Azara Blog: Stern climate change review proclaims the end of the world

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Date published: 2006/10/30

The BBC says:

The world cannot afford to wait before tackling climate change, the UK prime minister has warned.

A report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%.

But taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic product, the 700-page study says.
The review coincides with the release of new data by the United Nations showing an upward trend in emission of greenhouse gases - a development for which Sir Nicholas said that rich countries must shoulder most of the responsibility.

And Chancellor Gordon Brown promised the UK would lead the international response to tackle climate change.

Environment Secretary David Miliband said the Queen's Speech would now feature a climate bill to establish an independent Carbon Committee to "work with government to reduce emissions over time and across the economy".

The report says that without action, up to 200 million people could become refugees as their homes are hit by drought or flood.

"Whilst there is much more we need to understand - both in science and economics - we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the risks, the timescale for action and how to act effectively," Sir Nicholas said.

"That's why I'm optimistic - having done this review - that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently."
Sir Nicholas, a former chief economist of the World Bank, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Unless it's international, we will not make the reductions on the scale which will be required."
He went on: "What we have shown is the magnitude of these risks is very large and has to be taken into account in the kind of investments the world makes today and the consumption patterns it has."

The Stern Review forecasts that 1% of global gross domestic product (GDP) must be spent on tackling climate change immediately.
The study is the first major contribution to the global warming debate by an economist, rather than an environmental scientist.

The major story of the week, needless to say, and well leaked in advance. But there's nothing new in any of it, it's just an economist's summary of scientific work, and somehow the world is supposed to be impressed that an economist is able to summarise scientific work, with a bit of trivial economics thrown in. The major real point of the review is that it is supposed to provide cover for the politicians to hammer the ordinary people of Britain (of course the ruling elite will continue to be the biggest wasters of them all). The one amusing point is that the British chattering classes seem to believe this is a report of major international significance, whereas it is unlikely to have any impact at all in the countries that matter (e.g. the US and China). The UK does not count for much.

Needless to say the chattering classes have used the report to relaunch their attacks on their pet hates, e.g. 4x4 vehicles and standby power for consumer goods. On Radio 4 tonight George Monbiot, when asked for his plan of action, laughingly managed to call for the abolition of patio heaters and garden lights since they are "unnecessary". Well, books and newspapers are also "unnecessary", perhaps we should ban them. And everything else under the sun. Let's live in caves, since all these modern conveniences are obviously "unnecessary". This is the problem the UK faces, the chattering classes have no common sense or ability to think beyond their narrow partisan view of the world.

Channel 4 News in its coverage managed to claim that electric vehicles are "carbon free", which is about as far from the truth as you can get (the electricity comes from somewhere, and most electricity in the UK is produced by conventional means).

All carbon emissions should be taxed, and at the same rate. It should not be up to the chattering classes that run the UK to decide which sources of carbon are allegedly better than others. That would lead to an extrememly inefficient economic outcome. But sure as night follows day, this is the path we will go down. Car drivers (the only group that already pays a carbon tax in the guise of the petrol tax) and airplane passengers will be crucified, and everybody else will get off scot free.

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