Lomborg on global warming costs

April 10th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Environmentalist writes in The Australian:

Yes, global warming is real and mostly man-made, but our policies have failed, predictably and spectacularly. I was one of the strongest critics of the Kyoto treaty, back when it was considered gospel. People were aghast when I criticised it then. Now Kyoto has no friends, and everyone remembers how they really did not believe in it.

Kyoto achieved almost nothing, because the major emitters were excluded.

When economists estimate the net damage from global warming as a percentage of gross domestic product, they find it will indeed have an overall negative impact in the long run but the impact of moderate warming (1C-2C) will be beneficial. It is only towards the end of the century, when temperatures have risen much more, that global warming will turn negative. One peer-reviewed model estimates that it will turn into a net cost only by 2070.

We need to stop claiming that it will be the end of the world. Just as it is silly to deny man-made global warming, it is indefensible to describe it as the biggest calamity of the 21st century.

So what are the possible costs?

Here is how to quantify this. The most well-known economic model of global warming is the DICE model by William Nordhaus, of Yale University. It calculates the total costs (from heat waves, hurricanes, crop failure and so on) as well as the total benefits (from cold waves and CO2 fertilisation). If you compare these over the next 200 years, the total cost of global warming is estimated at about $33 trillion.

While this is not a trivial number, you have to put it in context. Over the next 200 years, global GDP will run to about $2200 trillion, so global warming constitutes a loss of about 1.5 per cent of this figure. This is not the end of the world but a problem that needs to be solved.

1.5% of global GDP is a significant amount of money. As Lomborg says it is a problem that needs solving, but it is not doomsday.

No matter what carbon cuts we make in the next couple of decades, they will make no measurable difference until the second half of the century, because the climate system is such a super-tanker. This means that a smart climate policy is not about doing just anything now but doing something significant that will be sustainable and cut a large amount of CO2 in the long run. This is the difference between doing something that feels good and focusing on something that will do good.

Similarly, the emissions that matter in the 21st century are from the developing world. Yes, we in the rich world emitted most of the CO2 in the 20th century, but we are slowly sliding towards insignificance. Today we emit just 43 per cent and by the end of the century, we will be down to 23 per cent.

All the rich countries’ climate policies will not matter much unless China, India and the rest of the world are in on them. And they really are not right now, because our feelgood policies are all high cost for little benefit, which poor countries cannot afford.

An agreement without China and India will have almost no environmental impact. But the problem is that there is little economic incentive for them to agree to a cap.

Second, even if successful, this approach would not solve the problem. If everyone implemented Kyoto, temperatures would drop by the end of the century by a minuscule 0.004C. The EU policy will, across the century, cost about $20 trillion; yet will reduce temperatures by just 0.05C.

One can believe global warming is a problem, but believe Kyoto was economic insanity.

The only way to move towards a long-term reduction in emissions is if green energy becomes much cheaper. If it cost less than fossil fuels, everyone would switch, including the Chinese.

This, of course, requires breakthroughs in green technologies and much more innovation.

At the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate, a panel of economists, including three Nobel laureates, found that the best long-term strategy was to increase dramatically investment in green research and development. They suggested doing so 10-fold to $US100bn a year globally. This would equal 0.2 per cent of global GDP.

Of course, R&D holds no guarantees. We might spend billions and still come up empty-handed in 40 years’ time. But it has a much better chance of success than continuing the futile efforts of the past 20 years.

That sounds a good plan to me. It is similar to the investment we are making in research into reducing agriculture emissions. Science is the answer.

This is what the US has done with fracking. It spent about $US10bn in subsidies over the past three decades on innovation, opening up huge new resources of previously inaccessible shale gas. Despite some legitimate concerns about safety, it is hard to overstate the overwhelming benefits: a dramatic fall in natural gas prices and a shift in US electricity generation from 50 per cent coal and 20 per cent gas to 37 per cent coal and 30 per cent gas. This has reduced US annual CO2 emissions by 400 million-500 million tonnes — about twice what the rest of the world has achieved over the past 20 years.

The fracking bonanza also creates long-term social and economic benefits through lower energy costs: US consumers benefit by about $100bn in lower gas prices. By contrast, estimates show that a 330 million-tonne CO2 reduction in the EU using carbon taxes would cost $240bn. It illustrates why we must confess to the failures of the past 20 years. As long as renewables are not ready, we are spending vast sums of money on tiny cuts in CO2. Instead, we should focus on investing dramatically more in R&D into green energy over the next 20-40 years.

The solution is not to make fossil fuels so expensive that nobody wants them because that will never work but to make green energy so cheap that eventually everybody wants it.

He speaks a lot of sense.

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40 Responses to “Lomborg on global warming costs”

  1. Steve Wrathall (207 comments) says:

    “…best long-term strategy was to increase dramatically investment in green research and development…”
    Thereby creating a standing army of researchers with a vested interest in perpetuating the line that has seen their pockets fill so bounteously, and all the associated moral hazards.

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  2. hmmokrightitis (1,458 comments) says:

    “Yes, global warming is real and mostly man-made” [citation needed]

    Yeah, nah. But fixed it for you :)

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  3. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    Yes, global warming is real …

    Except CO2 levels climb, and there’s been no change in global temperatures for 17 years

    … and mostly man-made

    Except there’s no defininative evidence of this, and on the contrary, huge natural variation in CO2 has been a hallmark of this planet’s existence.

    The alarmists, Lomborg being found at the quiet end of the spectrum, are looking more and more foolish as evidence refuses to confirm their doomsday models.

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  4. kowtow (6,685 comments) says:

    Global warming allows man to live in Europe ,North America and indeed here in New Zealand.

    Measure the benefits of the civilisations in those places and then try tell me global warming is not a good thing.

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  5. Kleva Kiwi (267 comments) says:

    “Yes, global warming is real and mostly man-made…”

    Wait what?
    Does this guy not read the news? global warming/climate change/sky fairies/flavour of the month theory is a not fact, it is a now disproven theory.

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  6. All_on_Red (941 comments) says:

    Funnily enough the US has fulfilled its Kyoto obligation and is not part of the Treaty. Go Fracking!
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/04/05/usa-meets-kyoto-protocol-without-ever-embracing-it/
    Evidence is emerging Wind farm noise causes “clear and significant” damage to people’s sleep and mental health, according to the first full peer-reviewed scientific study of the problem.
    http://www.noiseandhealth.org/article.asp?issn=1463-1741;year=2012;volume=14;issue=60;spage=237;epage=243;aulast=Nissenbaum;type=3

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  7. axeman (250 comments) says:

    “Yes, global warming is real and mostly man-made…” Meh

    “Over more than two decades we were told again and again that everywhere was warming faster than everywhere else – especially winters were warming up quickly. Snow was becoming a thing of the past and children soon weren’t going to know what it is. “The warm winters that we are seeing are just a harbinger of what’s to come,” the media declared just a couple of years ago. “The scientists were cock-sure.”

    http://notrickszone.com/2013/04/04/climate-science-humiliated-earlier-model-prognoses-of-warmer-winters-now-todays-laughingstocks/

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  8. RightNow (6,335 comments) says:

    Given the expected peak in global population of 9-10 billion, we’ll be needing both warmer temperatures and increased CO2 if we’re to have decent affordable food for everybody.

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  9. Weihana (4,474 comments) says:


    Solar Reaching Parity with Other Energy Sources, Say New Reports

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2013/03/solar-reaching-parity-with-other-energy-sources-say-new-reports

    Over the past few weeks, a number of prominent organizations around world have issued reports determining that solar is becoming an increasingly competitive energy source and is coming into parity—or cost-equality—with other forms of electric generation. UBS Capital, Royal Dutch Shell, Deutsche Bank and NDP SolarBuzz have each issued reports finding that solar is becoming an increasingly important part of the world’s energy supply. The only disagreement is how soon it’s happening.

    As solar comes into parity with other energy sources, the arguments against it—particularly that it’s more expensive—fade away and power producers, utilities, businesses and homeowners the world over are starting to see it as a more serious alternative to fossil fuel and other means of electric generation. Solar is already coming into parity in certain parts of the world—including in Hawaii and parts of California. It’s also coming into parity in an increasing number of countries, including Australia, Brazil, India, Italy and Japan.

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  10. axeman (250 comments) says:

    Actually this is what the “experts” are now saying
    http://sphotos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/540753_521981581187106_1059845590_n.jpg

    And “Climatologists are no Einsteins”

    “I think any good scientist ought to be a skeptic,” Dyson said.
    “I just think they don’t understand the climate,” he said of climatologists. “Their computer models are full of fudge factors.”

    http://blog.nj.com/njv_paul_mulshine/2013/04/climatologists_are_no_einstein.html

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  11. Weihana (4,474 comments) says:

    When economists estimate the net damage from global warming as a percentage of gross domestic product, they find it will indeed have an overall negative impact in the long run but the impact of moderate warming (1C-2C) will be beneficial. It is only towards the end of the century, when temperatures have risen much more, that global warming will turn negative. One peer-reviewed model estimates that it will turn into a net cost only by 2070.

    2070. Such a pointless time frame given the technological development that will occur between now and then. Humans are on the cusp of producing incredibly powerful technologies and any economic analysis so far in the future is simply worthless. Imagine writing an economic forecast in 1950. What would you say about the internet? “The inter-what?!?” you might say.

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  12. coge (160 comments) says:

    Popular global warming theories do not conform to pure science. The claimed effects are not calculable or quantifiable, even at a decadal timeframe, as there is no “formula” for global warming. What we have are truckloads of peer reviewed papers that are easily classed as post normal science. The results of twenty of thirty years of research. Time skeptics demanded proof that conforms to the universal laws of physics, otherwise at this stage it’s highly likely the theory is bunk.

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  13. flipper (3,266 comments) says:

    But hang on,
    Chris Monckton is not “qualified” (well in the view of the likes of that mendacious red melon list MP, Graham, et al) to speak on AGW/CC matters because he is not “qualified” (by IPCC/NZ bureaucrat/Cracademic, trougher standards).
    So what about Lomborg’s qualifications?

    So, let’s have a look:

    About Bjorn Lomborg

    Picture of Bjorn Lomborg

    Bjorn Lomborg [PhD] researches the smartest ways to improve the environment and the world. He is one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century according to Esquire magazine, and one of the 50 people who could save the planet according to the UK Guardian. Lomborg has repeatedly been named one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.

    He is an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and regularly works with many of the world’s top economists, including 7 Nobel Laureates. His think tank, the

    Copenhagen Consensus Centre was ranked by the University of Pennsylvania as one of the world’s “Top 25 Environmental Think Tanks”.

    Lomborg is a frequent commentator in print and broadcast media, for outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, CNN, FOX, and the BBC. His monthly column is published in 19 languages, in 30+ newspapers with more than 30 million readers globally.

    Bjorn Lomborg was born January 6, 1965. M.A. in political science, 1991. Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. 1994.
    Say, next Tuesday night at Paraparaumu, “Moncky” will take to take in silly Rowan’s Kapiti DC (already at war with local lawyers, accountants, ex diplomats, scientists et al (in other words folk who recognise bullshit when Councils throw it around) , Wednesday in Lower Hutt and the “National Press Club [sic]. Should be fun to watch/hear the demolition derby. :)

    Google says:
    “ About Bjorn Lomborg
    [Dr sic] Bjorn Lomborg researches the smartest ways to improve the environment and the world. He is one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century according to Esquire magazine, and one of the 50 people who could save the planet according to the UK Guardian. Lomborg has repeatedly been named one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers.
    He is an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School and regularly works with many of the world’s top economists, including 7 Nobel Laureates. His think tank, the
    Copenhagen Consensus Centre was ranked by the University of Pennsylvania as one of the world’s “Top 25 Environmental Think Tanks”.
    Lomborg is a frequent commentator in print and broadcast media, for outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, CNN, FOX, and the BBC. His monthly column is published in 19 languages, in 30+ newspapers with more than 30 million readers globally.
    Bjorn Lomborg was born January 6, 1965. M.A. in political science, 1991. Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. 1994.”

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  14. TheContrarian (1,043 comments) says:

    What has always bothered me about the global warming debate is why people who deny it are so anti green technologies and/or so keen on oil.
    We can’t advance technologically without investing, researching and implementing new technologies and one would think, entirely separate from the climate change issue, that an array of solar panels in the centre of the Outback and the Sahara desert combined with tidal power and wind turbines was a little more aesthetically pleasing than the air in China.

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  15. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    What has always bothered me about the global warming debate is why people who deny it are so anti green technologies and/or so keen on oil.

    What has always bothered me about the global warming debate is people who use the term ‘deny’ without context, and then go on to make ridiculous assertions.

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  16. Jimbob (639 comments) says:

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  17. TheContrarian (1,043 comments) says:

    yea, KrazyKiwi, that must suck for you.

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  18. Ross12 (926 comments) says:

    The Contrarian

    You are making a very broad generalisation there. Most people who disagree with the AGW theory would happily accept the so called green technologies if they were economic and did not rely on huge subsidies. That is the main problem with what is happening — energy policies of most countries are being distorted into going in the wrong directions because of these subsidies and vested interests lobbying to get the wrong regulations.
    The UK is a very good example –watch them get into massive problems in the next few winters as the allow the EU to dictate the closure of many significantly sized coal fired power stations. If you not already read about it , look up what is happening to the Drax power station in Yorkshire. It is absolute lunacy and to me it is environmental vandalism.

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  19. TheContrarian (1,043 comments) says:

    “You are making a very broad generalisation there.”

    I know. I did indeed make a broad generalisation but it wasn’t without merit.

    And don’t forget oil companies also receive large subsidies

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  20. Weihana (4,474 comments) says:

    krazykiwi,

    I suspect it’s not the supposed lack of context that is upsetting but that it is used pejoratively. Which is perhaps why we now have terms for proponents of the theory: e.g. “alarmists”

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  21. southtop (257 comments) says:

    Weihana 4pm
    TOP Draw comment!

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  22. Manolo (12,612 comments) says:

    National Party propaganda to justify the ETS tax (which was bad when Labour lite was Opposition).

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  23. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Yes, global warming is real and mostly man-made,

    Lost me there …..total crap. We have virtual no impact at all on Global climate.

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  24. labrator (1,691 comments) says:

    Be warned, they’re after your internet next.

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  25. Manolo (12,612 comments) says:

    Good to confirm the loyal DPF is an AGW supporter.
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/04/09/climate-change-skeptics-seize-on-reports-showing-temperatures-leveling/

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  26. Viking2 (10,693 comments) says:

    The argument that climate science is in fact climate politics is the main theme of man-made climate change sceptic Christopher Monckton who spoke in Tauranga last night.

    With other scientists beginning to accept the evidence that there has been no global warming for 16 years, Chris – the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley – focuses on who benefits from the global warming belief system.

    While few are yet familiar with Agenda 21, terms like “Sustainable Development”, “Smart Growth”, and “Renewable Energy”, Chris says they are now part and parcel of both local and national politics.

    An online search for some of the key concepts of Agenda 21 reveals most New Zealand local government long term policy has been explicitly implementing Agenda 21 for nearly 20 years, and that it dictates many aspects of people’s lives.

    http://www.sunlive.co.nz/news/41707-a-hard-look-at-climate-science.html

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  27. axeman (250 comments) says:

    Hot Topical … what Maggie T had to say

    Margaret Thatcher: Hot Air And Global Warming

    “The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else. Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.”

    http://www.thegwpf.org/margaret-thatcher-hot-air-global-warming/

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  28. SPC (4,609 comments) says:

    The amount of global co-operation required is less than for formulating rules for worldwide free trade. Is that also socialist?

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  29. hj (5,674 comments) says:

    The question is : what do the prime minister and his party (really) think?
    John key took a helicopter to the Hamilton V8 races.

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  30. rg (190 comments) says:

    What is notr factoored into the equation is the cost of trying to stop global warming. It was National that signed us up to Kyoto so they need to carry the can for starting all this. But in human costs the ETS is indefensible. Imagine a little old lady shivering at night sitting in front of a little heater turned down to one bar because the price of electricity is increased by the ETS. The price paid by the old lady and the poor family for National’s ETS is cold nights and hungry children. All for nothing. National might be better than Labour and the Greens but they are all mean spirited adn callous.

    I heard that trying to stop global warming is costing each human being in the world $65000.

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  31. sbk (299 comments) says:

    thanks rg …i almost forgot it was not Labour that signed in the ETS,it was National..

    ..and harkening back to the day when they owned the opposition benches…what was said then, as opposed to what actually happened…regardless of what labour had planned…they ended up owning that can.

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  32. Steve Wrathall (207 comments) says:

    Actually SPC, global free trade requires many fewer rules than unfree trade. That’s why it’s called “free”.

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  33. SPC (4,609 comments) says:

    Er no, the free trade rules are at the international co-operation level, the restricted trade rules were at the local level.

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  34. SPC (4,609 comments) says:

    The problem of compliance by China and India etc with global co-operation on global warming policy only exists until compliance is a requirement for free trade within the WTO rules system.

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  35. hj (5,674 comments) says:

    http://wiseresponse.org.nz/

    http://wiseresponse.org.nz/?p=1432

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  36. hj (5,674 comments) says:

    Listener April 13th 2013 “On The Brink”

    “No one from National showed up….”
    tch,tch, tch….

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  37. hj (5,674 comments) says:

    Monckton Myths. Get Yours here:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Monckton_Myths.htm

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  38. Scott (1,614 comments) says:

    This debate shows what happens when we let the scientists run things. It is a scientific question. Is the earth getting warmer? If it is, is it caused by man-made greenhouse gases?
    But there seemed to be so many other issues involved. We have huge amounts of money and massive interest groups promoting the global warming agenda. We find now that it is not even global warming, it is climate change.

    So the whole thing has got very political. As for me I am sceptical that the earth is warming due to man-made greenhouse gases. One wonders whether the earth is warming at all? I see in Great Britain that they have just experienced the coldest Easter Sunday since records began.

    Could it be that global warming is another case of fallible man searching for significance. One remembers the doomsday predictions when the calendar clicked over to the year 2000. Y2K was supposed to be an epoch shattering event where if we didn’t do something planes would fall from the sky. What actually happened? I think a couple of computers went down in Uzbekistan! Y2K was an absolute fizzle. Perhaps global warming will go the same way?

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  39. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    Almost certainly global warming alarmism has already killed far more people than global warming ever will over the next century.

    It has done so by boosting European energy prices to four times that in the US while destroying food crops to grow bio fuels.

    Well-intentioned stupidity is just as lethal as malevolence. So Mao killed more of his own citizens than Hitler.

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  40. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    @hj, and Monkton’s reply: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/03/monckton-responds-to-skeptical-science/

    Oh, and of course like most of the alarmist websites, “skeptical” science does not allow the people it attacks to respond.

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