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IPCC calculations show global warming won’t be harmful if it resumes

By Alan Moran - posted Thursday, 9 October 2014


October 1 marked an important anniversary: 18 years during which the earth average temperature has remained unchanged.

Satellite data available from 1988 has allowed very precise measurements of global temperatures. These at first confirmed a warming trend.

But the satellite recordings, greeted with such enthusiastic fanfare by the warmist fraternity, have, for the past 18 years, bitten the hand that fed them.

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A number of hypotheses have been advanced to explain the inconvenient truth of this data. But NASA has just reported that there is no evidence that the increased heat is hiding in the deep oceans.

This invites the question: how much damage does a doubling of carbon dioxide levels bring and what is the cost of measures to prevent this doubling?

Significantly, the costs the Inter­governmental Panel on Climate Change attributes to warming are quite small. The IPCC draws from three studies that attempt to estimate the net losses in world GDP from global warming under business-as-usual conditions. One of these (Nordhaus 2008) estimates a loss across the next 50 years of 2.5 per cent, with a 3C warming. The second (Bosello et al) has a 0.5 per cent loss resulting from a 1.9C warming. And the third, (Rosen and van der Mensbrugghe) estimates a 1.8 per cent loss as a result of a 2.3C warming.

The IPCC's summary for policymakers glosses over the numbers and concentrates on scary rhetoric, an outcome that led to the resignation of Richard Tol, co-chairman of a key working group.

Yet the efforts to restrain global warming are to prevent a loss over 50 to 100 years of about half to one year's annual growth in world income levels. Even this overstates the losses from warming because it magnifies ocean rises, the need for new infrastructure, losses from tourism and new security scares.

Having been forced to acknowledge that global warming has a relatively trivial effect on real levels of human welfare, the IPCC seeks to ensure that its estimates of the costs of pursuing serious carbon dioxide reductions are not too great. It does this by assuming massive new low-cost breakthroughs in solar, and in decarbonising coal emissions as well as by foreshadowing technologies not yet on the drawing boards.

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Of course, if these technologies are really about to emerge there is no point in investing in current generation renewable energy. Indeed, whether we are on the cusp of technological breakthrough or not, there is no point investing in renewables that will always rely on expensive subsidies.

The IPCC puts the costs of its interventions from forcing the world off fossil fuels at just 2.7 per cent in 2050. This is increased to over 8 per cent if the carbon capture and storage does not work, nuclear is phased out and renewables cannot provide more than 20 per cent of world energy.

Even this higher figure is clearly understated as we can see with Australia's experience. Many of those who support the retention of Australia's mandatory renewable energy target now want to let aluminium smelting off the hook. The exclusion of aluminium smelting would still maintain the cost of the MRET for all other businesses and for consumers. This would exacerbate the hardship of many of Australia's most vulnerable, including the disabled and the elderly already living in energy poverty.

The emerging world superpowers, China and India, consider the costs of abatement to be exorbitant and refuse to impose such measures on their economies. Without them no world agreement would be meaningful. For the moment, the evidence for global warming is lacking but, even if warming resumes, the IPPC's calculations show that it will not be very harmful. Attempts to prevent it, even if politically feasible, will cost more than the damage emissions may be causing.

The only certainty is the ­immense costs of Australia maintaining its renewable energy requirements will offer no benefits except to the rentseekers calling so loudly for its retention.

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This article was first published in The Australian.



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Alan Moran is the principle of Regulatory Economics.

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