William Niskanen on Climate Change: Part III, Moderate Warming Scenario

[Editor notePart I presented the key questions regarding the climate-change issue from William Niskanen’s Fall 1997 symposium essay, “Too Much, Too Soon: Is a Global Warming Treaty a Rush to Judgment?.” Part II was Niskanen’s views on How Good is the Science of Global Warming? Part III today is his views on Should We Fear Some Moderate Warming?]

“On the whole, it is not yet clear whether some moderate warming should be a cause for concern. The balance of conditions suggests that moderate warming may generate net benefits to people in temperate regions and net costs to people in the tropics.”

“As now envisioned, however, the major costs of the measures presumed necessary to avoid global warming would be borne by people in the rich countries of temperate regions. In that case, a global warming treaty should be considered an instrument of international wealth redistribution and should be evaluated on that basis” [emphasis added].

 – William Niskanen, 2008

Suppose scientists are correct that a continued increase in carbon dioxide concentration will increase the average global temperature by one to several degrees Celsius by the end of the next century.  Should that be a basis for concern?

In the stilted language of economists, are the incremental costs likely to be higher than the incremental benefits? Again, this issue is not clear, and the answer may differ substantially among people in different parts of the world.

In part, the answer depends on whether the rise in average temperature increases or reduces the variance of temperature over time and region. On this issue, the science is relatively clear. Most of the warming is expected to be at night, in the winter, and in the high northern latitudes.

This suggests that heating costs will be reduced by more than the increase in cooling costs. The increase in arable land in Canada and Siberia is likely to be substantially higher than the reduction in arable land due to more arid conditions in some regions or flooding in other regions. And a reduction in the temperature variance by region is also likely to reduce the frequency of severe storms.

On one issue, the science is quite clear: An increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the growth of many plants, including most food crops. This effect, plus the net increase in arable land, is likely to reduce the relative price of food and fiber in most regions of the world, as has been the case during the whole period of small net warming to date.

Substantial costs and many scare stories have been attributed to the effect of global warming on the sea level. An increase in the sea level would lead to substantial flooding in such regions as Bangladesh, the Maldive islands, Florida, and Louisiana. Any increase in the average sea level, however, would be at a very slow rate, allowing plenty of time for people to move or to build protective barriers. Moreover, the effect of global warming on the sea level is not yet clear, as it depends on the relative effects of warming and of increased snow on the polar ice masses.

On the whole, it is not yet clear whether some moderate warming should be a cause for concern. The balance of conditions suggests that moderate warming may generate net benefits to people in temperate regions and net costs to people in the tropics. 

As now envisioned, however, the major costs of the measures presumed necessary to avoid global warming would be borne by people in the rich countries of temperate regions. In that case, a global warming treaty should be considered an instrument of international wealth redistribution and should be evaluated on that basis.

Comment

Very little needs to be added to what is now 21 years old, just another point in favor of the critics of climate activism. What Bill Niskanen said about the forthcoming Kyoto Protocol

… a global warming treaty should be considered an instrument of international wealth redistribution and should be evaluated on that basis…

is exactly relevant to the Paris climate accord. President Trump, in fact, pulled the US out for this reason by stating (emphasis added):

This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States. The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement — they went wild; they were so happy — for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage…. The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.

Niskanen lives.

The post William Niskanen on Climate Change: Part III, Moderate Warming Scenario appeared first on Master Resource.

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June 14, 2018 at 01:06AM

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