The Corner

Fuzzy Math Watch

If, as we are so often told, the menace of global warning is so obvious, why is the math that is meant to demonstrate it quite so fuzzy?

This week’s Economist has an interesting piece on some of the ‘analysis’ carried out by the ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’.

The nub of the case is, that in forecasting the likely future growth in greenhouse gases (which are, at least partly, a function of economic development), the IPCC’s methodology was flawed. In one scenario, the IPCC is arguing that the gap in incomes between richer and poorer countries will close over the next century. Well, that’s possible, but it seems that the IPCC’s statisticians have overstated the size of the current differential. In comparing different income levels, they used market-based exchange rates, rather than rates adjusted for differences in purchasing power. How dumb is this? Well, think about it for a second. Take the buck. $5,000 is $5,000, you might say. Well, yes it is, but no it’s not. That $5,000 will go far further in Mexico than Manhattan, unless, it seems, you work for the IPCC. These are not people to take with you on your next trip to Baja California, at least not if you are going shopping.

In its defense the IPCC has said that this is only one scenario, but, as the Economist points out, “even the scenarios that give the lowest cumulative emissions assume that incomes in the developing countries will increase at a much faster rate over the course of the century than they have ever done before. Disaggregated projections published by the IPCC say that—even in the lowest-emission scenarios—growth in poor countries will be so fast that by the end of the century Americans will be poorer on average than South Africans, Algerians, Argentines, Libyans, Turks and North Koreans.”

Well, it could happen, I suppose.


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