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Misleading Figures Behind the New Climate Economy

A tweet came my way, encouraging the world to read the New Climate Economy Report. The report is the work of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which claims to be

… a major international initiative to examine how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change. The Commission comprises former heads of government and finance ministers and leaders in the fields of economics and business, and was commissioned by seven countries – Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom – as an independent initiative to report to the international community.

But it’s not ‘independent’ in any meaningful sense, it being commissioned by governments, and only accessible to appointees that are pathologically on-message. And it speaks — ‘reports’ — to a ‘community’ that is dominated by people of the same mind, who are categorically remote from the vast masses they enjoy privilege over. The space occupied by the global climate aristocracy is untroubled by debate, the contest of ideas or the scrutiny of evidence.

Hence we see Nick Stern listed as a member of the commission, and Grantham’s vanity project, which Stern Chairs, but which the public mostly funds, listed as a ‘partner’ organisation of the report… NCE_reportPartners

The report’s headline figure is that the world could realise $26 trillion dollars of benefit over the next 12 years by doing what Stern and his chums say.

NCE_report26Trillion

Needless to say, this seems implausible to me. The 65 million ‘additional low carbon jobs’ generated by 2030 would be the equivalent of a low carbon job for every adult and child in the UK. What economic geniuses never admit about “creating jobs” is that, although we all want everybody to have a job, jobs are a cost. If 65 million people are added to a labour force to produce exactly the same function as 65 million fewer people, then the workforce has become less efficient with respect to labour and capital. The figure is only of interest to political hacks in search of a fiefdom. Everyone else will be stumping up the cash to pay for the inefficiency.

Ditto, the $2.8 trillion raised ‘in carbon price revenues and fossil fuel subsidy savings to reinvest in public priorities’ are not a net benefit. Especially so since many of the ‘subsidy savings’ were not direct subsidies at all, but are reduced rates of VAT (or equivalents) the consumer pays. For instance, the VAT paid on domestic energy by the British consumer is 5%, compared with the standard rate of 20% for most goods. The “new cliamte economy” will charge you more for energy. It’s that simple.

And higher GDP? Well, it all sounds nice, but for the $30 trillion of unlikely benefits the Global Commission claims will be realised by 2030, it is demanding a commitment to $90 trillion now. Let us write the figure in full:

$90,000,000,000,000

$90 trillion is a lot of money. There are 7.442 billion people in the world. This means the Global Commission is asking for $12,093 per person. The world Bank — where Nick Stern used to work, after having been given a job by his brother — informs that global GDP per capita is $10,714. In other words, the Global Comission want more than a year’s worth of labour from the entire population of the planet to realise its goal. One has to admire the ambition, and the frank admission about what it is they want to create…

This is our ‘use it or lose it’ moment. Investing the expected US$90 trillion to 2030 to build the right infrastructure now will deliver a new era of economic growth. Investing it wisely will help drive innovation, deliver public health benefits and inclusive growth, create a host of new jobs and go a long way to tackling the risks of runaway climate change. Getting it wrong, on the other hand, will lock us into a high-polluting, low productivity, and deeply unequal future.

Decisive action now will clearly yield a far more attractive and less dangerous future, and it will require strong and concerted leadership. The purpose of this Report is to lay out what it will take and to demonstrate how acceleration can be achieved. It is to inform and give impetus to economic decision-makers—finance and economic ministers, business leaders, and investors—equipping them with the arguments and the evidence to drive the transformation.

It should be read as more than just a Report. It is a manifesto for how we can turn better growth and a better climate into reality, for how we can carry this call to action into board rooms, through the halls of government and over the airwaves. We must consciously and conscientiously legislate, innovate, govern, and invest our way to a fairer, safer, more sustainable world.

It is a manifesto. Indeed, it is a manifesto. It is a manifesto that its authors will not debate, will not accept any challenge to, and which they do not intend to subject to democratic contest. Yet they want more than a full month of every person’s labour, per year, for the next twelve years.

One might think, then, given the vast sums of money demanded, and the extraordinary commitment required, that the Global Comission would have been very careful in putting together its argument.

No.

NCE_reportExtremeWeather

Anyone with any familiarity with the climate debate will understand the significance of these figures. Whereas there has been agreement that the world has warmed, there has been no such agreement on the metrics given in the figure.

On floods, the IPCC state that,

There is limited to medium evidence available to assess climate-driven observed changes in the magnitude and frequency of floods at regional scales.
[…]
There is low agreement in this evidence, and thus overall low confidence at the global scale regarding even the sign of these changes.

On droughts,

There is not enough evidence to support medium or high confidence of attribution of increasing trends to anthropogenic forcings as a result of observational uncertainties and variable results from region to region (Section 2.6.2.3). Combined with difficulties described above in distinguishing decadal scale variability in drought from long-term climate change we conclude consistent with SREX that there is low confidence in detection and attribution of changes in drought over global land areas since the mid-20th century.

On temperature extremes, too, the IPCC gives a much milder picture than the graphic.

New results suggest more clearly the role of anthropogenic
forcing on temperature extremes compared to results at the time of the SREX assessment. We assess that it is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed changes in the frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes on the global scale since the mid-20th century.

The IPCC do not make such clear statements on wildfires — which have been the subject of much controversy in recent weeks.

In short, the Global Commission’s figure seems out of kilter with the scientific consensus, even where it does not flatly contradict it. It is telling indeed, that the Commission have chosen not to cite the IPCC on natural disasters.

The figures are cited as coming from the International Disaster Database (IDD)at The Emergency Events Database compiled by the Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium. The figure states that the data was modified by the “author’s calculations”. I think the author was quite likely drunk.

The problem for the Commission is that disaster data is not climate data. The criteria for a disaster data record are one or more of:

10 or more people dead
100 or more people affected
The declaration of a state of emergency
A call for international assistance

The data series extends back in time to 1900. But they are not all continuous over this time. Nor is there any claim that all events have been captured by the record. Nor is any attempt made to estimate the disasters that have not been recorded.

For instance, it is highly likely that an extreme weather event, say, in Europe during either World War, or in rural India during Partition, or in Africa during civil conflicts, would have gone unreported, or perhaps even unnoticed by the wider world and its disaster and relief agencies — which were barely even a thing before the 1970s. By contrast, much of the world, even extremely poor regions, has been connected via smartphone to the Internet and news media in just the last decade.

So what does the data actually say? Here is the IDD data for floods.

IDD_Floods

According to the data, there were just 11 flood disasters in the entire world in the first two decades of the last century. And in the last twenty years, the world has seen a whopping 3,610 such incidents. That’s an increase of nearly 33,000%.

Is the difference plausibly attributable to climate change? Or is the more likely explanation simply that the data relating to such events over the course of the entire 118 years does not exist?

What does the IDD data say about droughts?

IDD_Droughts

I have not used lines here, as the data is not continuous. (I probably should not have used lines in the flood data graph, either). If the data on which the Commission rely is to be taken at face value, the world experienced just 16 droughts in the first 2 decades of the last century. But what is missing from that picture?

Deaths. We can bring the trends out by dividing the series into 2-decade long chunks. And this is what emerges…

IDD_DroughtsDeaths

The incidence of droughts has risen 5,000% over the course of the last century. But the number of deaths has fallen by 85%. All the more incredible, given that the population grew nearly 500%. Multiplying them together, then, droughts are barely 3% of the problem today, compared with a century ago.

Can we say that climate change has caused droughts to become less deadly?

Of course we cannot. What underpin these changing trends has zero to do with the climate, or even the weather, and everything to do with the scope for recording data, and the capacity for mitigating disaster created by affluence and technological development.

It is worth reiterating the point for the next of the Commission’s chart — wildfire.

IDD_WildFiresR

Is it plausible that there were just two wildfires in the second decade of the last century, versus 15 last year — apparently an increase of 7,500%?

No. It is not.

The difference can be accounted for by technology. In 1900, that vast majority of people never got more than a foot off the ground for longer than a second. Though the camera had been invented a century earlier, imaging technology was far beyond the means of most people. Today, we have on orbiting spacecraft cameras that are capable of detecting the heat radiated by a match millions of miles away. Similar hardware now scans the Earth for fires.

Meanwhile, though the five year moving average shows that wildfire outbreaks did increase to 2000, they have diminished somewhat since then, and there is no obvious trend, even in this data series, relating to climate change. And in spite of all the drama associated with wildfires created by 24 hour rolling media and Bill McKibben’s Twitter feed, deaths from wildfire outbreaks seem very low.

Which is not to say that they are not a problem — and a very big, expensive problem, at that. They surely are. But like floods, the problem of whildfire is as much a function of policy as weather. Land and forest management and planning (‘zoning’ in American) in drought and fire-prone regions is as much the cause of loss of life and property as is climate and arson. It is even possible that certain restrictions on land owners, such as prohibiting the creation of fire breaks between trees and houses, for instance, may have contributed to the increased toll of fires. The IDD’s database, then, is not recording objective climate statistics, but at least in part the consequences of policy, demographic change, and economic growth.

Finally, then, the excess heat…

IDD_ExtremeTemps

There were no heatwaves in the world until 1936. Then two came along at once. No more appeared until the 1950s, when there were eight. Then, by 2010, there were a whopping 29 heatwaves.

Very few people died from heatwaves, according to the IDD in the first half of the twentieth century. But in 2003, heatwaves claimed nearly 75,000 lives, and in 2010, 57,000 died.

The 57,000 deaths in 2010 were largely from the heatwave that hit Russia that year. And the 75,000 deaths in 2003 were the result of the heatwave in Europe. Both these estimates were produced by comparing July and August death statistics against those months’ averages. And this should cause more caution than a face-value reading of the data might permit.

We cannot take seriously the Commission’s use of the IDD’s data on extreme temperatures. Recall the qualification for a natural disaster is:

10 or more people dead
100 or more people affected
The declaration of a state of emergency
A call for international assistance

The IDD does not calculate each summer (or winter) the number of excess deaths. (It does not even count cold spells as natural disasters). Yet surely the number of deaths across the entire of Europe varies by more than 10 each Summer. The dramatic figure exists in the database only because so much was made of the heatwave by those seeking to push climate change up the political agenda.

In the European Union, there were more than 5 million deaths in 2016, of which a number like 75,000 is just 1.5%. The 75,000 cases from 2003 were slightly premature deaths of the continents most extremely vulnerable people, not healthy people suddenly struck down by climate change while going about their normal business. We can see that the total number of deaths for 2003, rather than that season, does not show the increase we would expect to see if these deaths were, so to speak, ‘unexpected’.

EU_Deaths

The deaths attributed to that summer’s heat were caused substantively by the neglect of older people, particularly in France. It is not climate change deniers who would deprive senior citizens of air conditioning and heating. That is the privilege of global climate aristocrats, like Nick Stern.

If I were to author a demand for $90,000,000,000,000, I would make damn sure I had bullet proof statistics. As it happens, I took half a day off work to produce this blog post. I do not enjoy the patronage of billionaires like Jeremy Grantham. I do not have the backing of Western governments and boatloads of their civil servants. I am not invited to take part in any UN agency’s business. I have no corporate sponsors. I am not best mates with the world’s top climate scientists.

And yet, even I can see that the ransom note issued by Stern and his pals is utter BS.

The cost of Stern’s manifesto is extraordinary, and the case for it is extremely weak. Yet no research organisations will be rushing to question the data, much less the motives. Few newspapers will be wondering what is the ideology underpinning the Commission’s manifesto, let alone where the money will come from.

Call me a crazy, conspiracy-theorising climate change denier, but I don’t think demands for $90 trillion on the basis of such low quality data are produced by people acting in good faith. I think their motives should be questioned, their claims challenged, and their data scrutinised. That the likes of Stern and the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate go unchallenged, routinely, is an extremely worrying fact of contemporary politics.

48 thoughts on “Misleading Figures Behind the New Climate Economy

  1. Is this another example of “la trahison des clercs”? It is odd to think that the respected Lord Stern is really no different to the incompetent hack Bob Ward. Or that various physicists hitchhike on the climate bandwaggon. Where are the educated elites of our time?

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  2. Ben,

    Thanks for making the effort to decipher some of the statistics. In terms of being implemented, it has not got a chance as most nations are not going to cede their sovereignty to foreigners from rich countries.
    One thing that the report omits to mention is the impact of reducing the use of fossil fuels on the fossil-fuel exporting countries. I did a quick calculation on how dependent countries are on oil production, by looking expressing oil production in 2017 (BP Statistical Review of World energy 2018 – oil at $50 barrel) with nominal GBP from the World Bank.

    Figures in 2017 million barrels per day and revenue as a % of GDP.
    United States 13, 1.2%
    Canada 4.8, 5.3%
    Russia 11.2, 13%
    Saudi Arabia 12.4, 33%
    Iran 5.0, 21%
    UAE 3.9, 19%
    Iraq 4.5, 42%
    Kuwait 3.0, 46%

    Saudi Arabia gets a mention on a minor point. Russia on a Figure 18 ” Emissions from Tropical Forest Loss.” Iran, UAE, Iraq and Kuwait merit not a single mention. Yet these six countries, with 40% of global oil production, will see their economies decimated in a generation if the 2C target is to be met.
    As for coal, do they seriously think that China will significantly reduce its production of 3500 million tonnes a year – 50% of the global total – in the next few years, or that India will fail to increase its production of coal from 700 million tonnes a year given that both countries imported about 300 million tonnes last year? Or will the major exporting countries of Russia, Indonesia and Australia cut their lucrative export markets?

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  3. Ben makes a good point about productivity. Put bluntly in macroeconomics there is a basic tautology

    Income per capita = Output per capita

    Then consider this statement from page 39

    In the United States, for example, 151,000 people are employed in fossil fuel power generation, with an additional 887,000 people in extraction (74,000 in coal, 310,000 in gas, and 503,000 in oil). Nearly half that number—about 476,000 people—are employed in solar and wind in the United States,even though these sectors currently constitute less than 10% of the power mix. It is expected that reduced employment in fossil fuels through the transition can be more than offset by a rise in employment in renewables and construction.

    That is, the productivity in the energy sector – i.e. the output per capita – will reduce. In making a basic error, and advocating policies that will make people poorer. Consumers are made worse off as well, with the burden falling disproportionately in the poor. In addition, there are knock-on effects of having higher costs of energy as well. It adds costs to other goods and services (supermarkets, public transport, hospitals). A rise in construction employment will be due to building more wind turbines. That will consequently mean the write-off of many assets in the fossil fuel industry, along with assets in power generation, enhanced depreciation of buildings etc. Real incomes will be reduced, along with the value of shares and hence pensions.

    Further, the seismic shifts in economic structures will cause high unemployment for many years, just as the cancellation of massive subsidies, the shut-down of heavy industry and the slow shift to services lead to the high unemployment in Britain in the 1980s.

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  4. There are a couple of things missing from the report.
    Whilst it has some dubious data on recorded floods, there is no mention on the death toll from flooding except for one statistic. 1200 lives lost in South Asia in 2017
    The only mention of hurricanes is that the 2017 hurricane season was very costly.
    I can still remember the horrific images in the aftermath of the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone which left 139,000 dead. The Bhola cyclone of 1970 left 500,000 dead. Floods in China in 1887 and 1931 left more dead still. This weather impact on human beings has nothing to do with changing climate. The lack of recent disasters on that scale is to due to having the economic wealth to tame the impact of extreme weather, rather than be at its mercy.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_natural_disasters_by_death_toll

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  5. MBC I believe many of the outcomes you describe in your 9.46pm post are downright similar, if not identical, to those produced by the more extreme explorers of the effects of Peak Oil. This is not unsurprising because Peak Oil concerned a massive decline in fossil fuel energy due to scarcities, whereas you are examining aspects of self imposed and deliberate scarcity. If this similarity is valid then you haven’t gone far enough. The most extreme forecasters of Peak Oil effects, believed that the majority of the world’s population existed simply because of the benefits of fossil fuels, so that when availability of fossil fuel energy rapidly declined there would be an unstoppable die-off. So is the Paris Accord the first step in a global suicide?

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  6. MBC – In terms of being implemented, it has not got a chance as most nations are not going to cede their sovereignty to foreigners from rich countries.

    The attempt to build supranational political bodies is an extremely slow moving and patient juggernaut. The process is incremental, and countries themselves are not single entities as such. Each’s political establishment can be persuaded that their interests are better served by aiming for positions at global institutions than in the messy, unpredictable world of domestic — i.e. democratic — politics. $90trillion gives the scale of the blandishments available.

    All the nice stuff about jobs and women being in the workforce are window dressing. It’s the political architecture that’s being promoted, not ‘harmony’ between people and with the biosphere.

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  7. Pingback: Misleading Figures Behind the New Climate Economy | NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

  8. Ben

    I’ve been trying to get into the IDD database for a while, but it seems I need to be part of an organisation!

    Do you know of any short cuts?

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  9. Alan @ 5.43am
    What I explore at 9:46 pm is the consequence of a tautology on a statement made in the report. For peak oil, one also needs a forecast. Given the past failed forecasts I do not think future ones are credible. The more extreme forecasts are based on oil production suddenly plummeting. The given the global production data from the last 50 years that hardly seems likely from natural causes. See graph below. But a combination of seismic political events could make this happen.

    The idea that without fossil fuels global population requires additional assumptions about dependency on fossil fuels that belies the evidence. After all there are plenty of countries which have seen massive population growth without very low fossil fuel usage. The biggest risks to living standards from potential declines in fossil fuels are incompetent policies to introduce alternatives well before they are economically viable, and in ways that are sub-optimal.
    As for the Paris Accord being “the first step in a global suicide“. To quote John McEnroe in his prime “You can’t be serious“. The whole thing about controlling global GHG emissions consistent with 2°C, or 1.5°C is only an aspiration, made unachievable by allowing developing countries to decide for themselves when to start reducing their emissions. As they have over 80% of the global population, the suicidal policies will far from global. I highlight relevant clauses and link to the original Paris Accord here.

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  10. Ben @ 9:06 am
    Why should the political elites submit to the climate alarmist worldview? What incentives have they to conform? The current structure of the UNFCCC enables them to both keep to their sincerely-held perspectives and be seen with other world leaders. They can thus gain political advantages at home, demand subsidies without strings from richer countries, without having to impose any harmful policies. Take the INDC submissions.
    http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Submission%20Pages/submissions.aspx
    Very few actually commit to significant changes of direction in terms of policy.
    Take the USA, submitted under President Obama. The emissions reductions are essentially an extrapolation of trend, mostly as a result of a switch from coal to shale gas.
    Take Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Chad and others. Forecast a high emissions growth (resultant on hugely optimistic economic growth) as a “business as usual” forecast. Then say that with lots of external funding they can “achieve” a lower emissions growth rate that would have been achieved anyway.
    Take Bolivia or Iran, whose INDC submissions are just a rant against capitalism (Bolivia) and Western sanctions (Iran).
    Or take India and China, where they “pledge” to reduce emissions per unit of GDP. That is due to projected economic growth being higher than emissions growth through to 2030. Just like most OECD countries have “achieved” since the 1970s.
    Politically to achieve a global consensus, the UNFCCC accepts this nonsense as real commitments. The climate activists then lambaste western countries who impose costly policies for not doing enough to combat climate change. Countries that fall for this politicized nonsense – my country of Great Britain & Northern Ireland being the worst offender – get lambasted the most for being the most willingly to give credence to climate alarmism. On the other hand, at Paris 2015 Robert Mugabe – whose policies managed to reduce life expectancy from 61 years in 1985 to 41 years in 2003 (World Bank data) – was given a global stage. In any liberal democracy such a despot would have been denied admittance. An extract from Mugabe’s speech in Paris.

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  11. MBC. You have misunderstood my post to you. I was not advocating Peak Oil (although I still harbour a belief that some parts of it are probably correct) nor was I disagreeing with you about the fantasies that reside within the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate “masterpiece”.
    What I was trying, unsuccessfully, to point out was that your treatment of a loss of productivity (and implications of this) attendant upon replacing fossil fuel energy with that coming from less efficient renewables reminded me of some of the outcomes advocated by some supporters of Peak Oil.
    I then realized that these similarities were not surprising since both Peak Oil and the deliberate suppression of fossil fuel use involved decreases in the use of the highly efficient, energy dense fossil fuels.
    From there I recalled that the most extreme analyses of Peak Oil effects advocated a mass die off because a large percentage of the human population is supposedly dependent upon the benefits, directly or indirectly of fossil fuels. Could this be an effect of policies advocated by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate?
    As for the Paris Accord being “the first step in a global suicide“. I really should remember to add “sark”

    A point of detail. If you wish to argue about the realities (or not) of Peak Oil a plot of production over time doesn’t cut it. That records oil already produced and used: no longer available. What is needed is a plot of remaining oil reserves, or better still of additions over time to this stock. Those are much less healthy curves. Oil reserves can also be politically sensitive and, in the past, have been grossly overstated.

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  12. MBC, you are absolutely right to point out that the obstacles to the Commission’s agenda are a political, or even material reality, leaving them with only a fantasy manifesto, that political leaders of developing nations are unlikely to buy. You’re also right that Paris is weak beer.

    But Paris another ratchet. And at some point, political elites do seem to find it easier to cede sovereignty than to answer the democratically-expressed demands from below.

    On R4 tonight:

    2018 marks the 100th anniversary since the end of World War 1, followed by the founding of the League of Nations the following year which offered a vision of peaceful world government and collaboration. History of course didn’t turn out that way, and the fate of the League of Nations is often seen as symbolic of the dream of world government, fragile, utopian, and ultimately doomed to collapse in the face of resurgent and aggressive nationalism.

    But the dream of world government is surprisingly stubborn. In one form or another, battered and bruised, it underlies every transnational political body which has followed, from the Red Cross, to the UN itself. It holds out a vision of political authority which crosses borders, and which dares to dream that universal values can sustain in the face of local angers, anxieties and chauvinisms.

    In this archive hour the former Foreign Secretary David Milliband looks at the history of world government over the last century, with its successes and its failures.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bgvfgk

    Half of that century has seen the increased emphasis on the environment.

    Miliband talks a good game — positive abstract nouns aplenty. But he’s super wealthy, in global terms. He’s achieved more than most (traditional) Labour politicians could have ever hoped to — in terms of having enriched themselves by their forties. And the categorically mediocre politician, has done so partly by being born into his position, but also substantively by plugging in to the global order. I.e., he’s no billionaire… But he’s certainly worth a few £million. The global order, then, perhaps diminishes the prize, but lowers the stakes. All it requires is deference, which in turn requires slowly leeching sovereignty from the voter, and ceding it — i.e. by limiting the possibilities of national democracy.

    Whether political and material reality will fetter the ambitions of the global greens (including the Milibands) and the rest, in the face of explosive potential growth, and widespread demands for it, is yet to be seen. Indeed, one arguable criticism of the global green movement is that it was intended to constrain the developing world — i.e. green colonialism — and to sustain the West’s strategic advantages. I think it was Brendan O’Neill who observed that nearly every neomalthusian tract published in the last few decades featured photographs of brown and black people. And one-time development agencies offered the world’s poor treadle pumps and water filters, not power stations and water treatment plants. Meanwhile, NGOs appointed themselves as the representatives of the poor and voiceless, thereby ensuring that the poor were less likely to find their own expression.

    I hope you’re right, though I think that we will, whatever the dynamic, end up with a global ‘carbon’ bureaucracy of some kind.

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  13. Ben,
    I think there is a big distinction to the made between intentions and reality in climate. This report is an example of people who believe that there is both a big problem and that if everybody submitted to their way of thinking there is also a big solution.
    It reminds me the penultimate post on Paul’s IPCC Report blog – Robin Guenier on Philippe Sands. Guenier laid out that the Rio Declaration 1992 divided climate policy between two groups of nations – the developing and the developed nations. It was only the developed nations that were obliged to reduce their emissions. The Paris Agreement does not change this, despite two-thirds of emissions now coming from “developing” countries. Yet the policy advocates ignore this.
    There are multiple reasons why many countries will not cede control to create a de facto global ‘carbon’ bureaucracy. One is that OPEC members will not abandon a cartel devised to gain advantage over their customers to shut down their major business. Another is rivalries between nations.
    Thus climate mitigation seems only for the rich countries, with 20% of the global population. The shut-down of debate and ceding of national sovereignty is not about solving a potential problem as the solution excludes the biggest element of the alleged cause of the. There can be many motives for demanding climate action. The status of being leaders on a world stage is one. Another is to foist ideological beliefs onto the masses. What is absent are legitimate reasons for ceding powers to an international body, such as for stopping the spread of chemical weapons or upholding basic human rights or elimination of spreadable diseases or the perceived threat from one’s neighbours. As this report shows, the case for a non-trivial climate problem is pretty dodgy and it is recognized that climate mitigation is both costly and highly ineffectual. Not only cannot the climate alarmists set a clear case for action, they do not recognize any legitimacy in the counter-arguments. Alarmists are increasingly getting away with this in Western countries (though there is a backlash against this going on in the United States) but fail to realize that ostracizing non-believers is only possible where one enforce one’s own beliefs. enforcement is not possible in most of the world.

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  14. The Global Commission has been using that $90 trillion figure since 2014, when it was an estimate (that’s being kind) of global infrastructure spending in the ’15 years’ (I make it 16, but hey) from 2015 to 2030.

    The $90 trillion came from multiplying $6 trillion by 15 years. $6 trillion was a nice round number they chose that was about double the then-current annual spend. The only explanation they gave for this near-doubling was that infrastructure in the developed world was ageing and populations and economies in the developing world were growing. Why not $5 trillion or $7 trillion? They didn’t say.

    So the $90 trillion came from multiplying an invented number by the wrong number – by 15 rather than 16.

    Now that the ’15 years’ is down to 12 years, you’d think the total would have shrunk a bit, but that’s the advantage of using made-up numbers. You can do what you want with them. Keep them the same, double them, halve them… What does it matter?

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  15. MBC – ‘This report is an example of people who believe that there is both a big problem and that if everybody submitted to their way of thinking there is also a big solution.

    Their maxim is ‘global problems need global solutions’, the truth of which is revealed by reversing it: global solutions need global problems.

    You are right that the carbon bureaucracy’s future is beset by challenges. But one can see in the arguments for, and even in the arguments of opponents of climate policy, that there is a desire to ‘reduce dependence’ on ‘dodgy countries’ that produce oil, to effect a geopolitical shift in their terms. The main difference between them is that the former don’t like the latter’s emphasis on domestic FF production.

    Outside the axis of evil, other contradictions persist, also. Norway, for instance, is big on the global green agenda, in spite of its oil wealth. And don’t mention the whales! Contradictions are not a problem for the juggernaut. Consider, for example, Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the UN Human Rights Council.

    It may well be that climate alarmism is in large part an attempt by some, particularly in the west, to internationalise their domestic crises. But that has long been the dynamic of much of the attempt to cede sovereignty, largely for seemingly noble aims, such as reducing the risk of conventional war, and then nuclear war. Carbon is only part of that agenda, which now extends even as far as the regulation of sugar, such is the bloated agenda. Again, it’s the political infrastructure that counts, not the superficial detail of what it claims to want to achieve.

    Miliband’s history of attempts to form global government is revealing. It touches on the Paris agreement and Trump. More even than simple economics, it seems that a bigger problem for global Commissioners is a growing scepticism of suprational institutions, reflected in Miliband’s comments which seem to treat economics and politics as distinct categories, leading to his own misconception of Brexit and Trump. However, I don’t think we should be complacent about the juggernaut.

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  16. It seems that many in the governance class suffer from the carpenter’s fallacy:
    Since all problems look like nails, the solution must be to have a bigger hammer.
    What hammer could be larger than a global hammer?

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  17. One aspect that the Climate Commission omit is data on the number of deaths from extreme weather events. There is a reason for this. Deaths have being going down from research by Indur Goklany.

    “Long term (1900–2008) data show that average annual deaths and death rates from all such events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since cresting in the 1920s ”

    https://www.thegwpf.com/indur-m-goklany-global-death-toll-from-extreme-weather-events-declining/

    Like

  18. Good post!

    Another thing that inflates the later numbers in the EM-DAT disasters database is the increasing country coverage.

    This 2011 report from Oxfam makes a good attempt to identify non-climate factors that affect disaster trends.

    https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/times-bitter-flood-trends-in-the-number-of-reported-natural-disasters-133491

    “3. Changes in reporting: the data is for reported disasters, and so advances in
    information technology, increased awareness, and higher levels of press freedom in
    some countries mean that the number of countries covered by the EM-DAT database
    has increased over time. For the same reasons, it is also likely that the proportion of
    disasters reported in each country has risen.”

    According to Annex 2, only about 40 countries were reporting by 1980, rising to over 100 by 1990. So there’s no way that the earlier numbers should be considered to be globally representative or comparable with the later ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Increasing Extreme Weather Events? | ManicBeancounter

  20. There are two claims here that appear to show opposite conclusions. From Figure 1 of the New Economy Climate Report, occurrences of extreme weather events are increasing. From Indur Goklany, deaths from extreme weather events are decreasing.
    From the EM-DAT (The International Disaster Database) both perspectives are substantiated. I have looked at the figures and produced the following charts.
    The problem is not in the data collection (historical data fails to meet the quality control checks of recent events). It is with those who interpret that data.

    Like

  21. OT: If any CliScep readers live near Regent’s Park, have time on their hands and are feeling open-minded, there’s a meeting at #1 Hormead Road tonight at which people of honest intent will discuss the best ways to implement the non-violent Extinction Rebellion that’s scheduled for later this year. The meeting starts at 7pm. Bring food that can be shared.

    In case you haven’t heard of it, Extinction Rebellion (aka XR) is the latest effort by Rising Up!, a Quaker-and-ayahuasca-and-eschatonanism-flavoured New Age outfit based in Bath that has its roots in Occupy! and hasn’t really made much of an impact yet.

    But perhaps it will if enough people get down to Hormead Road right now and start planning! At the moment, only seven people have said they’ll attend.

    Here’s the starting proposition:

    It is clear that the political system has completely failed us – it shows a total lack of urgency and is backing policies based on wishful thinking.

    Scientists made clear the implications of continued carbon emissions in 1990, CO2 in the atmosphere has since increased by 60%. You might say then, that those who govern us intend to kill our children and are presently engaged in a crime against humanity. In any democratic society citizens have not just the right, but also the duty, to rebel against tyranny.

    Please note that although the meeting is taking place at a house owned by a hereditary millionaire who also owns an entire Scottish island that was violently emptied of plebs during the Highland Clearances, this has no bearing on anything. Anything at all. Peace, love and equality.

    Oh fuck. The meeting has already started. Here it is:

    https://www.facebook.com/events/261061668071115/

    More refs and quotes later, perhaps.

    Like

  22. Those who seek rational engagement and discussions with the climate committed are continuously disappointed.
    The committed are only becoming more and more extreme, openly talking of revolution.
    Perhaps it is the lack of historical reference to provide perspective hinders the skeptics.
    I would propose that we are in the midst of a green/climate driven cultural revolution.
    https://www.britannica.com/event/Cultural-Revolution
    The atrocities committed during that dark period are beyond belief.

    Like

  23. MBC. You may be interested in this from Roger Pielke Jr’s The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change (2nd ed).

    A Normalization of the EM-DAT Dataset [9]

    In 2014, researchers in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom published a paper which looked at a dataset kept by a Belgian research group. Their results, using a different dataset than that which was the focus of the other four papers reviewed above, were nonetheless very similar to those other studies.

    Specifically, once the data were normalized, the researchers found: “The absence of trends in normalized disaster burden indicators appears to be largely consistent with the absence of trends in extreme weather events.”

    The paper concluded that the lack of trends in extreme weather events and normalized losses indicates that, overall, vulnerability to losses has been constant over time. The lack of a detectable change in vulnerability at the global level does not preclude changes in vulnerability at more localized contexts, only that any such signal is not detectable at the global level once data has been normalized to account for changes in exposure to loss.

    Footnote 9 refers to H. Visser, A. C. Petersen, and W. Ligtvoet, “On the relation between weather-related disaster impacts, vulnerability, and climate change,” Climatic Change 125, nos. 3-4 (2014): 461-477.

    It’s open access and available here. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-014-1179-z

    A.C. Petersen is affiliated to the Centre for the Analysis of Time Series{CATS}, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) London UK

    I find it completely implausible that the authors of the Commission’s report were unaware of Petersen’s work. Petersen has worked with the CCCEP and Grantham Institutes @ LSE, and a review of the research produced by the CCCEP on the ESRC funding database shows that there are many working relationships between the CCCEP/Grantham and CATS.

    That is to say that the data has been included in the Commission’s report KNOWING that the authors of the database caution against using it to determine climatic trends, and KNOWING that analysis of it shows the opposite of what they use it to portray.

    Like

  24. Ben,
    I am aware of the work Roger Pielke Jr has done on normalization of disaster data from when Super storm Sandy hit New York in late 2012. The headline financial losses were unprecedented. The normalized losses were similar to a previous large storm that hit in the 1950s.
    Figure 1 of “New Climate Economy Report” however goes beyond taking superficial financial losses – an indirect measure of scale. It merely reports on occurrences in a database, with different time periods.

    For the period 1950-2018 droughts and wildfires are in two periods, extreme temperature events three periods and floods four periods. Given Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut are just passing, it is worth noting that “storm” occurrences are not included.
    Normalizing data can take many forms. In line with the work of Indur Goklany, I have taken reported disaster deaths in the EM-DAT database, splitting between the five “climate” disaster types from all the others (Earthquakes, epidemics, industrial accidents etc.). These I expressed as a percentage of all deaths, showing by decade.

    The “Climate” death rate has declined much faster that the other disasters.
    In the first half of the C20th the database is far more skewed. In my extract of EM-DAT, from 1900 to 1949 there are recorded 30.1 million deaths in 768 occurrences. From 1950 to July 2018 there are recorded 8.5 million deaths in 22514 occurrences. Even then, there are clear gaps in the database. Most notably, this year is the centenary of the 1918 flu pandemic that carried off about 50 million people.
    Note that given the biases in the data, a huge number of perspectives are possible. Normalized data is only an estimate of the complete and unbiased data. However, making the effort to remove bias gives a totally different perspective from the cherry-picked data in the extreme weather graphic.

    Like

  25. Over at his extremely boring website, Brandon Shollenberger has a very long and detailed account of his objection to my use of the word ‘commitment’ in the above post. His misapprehension was explained to him here, but as is his inclination, he couldn’t see it as an explanation and so replied “I don’t care…{for explanation}”.

    Well, I do not care for interminable narcissists. The ‘don’t care’ statement seemed a reasonable enough basis on which to remove his further comments, it marking an end to our conversation, but not to his unwelcome and pointless bloviation. Since his blogpost, I have now removed all of his comments from this thread and all replies. This is Cliscep moderation policy only to the extent that it is my choice as author of the post whether or not to indulge petty vendettas, blowhard windbaggery and endless whingeing self-justification. BS is not banned from the site, as he claims. His posts were removed because he overtly resisted explanation and persisted with his accusatory tone, neither of which I am obliged to indulge.

    You can read it at http://www.hi-izuru.org/wp_blog/2018/09/thats-skepticism-for-you-2/

    Like

  26. Ivo Vegter points to another body of individuals appointed to design the ‘new’ economy for the entire planet.

    A tiny and hitherto unknown Finnish research outfit is advising the UN on transforming the global economy. It wants to collectivise the economy, revoke economic freedom, give us guaranteed, state-funded, low-skilled jobs so we don’t go around destroying the environment, and pay for this socialist utopia with magic monopoly money.

    The United Nations is working on its Global Sustainable Development Report for 2019. It will include a chapter entitled Transformation: The Economy. It commissioned five Finnish scientists associated with a small, recently-founded organisation known as the BIOS Research Unit, led by Paavo Järvensivu, to write a background paper for this chapter.

    The paper begins:

    We live in an era of turmoil and profound change in the energetic and material underpinnings of economies. The era of cheap energy is coming to an end (Murphy 2014, Lambert et al. 2014, Hall et al. 2014, Hall et al. 2009, Hirsch et al. 2005). Because economies are for the first time in human history shifting to energy sources that are less energy efficient, production of usable energy (exergy) will require more, not less, effort on the part of societies to power both basic and non-basic human activities. Sink costs are also rising; economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use. Climate change is the most pronounced sink cost.

    The work is indeed a design for a global order, stated as such.

    Taken together, what would these policy measures mean for the world economy and geopolitics? Of course, as is always the case in large-scale societal transformations, it is difficult to predict the overall outcome when there are multiple variables, but generally the direction would be toward “a Keynesian world with planetary boundaries”: unique, autonomous economies and societies engaging in regulated international trade for specific reasons, such as food security, rather than for the sake of free trade as a principle. Individuals, organizations, and nations would approach the economy as a tool to enable a good life rather than as an end in itself. Economic activity will gain meaning not by achieving economic growth but by rebuilding infrastructure and practices toward a post-fossil fuel world with a radically smaller burden on natural ecosystems. In rich countries, citizens would have less purchasing power than now, but it would be distributed more equally. Citizens in all countries would have access to meaningful jobs and they could trust that a desirable future is being constructed on the collective level.

    This is analogous and parallel to the Global Commission’s New Climate Economy report: using the seemingly unimpeachable word of Science as instructions for a global political project, no matter what the people who will pay for, and be subjects of the project want.

    A commitment to $90 trillion might barely be the start of it.

    It is easy to wave away such implausible BS as just that. Indeed, it is implausible now. But it’s a growing trend.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/16/the-eu-needs-a-stability-and-wellbeing-pact-not-more-growth

    The EU needs a stability and wellbeing pact, not more growth
    238 academics call on the European Union and its member states to plan for a post-growth future in which human and ecological wellbeing is prioritised over GDP

    This week, scientists, politicians, and policymakers are gathering in Brussels for a landmark conference. The aim of this event, organised by members of the European parliament from five different political groups, alongside trade unions and NGOs, is to explore possibilities for a “post-growth economy” in Europe.

    For the past seven decades, GDP growth has stood as the primary economic objective of European nations. But as our economies have grown, so has our negative impact on the environment. We are now exceeding the safe operating space for humanity on this planet, and there is no sign that economic activity is being decoupled from resource use or pollution at anything like the scale required. Today, solving social problems within European nations does not require more growth. It requires a fairer distribution of the income and wealth that we already have.

    The Grauniads would make a virtue out of stagnation. Like medieval theologans, asceticism is an easy choice for them to make for us.

    The thing we can be sure of is that there are at least 238 more ‘academics’ than the world needs.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. “Because economies are for the first time in human history shifting to energy sources that are less energy efficient, production of usable energy (exergy) will require more, not less, effort on the part of societies to power both basic and non-basic human activities.”

    Only because credulous legislators have decided to do this based on legalistic pseudo-scientific agreements that look science-based but which have no basis in science, whatever people like ATTP and that American chemist who thinks he is a rabbit might opine.

    ” Sink costs are also rising; economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use”.

    Do they give a source for that? It seems fundamentally unverifiable to me

    Liked by 1 person

  28. BENPILE re ‘designing the ‘new’ economy for the entire planet.’
    Wondering what you think of Rosa Koire on Agenda 21. My own reading,
    George Soros Manifesto and funding, K-12 education curriculum for
    sustainable environment and there’s local building development here in
    Melbourne Australia, cross references with what she says.

    Like

  29. The transparently bogus idea that we have used up the Earth’s ability to handle human waste is pathetic.
    Earth and it’s environment, prudently utilized can handle any and all waste we will ever produce.
    It is the anti-scientific climate and green extremists who actually pose greater risk to Earth and humanit at this time.

    Like

  30. Two aspects of green jobs are often overlooked.

    First, the energy sector employs relatively few people. Additional jobs in the energy sector may sound like a good idea, because additional jobs always do. However, more expensive energy (or higher taxes to pay for the subsidies to keep the price of green energy down) means slower economic growth and fewer jobs outside the energy sector. This latter effect is relatively small but if affects a much larger number of jobs.

    About 1% of jobs is in the energy sector. If a 100% increase in the workforce in energy leads to a 1.1% decrease of the non-energy workforce, no new jobs are created.

    Second, we see progress if the same amount of people can produce more. If you can make more in a day, you can sell more, and earn a higher wage. With green energy, the claim is that more people are needed to make the same. This is regress. If the number of energy workers increases faster than the price of energy, their wages will have to come down. If you need 10 wind engineers to make the same amount of electricity as 1 coal engineer, the coal engineer will be paid much more.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Richard, you should know better than anyone that the majority
    of politicians and activists talking about these issues don’t
    have the first idea about economics. The strongest economies
    in the world all have very high energy costs, expensive government
    regulation, a very low productivity workforce and a relatively high
    minimum wage – don’t they?.

    Like

  32. Beth, I think I can agree that A21 is a bit weird, and that the accretion of power and the top-down policy design is wholly undemocratic — and massively overreaches the founding purpose of the UN. But I think the video goes far too far in its dystopian projection.

    Like

  33. Beth,
    Sadly, typing poorly on a phone is a detail that I should much improve.
    Your blog site deserves much more traffic..

    Like

  34. Pingback: The myth of a climate crisis | Climate Scepticism

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