Economists Unconcerned

Economist Richard Tol, for one, is unconcerned: “that carbon bubble nonsense again”.

And economist Bjorn Lomborg shrugs it all off: “Over the next 200 years, #GlobalWarming will constitute a loss of about 1.5% of global GDP. Not the end of the world.” How confident can we be in such an estimate?


  1. The next round:

    Richard Tol ‏@RichardTol
    @paulgbaer Reread that sentence and think.

    Paul Baer
    @RichardTol Reread my sentences and think too. There are some hidden premises, but the obvious conclusion is there MAY be a HUGE bubble.

    Paul Baer ‏@paulgbaer
    @RichardTol PS would you like to debate the carbon bubble, say at Planet3.0 or a blog of your choice?

  2. I hope Richard Tol does come here to discuss this and I look forward to reading his blog post. I've seen some genuinely interesting stuff from him - the sort of challenge I hope for from Planet3.0. Naively, perhaps, I can't see how there isn't at least the possibility, if not probability, of a carbon bubble.

    As to Lomborg, given this:
    We need to stop claiming that global warming will be the end of the world. Just like it is silly claiming there is no man-made global warming, it is indefensible to proclaim it as the biggest calamity of the 21st century.
    I don't think we can have much confidence in anything coming from him. Is there a more interesting source of commentary on Nordhaus?

  3. Tol has indeed agreed to "debate" the carbon bubble question and has said he will send me a blog posting.

    I'm not sure which Nordhaus you're looking for commentary on, but I've commented on his work a fair bit in my day and can respond if there's a specific point/question he raises that you're interested in.

  4. Yep, that's what economists do. They assume growth and work from there. I sometimes get grief for questioning the assumption, regardless of whether the assumption is sound, because I lack credentials to talk about it.

  5. So that's why you were so quick to credential the uncredentialed Lomborg, although I suppose you would have been scraping the bottom of the barrel anyway to make the two-economist narrative work.

  6. Oh please. Lomborg looks good on TV and makes a good living providing a foil for climate scientists. I used to argue with my friends who said these middle of the roaders were worse than deniers, but their plausibility provides a nice resting place for people to ignore problems. Just last week he appeared in Congress with Judith Curry and Bill Chameides, and on HuffPost with Mike Mann et al.

    Here's a good resource:
    which leads to this:

    Sharon Begley did a review of Friel's debunking at Newsweek which is now posted at the DailyBeast:

    In naming roustabout, lumberjack, ironworker, and dairy farmer America's “worst jobs,” omitted one whose awfulness is counterbalanced only by its public-spiritedness: fact-checking Bjørn Lomborg.

    Now I realize you're credentialing him as an economist, but the criticisms above seem to apply. A guy who is makes a good living claiming expertise and doesn't back down no matter how clear it is he's wrong doesn't seem like a good candidate for "he'll do." This seems even sloppier than my leap-in-where-angels-fear-to-tread impersonation.

  7. Let me clarify, since this isn't really an issue of vernacular. Apparently I was unclear.

    I think Lomborg is close enough to an economist to represent the most influential stream of economics. That is intended more as critical of economics than as complimentary to Lomborg.

  8. Speaking of Lomborg's guest appearance in Congress, we just finished an interesting discussion at Judy's. It starts with Bart R's comment:

    Under, “The most important policy-­relevant issues facing decision-­‐makers”:

    “It is important to realize that economic models show that the overall impact of a moderate warming (1–‐2oC) will be beneficial whereas higher temperatures expected towards the end of the century will have a negative net impact. Thus, as indicated in Figure 1, global warming is a net benefit now and will likely stay so till about 2070, after which it will turn into a net cost.”

    One would hope were these acutally the most important issues, Dr. (of Public Administration) Lomborg of Denmark would want to get his facts right, so we know he would appreciate being informed of some glaring errors and omissions in his prepared notes.

    1. Dr. Nordhaus has specifically, pointedly and emphatically asserted in public that Dr. Lomborg’s use of DICE is incorrect, that the claims of current net benefits are completely false, and that Dr. Lomborg is attempting to apply principles of cost-benefit analyses with inappropriate tools. As Dr. Nordhaus crafted the tools, one would hope Dr. Lomborg has by now made appropriate adjustments to his notes and won’t be in the position of committing scientific fraud (Economics is still a science, right?) in front of a committee of Congress.

    2. Dr. Lomborg’s remarks about carbon tax are wildly inaccurate. We have seen the exact opposite of what he asserts wherever carbon taxes have been implemented, and Dr. Lomborg ought, as a Dr. of Public Administration, know this. Further, Dr. Lomborg specifically excludes from his examination the most relevant models of pricing carbon, those currently being studied by lawmakers in the USA, of fee and dividend, which will have all the benefits these notes say do not exist, and not a single one of the drawbacks. One is certain Dr. Lomborg would want a chance to correct these mistakes before speaking in the morning.

    3. Dr. Lomborg’s managed-economy conclusions might apply to a tiny state like Cuba or Denmark with a long history of Communism or Socialism and a taste for tyrannical control of all decisions by a politburo, but for America, one must believe the values enshrined in the US Constitution would make his recommendations antithetical. Also, they’re by far the most expensive and least effectual proposals anyone has seriously set forward. One hopes Dr. Lomborg does not commit this faux pas.

    A commenter jumped at Bart R's throat, saying:

    > A pile of unsubstantiated assertions about what Nordhaus is supposed to have said about Lomborg’s statements. Each assertion needs to be substantiated or withdrawn. Without substantiation I will assume they are all Bart R’s assertions, not Nordhaus’s criticisms of Lomborg’s statements

    Since this commenter always react that way when Nordhaus' name is mentioned, I made the prediction that he will appear. The comment above appeared while I was posting my prediction.


    The conversation that follows is a bit long. But in any case I now have a better idea of Lomborg's gig. It's quite clear that the economist head of the Copenhagen Consensus (!) is Tol, and that Lomborg is the talking head.

  9. It's kind of nauseating, as an indication of the nonsense and noise of it all, that Lomborg's first footnote is a reference to a figure in a paper that *also* happens to contain a passage accusing Lomborg of engaging in "deliberate deception."

    Presumably that was *not* the point Lomborg was trying to establish by citing that paper. The paper is authored by, among others, Tol and was published in a book edited by Lomborg.

    Lomborg links to a manuscript version of that paper (his link didn't work for me, but a version of the paper is available on the CC site). The manuscript version is a little bit different from the book version.

    In the book version (edited by Lomborg), Tol and his co-authors label Lomborg's actions "deliberate deception." The relevant pages are available via Amazon's "search inside this book" tool.

    On the other hand, I assume he probably had a crafty response on hand, and he was maybe even a bit disappointed that no one at the hearing asked him what Tol and (/or?) the others might have meant by that label.

  10. I have to admit that finding this titbit in a comment at DotEarth where I hang out in the face of much frustation left me with no desire whatsoever to explore the unwisdom of Richard Tol any further:

    "Bubbles are being blown, for sure, but rather by the researchers making up fantastical claims-"

    and concludes with-

    "In sum, there is no carbon bubble. If there were a carbon bubble, it would not be about to burst. If it would burst, the economic impact would be minimal."

    Richard Tol also tweets a tough challenge for climasticians-

    "Just reviewed stats paper for J Climate. Climatologists are clowns among statisticians."

    There is so much wrong in these brief excerpts that it is hard to know where to begin, but I feel I'm done before I begin with unwisdom of this high an order.

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