Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Via Quark Soup

Notice of an interesting debate between Bjorn Lomborg and James Annan's buddy, Myles Allen. Before commenting further, allow Eli to say that David Appell was one of the first bloggers from which the bunnies learned, and he was sorely missed during his hiatus.

Allen's decription of climate change is clear and understandable, the sort of thing you need when exchanging words with Lomborg. Appell summarizes it well, so we will only provide the link (honor among blogger and all that) However it is Allen's economic argument that reduces Lomborg to surstromming or if you prefer, lutefisk. The basic point is that Lomborg is only looking at current and near term damage and using a small social discount rate, for which he relies on Yohe and Tol among others. But

  1. The major damage will occur around late in the century,
  2. There is no reason to believe the majic coal fairy will invent some great new technology which will solve the problem
  3. The ground has shifted and Anthoff, Tol and Yohe (2008) following Weitzman now understand that the costs are asymmetric, heavily weighted to the high end of warming and the risks on that end are so large that the social cost of coal goes to $200/ton C
Abstract: The Stern Review reported a social cost of carbon of over $300/tC, calling for ambitious climate policy. We here conduct a systematic sensitivity analysis of this result on two crucial parameters: the rate of pure time preference, and the rate of risk aversion. We show that the social cost of carbon lies anywhere in between 0 and $120,000/tC. However, if we restrict these two parameters to match observed behavior, an expected social cost of carbon of $60/tC results. If we correct this estimate for income differences across the world, the social cost of carbon rises to over $200/tC.
Allen importantly points out that the cost of mitigation is reasonable (10-20%) compared to the value of the energy industry. Moreover, the cost of fixing the things that Lomborg and his crew of merry economists consider more important for human welfare is small, 50 billion. Allen puts it to Lomborg,
I came of age in Mrs. Thatcher's Britain. And under Mrs. Thatcher you applied the principle that you paid for what you wanted to do. And that's essentially all we are saying here if we want to use fossil fuels we need to pay to make sure that we can use them in such a way that doesn't impose risks on other people who haven't chosen to take those risks.
This reduces Lomborg to saying that well, up till now we have not been very successful. From Eli's post about "Clean Coal" the answer is to paraphrase Robert Siegel putting it to the coal man:
But Mr. Lomborg, you are also saying that you influenced that opinion. That in part what people are saying about climate change is, is in part, what when you've gotten them to think it is by campaigning over the last eight years
There are a bunch of other interesting talks, including Lumo's love interest Klaus at the Climate Forum site. Having taken a good approach, Allen apologies for it
We thought our participants might be amused to see Myles Allen in action in a debate against Bjørn Lomborg, the well-known critic of mainstream opinion on climate change, at last week's Swiss Climate Forum in Thun, Switzerland. Myles would like to make clear the debate format pushed him into being unscientifically combative... If any participants were at the forum, we'd be happy to hear from you.
Never apologize, never complain. Comments


Magnus said...

First I really think that you should read some stuff from Azar...

Second I think Allens biggest mistakes where not nailing Lombergs pricing and Malaria instead rhetoric.

Investing money on the CO2 problem does NOT stand in the way for spending money on Malaria... If we want to do that simple minded analyses then we should stop all the wars and take that money and invest in both of those and clean water and so on... we should just give a little more Aid? To those countries... however we see that there is no clear relation between aid and how the problems get solved (I am all fore AID)... the money don’t come from the same place... it would be just as bad an analogy to say lets stop the war from oil and spend the money it on getting cheep clean energy (ok ok that might not work in the US). It’s not like the “free” market people have been shouting out that we need to invest more money to help the third world before... not here anyway...

And in all debates with Lomborg a list with his earlier lies would be a strong case.

Hmm on the top of my head...

Anonymous said...

Streitgersprach, -06.40, Myles Allen makes a point about internalizing costs, which it seems Lomborg doesn't understand...

Lomborg: "so let me just get this straight [...] Myles is essentially saying that if you can sell a computer and make several hundred dollars of profit, it must be because there's a social value of several hundred dollars of net disbenefits to others"

Allen points out the inappropriateness of a COBA for a non-contractual arrangement between net winners and net losers.

Twenty carrots reward to every bunny for every item of junk dropped in a Bjorn Lomborg's warren.
The disutility to Bjorn Lomborg, evaluated by some other bunny than Bjorn, is five carrots per item of junk which are paid out to some other bunny.
Better if the five carrots are given to Bjorn.
Better if Bjorn has option of refusing the junk and the carrots.

Magnus said...

Sorry for my broken English above.

Oh, and more jobs in the green sector then in fossil fuels... also why so much money on terrorism that hurt so relatively few... where is Lomberg there?

And... I think you will have to elaborate on the Surströmming part :)

Julian G said...

Does anyone know if there is a transcript available of the Allen/Lomborg debate? While the audio/video was interesting for putting across the nature of the event and seeing the participants in action, my home broadband wasn't up to seeing/hearing a steady transmission, to the extent that important segments were not understandable. Many thanks.

Julian G