This article, that puts across the views of some "top" economists, does nothing to dispel the reputation of economists as being generally cold and heartless.
The issue here is not strictly about what economists say in their lengthy reports but how their statements are reported. This article is a classic example.
It is worth reading this ENN article in full. In my opinion it is poorly written but is a good example of how economists get "reported".
The first question they ask is:
Will the spending needed to prevent global warming cost the world more than just sitting back, or even enjoying the possible financial benefits of a hotter planet?
Exactly for whom and for how long these financial benefits will accrue is another question - Western governments and multinationals by any chance?
This quote is from Richard Tol, Senior Research Officer at Ireland's Economic and Social Research Institute.
"(My damage estimate) does hide some things that some people will get very upset about," Tol said. "From an economic perspective small island states are so tiny and people are moving out of there anyway."
As an example Tol estimates the welfare loss of the Maldives submerging at three times the inhabitants' annual salaries, in addition to the 100 percent loss of the country's GDP.
Citizens are happy to value the preservation of the global ecosystem at a cost of 50 euros per person per year, Tol says, but added he does not factor in the risk of rapid sea level rise.
Richard Tol is one of the leading experts in this field - I wonder if the quotes used in this article do him justice.
Then we have Robert Mendelsohn, professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who argues that negative costs may still be less than the benefits.
"He sees a net global warming bonus in the near-term, as higher farming yields in northern countries offsets damage elsewhere, especially in Africa."
Not so good if you live in Africa - one suspects he should consider the effect on Europe of mass migration, increase in aid payments and the increased chance of civil unrest in Africa.
As an aside:
"He added that he does not cost species extinctions and health effects, and only crudely measures the cost of island inundations."
Sigh. Another example where simple quotes may not do the academic justice in the eyes of the general public.
The article concludes:
"Britain's Stern [Nicolas Stern - UK scientist] will present his findings to ministers in Mexico next week, a month before countries start talks -- expected to last years -- on a successor to take the Kyoto protocol beyond 2012."
This report will make interesting reading but environmental economists need to be careful to get their ideas across in a way that does not reinforce the generally negative view the public has of economists.