Thursday, January 28, 2010

Climate change - the one sided burden of proof

On climate change, in fact on most topics, I regard myself as a skeptic. However, I am an equal opportunity skeptic - every argument deserves equal scrutiny.

When it comes to climate change however, it seems that only on side of the debate appears to be required to survive any level of analysis. Proponent of man made climate change are required to explain every aspect of their models, models that are freely available, and are excoriated for making any adverse assumptions ever.

Any yet those claiming to be skeptics are happy to quote figures that appear to have been simply made up, with absolutely no support and coming from some of the most inaccurate commentators in the history of economic commentary, ie business.

Ok, where's this coming from?

Today in the Australian (the leading anti man made climate change paper in Australia) an article by Bjorn Lomborg (Axe the tax if you want to go green) claims that to reduce carbon to the levels required to required amount would cost - wait for it - 43 trillion dollars a year. Where does this come from? Dont know! What support does this model have? Dont know! What are the assumptions, where did the data come from, are are the error bounds? Dont know, dont know, dont know.

But I will tell you something I do know, economists are always wrong and always vastly, massively, amazingly over-estimate the negative impacts of government action. Every time the government raises the minimum wage we are told that thousands will be thrown out of work, that inflation will sky rocket, that growth will stall. Despite this the government always raises the minimum wage above what business wanted and guess what - nothing happens.

Here's something else I know. Every year, billions, perhaps even trillions of dollars are simply set on fire and burnt up with zero economic benefit. Whether its million dollar cars, boob jobs, twenty thousand dollar watches, gourmet pet food, cigarettes, personal shoppers, blah blah blah. One thing I know, its not that we cant afford to do a bit to deal with the risk of man made climate change, its just that we cant be arsed.

Finally, here's the last thing I know. The economy is imaginary and therefore infinitely flexible. Want proof? - google. This juggernaut is proof that the economy is a kind of fantasy land where immense value can be created (and as Worldcom showed destroyed) overnight, seemingly out of nothing. So you tell me fuel will skyrocket and we wont be able to afford cars, ok, that' s a pity (I love cars) but something else will come along - it always does.

So all I ask is that we demand the same burden of proof of economic Armageddon of those trying to prevent action on climate change as those advocating it. Oh, and while we are at it, just as many are willing to believe we are smart enough to find a technological way of dealing with climate change, how about we equally assume we are smart enough to find a way of dealing with carbon reduction measures.

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