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Global warming: Stern’s suspect spanking of the sceptics

Charles Dumas warns of a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ scenario.

World Economic Forum special report: Contents

Nicholas Stern’s report allows for economic analysis of global warming

The Bush twilight, including simple denial of man-made global warming dangers, has coincided with the publication of a 700-page study of its economic consequences by Sir Nicholas Stern for the UK Treasury. Its clarion call for immediate, strong, internationally coordinated action may only prove effective in part, however. Though its un-nuanced acceptance of “the science” may be preferable to some sceptics’ total denial, it makes the report’s extremely strong conclusions less persuasive. But it is welcome to have the numerical economic framework for analysis. The Stern report suggests that the continuing costs of tackling global warming to cap the carbon content of the atmosphere at acceptable levels might be 1% of GWP (gross world product) annually in perpetuity. In a downside case it uses a 4% number instead. It estimates the cost of global warming, including negative climate feedbacks of various kinds, in a “business as usual” scenario, and comes up with large numbers – 10% or more of GWP – but not until 2166, far into the next century, when they are projected to be worsening rapidly.

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