Stern Science

In conclusion: Stern gets the climate science largely right, though he strays on the high side of various estimates and picks the high side to talk about in the summary. This high-end bias lends the Review open to charges of “alarmism”. The report does make the fair point that the damages and their cost grows disproportionally with increasing temperature change and so, given that asymmetry, policymakers are correct in taking note of them. However, it looks like the major criticism of his work will be directed (in other fora) at the economics.

NB. Rather predictably, some of the usual contrarian suspects have also attacked the science in Stern. It is, however, a measure of their fundamental lack of seriousness that when there really are important uncertainties (i.e. the likelihood that climate sensitivity is higher than generally thought), they ignore them in favour of making the same repetitive uninteresting and incorrect claims they always make.

*Meinshausen, M. (2006): ‘What does a 2C target mean for greenhouse gas concentrations? A brief analysis based on multi-gas emission pathways and several climate sensitivity uncertainty estimates’, Avoiding dangerous climate change, in H.J. Schellnhuber et al. (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.265 280.

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55 comments on this post.
  1. Hank Roberts:

    Bogus. That’s from the 1950s, an atomic bomb “duck and cover” school education film.
    I remember seeing it the first time around.

  2. David Price:

    The Stern report was flawed in that he is accused of overstating the damage of agw and understaing the costs of dealing with it. It is therfore rightly accused of bieng propagandist. Remember he works for a government which has a history of producing dodgy dosiers. To command public confidence he will have to clean up his act a bit.
    We need a balanced view of the cost/benefit ratio of carbon reduction. Only this will carry the public with it.

  3. Dan:

    re: 52 and “the costs of dealing with (AGW)”. The fact is that business has an absolutely miserable record and very little credibility if any re: estimating the costs of reducing pollution. And by “miserable”, I mean by spreading fear by far over-estimating costs both to business and to the economy. For example, in the US, each time the Clean Air Act has been amended since 1972, fossil-fuel power companies and their associated think-tanks screamed bloody murder that sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission reductions would essentially destroy the economy (all but ignoring the obvious health and environmental benefits that did come to fruition). Far from it. In fact, after the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the economy grew quite well across the board. Additional mandated or voluntarily implemented controls of other pollutants since 1972 (the year of the “first” US so-called “Clean Air Act”) have also not brought the economy down. Recessions that occurred during the period were due to other unrelated issues/factors. In hindsight, after the 1990 Amendments, it was the US government’s cost estimates that proved to be much more accurate than business estimates.

  4. SolarNTrains:

    #49, matt, I am glad to see there are a few pragmatists here. I always find it unfortunate when the Davids and Al denigrate the industrial technologists and scientists, b/c that is who we need to help us pull the wood out of the fire, so to CO2 speak. And a lot them are conservative as well (or NeoCon mouthbreathers, as they are usually referred to by the realclimatorati). If you actually look at some of the studies on alternative energy, we have a long way to go just to keep up with growth, must less replace some of the current sources. I work with solar, and even with the spectrum conversion improvements, we will be lucky if it provides 9% of our energy needs in the next decades. So nukes are probably a necessity, unless you intend to give up economically unnecessary activities (like blogging) or ecologically bankrupt geographical areas (like Southern California).

  5. SolarNTrains:

    re: #53; Dan, can’t comment on your opinion here, as I haven’t seen the data. However, I would expect there will always be a diversity of opinion between government and business. In fact, I would be concerned if they agree, and would really want to hold onto my wallet tightly!
    Businesses will be concerned first and foremost with profits, cash flow, expenses, employment, et cetera on a forward looking (and continually reviewed) basis. Governments, except during elections years, tend to be more collection focused (both information and taxes!). Usually, the government only responds when a majority of opinion means it is a popular decision. Thus, I would expect we will finally get a productive response from Congress on Kyoto this year.