Tomorrow ~ Global cooperation

Earth

By Paul Quigg, columnist

So much for the good news, let’s get back to the juicy bad news. Just kidding. Maybe.

The question concerns the relationship between the cost of mitigation, which is local, regional, or national, and the avoidance of climate change, which is global and international. This structure of local costs and global consequences leads to a strong incentive to “cheat” and “free rid.” Each country has little incentive to abate unless everyone else does. The early costs are high and at the same time results are low. Later in the abatement cycle costs are low and the results are high, but the damage may already have been done.

When this situation is analyzed using “game theory”, balance can only result when no player can find a strategy to improve his payoff. This does not rule out any climate change mitigation, but it implies that countries take action only to the extent that they themselves benefit and the benefits of the rest of the world are ignored. This finding results in countries having a strong incentive to cheat on strong action as compliance is far too complex to enforce adequately.

The Stern Review, an official document of the British Government, takes a strange position on the question of global cooperation. I quote directly from the report: “Different strategies for climate change will yield different patterns of consumption over time. We assume that a choice between strategies will depend on the consequences for households now and in the future. The households to be included and weighted in this weighting of consequences will depend on the perspective of those making the judgments.”

We assume here that the assessment is done from the world as a whole.

Here we have the ASSUMPTION that global cooperation will be secured. No justification and no explanation concerning its probability. This assumption throws the remainder of the Review out the window when the basic concern of global cooperation is glibly assumed. I understand that in scientific papers assumptions must be made and explored for validity, but a Review of this sort is a comprehensive best-case assessment of the current knowledge. 

Next, we have, “Narrower perspectives would include, for example, only those households associated with a particular country or region and follow similar reasoning except that the net benefits would be assessed for a narrower group.”

If all of the perspectives are from narrow groups, one country, or just the next one or two generations, it is likely that little action would be taken on global warming. As is emphasized throughout this Review, this is a global and long-range issue.

Why does this narrow perspective sentence appear immediately after the assumption bit? It contradicts everything the Review is trying to say, and the idea is never mentioned in the rest of the Review.

Climate change explanations are a mass of contradictions, lies, and misleading information from both the left and the right, pro and con. The subject is so complicated and unsettled that activists on both sides of the issue can get away with saying anything. Special interests are actively exploiting every avenue to their own advantage and profit.

Be very skeptical of everything you read on the subject.

Mr. Quigg, a University of Virginia graduate and resident of Luray, has practiced architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1962. As a lifelong environmentalist, in the 70’s he was appalled at the polluted air and water and has dedicated much of his time since in studying and commenting on the environment. He has been published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. 

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13 Comments

  1. I’m not up on the Stern review you bring up, Paul. But looking for it online, I see that what you’re referring to now must be the recent reassessment of that 2006 analysis of the economics of climate change. Is that correct?

    International cooperation is, and will be, enormously difficult to pull off; I don’t think anyone doubts that. But do we have a glass half full here, perhaps? Do all the bureaucratic dealings actually mean something, as much as we might sometimes deplore them as simply evading action?

    I don’t know the answer. I find it encouraging, though, that the UN realizes there’s a big danger of countries trying to appear to be effective partners in this common struggle, while in fact exaggerating progress, fudging numbers, and using poor science. So COP 26 featured emphasis on “enhanced transparency framework”–countries need to use similar criteria and metrics to help make claimed progress verifiable.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “climate change explanations” in the context of the economics discussion. Are you pivoting to criticize the science? I’m wondering because one thing I DO find to be clear about the subject is the basic explanation of how climate change is produced. That is one area that’s not really as complicated as some claim. “Too complex to be understood” leads to more business as usual.

    • Will, I recently moved which accounts for the slow response.
      I am not aware of the Stern reassessment.
      I am skeptical of quite a bit of the science. Scientists live and die based on the number of their studies that are published. Editors want their articles to be read and commented on. Readers are looking for bad news, and 9 out of 10 climate change articles are negative.
      I firmly believe the burning of fossil fuels is the main contributor to the rising temperature.

  2. Climate watch: The West’s Irrelevance

    “Since President George H.W. Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro,” for “every ton of carbon dioxide the West cut, the rest of the world emitted an extra four,” observes Rupert Darwall at Spectator World. Indeed, since 1992, the West’s share of emissions has gone from 63% to 33.5% — while China’s emissions tripled and its share spiked from 12% to 31%. “The math is inescapable: what America and the West do is of diminishing relevance to global emissions and therefore to future global temperatures.” But “Democrats and their supporters do not accept this reality.” Instead, Dems keep passing legislation, like the Inflation Reduction Act, “that does nothing for the climate but inflicts immense harm on the economy and America’s strategic position in an increasingly perilous world.”

    • Just, Your numbers are basically correct and they continue to improve, however, the west contributed most of the early increase in CO2 concentrations and I believe the west has a continuing obligation to reduce global emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act may show a small reduction in CO2 concentrations in 30 to 40 years due to the tremendous inertia in the energy sector.

      • I agree with your comment on the U S. responsibility, Paul, and would go further in saying that, considering our lead in historic emissions and the size of our economy, we have not been a world leader in curtailing carbon pollution. Trump withdrawing us from Paris was a recent regression, but the record before that was bleak as well.

  3. There was a relook at the Stern assessment, which was due because a 2006 document might be badly outdated at this point.

    You don’t give examples of the skullduggery (not too strong a word,is it?) that you allege. If you’re implying that the IPCC’s assessments are riven with bias and actual dishonesty, I strongly disagree. What you seem to be targeting are journalist articles that may use new findings in a way that slants towards the worst scenario. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but to claim that some such examples are characteristic of the actual science that is coming out, seems to me unwarranted, as well as vaguely conspiracy-minded.

    • Will, The climate change discussion is primarily skullduggery, both pro, and con. The IPCC is a political organization with no interest in finding anything positive in defense of a warming climate. If you look at the publication procedures for IPCC findings you will find that “EVERY” report must have numerous social considerations, with ever-increasing social considerations as the process moves along.
      I think they firmly believe in a “catastrophic” future and are not blatantly dishonest in their minds. In fact, they so firmly believe in their position, they justify tweaking their findings toward catastrophe.
      After 50-plus years of catastrophic forecasting as the human condition vastly improved I feel justified in condemning the “doomsday crowd” with no apologies.

      • Paul, it’s reasonable to assume that there is a “negative news bias” hardwired in our brains. Our disagreement has to do with whether, despite that truth, there are times when it’s unwise to discount evidence that conserving or extending gains in human well-being requires us to take action in the present. That essentially is what the IPCC has been saying all these years. The word “catastrophe” is your characterization of what they’re saying. But a close look shows that they give a range of possible outcomes–none of them good, as it turns out, but not employing this word “catastrophe.” What else do you expect them to do, given the data? It’s a very serious charge to allege that they manipulate or fabricate data, if that’s what you’re stating. As you know, the IPCC isn’t a research body; it only synthesizes research from all over the world. So thousands of researchers are in on a scam of sorts?

        My suggestion would be to wipe “catastrophe” from our minds. It’s an emotionally laden word that only gets in the way of clear thinking.

        I know you’re not saying that we should do nothing about climate change. But if I may say so, your position has always struck me as puzzling. You’re not a climate change denialist, but you’re such a strong skeptic about the people who have established the very theory that you accept, that I wonder how those two parts can be reconciled.

        Would it satisfy you if every IPCC report came with a disclaimer, to the effect that combustion has enabled humanity to become more prosperous and happy, but that fossil fuels now must be seen as too much of a good thing?

        Thanks for engaging.

    • Robert, Having failed to lower the cost of wind and solar they have pushed to raise the cost of fossil fuels to get comperable results. This is the precicely the wrong way to solve the green energy problem.

      • It seems that every source of information reports very impressive decreases in the cost of our main two renewables. Do you have a source that says otherwise?

        Who is the “they” pushing up gas prices? It isn’t, surely, the people talking ” climate change bs.” Look to a certain virus and Russian imperialism, primarily, to find culprits.

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