Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can 144 environmental economists be wrong?

The Institute for Policy Integrity recently released results on their survey of economists on climate change. I was invited on the back on a 2005 JEEM article I think.

I originally wrote a long post explaining why I would not participate because of what I perceived to be a set of fundamentally flawed questions. I removed this post at the request of the survey designers so as not to bias the results (if by some small chance any of the other invitees read this blog - a long shot).

The env-econ boys cover the story HERE. They are rightly skeptical without going into detail ;-)

Surprisingly they don't take the opportunity to bask in the glory of a citation in the report itself. Surely they read it right? Here it is. I think I actually did this one.

Second, some short, informal polls have been conducted, typically via
the internet. For example, John Whitehead and Tim Habb have hosted opinion polls on their Environmental Economics weblog. In a survey conducted June‐July 2009, Whitehead and Habb asked whether respondents would prefer a carbon tax or a cap‐and‐trade method (of 203 results, 55% preferred a tax, and 35% preferred capand‐trade). Their survey was e‐mailed out to 1,133 economists, and was also posted online (respondents were asked to identify themselves as economists).

Economists & Climate Change [PDF]

The report also includes a number of the points I raised:

Nevertheless, several respondents expressed concerns about the survey. The first concern was that the questions were too focused on the United States. As one economist who refused to participate put it, “you are not picking up the bigger picture” of the impacts of climate change on other economies. Several respondents argued that the questions were too simple to accurately capture the complexity of climate change or that specific questions could not be answered. When asked about the social cost of carbon, one respondent replied: “No one knows, including me.” These responses reflect the great deal of uncertainty regarding some of the issues considered in this survey. There was also concern that the wording of our questions was too conservative and would lead us to the false conclusion— based purely on “the way the questions are written”—that “economists say climate change is not a problem.” While we appreciate and acknowledge such concerns, we believe the results of our survey are valid and useful.

The bottom line is that I just don't believe the results - the huge variance in some of the results is evidence enough. However, the report makes for some interesting reading.

I could pick apart each question but will leave it to the reader to do so.


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