Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tony Blair Says "Spend Trillions Just in Case"

In the wake of the Climategate scandal, Tony Blair says that we should "take action" to halt global warming even if the science is not certain. From the report in the Daily Telegraph:
"Following the ‘climategate scandal’, Mr Blair said the science may not be “as certain as its proponents allege”. But he said the world should act as a precaution against floods, droughts and mass extinction caused by climate change, in fact it would be “grossly irresponsible” not to."
Now does this make sense? Dominic Lawson, writing in the Times Online doesn't think so. He thinks that Blair is using the same reasoning that took the UK into the invasion of Iraq.
"Tony Blair, turned up in Copenhagen to give his take on the leaked emails. The former prime minister declared that they did not lessen by one jot what he called “the need for action” and added: “It is said that the science around climate change is not as certain as its proponents allege. It doesn’t need to be.” Blair is clearly not troubled by irony, since this approach is exactly the one that got us into such a mess over Saddam Hussein’s suppositious biological threat. The actual evidence was tenuous at the time — but to persuade the public of the need for action, Blair was prepared to say that it was watertight. For weapons of mass destruction, read weather of mass destruction.

Blair now argues that even if the science is less clear than is claimed by the climate catastrophists, we have to act because of the risks to humanity if their worst fears turn out to be well founded. This would make perfect sense if there were no risks attached to what he calls “action”, just as it would if there had been no lives put at risk by attacking Iraq. In fact, there are vast costs involved in the war against weather, which could actually cost lives. The highly respected climate economist Professor Richard Tol, a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said that the CO2 tax required to bring emissions down to the levels demanded by the IPCC would reduce global GDP by an amount that would equate — in 2100 — to $40 trillion (£25 trillion) a year. It’s pretty obvious, really: just as cheap energy has transformed the lives of millions for the better, it follows that reversing the process would have an opposite effect."

Willis Eschenbach in a guest post entitled "Climate, Caution and Precaution" at Watts Up With That, analyzes the "Precautionary Principle" that Blair and others are appealing to in this argument. His conclusion:

"All the different types of climate-related destruction that people are so worried will happen in fifty years are happening today. Droughts? We got ‘em. Floods? There’s plenty. Rising sea levels? Check. Insect borne diseases? Which ones would you like? Tornados and extreme storms? We get them all the time. People dying of starvation? How many do you want? All the Biblical Plagues of Egypt? Would you like flies with that?

Forget about what will happen in fifty years. Every possible climate catastrophe is happening now, and has been for centuries.

So if you are truly interested in those problems, do something about them today. Contribute to organizations developing salt resistant crops. Put money into teaching traditional drought resisting measures in Africa. Support the use of micro-hydroelectric plants for village energy. The possibilities are endless.

That way, whether or not the doomsayers are right about what will happen in fifty years, both then and now people will be better prepared and more able to confront the problems caused by the unpleasant vagaries of climate. Fighting to reduce CO2 is hugely expensive, has been totally unsuccessful to date, will be very damaging to the lives of the poorest people, and has no certainty of bringing the promised results. This is a very bad combination.

Me, I don’t think CO2 will cause those doomsday scenarios. But that’s just me, I’ve been wrong before. If you do care about CO2 and think it is teh eeeevil, you should be out promoting your favorite no-regrets option. Because whether or not CO2 is a danger as people claim, if you do that you can be sure that you are not just pouring money down a bottomless hole with very poor odds of success. That’s the real Precautionary Principle."

Read it all here. This guy makes a lot more sense than Tony "We'd Better Depose Saddam Just in Case" Blair.


Josh said...

I like Eschenbach's ideas; but these ideas and taking measures to slow the rate of global warming are not mutually exclusive.

I'm no fan of Tony Blair. It does seem to me, though, that not taking global warming seriously is a dangerous game. The worst predictions may not come true; but this fact does not justify doing nothing precautionary in the present.

Craig Carter said...

Do you really think we should hurt poor and middle class people just because AGW MIGHT be true? Who should we hurt first and how much?