More economists weigh in on The Lomborg

Posted August 25th, 2008 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in The Lomborg

In follow-up to the last post -  now both Gary Yohe, and Richard Tol, both co-authors of an economics paper that Lomborg cited, incorrectly, in an article in the Guardian, and that is also the foundation for his “Copenhagen Consensus”, conclude that he is misrepresenting their work and deliberately confusing things. For details, see the comment thread on Pielke’s post. So Lomborg has no legs to stand on. In theory, that means he is history. But I expect he will continue to repeat what he has been saying, as long as there is anyone listening.

5 Responses to “More economists weigh in on The Lomborg”

  1. Sylvain says:

    I posted this at Prometheus but it still apply here:
    Sylvia I would like you to consider this:
    I’m a AGW skeptic/denier or whatever you wish to call it. Up until I read Lomborg’s books and Roger’s blog, I was against any mitigation enterprises there was, to the exception of wind farm. Bjorn and Roger did convince me that their can be some benefit to mitigation, although I’m not ready to go as far as Roger yet.
    Think that I’m reconsidering my stance anytime someone who react so negatively to Lomborg’s arguments. Let me makes things clear attitude like yours, Gore, Hansen, and many others who vilified anyone who don’t share their point of view makes people like me reject anything you propose. Believe it or not I’m not the only that feel that way.
    While you consider Lomborg’s as an enemy you should thank him for the work he has done to make people me like accept some of your point.
    Here are some other turn off for skeptics/deniers like me:
    1) When Gore speak that AGW is a moral issue while being one of the worst individual polluter. Buying carbon credit doesn’t reduce is carbon footprint, and the do as I say, not as I do attitude does nothing to forward is cause to skeptics.
    2) When James Hansen claim that AGW will provoke an hunger crisis in the future while supporting the use of biofuels which in turn help create an hunger crisis today.
    And here are some solution that I support yet aren’t supported by many alarmist:
    1) Impose an energy cap around 1500KW/h/month/individual housing. Such a cap would affect a minority of people, would cost little to nothing to implement and would reduce Co2 emission today as well as reduce the increase in energy consumption.
    2) Interdict the sale/ or heavy tax for cars with energy consumption of less than 35mpg to the exception that it is required for work.
    Such solution which would achieve exactly what you wish would be no concern to me since I can’t afford cars that don’t reach 35mpg and that I can’t pay more for my electricity and I already limit my electricity consumption to about 1300kw/h/month.
    [In other words, you are willing to support solutions as long as others are paying the bill? Even Lomborg is making the point that there are trade-offs and choices to be made. I’m glad to hear that you are reconsidering your views. I hope you will also consider what evidence different people use to make their case. The comment thread at Prometheus confirms that Lomborg is making things up.
    Regarding Gore – my understanding is that he is not just buying carbon credits but also paying for renewable energy. Also, given his needs for staff and security, his energy consumption is probably entirely reasonable. I agree that carbon credits are not the best solution, but they may be able to help fund a transition if the credits fund alternative energy and carbon storage projects.
    Regarding biofuels – whether or not they displace food crops depend what kind. Biofuels grown in degraded land areas that can’t be used to grow food, and that don’t result in additional deforestation, would have the benefits of land restoration and increased carbon storage.]

  2. Sylvain says:

    Sylvia,
    Thanks for the reply.
    1) I may have badly express myself or you have misunderstood what I said. Either way, you should consider that Lomborg makes me accept some kind of action while hard liner like you make me oppose it.
    2) The comment thread at Prometheus in IMO doesn’t show that Lomborg is making stuff up. He kindly responded to Gary Yohe’s comment and clarified his stance.
    It is clear that in his comment in the guardian Lomborg didn’t misrepresented Yohe and Tol paper.
    Lomborgs is using the BAU from the graph 4.2 (posted at prometheus) when he says:
    “The bottom line is that benefits from global warming right now outweigh the costs (the benefit is about 0.25% of global GDP). Global warming will continue to be a net benefit until about 2070, when the damages will begin to outweigh the benefits, reaching a total damage cost equivalent to about 3.5% of GDP by 2300.”
    The rest of is comment in the guardian doesn’t have anything to do with the Yohe and Tol paper.
    What I see in the comment at Prometheus is to person that doesn’t share the same point of view on an hypothetical question.
    3) You are correct that I don’t oppose solution that don’t impact me. I have less than 15k by year to live and can’t afford spending money on taxes for something that might happen in the future, or waste energy. We are 3 adults in my household and our total electric consumption is less than 1300Kw/h/month + 400 liter of oil for heat in winter. Even though our consumption have decreased in the las few years our electric bill increased by about 30%, mainly because people with money don’t care how much they pay for their electricity and don’t care to heat their pool, spas, driveway (so they don’t have to use a shovel in winter). Their hunger for energy put a strain on the availability of energy which in turn rise energy prices.
    So if people want to reduce co2, they can do it on the back of the rich not the poor who already keep the heat down in winter. Do it by capping the total energy a house can consume not by letting the rich pay more and do nothing with feel good credit. You want to reduce Co2 take real action, interdict heating pool, spa driveway and huge mansion or forced those rich to install wind turbine and solar panel on their properties. And don’t let the Kennedy of the hook when they fight the building of a wind farm that would affect their view of the ocean.
    Biofuels would be great if they were using non arable land. But this is not the case and the use of corn for fuel created a hunger crisis today instead of the hypothetic one in the future.
    [Regarding Lomborg, I’m glad he brought you to consider taking action. I will write a follow-up post here soon. In the meantime, I suggest you carefully reread the most recent comments by Yohe, and the follow-up summaries by davidcoder and TokyoTom. What this demonstrates is that you can get science to say anything you want if you frame the question the “right way”, and if you take “results” out of context. If you look at Yohe’s study as a whole, it is clear that Lomborg misrepresented his findings.
    Regarding your willingness to accept solutions that don’t impact you – actually I agree with you that those who cannot afford higher prices and who use the minimum required to meet their needs should not bear the burden. The trick is to find a way to either differentiate prices for those consuming above a certain amount or provide rebates. There is a lot of discussion about this – it is not fully resolved.
    Regarding biofuels – you will get no argument from me on that one. I really don’t know who pushed corn ethanol – maybe it was the agriculture lobby. If it was those looking to protect the climate, they made a serious mistake because, in addition to competing with food, it doesn’t reduce carbon emissions. I wrote a post about it here:
    http://www.postnormaltimes.net/blog/archives/2008/04/another_kernel.html

  3. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Re electricity and The trick is to find a way to either differentiate prices for those consuming above a certain amount or provide rebates, in the UK it would be no trick at all. Currently most domestic customers pay for their electricity using two tariffs: the unit price for the first X kilowatt-hours used every quarter is about twice that for all subsequent kWh used. X is generally set quite low (my X=125 kWh) but such pricing will always discriminate against the frugal.
    The other day someone somewhere (probably on BBC Radio 4) proposed a perfectly simple perfect solution: zero the first tariff and transfer any unrecovered costs to the second.
    Re Sylvain’s 1500 kWh per month cap: I don’t know where he comes from but his own household’s 1300 kWh per month electricity usage is about three times the usage of the average UK household. Whence or even whither your virtue, Sylvain, mon copain? 1300 kWh per month is even slightly larger than the average *US* household’s usage. (Yes, I know … three adults in the household is not average.)
    Re Gore and my understanding is that he is not just buying carbon credits but also paying for renewable energy: Gore doesn’t buy carbon credits. He is the chairman of a more than somewhat bogusly green private-equity-cum-eco-consultancy partnership. This partnership (which is based in London for tax reasons) gives carbon credits to Gore to greenwash the emissions from his houses in Tennessee and elsewhere and from his enthusiastic air travel. The credits are either part of his remuneration package or they are billed as a legitimate business expenses. Right. Super. (Bogusly green: The last time I looked, Gore’s partnership made most of its money by investing in big and not particularly green companies like General Electric and it had yet to finance any green start-ups whatsoever.)
    And Gore didn’t start “paying for renewable energy” until about six months after his energy-use had first been criticized.
    Re Gore and given his needs for staff and security, his energy consumption is probably entirely reasonable. Er, no. It probably isn’t. You can look it up. The man is a pecksniff.

  4. Sylvain says:

    Vinny,
    The average usage in the US is around 2000 kw/h/month. Gore’s usage is around 20000 kw/h/month. The average in Québec and canada are probably the same or little higher. At 1300 kw/h/month we are below the average.
    As for our consumption, how many days do you have to heat your house while the outside temp is less than -20C. We use both electric and oil to heat our house, but we use oil only for colder days.
    We also have 2 different prices. We pay x for the first z kw/h/month and then we pay y for the rest. Their could easily be other level.

  5. Eli Rabett says:

    Since, warm and cuddly as I am, I am banned at the other place, allow me to point out that Yohe IS the original Lomborg and finding that they have kissed and made up is as surprising as finding that the sun came up this morning. Yohe was pushing the research only idea for twenty years before Lomborg appeared on the scene but Lomborg is a better at finding publicity.
    Naomi Oreskes details how Yohe provided the head fake that Wm. Nierenberg used to stop any rational action against the looming threat of climate change. In From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, Global Warming and the Social Deconstruction of Scientific Knowledge by Oreskes, Conway and Matthew Shindell one reads

    Chapter 1, written by Nordhaus, Ausubel, and Gary Yohe, an economics professor at Wesleyan University brought in mid-stream as a consultant, focused on future energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The long and detailed chapter was perhaps the first serious study of the problem that looked at many variables, and did not assume linear extrapolations. It began by acknowledging the “widespread agreement that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions have been rising steadily, primarily driven by the combustion of fossil fuels.” The emphasis here, however, was not so much on what was known, but on what was not known: the “enormous uncertainty” beyond 2000, and the “even greater uncertainty” about the “social and economic impacts of possible future trajectories of carbon dioxide.” This uncertainty provided the basis for an argument that no meaningful action could be taken now. They used the uncertainty to hide the pea, acknowledging the possibility of rapid and damaging changes, but then only considering far off and lesser threats from climate change. Moving the danger far enough in the future meant that it did not have to be confronted, which is what Nierenberg wanted as a conclusion Nor did Nierenberg attempt to deny the legitimacy of the existing science. Rather, he accepted the scientific facts while adopting a conceptual framework in which those facts were irrelevant. The essence of the report is the reframing of climate change as something that policymakers and politicians should ignore, which in the United States at least, for the next two decades, they largely did The actions of William Nierenberg belie that assumption. Nierenberg did not engage his scientific colleagues over the technical basis of their scientific views. He did not produce new or competing claims about how the Earth would respond to increased CO2. In short, he did not try to construct knowledge about the Earth. Rather, while accepting his colleagues’ technical conclusions, he dismissed the interferences that they (and others) had drawn from those conclusions, substituting an alternative framework that insisted that those inferences were wrong. Rather than constructing knowledge, William Nierenberg de-constructed it.

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