Arnold Kling  

More on Weitzman and Global Warming

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My latest essay:


Weitzman implicitly shares my concern with climate models. Obviously, we have nothing to worry about if the models are too pessimistic. If it turns out that over the next decade global temperatures edge down, or rise more slowly than the models predict, then we will be relieved.

The troublesome possibility is that the models are not pessimistic enough. In fact, Weitzman would argue, and I concur, that the case for doing something today about global warming rests on the fear of the scenario of accelerated near-term climate change -- increases in temperature at a rate that is on the high end of the range being forecast by climate models.

The ideal approach would be a "just-in-case" climate-change mitigation plan. If global warming stays at or under current baseline projections, we probably would do best to simply just adapt. However, if global warming accelerates, we would want to take strong steps to counteract it.


See also this forum in the Financial Times. Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Matt writes:

'The ideal approach would be a "just-in-case" climate-change mitigation plan."

Arnold? Do you mean an expansion of government executive power over property rights? Quit hanging around the conservatives!

The Amish community is a test case. This group has been self-reliant and purposefully off the fossil fuel grid for 200 years.

If anyone can show damage from a .77 deg temp rise and more storms; it would be the Amish. They need to sue.

Libertarians push property rights, and libertarians want the Amish to sue, not because we think damages are huge, or small; but because lawsuits adjust the claim as the problem develops.

Unlike the conservatives, our philosophy works for problems large and small. Conservatives will eventually cheat and expand government power to find monetary releif for the fossil fuel industry.

The case for a lawsuit is simple, co2 levels are at a 20 million year high, and 30% above the holocene standard. Certainly probable cause for which a judge and jury should consider.

aaron writes:

What do we do if it get's colder? It seems to me that it is much easier to adapt to warming than it would be to cooling. The thing is that the climate is both more choatic and dynamic than we realize. There are too many natural mechanisms that we don't understand which may mitigate, offset, counteract, or compound our effect on warming. Assuming the status quo seems silly. We have no reason to expect temps to continue to rise. AGW can only be attributed to .06C of the .57C recent temperature increase. We simply know too little. The science doesn't merit the policy.

Biopolitical writes:

If we want to insure against catastrophes then perhaps addressing greenhouse gas emissions is not the top priority. Is catastrophic global warming due to greenhouse gases more dangerous and more probable than other potential catastrophes? What about the risk of creating institutions that cripple our capacity to respond to unexpected catastrophes, disasters, or just gradual changes, once they occur?

aaron writes:

I can't find the source now, but yesterday I read something that said following ice ages, there can be rapid temperature increase, like 8C in under 40 years. I find it highly unlikely these are driven by GHGs. Anyway, we are at a peak of solar activity, unprecedented in over 11,400 years. I have no idea how long it will last or how quickly it can change, and I don't believe anyone else does. Also, I believe high solar output is usually follow by low solar radiation as well.

aaron writes:

Hehe, has anyone investigated the possibility of triggering volcanic eruptions?

Fundamentalist writes:

Weitzman implicitly shares my concern with climate models.

Arnold and Weitzman appear concerned only with the accuracy of the climate models, in which case a "just in case" policy would be a good idea. But I'm concerned with the assumptions of the model, the primary one being that CO2 causes global warming. I think the evidence is much greater that something else, such as the sun, causes both the warming and the increase in CO2. Also, I heard on the radio this morning a story about how seismic activity under the oceans is causing them to warm and give off greater amounts of water vapor and CO2. Water vapor and methane contribute far more to trapping heat than does CO2.

aaron writes:

And, as I wrote in the economist blog comments, the insurance approach would be to save and invest so that resources are availible should they become needed, not to recklessly spend on insignificant and ineffective countermeasures.

aaron writes:

Does your insurance company give you discount for not using your gas fireplace? Will using your gas range less often reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or explosion. Maybe of fire, but what other dangers are you exposed to by eating out (driving, etc)?

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