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Re: What’s The Point?



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Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post in which I tried to predict the course of the climate-change debate. In it I said this:

Given current projections, the costs of restricting emissions just can’t be justified based on the benefits that it is projected to provide.

As far as I can see, proponents of emissions reductions will respond with four arguments: (1) inflate the analyzed costs of global warming by claiming the science actually now says things will be even worse than we previously thought, (2) inflate the analyzed costs of global warming by embedding indefensible discount rate assumptions in the black box of econometric calculations used by economists to conduct the cost-benefit analysis, (3) deflate the analyzed costs of emissions mitigation by claiming a free lunch – that there is a cost-free or low-cost way to radically reduce emissions, and/or (4) turn this into a moral crusade asserting that we have a moral duty to the poor of the world because of our past sins of emission. I have laid out responses to each of these objections: 1, 2, 3 and 4. When considered carefully, emissions mitigation proponents have no persuasive arguments.

Conor Clarke has a written a post in which he manages to combine two of these arguments at once.

Claiming the science actually now says things will be even worse than we previously thought? Here’s Conor:

It’s possible to quibble with Manzi’s data. (More recent temperature estimates than the IPCC’s exist: You can check out the work of MIT’s Joint Program on Global Change for more.)

Check.

Turn this into a moral crusade asserting that we have a moral duty to the poor of the world because of our past sins of emission? Here’s Conor:

The big costs of global warming will fall overwhelmingly on developing nations with dense, coastal populations. You can be a realist about those costs — why on earth should America care what happens to Bangladesh? — but the costs are still real. They are also, by and large, not costs for which the developing world is responsible.

Check.

The thing is, I agree that these are significant considerations — they’re just not as obvious as Conor asserts they are, and I think a useful analysis of the problem requires confronting the strongest arguments around both issues. I’ll just start by referencing the counter-arguments from my earlier post. And before anybody gets on a high horse about how CO2-laden economic development is such a threat to the poor of the developing world, he really ought to have a response to this analysis.



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