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.