Sunday, May 25, 2008

Freeman Dyson on Global Warming

In this article, Dyson looks at two books on global warming and adds his own genius to the mix. I found these paragraphs interesting, though--an economist's view of what to do about global warming:

Here are the net values of the various policies as calculated by the DICE model. The values are calculated as differences from the business-as-usual model, without any emission controls. A plus value means that the policy is better than business-as-usual, with the reduction of damage due to climate change exceeding the cost of controls. A minus value means that the policy is worse than business-as-usual, with costs exceeding the reduction of damage. The unit of value is $1 trillion, and the values are specified to the nearest trillion. The net value of the optimal program, a global carbon tax increasing gradually with time, is plus three—that is, a benefit of some $3 trillion. The Kyoto Protocol has a value of plus one with US participation, zero without US participation. The "Stern" policy has a value of minus fifteen, the "Gore" policy minus twenty-one, and "low-cost backstop" plus seventeen...

The main conclusion of the Nordhaus analysis is that the ambitious proposals, "Stern" and "Gore," are disastrously expensive, the "low-cost backstop" is enormously advantageous if it can be achieved, and the other policies including business-as-usual and Kyoto are only moderately worse than the optimal policy. The practical consequence for global-warming policy is that we should pursue the following objectives in order of priority. (1) Avoid the ambitious proposals. (2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop. (3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails. (4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent. These objectives are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.


Gore isn't an economist or a scientist. Is it any wonder his proposals fare the worst of all?

3 comments:

DADvocate said...

I found his discussion of environmentalism as religion towards the end of the article enlightening. It explains a lot.

There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism,...

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the be-lief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate.

Hube said...

Isn't he the dude who came up with the concept of a "Dyson Sphere?"

miggs said...

There are economic, business-friendly ways to mitigate global warming (which I believe is partly man-made). I'm associated with a company called Recycled Energy Development, which reduces manufacturers carbon emissions and energy costs at the same time. The basic idea is to take waste heat -- which power plants and manufacturers emit in abundance -- and turn it into power. Estimates from the EPA and DoE suggest the U.S. could get 40% of its power this way and cut greenhouse pollution by 20%. The reason more energy recycling isn't taking place is the utilities don't like the competition, and regulations protect the utilities of monopolies rather than letting the marketplace work its magic. Loosening these regulations should be a top priority for people concerned about energy costs AND global warming.