Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Eco Anxiety

Justin Nobel, columnist for the Rutland Herald on 25 March 2007 writes:
Global warming, pesticides in food, nuclear waste — it's enough to keep a person up at night. Indeed, a growing number of people have literally worried themselves sick over various environmental doomsday scenarios. Their worry even has a name: eco-anxiety. Melissa Pickett, an eco-therapist with a practice in Santa Fe, sees anywhere from 40 to 80 eco-anxious patients a month. They complain of panic attacks, loss of appetite, irritability and unexplained bouts of weakness, sleeplessness and "buzzing," which they describe as the eerie feeling that their cells are twitching.

Anyone feeling in need of therapy is advised to contact Melissa Pickett directly by visiting her website.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Communism and Global Warming

Some times you read an article on global warming and think, forget Stern, forget Gore, forget the IPCC, "we are after all, doomed". Granted, some of the comments on this blog regarding the recent "Global Warming Swindle" also bring on such emotion, but the article below is a goodie.

I have highlighted the "economics".....I have cut the last 3 paragraphs lest you take this aricle less seriously....

(H/T Grist)

The Communist Influence Of Global Warming

Republic , Vaclav Klaus responded in a letter to questions from U.S. Congressmen about global warming. Klaus is a free market economist and has seen first hand the debate in Europe over global warming. He told Congressmen, “As someone who lived under communism for most of my life I feel obliged to say that the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century is not communism or its various softer variants. Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism.” Klaus said that this ideology preaches earth and nature and wants a “central (now global) planning of the whole world.”

Klaus said, “The environmentalists consider their ideas and arguments to be an undisputable truth and use sophisticated methods of media manipulation and PR campaigns to exert pressure on policymakers to achieve their goals. Their argumentation is based on the spreading of fear and panic by declaring the future of the world to be under serious threat. In such an atmosphere they continue pushing policymakers to adopt illiberal measures, impose arbitrary limits, regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions on everyday human activities and make people subject to omnipotent bureaucratic decision-making.” Klaus has revealed the spirit behind global warming, it is the spirit of communism by another name.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Economics of Climate Change: Articles in one place

The economics department here at Birmingham held a Workshop on "The Economics of Climate Change" on the 9th March 2007.

Speakers included

David Maddison , University of Birmingham
Dennis Anderson, Imperial College London
Dimitri Zenghelis , HM Treasury
Richard Tol, Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin
Cameron Hepburn, University of Cambridge

Their papers and other articles on the Economics of the Stern Review are now available for download from a new page on our academic "Globalisation and the Environment" website (as distinct from this academic/non-academic blog).

We also include links to papers by:

Robert Mendelsohn , Yale University
Martin Weitzman , Harvard University
William Nordhaus , Yale University


Globalisation and the Environment

Sustainable Development: Brundtland Commission 20 years on

In the introduction to my Environmental Economics it is customary to define "sustainable development". The natural starting point is to describe the Brundtland Commission and the Brundtland Report.

The definition given in my introductory lecture is:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

So 20 years on since the Brundtland Commission what has changed?

Steve Bass is a senior fellow of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) discusses in a post on ChinaDialogue.
It is 20 years since the World Commission on Environment and Development – the 1987 Brundtland Commission – released its influential report and introduced the concept of sustainable development to the political mainstream, as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Global summits in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002 led to multiple governmental commitments on sustainable development, and helped to extend the concept’s reach into the worlds of business, local government and civil society.

The article then describes the 9 pillars of sustainable development - details are in the article:

1. The “three pillars” concept of integrating environmental, economic, and social objectives.

2. Legal principles.

3. International agreements.

4. Many plans and strategies.

5. Political fora and councils.

6. Tools for sustainability assessment, and for market, project and fiscal intervention.

7. Voluntary codes and standards.

8. “Triad” partnerships.

9. Considerable debate and research.

So has development become more sustainable?
... we can make three major observations: first, the pace, scale and depth of progress towards sustainable development has been inadequate; second, the root causes of unsustainability remain firmly in place even if some symptoms have been tackled; and third, most people do not yet “feel the burn” to act, whether in government, business or as individuals.

In 2005, three landmark reports commissioned by the UN emphasised the scale of the problem. The Millennium Project confirmed that progress in reducing poverty was too slow. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that 16 out of 25 services that ecosystems provide to humanity were being critically degraded. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change clearly demonstrated one major impact of unsustainable development paths. The fact that these reports were not treated together is itself a sign that an integrated, sustainable-development approach is not being pursued globally.

The new challenges facing sustainable development are listed as (more details in the article) - some are of course more important than others.

The rapid emergence of the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, etc) countries as major economic powers

The shift from rural to urban settlement and investment, and consequent changes in demands and scarcities, as well as in dominant value systems.

Globalisation’s dramatic reshaping of economies

The increased frequency and severity of non-linear events.

The multiplication of ways for communities of interest to interact.

The dramatic improvements in surveillance, mapping and information technology.

The increasing risk of clashes between “haves” and “have-nots”.

Decreasing public appetite for “big ideas”.

The erosion of multilateralism by powerful unilateralists,and the fragile path towards improving multilateralism being trod by others.

And what of the future?
“What changes lie ahead, and how can we be resilient to them?” – a question that also demands greater engagement with scientists. In the past 20 years, scientists have proven to be key in identifying and exploring issues such as ozone layer depletion and acid rain. For the next 20 years, nothing less than a joint scientific endeavour – “sustainability science” – will be required to investigate complex syndromes, such as climate change and biodiversity, which shape our future wellbeing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's a Swindle: Durkin Wiggles, Channel 4 runs

Today saw a new twist to the "The Great Global Warming Swindle" scandal (can we call it that yet?)

In a great post from Celsias (linking to an Independent article) we can see that not only is Durkin taking serious flak but also that Channel 4 is distancing themselves from this programme.

C4 Distances Itself from Global Warming Documentary

Quoting from the Independent:
A Channel 4 documentary that claimed global warming is a swindle was itself flawed with major errors which seriously undermine the programme’s credibility, according to an investigation by The Independent.

The Great Global Warming Swindle, was based on graphs that were distorted, mislabelled or just plain wrong. The graphs were nevertheless used to attack the credibility and honesty of climate scientists.

Other graphs used out-of-date information or data that was shown some years ago to be wrong. Yet the programme makers claimed the graphs demonstrated that orthodox climate science was a conspiratorial “lie” foisted on the public.

Channel 4 yesterday distanced itself from the programme, referring this newspaper’s inquiries to a public relations consultant working on behalf of Wag TV, the production company behind the documentary.

The best quote of all comes from Durkin himself who is quoted as saying when asked why they did not use up-to-date Nasa data:
“The original Nasa data was very wiggly-lined and we wanted the simplest line we could find,” Mr Durkin said.

You could not make it up. What all of this goes to show is that my original post "The Great Global Warming Swindle" that commented on Monbiot's initial scepticism showed that he was spot on.

It is a shame that this programme has caused so much heat and generated so little light. The more important issue is to ask HOW did this programme ever get commissioned?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Greg Mankiw's Blog: David Friedman's Slippery Slope

Greg Mankiw posts on David Friedman's economics based objections to carbon taxes.

Mankiw, although a card carrying Republican, appears to be "environment friendly" in contrast to the majority of the Republican government. Here.

The reason I am a Republican is that, compared to Democrats, the Republicans tend to favor smaller government, lower taxes, and greater reliance on free markets. On many social issues, I find myself agreeing with the Democrats more than the Republicans, and I know that the Republicans are far from perfect on economic issues. (Don't get me started.) But as a classical liberal in the spirit of Milton Friedman, I find myself rooting for the Republican team more often. The recent debate over the minimum wage is a case in point.

His Pigou tax crusade is a good example. The Pigou Club Manifesto.

For a hatchet job on Mankiw's political position (and a fairly amusing one) see Can Mankiw survive politics). Written in 2004 when Mankiw was the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

This is an interesting article on many levels but overall Greg Mankiw seems to come across as a "nice guy" and even a "good guy" (in a non political sense). The final sentence is:
Which is why, even if he had no bad intentions, Mankiw's story has to be viewed as a cautionary tale for academics considering serving an administration that puts such a low priority on intellectual integrity. If you take a job that makes you look like you're fudging the facts, at the very least, make sure you learn how to do it well.

I digress, back to Carbon Taxes and Friedman:

Global Warming, Carbon Taxes, and Public Choice

If I were dictator of the world, the answer would be fairly obvious. Impose a tax on activities that create greenhouse gases designed to reflect the marginal cost they create. That's the standard economic solution, due to Pigou, for problems of negative externalities. Since the tax brings in additional revenue, combine it with a corresponding reduction in whatever taxes currently have the largest adverse effects.

I do not, in fact, support such carbon taxes. The reason is that I do not believe that, if imposed, they would fit the pattern described above.

To begin with, they would not be based on a realistic estimate of the marginal costs; insofar as they would be based on anything, judging by the ongoing arguments over Kyoto and similar proposals, they would be based on some target level of emissions. If, as seems likely, the level of taxes needed to substantially slow global warming was much higher than the marginal damage done, the result would be to buy lower temperature at a price much higher than it was worth, making the net situation worse, not better.

Greg Mankiw's link:

Greg Mankiw's Blog: David Friedman's Slippery Slope

In his article Mankiw concludes:
Personally, I do not see how, in a world of climate-change extremists, advocating no policy is a more tenable solution politically than advocating a moderate policy of a modest carbon tax. Ultimately, policy is set by the median voter. When smart economists like David Friedman reject the first-best moderate policy to advocate the do-nothing position, he loses credibility among moderates, and that makes it easier for climate-change extremists to convince the median voter that we need to do something extreme.

Note that David's position seems very different from Milton's advice to put "politics aside" when giving economic advice. Maybe it's one of those father-son things.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Does Ice Hockey Kill? - particulate pollution and lung disease

Linking sports and environmental economics is never easy but the following story makes for interesting reading from The Airzone Blog (original source links included).

Possible Health Risk In Canadian Hockey Arenas Due to Particulate

According to CBC News, a recent investigation of Canadian hockey arenas shows a high level of ultra-fine particulate pollution which could contribute to asthma and some cardiovascular illnesses. Several recent studies show that exposure to ultra-fine particles can easily be lodged in the lunges leading to lung cancer and heart disease.

The CBC tested 42 arenas throughout Canada. 24% were at levels that could decrease lung capacity. 14% tested at high levels similar to standing next to the busiest highway in the Canada.

The high levels of particle pollution are being attributed to emissions from ice resurfacing machines routinely used to smooth the ice surface.

Kenneth Rundell who runs the human performance lab at Marywood University in Scranton, PA says, “We found ice-rink athletes, all the skating athletes, the figure skaters, the short track speed skaters and the hockey players had a higher prevalence of exercise induced asthma…and their lung function was chronically low.

Proposed solutions for decreasing the level of ultra-fine particulate in arena air include better ventilation and changing ice resurfacing machines to electric rather than running on fossil-fuels.

More a more pertinent "sports-environmental economics" story see:
Env-Econ Blog.

The Future of Coal: MIT team investigate

The following link provides a good overview of the future of coal as an energy source. The China and other developing countries dependent on coal and with China opening up a new coal fired power station weekly the implications for pollution is serious.

This report was written by a multi-disciplinary team from MIT.

The Future of Coal


An interdisciplinary MIT faculty group examined the role of coal in a world where constraints on carbon dioxide emissions are adopted to mitigate global climate change. This follows "The Future of Nuclear Power" which focused on carbon dioxide emissions-free electricity generation from nuclear energy and was published in 2003. This report, the future of coal in a carbon-constrained world, evaluates the technologies and costs associated with the generation of electricity from coal along with those associated with the capture and sequestration of the carbon dioxide produced coal-based power generation. Growing electricity demand in the U.S. and in the world will require increases in all generation options (renewables, coal, and nuclear) in addition to increased efficiency and conservation in its use. Coal will continue to play a significant role in power generation and as such carbon dioxide management from it will become increasingly important. This study, addressed to government, industry and academic leaders, discusses the interrelated technical, economic, environmental and political challenges facing increased coal-based power generation while managing carbon dioxide emissions from this sector.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Research Paper: China's Environment: Problems and Policies

Here is the abstract on a recent World Economy paper.

This will provide update information of the state of China's environmental problems and how economics can help. [Subscription required although most Universitity libraries will have access].


"China's Environment: Problems and Policies"
The World Economy, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 292-307, February

Lancaster University - Management School
Email: a.macbean@lancaster.ac.uk
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=752065

Full Text: http://ssrn.com/abstract=962220

ABSTRACT: Historically, rapid growth has produced environmental destruction. China is no exception. Because of its huge and growing population, 20 years of over nine per cent per annum growth, a history of neglect and adverse geography, China faces crises. Floods devastate in the south while droughts afflict the north. One in three of China's rural people lacks safe drinking water. China suffers air pollution, deforestation, loss of grasslands, and species, erosion, encroaching desert, acid rain, dust storms that engulf cities such as Beijing and can carry far abroad. It has 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.
Environmental degradation grows and China's development is threatened by it. Water shortages have hit industries and factories have been shut by energy crises. The costs of cleaning up the environment will grow still greater if prompt and effective action is not taken. China's government recognises these problems and developed laws and institutions to protect the environment, but at grassroots level they fail to be implemented because local governments value short-term gains in growth and jobs over a better environment. The international community can help, but only China can deal with the problems.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Language Pollution: Western Multinationals to blame

We are late to the party on this subject but it appears that there is a significant debate in China at the moment about the corruption of the Chinese language with Western mobile phone multinationals getting the blame.

This recent article is from Pinyin News and followed up by a blog post in Panda.passport.com

Pollution in China: A point you may have missed

But I recently came across one widely reprinted article that’s a bit more interesting and amusing/alarming/absurd. It has the additional advantage of being about the claims of a member of the PRC’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Here’s the key paragraph:

Chén Duó wěiyuán shuō: “Shǒujī Hànzì shūrù jìshù yīlài wàiguó gōngsī zhìshǎo zàochéng sān dà wèntí. Shǒuxiān, wàiguó gōngsī de Hànzì shūrùfǎ pòhuài le wǒmen shǐyòng Hànyǔ Hànzì de chuántǒng sīwéi xíguàn, dǎozhì Hànwén huà yánghuà, yìhuà, tuìhuà; qícì, wàiguó gōngsī bù zhíxíng wǒguó 27,484 gè zì de qiángzhìxìng biāozhǔn, biānmǎ zì liáng zhǐyǒu 6,763 gè zì, zàochéng Hànzì shǐyòng hùnluàn, Hànzì wénběn xìnxī shīzhēn, yǐngxiǎng guójiā xìnxī ānquán; hái yǒu, Zhōngguó měinián huā jǐ yì yuán gòumǎi wàiguó gōngsī de Hànzì shūrù ruǎnjiàn, yèjiè liǎnmiàn hézài? Hànzì wénhuà de zūnyán, quánwēi bèi zhìyú hédì?”

Committee member Chen Duo said: “The reliance of mobile phones on foreign corporations’ Chinese character input technology creates at least three major problems. First, foreign corporation’s Chinese character input methods are destroying the traditional patterns for thinking about using Chinese characters and are Westernizing Chinese culture, [causing it to be] alienated and degenerate. Next, foreign corporations are not complying with our country’s compulsory standard of 27,484 characters, using instead only 6,763 characters, which wreaks chaos in the use of Chinese characters, distorts Chinese character text messages, and affects national information security. Also, China spends hundreds of millions of yuan every year on Chinese character input software. Where is the self respect of the [domestic] industry? The dignity and prestige of the culture of Chinese characters — where have they been put?

About a week later Liu Naiqiang (刘廼强), another member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, was touting the “fool” (shǎguā) character-input method, whatever that is, and warning against Pinyin.

Martin Durkin to Climate Change Scientists: "You're a big daft c**k"

The "Great Global Warming Swindle" debate took a highly amusing twist today with the leak of an email exchange between the executive producer Martin Durkin and two of the British scientists who questioned the accuracy of the story.

This article also points out the problems with the Channel 4 show that have been previous covered in the post

Debunking the "Great Global Warming Swindle".

Not too much economics in this post but the amusing nature of the insults is enough to qualify as a blog post. This is the full Timesonline acticle. Apologies for the swear words included in this article.

C4’s debate on global warming boils over

Two eminent British scientists who questioned the accuracy of a Channel 4 programme that claimed global warming was an unfounded conspiracy theory have received an expletive-filled tirade from the programme maker.

In an e-mail exchange leaked to The Times, Martin Durkin, the executive producer of The Great Global Warming Swindle, responded to the concerns of Dr Armand Leroi, from Imperial College, and Simon Singh, the respected scientific author, by telling them to “go and f*** yourself”.

The tirade has caused Dr Leroi to withdraw his cooperation from another Channel 4 project with Mr Durkin on race, The Times has learnt.

The programme, broadcast by Channel 4 last Thursday, featured a number of scientists who disputed the consensus on the causes of global warming.

Dr Leroi was particularly concerned about a segment that featured a correlation between solar activity and global temperatures, which was based on a 1991 paper in the journal Science by Eigil Friis-Chris-tensen. He was surprised that the programme failed to mention that while these findings look convincing superficially, they have been revealed as flawed by subsequent research by Peter Laut.

Dr Leroi e-mailed Mr Durkin about his use of data, concluding: “To put this bluntly: the data that you showed in your programme were . . . wrong in several different ways.” He copied Mr Singh into the exchange.

Mr Durkin replied to both later that morning, saying: “You’re a big daft cock.” Less than an hour later, Mr Singh, who has worked for the BBC, intervened to urge Mr Durkin to engage in serious debate. He wrote: “I suspect that you will have upset many people (if Armand is right), so it would be great if you could engage in the debate rather than just resorting to one-line replies. That way we could figure out what went wrong/ right and how do things better/ even better in the future.” Mr Durkin replied nine minutes later: “The BBC is now a force for bigotry and intolerance . . . Since 1940 we have had four decades of cooling, three of warming, and the last decade when temperature has been doing nothing.

“Why have we not heard this in the hours and hours of shit programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC?

“Never mind an irresponsible bit of film-making. Go and f*** yourself.”

Last night Dr Leroi said that he was amazed at the rudeness of Mr Durkin’s reply.

“It was rather a shocking response,” Dr Leroi said. “It was my intention to make a film with Martin Durkin and [the production company] Wag, but that is something I am seriously reconsidering now. I am no climate scientist, but I was very concerned at the way that flaws in these data were brushed over.”

He said that the global warming film had glossed over flaws in data that it used to make its case, and that it was critical that a documentary about a subject as controversial as race and biology did not make similar mistakes.

“As the subject of our proposed film was race, it is such a sensitive topic that it requires great care and great balance. That he has shown so little respect for scientific consensus and such little nuance is a cause for great concern. I cannot imagine it will go ahead now.”

The film would have addressed Dr Leroi’s thesis that race is a biologically meaning-ful and medically valuable concept, a view that is highly controversial among scientists.

Last night Mr Durkin apologised for his langauge. “As far as I was concerned these were private e-mails. They arrived when I was quite tired having just finished the programme in time for transmission,” he said.

“Needless, to say, I regret the use of intemperate language. It is so unlike me. I am very eager to have all the science properly debated with scientists qualified in the right areas and have asked Channel 4 if they will stage a live debate on this subject.”

Where Channel 4 got it wrong over climate change

Claim: Ice core data shows that carbon dioxide levels rise after temperatures go up, not before

Fact: This is correct, but climate scientists have a good explanation. There is a substantial feedback effect – initial small rises in temperature lead to substantial release of carbon dioxide from natural reservoirs in the oceans, which then produce much steeper warming later on

Claim: Temperatures in the troposphere, the lower part of the atmosphere, have not risen as predicted by the models

Fact: This was once the case, but it has been resolved now that initial measurement errors have been corrected

Claim: Temperatures rose for the first part of the century, then cooled for three decades before warming again. There is no link to carbon dioxide

Fact: Temperatures did follow this pattern, but again there is a good explanation. The mid-century effect fall came about chiefly because of sulphate aerosols – particles that have a cooling effect on the atmosphere. These are no longer produced so heavily by industry because of environmental regulations to combat other problems such as acid rain

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jeffery Sachs limps in with a "climate change" rally call

Jeffery Sachs is a well known academic and Professor of Health Policy and Management with a long list of publications including papers in Nature and some good economics journals (and plenty of "average" ones - don't we all).

His "climate change" rally is surprisingly weak but one must remember that this is not his specialist area (which is health, development, poverty orientated). His climate change comments are at best "off the shelf".

What is impressive however is the level of self publicity - other academic economists should hang their heads in shame. His web profile is a very slick operation.
"In 2004 and 2005 he was named among the 100 most influential leaders in the world by Time Magazine"


The following article is from TIME magazine dated 8th March 2007. I suspect the climate change sceptics from the "Great Global Warming Scandal" comments will want a piece of this article (see bold print).

A Climate for Change
When climate-change skeptics mock the fear about a rise of a "few degrees" in temperature, we should remind them of how it feels to have a 103° fever. A few degrees above normal can mean the difference between life and death, species survival and extinction. And a few actions on our part could make the difference between a healthy planet and one that falls into an environmental tailspin. The time has come for action. The earth's future is in our hands.

Many climate shocks have already become more common: powerful hurricanes, droughts, heat waves and blizzards. Much worse will come unless we stabilize the level of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the atmosphere at safe levels. Before the industrial era, CO2 concentration was 280 parts per million (p.p.m.) in the atmosphere. If current trends continue, that could reach 560 p.p.m. by mid-century. Yet because our energy system is so deeply embedded in the world economy--in vehicles, power plants, factories, residences and office buildings--it will take decades to reamp it. So people who care about the future of the planet will need to push for businesses to produce electricity, concrete, steel and plastics in new ways.

Concerned citizens will also have to think globally. The U.S. is about to be overtaken by China as the world's largest emitter of CO2 from energy use. For years we have brushed off the rest of the world as other countries have pleaded for the U.S. to get its house in order. Now as China's CO2 output threatens more intense hurricanes and droughts in the U.S., the tables are turned, and we will certainly want China to control emissions. In fact, since CO2 mixes freely in the atmosphere, every country's climate depends on the whole world's actions. The good news is that global action, if timely and strong, could head off a doubling of CO2 at an annual cost of less than 1% of world income.

The timing for a global agreement is right. In December the U.S. and the rest of the world will begin negotiating a set of standards to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The new rules need to embody certain key realities: all countries must join; the world's power plants, automobile fleets and buildings will have to shift to low-carbon technologies; a world "price" must be charged for emitting carbon into the atmosphere to provide a market incentive for companies and governments to make the changeover. And rich countries must help poor countries get on the low-carbon track by, for example, compensating them for ending the deforestation that leads to carbon emissions as well as a loss of biodiversity.

Earlier this month, the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, which is based at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and includes companies and organizations from all parts of the world, adopted a consensus statement that could serve as a template for an international agreement. Green-technology leaders like General Electric, insurance leaders like Swiss Re, automobile firms like Volvo and innovative Chinese and Indian firms all endorsed it, as did many of the world's prominent scientists.

Now you can join as well. The roundtable invites you to add your signature to show that the citizens of the world yearn for a serious and global agreement, one based on the best science and the interests of our children. By signing on at www.nextgenerationearth.org you can send a powerful message to politicians and business leaders around the globe that climate change is a battle for our common future.

Sachs, author of The End of Poverty, directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University

Monday, March 12, 2007

Debunking "The Great Global Warming Swindle"

Since our original post

"The Great Global Warming Swindle" the programme has aired and now the debunking begins (linked to an earlier post today).

These are three of the best debunking blog attempts. Given the relatively good quality of these posts I think we can draw discussion of this emotive topic to an end.

The Great Global Warming Swindle Questions Answered

Deconstructing Channel 4's Great Global Warming Swindle

The Great Global Warming Swindle

Swindlers (good figures).

Research Paper: The Impact of Sea Level Rise on Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis

One of the key issues in the global warming debate is how to measure the costs (and benefits) of global warming. Whilst there may be some benefits (expounded by Richard Tol and others related to agricultural production, tourism and reductions in cold weather related deaths) the costs are potentially far higher.

However, although sea level rises are assumed to affect developing countries most severely (Bangladesh is the oft cited example) with migration of a massive scale seen as a serious cost there have been few attempts to quantify the issue.
This new paper by the environmental team at the World Bank looks to be an excellent paper worthy of reading.
In this paper, the authors have assessed the consequences of continued SLR for 84
developing countries.

The results reveal that hundreds of millions of people in the developing world are likely to be displaced by SLR within this century, and accompanying economic and ecological damage will be severe for many. At the country level, results are extremely skewed, with severe impacts limited to a relatively small number of countries. For these countries (such as Vietnam, A. R. of Egypt, and The Bahamas), however, the consequences of SLR are potentially catastrophic. For many others, including some of the largest (such as China), the absolute magnitudes of potential impacts are very large.

Hopefully this will be the start of more academic research in this area.

"The Impact of Sea Level Rise on Developing Countries: A
Comparative Analysis"
World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 4136

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)
Email: sdasgupta@worldbank.org
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=55072

Independent Consultant
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=646347

World Bank
Email: c.meisner@cgiar.org
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=410530

Institute for International Economics
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=763142

Independent Consultant
Auth-Page: http://ssrn.com/author=753704

Full Text: http://ssrn.com/abstract=962790
ABSTRACT: Sea level rise (SLR) due to climate change is a serious
global threat. The scientific evidence is now overwhelming.
Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions and associated
global warming could well promote SLR of 1m-3m in this century,
and unexpectedly rapid breakup of the Greenland and West
Antarctic ice sheets might produce a 5m SLR. In this paper, the
authors have assessed the consequences of continued SLR for 84
developing countries.
Geographic Information System (GIS)
software has been used to overlay the best available,
spatially-disaggregated global data on critical impact elements
(land, population, agriculture, urban extent, wetlands, and GDP)
with the inundation zones projected for 1-5m SLR. The results
reveal that hundreds of millions of people in the developing
world are likely to be displaced by SLR within this century, and
accompanying economic and ecological damage will be severe for
many. At the country level, results are extremely skewed, with
severe impacts limited to a relatively small number of countries.
For these countries (such as Vietnam, A. R. of Egypt, and The
Bahamas), however, the consequences of SLR are potentially
catastrophic. For many others, including some of the largest
(such as China), the absolute magnitudes of potential impacts are
very large. At the other extreme, many developing countries
experience limited impacts. Among regions, East Asia and the
Middle East and North Africa exhibit the greatest relative
impacts. To date, there is little evidence that the international
community has seriously considered the implications of SLR for
population location and infrastructure planning in developing
countries. The authors hope that the information provided in this
paper will encourage immediate planning for adaptation.

The Great Global Warming Swindle: The Fightback

Since our original post on this blog previewing the "Global Warming Swindle" television programme on channel 4 last week HERE we have had many interesting comments with each side taking predictable positions.

Aside from the general sniping some good points were raised. On a academic level we held an Academic Workshop on Friday called

"The Economics of the Stern Review"

that included speakers involved in the writing of the report (directly and indirectly) Dimitri Zenghelis (HM Treasury) and Dennis Anderson (Imperial College London) as well as some of it critics, Richard Tol (Economic and Social Research Institute Dublin) and David Maddison (University of Birmingham). The middle ground was covered by Cameron Hepburn (University of Oxford) who gave an excellent talk on discounting as well as expertly bridging both sides of the argument.

Liks to the presentations will be available on this blog soon.

Returning to the "Great Global Warming Swindle" it was clear that an agenda was being followed although some of the issues were covered in Friday's workshop.

It is interesting however, that the press backlash has started. The Independent on Sunday ran the following article:

Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4

This expert in oceanography quoted in last week's debunking of the Gore green theory says he was 'seriously misrepresented'

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Published: 11 March 2007

It was the television programme that set out to show that most of the world's climate scientists are misleading us when they say humanity is heating up the Earth by emitting carbon dioxide. And The Great Global Warming Swindle, screened by Channel 4 on Thursday night, convinced many viewers that it is indeed untrue that the gas is to blame for global warming.

But now the programme - and the channel - is facing a serious challenge to its own credibility after one of the most distinguished scientists that it featured said his views had been "grossly distorted" by the film, and made it clear that he believed human pollution did warm the climate.

Professor Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said he had been "completely misrepresented" by the programme, and "totally misled" on its content. He added that he is considering making a formal complaint.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "The film was a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired. If one of the contributors has concerns about his contribution we will look into that."

Any complaint would provoke a crisis at Channel 4, now recovering from the Jade Goody Big Brother storm. It had to make a rare public apology after the Independent Television Commission convicted previous programmes on environmental issues by the same film-maker, Martin Durkin, of similar offences - and is already facing questions on why it accepted another programme from him.

The commission found that the editing of interviews with four contributors to a series called Against Nature had "distorted or misrepresented their known views".

Professor Wunsch said: "I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."

When told what the commission had found, he said: "That is what happened to me." He said he believes it is "an almost inescapable conclusion" that "if man adds excess CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm".

He went on: "The movie was terrible propaganda. It is characteristic of propaganda that you take an area where there is legitimate dispute and you claim straight out that people who disagree with you are swindlers. That is what the film does in any area where some things are subject to argument."

Mr Durkin last night said that Professor Wunsch was "most certainly not duped into appearing into the programme" and that it "had not in any way misrepresented what he said".

Before the programme was shown, the IoS asked Channel 4 why it had commissioned another film from Mr Durkin and, further, whether it was making any special checks on its accuracy.

A spokesman said the programme made by Mr Durkin for which it had had to apologise was a decade old, adding: "We treat Martin as any other film-maker."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Asian Air Pollution and Pacific Storms

Another quick cross-boundary pollution story. Impressive research...

Asian Pollution Affects Pacific Storms
WASHINGTON -- Pollution from Asia is helping generate stronger storms over the North Pacific, according to new research. Changes in the North Pacific storm track could have an impact on weather across the Northern Hemisphere. Satellite measurements have shown an increase in tiny particles generated from coal burning in China and India in recent decades, researchers report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team, led by Renyi Zhang of Texas A&M University, studied pollution and clouds between 1984 and 2005, concluding that increasing particles enhanced the cloud updraft to generate more intense thunderstorms than previously.

Comparing 1984-1994 with 1994-2005 they found an increase of 20 percent to 50 percent in deep convective clouds.

The Pacific storm track, they noted, plays a critical role in global atmospheric circulation, and altering this weather pattern could have a significant impact on the climate.

"The intensified storms over the Pacific in winter are climatically significant," the researchers wrote. "The intensified Pacific storm track can also impact the global general circulation."

A particular threat, they added, is the potential for increased warming of polar regions.

Hong Kong Pollution: 4 deaths a day

An interesting post from Chinadialogue:

Hong Kong: how to breathe easier

The economics for Hong Kong to grapple with are:
Skilled professionals were already departing Hong Kong because of the heavy pollution, the bank said, and more will surely follow.

What are the health implications and economic costs of these illnesses?
Pollution is a major cause of illness in Hong Kong. Every year, pollution is the cause of around 1,600 deaths (four per day), 64,200 hospital admissions (176 per day) and 6,811,960 doctor visits (18,600 per day). These serious health effects result in annual community losses of over HK$2 billion (around US$255 million) in direct health care costs and productivity losses, and HK$19 billion (around US$2.5 billion) in further costs arising from pain, suffering and personal loss.

The question then is just how bad is air pollution in Hong Kong?
Street-level air quality regularly falls short of the government’s Air Quality Objectives (AQOs), and even further short of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines. For example, on 19 and 20 November 2006, roadside levels of respirable suspended particulates (RSPs – equivalent to PM10) exceeded the WHO guidelines by at least 300%. Since millions of people in Hong Kong live and work in close proximity to busy roads, this presents a major health risk to city residents. Studies by local public health experts have found that these roadside pollution levels are responsible for 90,000 hospital admissions and 2,800 premature deaths every year.

Declining regional air quality means visibility has also decreased dramatically. In 2004, low visibility occurred 18% of the time – the highest on record, according to the Hong Kong observatory.

The most problematic air pollutants in the region, besides RSPs, are ozone and nitrogen dioxide. But what are the sources of this pollution?

Most of Hong Kong’s power is generated by burning coal. In fact, electricity generation produces half of Hong Kong’s total emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulates, and 92% of its total sulphur dioxide emissions. Most local power stations do not yet have flue gas desulphurisation, although equipment is being installed and the government has required that all new generation capacity should come from natural gas.

Hong Kong’s roads are also the most crowded in the world, with almost 280 vehicles for every kilometre of road. The city’s vehicle fleet is dominated by heavily polluting, ageing goods vehicles, most of which run between the city and the Pearl River Delta. Diesel commercial vehicles are responsible 90% of RSPs and 80% of nitrogen dioxide emissions from the entire road transport sector, despite making up only 23% of the vehicle fleet. Double-decker diesel buses and a steadily growing fleet of private cars have also added to congestion and pollution.

Recent studies have shown that although emissions from marine vessels make up a relatively small proportion of total emissions, they affect dense population centres on the Kowloon peninsula, where container terminals are located, and so have a significant public health impact. Bunker fuel is highly polluting, and these terminals function 24 hours a day.

But Hong Kong’s air quality not only suffers from severe local air pollution generated by the city itself, but also regional smog – pollution that arises from the industry of the Pearl River Delta area.

So the answer is "pretty bad".

Solutions? According to Civic Exchange (the CEO of which wrote the article) the answer is:
1. Increase local regulations on air quality.
2. Encourage more fuel efficient cars.
3. Reduce emissions from port activities.
4. Speak to China to reduce regional pollution.

Not rocket science but always good to raise these issues in the media.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bill McKibben on Global Warming

A good summary article on IPCC and global warming in general:

The UN climate-change panel’s new report is an opaque, conservative and nonpolitical document. Bill McKibben sums up its stark message: quick, deep cuts in fossil-fuel emissions are needed immediately.

For full text see ChinaDialogue

Does this conclusion offer hope that the US is ready to act?
The only really encouraging development is the groundswell of public concern that has built over the last year, beginning with the reaction to Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore’s movie. In January 2007, a few of us launched an initiative called stepitup07.org. It calls for Americans to organise rallies in their own communities on April 14 asking for congressional action. In the first few weeks the website was open, more than six-hundred groups in forty-six states registered to hold demonstrations -- this will clearly be the largest organised response to global warming yet in the United States. The groups range from environmental outfits to evangelical churches to college sororities, united only by the visceral sense (fueled in part by this winter’s bizarre weather) that the planet has been knocked out of whack. The IPCC assessment offers a modest account of just how far out of whack it is -- and just how hard we’re going to have to work to have even a chance at limiting the damage.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

On Thursday 8th March 2007 at 9pm in the UK, Channel 4 will show a documentary called "The Great Global Warming Swindle".

TV Schedule

The Great Global Warming Swindle
Polemical film challenging the consensus that man-made CO2 is heating up the earth. Featuring leading academics, the film questions the science behind the accepted reasons for global warming and argues other explanations for climate change are not being properly aired.

George Monbiot has a good piece dated 30th Jan. 2007 that discusses this programme (and other things - I have picked out the bits relevant to this program).

Another Species of Denial
A company called WAG TV is currently completing a 90-minute documentary for Channel 4 called “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. Manmade climate change, the channel tells us, is “a lie … the biggest scam of modern times. The truth is that Global Warming is a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media. ... The fact is that CO2 has no proven link to global temperatures … solar activity is far more likely to be the culprit.”(10)

So it’s the same old conspiracy theory that we’ve been hearing from the denial industry for the past ten years, and it carries as much scientific weight as the contention that the Twin Towers were brought down by missiles. The programme’s thesis revolves around the deniers’ favourite canard: that the “hockey-stick graph” showing rising global temperatures is based on a statistical mistake made in a paper by the scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes(11). What it will not be showing is that their results have now been repeated several times by other scientists using different statistical methods(12); that the paper claiming to have exposed the mistake has been comprehensively debunked(13) and that the lines of evidence used by Mann, Bradley and Hughes are just a few among hundreds demonstrating that 20th century temperatures were anomalous.

The decision to commission this programme seems even odder when you discover who is making it. In 1997, the director, Martin Durkin, produced a very similar series for Channel 4 called “Against Nature”, which also maintained that global warming was a scam dreamt up by environmentalists. It was riddled with hilarious scientific howlers. More damagingly, the only way in which Durkin could sustain his thesis was to deceive the people he interviewed and to edit their answers to change their meaning. Following complaints by his interviewees, the Independent Television Commission found that “the views of the four complainants, as made clear to the interviewer, had been distorted by selective editing” and that they had been “misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they agreed to take part.”(14) Channel 4 was obliged to broadcast one of the most humiliating primetime apologies it has ever made. Are institutional memories really so short?

So now the whole weary business of pointing out that the evidence against manmade climate change is sparse and unable to withstand critical scrutiny while the evidence in favour is overwhelming and repeatedly confirmed must begin all over again. How often do scientists have to remind the media that a handful of cherry-picked studies does not amount to the refutation of an entire discipline?

Dominic Lawson also discusses the program from a sceptics perspective in today's Independent.

Dominic Lawson: Here is another inconvenient truth (but this one will infuriate the Green lobby)

The article ends:
Even if you don't buy that, you should definitely watch the programme, if only to see the head of the International Arctic Research Centre, Syun-Ichi Akasofu, describe how "the Arctic has always been expanding and contracting ... the press come here all the time and ask us: will you say something about the Greenhouse disaster? And I say: there is none."

Then Dr Akasofu emits a tiny laugh - the laugh of a true scientist at the idiocy and hysteria of the world's media and politicians

For Debunking the "The Great Global Warming Swindle" two follow up posts on this blog are:

Debunking "The Great Global Warming Swindle" and
The Great Global Warming Swindle: The Fightback

The "Great Global Warming Swindle" debate took a highly amusing twist today with the leak of an email exchange between the executive producer Martin Durkin and two of the British scientists who questioned the accuracy of the story.

Martin Durkin to Climate Change Scientists: "You're a big daft cock"


New Durkin update (March 20th 2007).
It's a Swindle: Durkin Wiggles, Channel 4 runs

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Resources for the Future 50% off books

Thanks to the env-econ.net guys for the pointer:

Resources for the Future (RFF) are offering 50% off books bought in the next 15 days.

Greetings from RFF Press!

In celebration of Earth Day, we are pleased to announce a promotional discount of 50% off our books, valid from March 1 - April 15.

Please use the special discount code, EDA, while shopping online at www.rffpress.org. You may also order via phone – (410)516-6965 or 1-800-537-5487, by faxing our order form to (410)516-6998, or through e-mail at rffpress@ff.org.

Thank you, and happy Earth Day!

There are some good texts available although too many books on agriculture for my liking - a peculiar US academic trait. How do they sustain so many "Agricultural departments and so many agricultural economists (writing so many books)"? The UK has virtually none left and agriculture's contribution to GDP shrinks every year as I am sure it does in the US.

A couple of books that look interesting and that I should buy (especially if they are half price :-) include:

Reality Check: The Nature and Performance of Voluntary Environmental Programs in the United States, Europe, and Japan by Richard D. Morgenstern and William A. Pizer, Editors. With a promotion VIDEO!

The RFF Reader in Environmental and Resource Policy, 2nd Edition
Wallace E. Oates, editor.

Small Firms and the Environment in Developing Countries Collective Impacts, Collective Action, Allen Blackman, Editor

Environmental and Resource Economics in the World of the Poor, Partha Dasgupta

There are so many books I gave up after authors beginning with "G". Happy hunting.


Climate Change: Developing Nations Hit Back

Developing Nations Hit Back on Climate Change
ROME - Developing countries, including emerging economic giants China and India, are not prepared to take the blame for climate change, the head of the G77 group of developing nations said on Tuesday. Some countries in Europe and North America want developing countries to accept limits on their emissions of greenhouse gases when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012, but the G77 looks likely to oppose that.

"Most environmental degradation that's happened has been historically caused by the industrial world," said Munir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations and chairman of the G77 group in New York.

"China, India and others are at the stage where they are now taking off and it's quite natural that their emissions of carbon are increasing," he told a news conference after a two-day meeting of G77 diplomats in Rome.

"There's a sort of propaganda effort to try to shift the blame for environmental degradation on to these fast-growing economies, and the motives are not very well disguised."

Whilst this may all be true it does not help us get closer to a solution. Only when climate change impacts heavily on the economies of the developing countries will action be taken. Given China and India may be the two of the worst effected countries we may not have to wait too long.

I read that China in one year added power generating capactity equal to that of the entire UK, 90% of which is from coal. That is a scary statistic if true.

There is a long way to go.