Possible Insight

Even Assuming Global Warming, We Shouldn't Worry?

with 5 comments

In order for you to believe we should do something about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) such as impose a carbon tax, you really need to believe all of these things:

  1. CO2 causes a direct temperature increase
  2. Positive feedbacks amplify the direct temperature increase several fold
  3. The effects on humans of the total temperature increase are significantly bad
  4. The cost of reducing CO2 emissions is less than the bad effects we can avoid

Nearly all scientifically literate skeptics agree with (1). Most typically argue against points (2) and (4). Indur M. Golakny has a nice series of posts over at Watts Up With That that looks at (3).

Even assuming that the IPCC estimates are right, AGW still doesn’t look very scary:

  • Currently, AGW is the 13th ranked cause of death, accounting for only .3% of all deaths.  For comparison, unsafe water is at 3.1%, malaria is at 2.0%, and urban air pollution is at 1.4%.
  • Forecasts for 2085 put deaths attributable to the AGW impacts of hunger, malaria, and flooding at 237,000 in the business as usual scenario and 92,000 with the most aggressive carbon reductions.  The cost is a reduction of per capita GDP in 2090 from $57.9K to $37.9K, i.e. the average person will be 35% poorer (source here).
  • The forecast population at risk of water stress actually decreases under the business as usual sceanrio.
  • The predicted conversion of habitat to cropland also decreases under the business as usual scenario.

The bang for the buck just doesn’t seem to be there.


Written by Kevin

May 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Climate

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5 Responses

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  1. Re : “AGW is the 13th ranked cause of death”. I’m sure swine flu is not even that high. We shouldn’t be worried about it then…

    I’ll care about AGW when pigs fly…

    then, swine flu.


    Re: “forecasts for 2085”. You compare “business as usual” with “the most aggressive carbon reductions”. Is that really a fair comparison? The US can barely muster support of Kyoto, let alone agree to the most aggressive carbon reduction measures. Sounds like a straw man argument to me.


    May 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm

  2. From wikipedia:

    “A 2008 study, not peer-reviewed, by the consulting company McKinsey Global Institute uses cost curve analysis to estimate that it is possible to stabilize global greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 to 500 ppm CO2-e with macroeconomic costs in the order of 0.6-1.4% of global GDP by 2030.”

    Maybe they are naive…

    I think a discussion of externalities would be appropriate here. For instance did you take the following into consideration: http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/article.html?in_article_id=39945&in_page_id=2 ?


    May 1, 2009 at 6:52 pm

  3. Re: straw man. The most aggressive thing the “warmists” want to do doesn’t do any real good. You’re saying a less aggressive measure will do better? That’s not attacking a straw man. That’s doing a sanity check.

    Re: the McKinsey study. They don’t explain how they made their calculation, so I can’t really comment. It’s not what the IPCC says which is what the warmists typically use as their standard.

    Re: brothel externalities. I would support a “prostitution adaptation program” that helped working girls adjust to the new demands of a warmer world 🙂


    May 1, 2009 at 7:16 pm

  4. I don’t know how you decide which numbers, which methodologies and which authorities you choose as acceptable. The issue seems intractably complex with cascading externalities ad infinitum.

    It does not follow that we jump on the “fat tail” climate disaster bandwagon as a default. But you don’t have to be a “chicken little” to be concerned.

    For example, do you dismiss the folks at World Health Organization study who write:

    “Climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of worldwide diarrhoea, 6% of malaria in some middle income countries and 7% of dengue
    fever in some industrialized countries. In total, the attributable mortality was 154 000 (0.3%)
    deaths and the attributable burden was 5.5 million (0.4%) DALYs.”


    May 1, 2009 at 10:44 pm

  5. I decide by spending a lot of time reading the studies and the commentary on the studies. I avoid anything that isn’t backed up by a discussion of the methodology that I can evaluate and compare to other approaches. This includes carefully examining the statistical rigor of the various analyses. I realize that most people can’t afford the man year+ of effort I’ve put in to understanding these issues (on top of relevant BA and MS degrees). But I have in fact put in the effort.

    As for the WHO study, .3% mortality is in fact EXACTLY the number I cited in the original post. So I’m obviously not dismissing them. I just think we should spend our scarce resources proportionally to the threat, e.g., a baseline of 10x as much money on clean water and 7x as much on malaria prevention/cure (then adjusted for intervention effectiveness of course).


    May 1, 2009 at 11:33 pm

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