclysmic (though we do not know the scale of that possibility, we do know from geological history it is nowhere near remote enough for comfort). We also know that we do not know the effects of even middle of the distribution levels of warming beyond inane analysis of the costs of building dikes, etc., including and especially on the ever volatile geo-political landscape.

    On that basis of those risks to the well being of humanity, even future humanity, the operative imperative is Kantian duty. We have a duty to sacrifice on behalf of the civilization that has been entrusted to us, just as we have a duty to sacrifice on behalf of the family that has been entrusted to us. That duty includes taking corrective action against unacceptable levels of risk to the habitability of the only planet we have. I am aware that orthodox economics eschews such notions, but I am also aware that orthodox economics can’t explain why a man leapt off a New York City subway platform the other day to save a complete stranger from an oncoming train at great peril to himself, (to say nothing of its failure in the realm of asset returns). There are some things you simply know without having to know.

  85. Richard Tol
    February 23rd, 2007 at 07:53 | #85

    Majorajam: In fact, I was just summarising papers in academic journals. To make matters worse, the majority of infectious disease epidemiologists think that I am a raving lunatic for suggesting that there is a relationship between climate change and infectious diseases — received wisdom is that there is none.

  86. Majorajam
    February 23rd, 2007 at 10:24 | #86

    You suggested? A search on google scholar using the keywords “climate change” and “global warming” turns up 1,640 hits. The same search adding author:Tol gives 3 hits. Of the prior search, this is the first paper that comes up. What are the odds of that given the broad consensus you site? On second thought, scratch that- I like Quiggin and Stern am no good with numbers.

    It is an interesting conclusion that CVD will soar as infectious disease is terminated Arnold style. I would’ve thought that given the disproportionately higher resources dedicated to researching treatment and cures for the former, CVD might be the disease that waned in importance. Wouldn’t you know it, common sense has failed me again.

    When does the model predict malaria will disappear by the way? I’m making vacation plans.

  87. Majorajam
    February 23rd, 2007 at 10:28 | #87

    The search is actually “global warming” and “infectious disease”. I tried climate change which turns up circa 2500 hits, but then figured that would snare too many unrelated articles.

  88. February 23rd, 2007 at 12:34 | #88

    Majorajam – “He advocates modest cuts in greenhouse emissions while claiming that environmental treaties are unworkable and extolling the virtues of a warmer tomorrow.”

    Interesting that you said this. I am interested in where in the world Richard Tol lives. I have found that a lot of the time people that think a warmer world will be better generally come from a colder climate. I could be wrong and Richard lives in Singapore or something but it would be interesting to know Richard’s geographical location to see if it fits with what I have seen in past discussions on this topic.

    Richard can you reveal what sort of climate you live in most of the time? No probs if you do not want to but it would be interesting.

  89. February 23rd, 2007 at 14:36 | #89

    Ender: Richard Tol is attached to various universitesi and institutes in Dublin, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Pittsburgh. All are known for cool summers and rather cold and damp winters. JQ lives in Brisbane which is often very hot and humid in the summer, albeit less so than Dubai and Port Moresby, and warmish in the winter. Forecast for today in Brisbane: max 28, (record 41.4 in 2004, survived even by JQ)
    Majorajam probably does not live in Australia, with its zero malaria despite being partly in the tropics with their much more trying weather than even Brisbane suffers. He/she also thinks Scientific American is a serious peer-reviewed journal!

  90. February 23rd, 2007 at 16:23 | #90

    Tim – thanks for that. I live in Perth, Western Australia. There is a tendency for cool climate people to underestimate the effects of heat often to their deaths. I guess if these people spent a year in Port Headland for instance they would not be so keen on the effects of warming. I did have a conversation with a person that was arguing that extreme cold is worse than extreme heat. My position was that both are equally bad and high heat can kill just as fast as cold. The person I conversed with did not agree and it did turn out that he was from a colder climate and had never experienced really high temperatures.

    I guess it is natural for cool climate people to welcome a bit of warming. Whereas people in hotter temperatures do not want it to get even hotter.

  91. Richard Tol
    February 23rd, 2007 at 16:38 | #91

    Ender: I’m an academic. The conclusions of my work are independent of my location. That is a feature known as reproducability.

    What matters is so much where I live (Dublin) but rather where I take my holidays — I typically head to cooler places (preferable Sweden) for the summer because I cannot stand heat.

    Majorajam: Google is not the best source, and I am not an epidemiologist. A few hardcore malaria researchers occasionally attend climate workshops, and they tell me that they are the exception. Most malaria people think that “development” is the only external factor in the spread of this disease. Our model, which has development at 90% and climate at 10%, is an outlier in this literature.

    You missed a conditionality. The IPCC scenarios ASSUME that Africa will grow rich fast (and emit lots of carbon dioxide). No nation or community has ever combined material well-being with a high prevalence of infectious disease, and it is clear why they would not if you consider how cheap countermeasures for diarrhoea and malaria really are.

  92. Spiros
    February 23rd, 2007 at 20:17 | #92

    “because I cannot stand heat.”

    From the tenor of your contributions to this blog, Richard, that is glaringly obvious.

  93. February 23rd, 2007 at 21:41 | #93

    Richard – “I’m an academic. The conclusions of my work are independent of my location. That is a feature known as reproducability.”

    I am not implying that they are – please do not get me wrong. It is just interesting to me that it seems like warm is good people seem to be from cold climates which is probably just natural.

  94. Peter Wood
    February 23rd, 2007 at 22:13 | #94

    It was 41.5 degrees C in Adelaide about a week ago, which I think is higher than the European heatwave of 2003 in absolute terms. The European heatwave was several standard deviations away from the mean and that is why it killed so many people.

    A likely impact of climate change is increased variability of the weather as well as increased temperatures. The increased variability could mean that while average temperatures will increase, the frequency of extreme cold events will not neccessarily decrease.

    It would be interesting to do some statistical analysis of weather measurements and test whether the climate change we have experienced so far has affected the frequency of extreme cold events or not. Does anybody know if anyone has done this?

  95. Richard Tol
    February 23rd, 2007 at 23:55 | #95

    Ender: Yes, warming is good in cold places, and bad in hot places. However, adaptation matters too — so deviations from the norm are more important. There have been reports of cold deaths in Dhaka of all places, although not that many.

  96. Majorajam
    February 24th, 2007 at 05:32 | #96

    So let me see if I have this straight- we’re extrapolating from the development history of subtropical nations the eradication of infectious disease in mostly tropical nations all whilst keeping medical technology static, not to mention the dna/rna of mosquitoes and pathogens (these have an empirically observable habit of ‘adapting’ as well). Is that a fair synopsis of the assumptions that have you making definitive statements about the effect on mortality rates from disease of global warming?

    Speaking of, if you’re an outlier in such analyses, you’d have to put these guys somewhere in the stratosphere. As a quick scan of that paper will demonstrate, and I’ve barely done that, 10% is pretty confident stuff. You must be one of those base jumper types. Just for my own edification, what function of average warming yields distributional properties of the effect of ENSO that get you to 90/10? Is it fair to assume there was some rounding involved?

    I guess what I’m trying to make clear is that I didn’t miss anything, (not even the note of rebuke in your post of the IPCC’s assumption that Africa will undergo catch-up productivity growth). Rather, it is you who misses the point by the seriousness with which you take your forecasts.

  97. jquiggin
    February 24th, 2007 at 05:56 | #97

    Richard, since we disagree a lot, let me endorse the point you’ve made about adaptation. The main costs of global warming (including impacts on natural environments) arise because of he need to adjust to changed climates, not because one kind of climate is absolutely worse than another.

  98. Richard Tol
    February 24th, 2007 at 06:19 | #98

    Majorajam: I know these people and their work well. Their model is a bit most pessimistic than ours about climate change, and a bit more optimistic about development. But, there is no real contradiction.

  99. frankis
    February 24th, 2007 at 07:08 | #99

    Richard no, you cannot seriously make blanket statements like “warming is good in cold places”! So say the polar bears, krill and eskimos, among others, anyway. Perhaps if you’ve simply elided words like “… felt to be …” or something similar then it may become a reasonable thing to say, but otherwise – the way you have it – it’s what all the IPCC fuss is about, while I’m sure it’s not what Ender is on about.

    BTW I thought Gary Yohe presented well at Yale the other day, as did Stern and Nordhaus (notably) of the presentations I watched on the video available.

  100. Majorajam
    February 24th, 2007 at 07:38 | #100

    Is that so? Then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind disclosing what god forsaken assumptions are required to make the passage beginning, “Climatic variations and extreme weather events have profound impacts on infectious disease.” not contradict your prior statement,

    Changes in cold-related cardiovascular deaths are an order of magnitude larger than changes in heat-related ones.

    On second thought, never mind. By now I’ve learned you don’t do questions, only ‘summaries’.

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