The Stern Report

Sounds like a US TV show, no? In more detail Stern Review on the economics of climate change. Sponsored by the treasury, but nominally an independent review. What relation is it to the failed House of Skeptics Lords report? The HoS reported in early July 2005; co-incidentally the "Chancellor announced on 19 July 2005 that he had asked Sir Nick Stern to lead a major review of the economics of climate change, to understand more comprehensively the nature of the economic challenges and how they can be met, in the UK and globally." I don't know. Best guess is convergent evolution: the problems that need to be addressed are obvious. But it may be a response/corrective.

The Stern review isn't finished; we have a Discussion Paper from 31 January 2006 (together with a pile of similar-looking stuff related to a lecture/press: see the index).

Stern appears to have got one thing right that the HoS got badly wrong: rather than waste time listening to skeptics over the science, he has taken the IPCC view as standard, slightly updated. So we have from the executive summary:

Climate change is a serious and urgent issue... There is now an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that human activity is increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and causing warming. We are already seeing significant impacts. There remain uncertainties about the nature and scale of impacts in the longer term, but the most recent science indicates that some of the risks are more serious than had first appeared. The problem is global in its cause and consequences. Greenhouse gases have broadly the same impact on the climate wherever in the world they are emitted. And in terms of its consequences, no region will be left untouched. But impacts will be unevenly felt throughout the world. Some of the most severe impacts will be felt in the poorest countries that are least able to adapt to the changes. The economic challenges are complex. At its most basic level, climate change is an externality: the emission of greenhouse gases damages others. But these costs will be felt over a long period and over the entire globe; their exact nature is uncertain; they interact with other market failures and imperfections; and those most affected – future generations – are not able to speak up for their interests. This points to a long-term international collaborative response. Effective collaboration will require a shared understanding of the incentives and institutions needed, and careful attention to the complex ethical issues involved.

Actually that seques from the science to the economics, but I'm happy with it so far (RP will quibble the some of the risks are more serious than had first appeared and perhaps I will too... oh hold on, they give examples later: for example release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost or the dieback of the Amazon forest. Yes thats fair enough). After that we're on econ/pol, which I'll ignore.

The fun thing, though, is that Stern has put all the evidence submitted online, which makes for some fun reading. Boehmer-Christiansen seems to have failed to do even a basic punctuation and spelling check before she submitted. However, her evidence itself is deeply boring and carefully avoids the science. British Airways also wimps out of the science - perhaps they (correctly) regard it as a foregone conclusion - and spend a lot of words saying "please don't tax aviation fuel" in a coded way. To my surprise the CBI don't quibble the science: In view of the scientific consensus about the level to which concentrations of carbon need to be reduced, we think it right that the government’s ambition should be for the world’s developed economies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 60% by around 2050 – and that the UK should put itself on a path towards achieving such reductions. Well well.

Someone called Pielke, P :-) has also submitted, and has said what you would expect. While we're on the miss-spellings, "Exxon Mobile" (the fly-by-night branch?) couldn't be bothered to write a proper submission so they dump a pile of old reports on poor Stern, all of which (you guessed it) carefully avoid any mention of the science, which appears to be their current strategy (a step up from trying to poke holes in it, as they used to).

Rahmstorf argues for Sea level rise as a defining feature of dangerous interference with the climate system which harks back to what-is-dangerous: In the UNFCCC, most nations of the world have agreed to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent “dangerous interference with the climate system” (Article 2). A key question for policy thus is: what level can this be? We here propose a criterion involving long-term sea level rise. We argue that a significant likelihood of causing a global sea level rise in the range of 3-5 m over the next few centuries (say, by the year 2300) would constitute a “dangerous interference”, since such a sea level rise would destroy much of the current world coastlines, including small island states, many large cities, most beaches and many coastal ecosystems.

John Quiggin responded to the Castles-Henderson critique of the IPCC - good grief, has the entire blogosphere written to Stern? :-)

I suppose I ought to look at the NERC response... hmm, well, apart from having the name "Helen" associated with it, it seems to do its best to mention all the NERC institutes, as expected :-)

But enough serious stuff, I was wanting to look through the skeptics, sadly they don't label them so you have to look through for keywords like Kininmouth. Who mentions that well-known piece of science, The Day After Tomorrow. Its always convenient when people start off with stuff like that, so you know not to bother taking them seriously (if you think I'm being impolite, he has the gall to call t' hockey stick "fraudulent", so is beyond the Pale). Oooh, but thats not the best bit: apparently "There are ongoing efforts by the climatology establishment to suppress any meaningful debate on the science of greenhouse gases". And his evidence? "The first serious problem with the theory of anthropogenic global warming is that tropospheric temperatures, which have been measured by satellites since 1979, show no significant upward trend". But this is botty-wipes, as [[Satellite temperature measurements]] will show you. Come on: if you're going to be a septic, at least don't be a cr*p one. The Marshall Insititute has a submission, but its so dull and stupid I won't bother link to it. "Allan MacRae" (who he) rants on: The current scientific basis of the Kyoto Protocol is deeply flawed - its greatest weaknesses include excessive reliance on: 1) The IPCC 2001 Summary for Policymakers (SPM) report, which is now in disrepute... etc etc. He seems to be connected to Baliunas, somehow.

So... nothing too surprising. Science 1, septics 0; prize for most interesting piece of science evidence goes to Rahmstorf.


Anonymous said...

Yes! Informative and amusing. I think I'll visit this site regularly.

Well done.

Douglas Coker

Anonymous said...

From his letter: "... in the future are conjecture based largely on the output of udimentary computer models."

"udimentary" - I don't know, it just struck me as funny.

John Cross

Anonymous said...

On a more serious note, do they have anyone give these things a once over for accuracy? I mean his statement:

"The emission is also proportional to the fourth
power of temperature. Temperature decreases with altitude in
the troposphere and, as a consequence, the direct effect of
the greenhouse gases is to cool the atmosphere."

What?!? Is there any way this could be interperted as correct?


William M. Connolley said...

John - it could be interpreted as a rather garbled version of the fact that adding GHG increases the radiating power of the atmos, and thus allows that bit of atmos to lose more heat.

BTW, I put a challenge to sci.env, so far sans response, for what is the first major error in http://www.geocities.com/atmosco2/atmoseffect. Feel free to ponder that, cos I shall be posting it (not the answer, the question) soon!

Anonymous said...

Is it the second word 'understand'?

Eachran said...

William, I dont think that you can or should ignore the economic and political implications : everyone knows what happens when these type of inquiries get going, they develop a life of their own and before you know where you are Crichton (is the spelling correct?) is setting the agenda.

Thanks for all the links : I shall read, criticise, sort and develop action points for myself.

One of the things that worries me is that a number of countries are going to do the same thing : perhaps worry is the wrong word but there will be massive duplication and a dilution of resources which we can ill afford now.

I cannot understand why the powers that be do not recognise the power of the net to open an open enquiry.

Anyway good luck, well done and dont weaken.

William M. Connolley said...

Eachran - I'm not suggesting everyone should ignore the polecon bit: only that my expertise is in the science bit, so thats the bit where my opinions are worth reeading.

Agenda-setting: it does seem to be pot luck. The House of Lords got hijacked; this one has got the science right, but who knows about the economics?

Duplication: fair point. For the science, thats what the IPCC is for. I don't think there is a corresponding body for econ (WG II & III head in that direction but not so far). Perhaps its just too controversial.

Anonymous said...

im insane

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is nat and im mentally disabled you wetards

gele2 said...

Can we se the model you've used in like sort of like a picture or perhaps explain the model more in detail the one that you've used to explain econmical environmental disaster.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

stern report is very alarming

Anonymous said...

bollox to you
people are working hard to put into effect real innovative ways of doing things from combustion - the root cause of C02 to all manner of changes in lifestyles and your cynical comment comes up first on google after the report if youre a blogger show a bit of respect
basically you are saying that you've seen all this before !!! so its without value
well its a report that comes with the full backing of the british government and that helps a great deal
I am fucking irish so I know what the weight of the that means
get out of your little island and wake up to the bigger world enfoire et con

Anonymous said...

lowest degree of cynicism if you ask me
he is aware and may have seen of some of the date given by the stern report therefore it is valueless (methinks he means if he knows about it then it mustn't mean anything!) well the british government has given this the full backing because you come up on google tonight just after the full report from HM treasury ! so you my friend come in as the other sad english person (I am presuming here!) so you're a langer un enfoire et un naz (waster en gaelique)

Anonymous said...

I for one can't wait for a Mad Max style world where we will fight environmental refugee's for the right to live. Go Oil lobby!
Taking my kids to Karate lessons next week!

Seriously though, I think the people need to march and if necessary topple governments.
Economics and science can be spouted endlessly and nothing will be done. Big business will continue to muddy the waters (hehe) and dodge real outcomes.

Normal suburbanites don't give a sh*t, maybe we all deserve to be wiped out so the planet can recover without us.

Anonymous said...

This site is full of petroleum propaganda rubbish. Wake up before it's too late!!!!

Anonymous said...

Why does the Stern report so emphatically ignore the role of the sun in climatic changes? Why is this warming regarded as a permanent state forever? Were periods of warming and ice-ages (detailed in the geo record) in previous centuries and millenia due to human activity? What if, after removing all co2 emissions, and thus plunging many nations into more extreme poverty or deprivation, it is shown climate change is due to the sun's activity after all?