Socioeconomic Impacts of Global Warming are Systematically Overestimated–Part II

Socioeconomic Impacts of Global Warming are Systematically Overestimated

Part II:  How Large Might be the Overestimation?

Indur M. Goklany

A major argument advanced for drastic GHG emission reductions is that, otherwise, we are told, global warming will exacerbate the problems that developing countries already face (e.g., low agricultural productivity, hunger, malaria, water shortage, coastal flooding). Consequently, global warming would/could/might/may swamp their meager adaptive capacity. Not only would this be a tragedy for the developing countries, it could trigger social, political and economic instability, and mass migrations which would create large negative spillover effects for the US and other industrialized countries (see, e.g., here).

It’s true, many developing countries’ adaptive capacity is relatively low today.  But will it be equally low in the future when global warming, presumably, kicks in?

Figure 3 provides estimates of net GDP per capita — a determinant of adaptive capacity — in 1990 (the base year), 2100 and 2200 for four IPCC reference scenarios for areas that comprise today’s developing and industrialized countries after accounting for any losses in GDP due to future global warming.  For 2100 and 2200, net GDP per capita is estimated assuming that (a) GDP per capita in the absence of global warming will grow per the IPCC SRES scenarios and (b) adjusting it downward to account for the costs of climate change per the Stern Review’s 95th percentile estimate under the “high climate change” scenario, equivalent to the IPCC’s warmest scenario (A1FI).  For 1990, I use the actual GDP per capita because this is the base year from which all changes are calculated for future years.

I use the Stern Review’s estimates which, unlike most other studies, account for losses not only due to market impacts of global warming but also to non-market (i.e., environmental and public health) impacts, as well as the risk of catastrophe, despite the fact that the Stern Review is an “outlier” that many economists believe overstates losses due to global warming (Tol 2008). Its 95th percentile estimate for losses in GDP under the warmest scenario is 7.5% in 2100 and 35.2% in 2200. The precise methodology for developing this Figure 3 is provided here.

Figure             3: Net GDP per capita, 1990-2200, after accounting for losses due to global warming for four major IPCC emission and climate scenarios.  For 2100 and 2200, the scenarios are arranged from the warmest (A1FI) on the left to the coolest (B1) on the right. The average global temperature increase from 1990 to 2085 for the scenarios are as follows: 4°C for AIFI, 3.3°C for A2, 2.4°C for B2, and 2.1°C for B1.   For context, in 2006, GDP per capita for industrialized countries was $19,300; the United States, $30,100; and developing countries, $1,500 (all in 1990 US$). Source: Goklany (2009a).

Figure 3 shows that under the warmest scenario (A1FI), the scenario that prompts much of the apocalyptic visions of global warming, net GDP per capita of inhabitants of developing countries in 2100 ($61,500) will be double that of the US in 2006 ($30,100). Therefore, by 2100, developing countries’ adaptive capacity should on average be far greater than the US’s today merely on the basis of higher GDP per capita!

[By 2200, the net GDP per capita of today’s developing countries will be almost triple the US’ in 2006 ($86,200 versus $30,100).]

Thus, the problems of poverty that warming would exacerbate (e.g., low agricultural productivity, hunger, malnutrition, malaria and other vector borne diseases) ought to be substantially reduced if not eliminated by 2100, even if one ignores any secular technological change that ought to occur in the interim. Tol and Dowlatabadi (2001), for example, show that malaria has been functionally eliminated in a society whose annual per capita income reaches $3,100. Therefore, even under the poorest scenario (A2), developing countries should be free of malaria well before 2100, even assuming no technological change in the interim.  Similarly, if the average net GDP per capita in 2100 for developing countries is $10,000–$82,000, then their farmers would be able to afford technologies that are unaffordable today (e.g., precision agriculture) or new technologies that should come on line by then (e.g., drought resistant seeds). But, since impact assessments generally fail to fully factor in increases in economic development (and technological change), they substantially overestimate future net damages from global warming (see Part I).

Note that Figure 3 shows that through 2200, notwithstanding global warming, net GDP per capita will be highest under the warmest scenario, and lowest under the poorest scenario (A2). This suggests that if humanity has a choice of development paths, it ought to strive to take the path with the highest economic growth. That is, a richer-but-warmer world is better than poorer-but-cooler worlds.

The second major reason why the impacts of global warming are systematically overestimated is that few impact studies consider secular technological change and most assume that no new technologies will come on line, although some do assume that greater adoption of existing technologies with GDP per capita and, much less frequently, a modest generic improvement in productivity (see Part I).

So how much of a difference in impact would consideration of both economic development and technological change have made?

If impacts were to be estimated for 5 or so years into the future, ignoring changes in adaptive capacity between now and then probably would not be fatal. However, the time horizon of climate change impact assessments is often on the order of 50–100 years or more.  The global impacts assessments discussed in Part I, for instance, use a base year of 1990 to estimate impacts for 2025, 2055 and 2085. The Stern Review’s time horizon extends out to 2100–2200 and beyond (Stern Review 2006).

It should be noted that some of the newer impacts assessments have begun to account for changes in adaptive capacity.  For example, Yohe et al. (2006), in an exercise exploring the vulnerability to climate change under various climate change scenarios, allowed adaptive capacity to increase between the present and 2050 and 2100. However, they limited any increase in adaptive capacity to “either the current global mean or to a value that is 25% higher than the current value – whichever is higher” (Yohe et al. 2006, p. 4 of the full report). Such a limitation would miss most of the increase in adaptive capacity implied by Figure 3.

More recently, Tol et al. (2007) analyzed the sensitivity of deaths from malaria, diarrhea, schistosomiasis, and dengue deaths to warming, economic development and other determinants of adaptive capacity through the year 2100.   Their results indicate, unsurprisingly, that consideration of economic development alone could reduce mortality substantially.  For malaria, for instance, deaths would be eliminated before 2100 in a number of the more affluent Sub-Saharan countries (Tol et al. 2007, p. 702). This result is consistent with retrospective assessments which indicate that over the span of a few decades, changes in economic development and technologies can damp down various indicators of adverse environmental impacts and negative indicators of human well-being (see here). For example, due to a combination of greater wealth and secular technological change, U.S. death rates due to various climate-sensitive water-related diseases — dysentery, typhoid, paratyphoid, other gastrointestinal disease, and malaria —declined by 99.6 to 100.0 percent from 1900–1970, that is, over seventy years. See Figure 4.

Figure 4: Death rates for various water related diseases, 1900-1970. Source: Goklany (2009b), based on various issues of the Statistical Abstract.

Similarly, as shown in Figure 5, average annual global mortality and mortality rates from extreme weather events have declined by 93–98 percent since the 1920s (Goklany 2009c), a span of almost ninety years. Thus, not fully accounting for changes in the level of economic development and secular technological change would understate future adaptive capacity which then could overstate impacts by one or more orders of magnitude if the time horizon is several decades into the future.

Figure 5: Global Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events, 1900–2008.  The extreme events include the following: droughts, extreme temperatures (both extreme heat and extreme cold), floods, wet mass movement (i.e., slides, waves, and surges), wildfires, and storms (e.g., hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, typhoons, etc.). Note that data for the last period are averaged over nine years. Source: Goklany (2009c), using data from EM-DAT (2009).

In fact, it is precisely the failure to account for the combination of economic and technological development that has caused high profile prognostications such as Malthus’s original conjecture about running out of cropland, The Limits to Growth, and The Population Bomb, to fizzle spectacularly (see here).

Because they share similar methodological flaws, there is no reason to believe that the global warming impacts assessments undertaken to date will fare any better.

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46 thoughts on “Socioeconomic Impacts of Global Warming are Systematically Overestimated–Part II

  1. Overestimation is such a polite term.
    It’s even kinder than exaggeration or embellishment.

    If the “overestimating” were only with the socioeconomic impacts it would of course be bad enough to merit a slightly nastier label.

    But within the greater context of widespread whoppers most observers know what is meant by overestimation.

    And these overestimations tend to grow even further as they travel.

    Progressive radio host Thom Hartman has taken the figure of 200 million climate refugees which grew from the earlier 100 million climate refugees and now warns of 1 Billion climate refugees.
    Like so many others, this icon-smart guy of the left has adopted and inflated many other whoppers from the Overestimation Team.

  2. The more I delve into climate science and blogs, the more I am convinced that AGW alarmism is bogus and current “official” climate science a joke…However, I do not understand why the club de Rome doomsday prediction should be put in the same basket (rotten science basket? ;-) ). They made gross simplification in order to get a simple model, and one can argue that the model is so simplified as to be poor or useless for quantitative predictions….But the qualitative warning of a demographic timebomb is, imho, completely relevant and based on simple, sane reasoning. The current ecomonic model build post-WWII is not going to last much longer, either because of depletion of natural resources, arable land or technological plateau (yes, such plateau is imho present, it is simply hidden by some area were we are still in the early stage of the S-curve like electronic and genetic engineering (micro/nanotechnology in general) – but the tech that has allowed demographic explosion – mechanisation, fertilisation/irrigation, hygiene, vaccines and antibiotics – is plateau-ing and I do not see how getting a new x-phone with immersive virtual reality googles will change how many humans per acre we could feed and keep healthy…). This model is based on continuous economical growth, and this growth is fuelled by technological improvement, but also by the increasing number of customers. An ageing stable (or even decreasing population) is not going to provide this, and maintaining a population growth similar to post-WWII is not possible either (it has already stopped). This is the simple idea behind malthusian-type alarmism, and it is still valid imho, only the timing is debatable…

  3. I noticed in the “Where Are the Corpses?” Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach here on WUWT that Arrhenius’ methodology seems to have led to overestimated decimation of species. I assume this is the same Arrhenius that overestimated the effects of CO2. It seems a similar school of thought produces overestimation of the effects of GW. Has this systematically overestimating become a field of science, or is it just fundamental modern statistics? It certainly seems pervasive.

  4. Dear Mr Goklany,

    I agree with almost all things said in this paper.

    As a pedagogical way of describing the power of development (combined with time) you can always look back. What marvels have we (humankind) accomplished during the last one hundred years (in spite of idiotic wars)!!
    – We have managed to house an additonal five billion people (not all first class, but anyhow).
    – A gigantic urbanisation has taken place.
    – Average life expectancy has almost doubled.
    – And communication links have been established criss crossing our countries.

    The IPCC scenarios all have a hundred years perspective. And that is a long period. If worst comes to worst (which is unlikely) a few hundred million people will have to be “reallocated” which will be problematic for certain countries. To evacuate Florida would be a minor thing for the US to accomplish whereas for instance Bangladesh will have problems to solve their problems singlehanded. There is thus (as now) a case for “global solidarity” – demanding marginal sacrifices from the – increasingly – well to do majority. Once again “if worst comes to worst”.

    A few months ago Tom Moriarty at climatesanity had a very pedagogical way of describing the extreme sacrifices that the people of Baltimore have to suffer if they should protect themselves by a three meter high wall. Each inhabitant should between now and 2100 each week have to carry 50 kilos of gravel to the wall. Rome was not built in one year but if you stick to the task for a few hundred years it is possible to accomplish also that by hand. And now we have dumpers that carry 10 cubic meters gravel.

    As an adendum: “We” can base “our” (=the world’s) entire system of electricity generation on nuclear power by using some one percent of our GNP during the next 50 years. No big deal.

    Gösta Oscarsson

  5. G Adlam (08:30:07) :

    OT but another interesting development post climategate…

    BBC to review its science coverage after wide criticism of its climate change reporting.

    Amazing !

    A scientific expert will be hired to lead the review and it will concentrate on coverage of the issues featured in its news and factual output.

    Sounds familiar, where have I heard that one before…

    Hopefully though, the rest of te MSM will take note and look into their own handling of their bias.

  6. AdderW (09:39:34) :
    G Adlam (08:30:07):

    The only honest way to rectify the total bias in the BBC would be to include at least one skeptical scientist – selected by an outside organization that is on record as being skeptical of the claimed AGW/CO2 link – and make the report/conclusions public, including a minority report.

    It is clear nothing like that will be done; they have already selected their Winston Wolfe. I know a whitewash when I see one. The BBC is aware of the flood of complaints over their one-sided reporting, and they are simply trying to put out the fire so they can continue with their agenda.

    The BBC has changed from the gold standard of impartial reporting into a devious state propaganda organ with no interest in the truth.

  7. “A scientific expert will be hired to lead the
    review and it will concentrate on coverage
    of the issues featured in its news and factual

    Has someone noticed that Phil Jones is currently unemployed (he could even do it gratis since I’m sure he’s still drawing a paycheck from CRU during their ‘investigation’).

  8. Well any paper that begins with the word “socioeconomic”, I would reject out of hand. It belongs in the same swear word list of banished useless words that “anthropogenic” is in.

    And somebody was complaining because Lord Monckton used too much Latin in his writings. Hey if you know what such words mean; use them; but don’t be surprised if a lot of other peopel don’t know what they mean; so you failed in that communication effort.

    I know it’s fashionable to come up with fancy Latin mottos and things; like:- “e pluribus unum”, or “post hoc, non propter hoc”, or “nullum prandium gratuitum”. Who knows what any of that stuff means. Luckily my High School motto, happens to be in Maori; so evidently those savages didn’t know any Latin either. Actually being fluent in a foreign language (or many) can be handy, so you can listen in on people’s telephone conversation as they walk down the street; or hang out in the bathroom. It can be very handy for computer passwords.
    Just imagine using the value of pi in Roman numerals for your log-on password ?

    I don’t have a problem with anybody who has a better grasp on cummunicative language; it can be more interesting, than, like, you know, whatever, she goes, like what is that all about ?

    But long words made up for extraction of grant moneys, such as “socioeconomic” are just a waste of ink and paper.

    But one thing is certain; the world’s reaction to this global warming scam, is going to hit the poorest people the hardest.

    If you think that being forced compulsorially to pay out an additional 17% of your barely survivable income to pay for a government mandated insurance; that is not guaranteed to provide you with any actual medical care, on top of your existing taxes, will be bad; well then just you wait till they start loading you up with their carbon tax to pay for their legislative foolishness.

    Climate itself doesn’t have a “socioeconomic” effect; it is the “anthropogenic” response to “anthropogenically” manufactured proxies for climate that will have an “econosocietal” effect. Understand ?!

  9. “gkai (08:52:17) :

    The more I delve into climate science and blogs, the more I am convinced that AGW alarmism is bogus and current “official” climate science a joke…However, I do not understand why the club de Rome doomsday prediction should be put in the same basket (rotten science basket? ;-) ). They made gross simplification in order to get a simple model, and one can argue that the model is so simplified as to be poor or useless for quantitative predictions…”

    I would have absolutely no quibbles with it had they made this projection, and when somebody like Julian Simon, a well-known economist, points out obvious flaws, well, go back to the computers and refine the model.

    I would also have absolutely no problem with James Hansen’s GCMs if they would improve their models, take criticisms into account, remove obvious bias towards warming etc. Modeling is hard and not a precise science.

    But the Club Of Rome used it’s projections to scare everyone, defend their boneheaded model to this day as “basically correct” even though according to their model nearly every metal we mine would long have been used up in the 80ies or 90ies.

    This reduces their scientific credibility to exactly zero.

    Every leftwing student in the western world was carrying the doomsday predictions from that ill-fated attempt at a simulation like it was a holy revelation. Have you heard, the Club Of Rome said, oh, really, the Club Of Rome? I remember that well…

    “.But the qualitative warning of a demographic timebomb is, imho, completely relevant and based on simple, sane reasoning.”

    The predicted collapse as well?

    ” The current ecomonic model build post-WWII is not going to last much longer, either because of depletion of natural resources, arable land or technological plateau (yes, such plateau is imho present, it is simply hidden by some area were we are still in the early stage of the S-curve like electronic and genetic engineering (micro/nanotechnology in general) – but the tech that has allowed demographic explosion – mechanisation, fertilisation/irrigation, hygiene, vaccines and antibiotics – is plateau-ing and I do not see how getting a new x-phone with immersive virtual reality googles will change how many humans per acre we could feed and keep healthy…).”

    Maybe because new smartphones have little to do with improvements in agriculture and our media report exactly ZILCH on such improvements that happen all the time? Right about now an international collaboration of research institutes, western researchers, indian and bangladeshi institutes, all sponsored by one Mr. Bill Gates amongst others, are experimenting with a new variety of rice that can withstand long time submersion in water, giving more food security in case of flooding.

    So maybe if you’d care to look out for such news you would find them. Just reading the “technology” page of the BBC doesn’t cut it.

    And please, read Julian Simon, read Björn Lomborg, read, read

    Malthus was wrong and we would all not be alive had he been right.

  10. “”” Gösta Oscarsson (09:22:19) :

    Dear Mr Goklany,

    I agree with almost all things said in this paper. “””

    Well Gösta , I can’t agree with a single thing that you just said. If I wanted to have somebody else live my life for me; then why do I even need to be here taking up space.

    When the big Indonesian Tsunami hit Ceylon, and Bangladesh in 2007 or whenever that was, even the elephants and cattle had sense enough to move to higher ground ahead of time. It was only humans who rushed out onto the waterless beaches to see what they could pick up, and ended up as a statistic.

    You are welcome to do whatever you wish there in Stockholm; that’s your gig; but please leave us still free people out of your calculations.

  11. Re the plateauing of scientific / technological progress, here are some areas where we can expect an explosion of productivity / efficiency enhancements:

    – combinatorial chemistry
    – computational electromagnetics
    – computational thermodynamics
    – computational thermochemistry

    Most of these will be completely ignored by our wise media.

  12. A scientific expert will be hired to lead the review and it will concentrate on coverage of the issues featured in its news and factual output.

    They (the BBC) needs to include an oversight panel to make sure this reviewer doesn’t overlook anything. One member of the panel should be an expert in propaganda techniques and PR spin methods.

    It’s possible this review will be a whitewash (or, more likely, a gray-wash), but, if it is, the ultimate outcome for the BBC of trying to “brazen it out” — and failing — will be ten times worse than an admission now. “The real crime is the cover-up.”

    For instance, a competing channel, or even a YouTube poster, could then make the BBC a laughingstock by creating a humorous show, along the lines of “Yes, Minister,” containing a series of behind-the-scenes glimpses of news production at an “imaginary” (hah!) broadcaster, showing how the news gets selected, spiced, spiked, and/or spun so that it “fits” their template.

  13. George E. Smith (10:38:26),

    I don’t understand what your complaint is, exactly. Can you clarify?


  14. Smokey!

    Thanks for that.

    Being alone not understanding can disturb your night’s rest. For which it now is time here in Stockholm. Not more than 10 degrees below zero. Celsius of course.


  15. IPCC actually prognosticates stuff 100 years into future..? Has UN asked them to come up with something for much shorter time span – like next 5 years – to see if their fortune telling is any good? :)

  16. George E. Smith (10:38:26)

    That was a strange comment to say the least. Do you mean that doing nothing and/or running away in “the wrong direction” will make us all part of some statistics?

  17. Who says that economics is The Dismal Science? Not I!

    Science à la Climategate, there’s your real Dismal Science.

  18. The Malthusian doctrine was wrong. At what time since then do the greenie weenies say it suddenly became correct?

    The tipping point I see is the shortage of lithium. Pious hybrids require a lot for batteries and the warmists also will need a lot for medication.

  19. George E. Smith (10:38:26) was indeed a strange, and completely uncalled for comment!?
    Gösta, you are most definitly not alone in wondering what that was.

  20. Ok, first off, this link:

    Takes a swipe at the whole Malthusian thing that is the basis for the Club of Rome mindset (who, BTW, are purported to be behind both the ‘running out of resources DOOOM!” scare of the 1970s AND the AGW scare of today…)

    On the issue of running out of resources. We don’t. We can’t. The entire planet is a resource and we are not blasting megatons of it off into space. The planet does not ‘go away’. Yes, in a hundred years or so it would be good to get a lot of people off the rock and into space, but we have no shortage of stuff, and never will:

    and that include energy supplies available right now with today’s technology:

    Or in some cases, simple engineering extensions of it:

    For some (very unclear) reason a bunch of very powerful folks have an organized effort to scare everyone else into dying out. Just say no!

    We live in a world of abundance, and all we need to do to share that abundance with the less fortunate is to set about the jobs of engineering and building. And no, that does not despoil the planet, it reduces fecundity and population growth and gives us the means to save the wild places. Compare USA wilderness preservation with Haiti or Madagascar as existence proofs.

    So just go tell the neo-Maltusians to stuff it.

    @George: “socioeconomic” is one of those annoying words that is often abused, but actually useful as a term of art.

    Economics covers both money type issues and human behaviour issues. So, for example, Malthus and his exponential population hypothesis is why Economics is called “The Dismal Science” (Malthus was an Economist… but we now now population growth is “S” shaped, not exponential, despite what the doom mongers say.)

    To distinguish when you are talking about THAT aspect (human factors) as they impact on economic {growth, production, distribution, etc.} vs things like “fractional reserve banking” or “linear programming production optimization” the term “socio-economic” is used rather than just “economics” or detailed terms like “microeconomic optimization”. It is a bit of jargon or “term of art” that tells you what part of economics is under discussion.

    So when talking about population dynamics, fecundity as a function of education or income level, reproductive response of a population to increased social welfare payments, and similar things where human social norms and behaviours drive things, you do need the “socio” stuck on the front. And yes, all those things are part of “economics”… have been from the very start (vis. Malthus).

  21. Mr. Goklany,

    again a great article. I hope we can hammer this message into the heads of certain people here in the developed countries: That it is necessary to achieve a higher GDP per capita for India, China, Africa, South America, South Asia in order to reduce the death toll, increase the life expectancy, and that the last thing these countries need are shackles on their economic development.

    As Björn Lomborg has shown in his book “The sceptical environmentalist” a higher wealth also inevitably leads to a higher protection of the environment – people will only protect wildlife if they can afford to. This alone should be reason enough for our environmentalists to support economic development.

    Thank you very much for your post!

  22. gkai (08:52:17) :

    The current ecomonic model build post-WWII is not going to last much longer, either because of depletion of natural resources, arable land or technological plateau….

    gk, especially in the face of Indur’s work, I have no idea why you make these assumptions about “plateaus” and a “demographic time bomb”. Why are human numbers more threatening than Dinosaurs’? Why would any plateau be followed by a “natural” steep sudden catastrophic decline?

    I’m not a physicist but it seems to me that natural resources do not disappear from the Earth very easily, or is it decreasing in mass? I’m pretty ignorant on this question, but exactly what has been used up and can’t be substituted for?

    Fossil fuel already has a replacement, Nuclear Energy, which is also a “natural resource”. The sources for building materials seem hardly touched even in their current state of existence. And so on.

    Arable land availability also depends upon how it is made “arable”, and it looks like you’ve ignored the Oceans.

    To postulate a plateau in technology any time soon sounds more like the effects of depression or a fearful mindset. Why would it “just stop” now when our understanding of how the Universe works at least here locally seems instead to be accellerating? Why bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy by implying that now we’ve got to focus instead on cutting down on using what we “still have”.

    It looks like increased GDP/capita – productivity – means that everything becomes more efficient, so as to even allow for the emergence of more “luxeries” as an effect. Standards of living have probably always increased with increasing GDP/capita. In “developed” countries, what is a “poor” standard of living now used to be a “rich” one.

    I don’t know much about it yet, but offhand the only plateau I would postulate would be a significant decrease in the Sun’s energy. Otherwise, what looks to be the main threat to Humanity is Communism and the like – which seek to limit human freedom. Did I just hear someone mention the ipcc’s “Climate Science”?

    I guess I’m trying to see what we’re really running out of, and I acknowledge that I haven’t thought about it very much, though Indur is really

  23. @DirkH,

    surely you do not expect improvements in agriculture to sustain exponential population growth??? For example, some countries are already victims of food/biocarburant competion and at the mercy of food price speculation – funny you mention India as I think there was a lot of problems among small producers failing to get the return promised by modern agriculture (high yield genetically modified crops), or lacking the mechanical aid to implement them, or hit by the the oil price increase ain 2008 – and choosnig suicide when the debts were accumulating. India looks exactly like a place were food security is tight – meaning that population get limited by food supply like it was in Europe 2 centuries ago – not a desirable way to regulate demography…
    Imho, population will stabilize and even decrease – either catastrophically like predicted by the CoR, or, hopefully, by urbanisation, higher eduction of women and access to contraceptive all leading to reduced natality. But, in both case, it is the end of the endless growth promoted by economists – not the end of capitalism (a just system of retribution for work done or services provided) but well of the modern Ponzi schemes that now makes the bulk of it (I, personally, do not consider attack of the World3 simulation code by economists as relevant, they are, together with climatologists and astrologists, at the very bottom of my scientific barel ;-) )

  24. When people say we are running out of certain resources, I note how I do not see the old landfills being dug up for recycling. When you think of all the iron contained in all those steel cans, let alone all the aluminum soda cans, assorted glass, even old copper wiring and plumbing…

    As soon as the prices get to where it is finally more economical to dig up the old stuff for recycling than to process new material, then I will worry.

  25. Peden, running out of space basically.
    Not everywhere in the world, but I can assure you that we are in some places. I do not understand the reluctance to the idea that voluntary de-natality is desireable: a population reduction can only benefit the standard of living of everybody, as there is the same amount of stuff to be divided among less people….except if the stuff is the people themselves.
    I think this is the reasoning behind economic analysis: having more consumers is a benefit in itself, as it allows to grow, and growth is necessary to provide return on investment, which in itself is needed by the current monetary system.

    BTW, I note that many negative reaction to my defense of the CoR mention that there is enough food/energy/stuff if it was better shared and distributed where it is needed, while also despising communism and promoting liberty and freedom….It strikes me as profundly paradoxal. I am ideologically opposed to communism, but I also feel that freedom, private ownership and enterprise liberty imply that resources are not equally distributed – by defintion…

    Technological plateau is imho real, at least in some domains. The most convincing aspect of it is the Jetson effect: look how 2000 was depicted in the mass culture of the fifties. They extrapolated the growth they experienced in personal transportation, energy use,… and Mr Jetson was flying to office and having a break on the moon….nope. Sure, they did not saw some aspects in computer industry (although, no AI, no HAL, no pervasive domotics ;-) ), but in many way, the real 2000 is lacking compared to it’s anticipation (2010 now – we were supposed to start a nuclear reaction in Jupiter and have another sun, no? ;-) )

    Many people believe the plateau is not real, and cite the continuous exponential-like amount of scientific publication as a counter-example….Well, I work in science/engineering and have read a lot of scientific papers, and written quite a few myself….Sure, there is a lot, but a lot is crap, and the relative amount of crap is increasing. Crap is maybe too strong a word, but a large part of the explosion is not due to ground-braking papers, but investigation of minute points and variation of well known theories, and the fact that divid what would have been 1 original paper in a serie of 3 variations, themselve duplicated in various journals, talks and posters) is n excellent way to boost cross-references indices and advance in academic careers…

  26. “socioeconomic-impacts-of-global-warming-are-systematically-overestimated”.
    What about positive impacts? Spin any globe. The huge areas of the Northern Hemisphere catch the attention. Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Russia, Siberia, strange Far Eastern regions unknown to man…
    They will all warm up, making huge areas hitherto inaccessible; accessible. The possibilities of unimagined, undiscovered riches, of every kind, which have the potential of enriching every man, woman and child on the planet, a potential enrichment which dwarfs that which resulted from the discovery of America.
    Not only land resources waiting to be developed, not only mineral resources waiting to be discovered, but most resting in the territory of peoples whose political systems encourage enterprise.
    Is this not a benefit from global warming, should it happen, for whatever reason?

  27. “”” Smokey (11:34:29) :

    George E. Smith (10:38:26),

    I don’t understand what your complaint is, exactly. Can you clarify?

    Thanks. “””

    “”” GeorgeGr (13:12:02) :

    George E. Smith (10:38:26) was indeed a strange, and completely uncalled for comment!?
    Gösta, you are most definitly not alone in wondering what that was. “””

    “”” Gösta Oscarsson (11:19:29) :

    George E Smith


    Gösta “””

    Well so now I am confused. So Gösta simply did not understand a word apaprently, and Smokey evidently got a part of it but not enough to understand my point, while GeorgeGr got it completely to the point of castigating me for my “completel;y uncalled for comment.”

    Thisa is indeed a difficult medium of communication.

    “”” As an adendum: “We” can base “our” (=the world’s) entire system of electricity generation on nuclear power by using some one percent of our GNP during the next 50 years. No big deal. “””

    Well this is just one snippet from Gösta’s original post. No big deal to spend one percent of one’s GNP for 50 years to electrify one’s entire system of electricity generation.

    OK for you to say; so go do it. In the USA; Nuclear power is effectively prohibited by environmental restrictions; so it won’t fly here. However we are quite self sufficient in domestic supplies of fossil fuels; and also we are the world’s only sizeable land mass, that is known to be a net carbon sink; while everybody else is pretty much a carbon source or effectively neutral.

    So logically, we should do what we can do, and use our resources; while Gösta can use his abundant nuclear sources. Pretty simple.

    But why should either of us dictate our solution to anybody else. Places that are rich in wind, solar, bio, tidal, geothermal and such energy resources should use what they have available.

    Bolivia is known to be super enriched in readily available Lithium, and most of the rest, is in nearby South American countries. So they are ready to cash in on Gösta’s electric future, by supplying him with electric car batteries, which they will want in their fossil fuel free utopia.

    But please don’t crank up any imaginary climate catastrophe, as an excuse to prevent us from utilising our resources; simply because you evidently don’t want to use yours. When you get your electrictopia going to your satisfaction, you can try selling your surplus production electric cars over here; we are already for them, and every motel has outlets to plug a battery charger into , while you wait ovenight at the conveniently spaced motels.

    The reason the pilgrims originally came to America was to get a way from the dictatorial authoritarian lifestyle of Europe. If you like living that way; that’s ok with me; enjoy it.

    The single greatest motivator on this planet is freedom. I wish all people could be free; but many don’t want to be; they like being told how to live.

  28. gkai (14:55:34),

    The planet is not running out of room! You probably missed the discussion here a while back showing that the entire human race – 6.7 billion people – could fit into a sphere one kilometer in diameter.

    And regarding your belief that people’s ‘stuff’ should be better distributed, the free market does the best possible job of allocating goods and services. Government does the worst job, because its decisions are based on politics, not on economics.

    And your statement, “I do not understand the reluctance to the idea that voluntary de-natality is desireable” is self-refuting. Name one person who has killed himself in order to ease population pressure. “You first” is the common rejoinder to those who think the population should be culled. We’re still waiting for the first volunteer.

    Finally, Thomas Malthus was spectacularly wrong. In the early 1800’s there were regular waves of starvation, and Malthus concluded that since the population increases geometrically, but crops increase arithmetically, that more people would mean more starvation. In the 1840’s more than half the population farmed; today it’s only about two percent – and they feed a much bigger population. The number of people has grown enormously since Malthus made his wrong prediction. How many waves of starvation have you seen in any free market economy?

    The more a population grows, the more wealth is created. That is a fact. But countries with negative birth rates are in trouble. By 2030 Iran’s population will exceed Russia’s. Which is the more dynamic country?

    Increased population has always led to increased wealth. Hong Kong’s population exploded because China used it as an outlet for what it believed was an excess population. Today Hong Kong is extremely rich by comparison. And the Cubans who flooded into Miami to escape Castro have created a huge amount of wealth, where there were slums before. The Vietnamese boat people who added over ten percent to San Jose’s population transformed the run down area they moved to.

    Examples are everywhere. A rising population doesn’t just mean there are more people to feed. That’s not even a problem any more; today, poor folks are the most obese. Food is cheap and always available because of the free market.

    A rising population also means more buyers of goods and services. The old anti-consumer Mercantilist economic theory was destroyed by Alexander the Great, when he turned tens of thousands of captured silver ingots, that had always been hoarded by satraps, into drachmas – and suddenly the Hellenistic economy exploded; there was no need to trade three sheep, a pig and five roosters for a cow. Coins in circulation were much more efficient.

    But now there is a completely misguided, Eugenics-like movement to reduce populations, preached by modern day eco-Luddites who believe that progress is bad. They just don’t understand human ingenuity, and the enormous wealth that is created when people are allowed to tackle problems without interference. Government is the main problem in the economy, not an excess population.

  29. “gkai (14:55:34) :
    Many people believe the plateau is not real, and cite the continuous exponential-like amount of scientific publication as a counter-example….Well, I work in science/engineering and have read a lot of scientific papers, and written quite a few myself….Sure, there is a lot, but a lot is crap, and the relative amount of crap is increasing.[...]”

    gkai, do you think the proportion of crap is higher now than it was in, say the 50ies? My diploma thesis was a comparison of edge detection algorithms for image processing. Each of these algorithms was from a paper. 90 percent of them were crap and worked only on the examples the inventor of the algorithm suggested. So what? You get a guy to sort it out and use the one that works.

    It seems to me you’re too negative there. Don’t forget: Sturgeon’s law applies – 90 percent of everything is crap.

  30. George E. Smith (15:46:35) :

    “Gösta Oscarsson (09:22:19) : As an adendum: “We” can base “our” (=the world’s) entire system of electricity generation on nuclear power by using some one percent of our GNP during the next 50 years. No big deal.”

    I am sorry if you feel castigated by my comment.
    Firstly, I did not find it clear from your initial post that it was the above statement you reacted to.

    The majority of Gösta’s comment goes to show that a lot happens in terms of tecnological development in a 100 years. This is hardly controversial.

    My interpretation of Gösta’s added point about nuclear energy for power generation is only that this is a rather inexpensive but efficient option compared to many other alternative energy sources (both carbon based or the greenie favorite non carbon based expensive and ineffective solutions they try to promote as the only way to salvation).

    I did not interpret Gösta’a comment to the effect that he necessarily considers going nuclear a desirable solution (as opposed to i.e. fossil fules) and certainly not that he desires to force such a solution on you or the rest of the world (dictate his solution to anybody else). He does not say nor imply this.

    Furthermore, Gösta’s comment seems to relate to electricity generation only (power plants) and not some grand scheme prohibiting your use of your fossil fuels and forcing people to use certain batteries, electric cars or to make any other specific uses of such rather cheaply generated electricity.

    Of course, I may have misunderstood Gösta’s comment or his intentions. Another possibility is that you misunderstood it and/or overreacted a tad?

  31. “”” GeorgeGr (17:37:53) :

    George E. Smith (15:46:35) :

    “Gösta Oscarsson (09:22:19) : As an adendum: “We” can base “our” (=the world’s) entire system of electricity generation on nuclear power by using some one percent of our GNP during the next 50 years. No big deal.” “””

    Well I may have pasted just that snippet; but I did say in plain English that I didn’t agree with anything he said in his post.

    Perhaps you aren’t aware, that in our State of California; our learned muscle bound Governator has mandated that we ban flat screen TV sets because they use too much electricity (compared to what), while simultaneously this State is under a mandate to move to 20% of totally carbon free electric cars by about 2020; yet as I write this, California is not self sufficient in electric power, and must import much of it from other States, about whose environmental problems we evidently could care less. And the same folks who forced that electric vehicle mandate on us, also are the people who prohibit the construction of any more electric power facilities anywhere in the State. Well of course except all those corporate welfare stiffs, who are champing at the bit to get taxpayer funded help for their solar cell factories with which to cover millions of acres of Californai and surrounding states in our “desert wastelands” to get free clean green renewable energy; well subsidized by profitable businesses, who made their taxable profits using the readily available fossil fuel resources this country is rich in.

    So is PVelectric really green if it needs fossil fuel based subsidies to support its practicality.

    Now Californai was once the world’s sixth largest economy, well ahead of France. I believe we are now eighth or ninth, and rapidly moving on up the count as businesses and jobs leave the state in droves, to be replaced by mostly third world indigent minimum wage workers and their jobs. i’m not against employers employing whoever they want anywhere in the world; that is business, but the goose that laid the golden eggs was killed off some years ago, and isn’t likely to return, or be replaced.

    A proposed 30,000 square mile (taxpayer fossil fuel subsidized) PV solar plant, and a smaller 16,000 squ mile steam turbine powered solar plant, are proposed for out waste desert lands in the South west, to come up with some of this free clean green renewable solar energy.

    30,000 squ miles happens to be 19.2 million acres for the rod/stone/fortnight challenged, and that by coincidence is the exact size of the entire Artic National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s largest arctic desert wasteland; of which those evil big oil folks would like to drill on about 2400 acres, for the abundant fossil fuels that are known to be there. Well we have some California shopping malls that are bigger than that; but we are willing to kick hundreds of thousands of indigenous Americans off their historic tribal lands, and fence that in with round the clock armed guards to protect a completely vulnerable solar farm, either from a few wild western red neck friday night revellers, or even terrorists who can get into this country any time they want; we’ll even bring them in ourselves.

    Well you get the picture. What may work well for Stockholm won’t necessarily work here. I’m happy for those descendants of the rugged Vikings that they have the resources they need, so enjoy it.

    We happen to be blessed by a lot of good food growing acreage, which a growing world population may need the benefits of; but sadly, history shows that we need energy input to obtain food output; and currently our food productivity is limited by energy and water shortages, water just being a proxy for energy.

    So to GeorgeGr, it may seem that others are referring to nuclear for electricity alone; but here in California, and maybe in the entire USA (which tends to follow California in insanity), we have been mandated to replace all energy sources with free clean green renewable electricity. And Obama’s Energy Czar, Nobel Physicist Chu, plans to do that with bacteria.

    If this sounds somewhat like Soylent Green, the parallels are not accidental.

  32. gkai (14:55:34) :

    Technological plateau is imho real, at least in some domains. The most convincing aspect of it is the Jetson effect: look how 2000 was depicted in the mass culture of the fifties.

    I’m sorry, no one in their right mind would use a Cartoon series designed as entertainment, or anything else depicted in the mass culture back then, to conclude anything about realistic expectations for the technological future, fantasies which would then be “refuted” by the future and also taken as “convincing” evidence for the idea that “technology has plateaued”.

    On the other hand, it is fairly evident that it’s almost impossible to stop major technological advances – which are sometimes even taken for granted as normal “background” – unless free-thinking, rational minds are stifled or not encouraged by various means, along with the Scientific Method necessary to work through many potential advances.

  33. Some quick answers:

    And your statement, “I do not understand the reluctance to the idea that voluntary de-natality is desireable” is self-refuting. Name one person who has killed himself in order to ease population pressure. “You first” is the common rejoinder to those who think the population should be culled. We’re still waiting for the first volunteer.

    Well, you named a few “volunteers” in the rest of your comments: Russia, but also Europe and, less so, mostly due to immigration, America. All have below (sometimes much-below) equilibrium birthrates…BTW birthrates in Iran are decreasing very rapidly, again likely due to urbanisation and education of women in the cities. Iran is an excellent example: higher birthrates were promoted for ideological reasons, but with finite resources, high birthrates means counting on a lot of migration (to where? In Europe it is now almost impossible politically to accept large immigration, and in the US it is much more restricted too – for bad but also good reasons, it is not always the rosy thing you depict) or preparing war. Personally I am much more trusting countries with low birthrates than ones with high birthrates. China was not volunterring, but imposed it to it’s rural population. Not so nice, but imho they are now in better position than India or Pakistan, nice examples of democraties which have not (yet?) followed the denatality trend: I would not paint their situation as nice and steady, on the contrary: Imho it is the most worrying spot on the planet for large-scale war…

    When praising free market, I suppose you mean the theoretical version of it where goods/service are exchanged for money? Or the current one, where the part of virtual money exchange not related clearly to services but purely speculative grow every year and where central banks struggle more and more to keep the whole stuff more or less stable? Where China funding US consumer to keep a market looks like a death spiral?

    I may sound bitter, but the reason why is that to me, most of the economists looks like most climatologists: They extrapolates much too long past trends considered as law and simplify what looks like exponential growth fuelled by positive feedbacks (temperature rise because of positive feedback of Greenhouse gas, GDP because of positive feedback of more buying power) without considering alternative mechanisms (sun, increasing debt used to fuel current GDP, virtual money). And this confidence in extrapolation trump common sense and dismiss all negative feedback (that are prevalent in other disciplines) as not relevant.

  34. This thread is probably already dead (pre-maturely), but anyhow:

    Dear George E. Smith!

    What triggered you was probably the fact that I put “Stockholm” as my place of living; the capital of socialist Sweden. Being a liberal (please note: european definition) I think you need some basics about this “socialism”. To which I think most people here more or less adher.

    – By giving mothers very generous allowances (and time) for childcare we have managed to keep the birth rates at allmost re-production levels (it is by the way middle class people who get most children – how are things in the US?).

    – Sweden has the highest share of private schools in Europe (every child takes the money allocated to him/her and goes to the school of their (parents) choice).

    – At a little more than 50 % of the American cost for medical care (as a share of GNP) we have, together with Norway and Singapore, the healthiest population on earth. I think USA is at the same level as Vietnam (I could not resist the temptation).

    – And Swedish enterprises are not (repeat not) run by the state (public sector ownership is actually one of the lowest in Europe).

    – Some 80% of the public sector employment is in local and regional government.

    So much of that.

    Repeating Dr Goklany’s main meassage: The economic resources “we” have (and will have) will be more than enough to handle almost all future challenges from – for instance – climate change. In line with that argument I put in a simple note that to change from fossile fuel based electric generation to nuclear power is “no big deal” – from an economic point of view. If you allow your local tribe of greenies to decide then you will obviosly have problems – as in California (I could not resist that either).

    My only independent contribution was just to say that “we” also during the previous hundred years have managed quite well in housing a lot of people and allowing them to survive. The challenge from a rising population will, by the way, probably be smaller also in absolute numbers during the coming hundred years.

    Why I think Goklay’s mesage so important is really that a lot of people (including the political leaders) believe that we are heading for unsolveable catastrophies. This is no good enviroment for democratically based decisionmaking.

    Gösta Oscarsson
    still in Stockholm

  35. “”” Gösta Oscarsson “””

    First off Gösta, my “rant” if you want to call it that, wasn’t directed at you personally; I’m not into that; nor for that matter to the country you live in. If you recall, what I said; it was that I couldn’t agree with anything you said in your original post. The ideas, or notions one could infer from what you said, was what “set me off”.

    Relocating a few hundred million people; global solidarity; evacuating Florida; Tom Moriarty’s nonsense about the people of Baltimore and their rock hauling chore; and finally that quip about 1% of the GNP (presumably global) supplying all the world’s electricity needs.

    All of it characteristic of those people who just can’t stop themselves interfering in other people’s lives.

    We have some local “catastrophes” to add to your list. How about a whole city built under water (by the French), and then subsequently having its coastal protective zone destroyed to use the land to put more people in jeopardy. When it finally did end up at the bottom of a bathtub, and people had to be relocated for their own safety, they simply moved right back into their underwater city.
    Here in San Francisco, we have residential neighborhoods, built on temporary land fills, tossed into the Bay over 100 years ago for a local party; and sure enough those places fall down on major earthquakes, which liquefy that temporary landfill. The houses all get rebuilt, to sell to other unsuspecting victims.

    As I write this, we have a large Apartment building full of people, that sits right at the edge of a sandstone cliff, that is being inexorably washed into the Pacific Ocean. They have already spent more money than the entire building and all the belongings of its inhabitabts are worth, to construct “new land” in place of that which fell in the sea. Yet they keep on emulating King Canute, as the incoming tides simply wash over the new rock walls. Last month was a blue moon month so the tides got an extra shot at this absurd situation.

    But free people can live anywhere they choose; so nobody simply has to live in that apartment, or had to live there in the first place.

    The Atlantic hurricane damage costs that continue to rise, are not the result of any climate change catastrophe; but the idiotic insistence of people to move into places that were never intended to be cities that would survive for thousands of years.

    I’ve never been to your beautiful country; or your neighbors, but I get the impression, that most of its coastal areas are built of rocks, that aren’t compacted ground up sea bed.

    Out in the Pacific, there are countless tropical tourist paradises; where they don’t even stop at the shoreline, but continue to build right out into the ocean itself. The honeymooners love it living out over the ocean on stilts.

    And when inevitably a Typhoon wipes the whole place off the map, people will lose their lives, and the world will react with shock, and dismay, and then the builders will move right back in and rebuild in preparation for the next crop of the incautious.

    As to your energy solution; perhaps it is practical to have all electric housing and industry and transportation, in your country; I wouldn’t know the details of that.

    It is not practical for everybody else. Chemical energy storage is many times more efficient than electricity storage; and is quite often a better solution for some applications. Producing electricity (continuously) is an expensive proposition; both monetarily and energy wise. It should be a criminal offense to take that high tier electric energy, and simply turn it back into heat; particularly when there are more immediate lower tier sources of heat energy readily available all over the earth; including renewables.

    I’m sorry, but no amount of “global solidarity” is ever going to stop people from doing stupid things.

    I’m sure one can find in the literature; some of it thousands of years old, and some of it in childrens fairy tales; references to those who planned wisely, and others who simply ignored common sense, and then expected to be bailed out by others.

    If Americans who elected the components of their present Government; are all in favor of shutting down all their industries, rather than use the resources they have readily available to them, to continue productively; and if they want to destroy existing ecosystems at one end of the country; to feed water and other resources to build completely artificial ecosystems, where Mother Nature never intended them to be; such as currently is happening in California; and if they want to prevent the development of resources necessary to sustain an increasingly large immigrant population of low skilled workers; whose votes will be necessary to bolster the political power of that Government that is implementing the people’s wishes; well they are free to do that. The industries and jobs that previously supported the productivity of this country, can all be exported to places that don’t mind using the resources they have to support their people.

    America will then become another Machu Piccu, or Chichen Itza, to be excavated by future archeologists, who will wonder what catastrophe befell a seemingly idyllic place.

    Others on the planet will gain from the demise; some others would likely lose. But no global solidarity, is going to prevent people everywhere from running their own affairs the way the want to; and right now most Americans (well at least the voting ones), want to follow the scenario I just outlined above; and no amount of cajoling by people in other places is going to stop them from following their own wishes.

    But if for some reason you took my words as a personal attack; then I do apologise; that wasn’t my intent.

  36. Gösta, I just finished reading your detailed description of life in what reads like a Utopia. How nice that each child’s education ration can be spent wherever the parents want to spend it (schoolwise). Americans certainly don’t want that. The Government they elected won’t allow people to choose their child’s education; they know betetr what to teach the children.

    I’m curious as to how you handle the problem of trying to stop millions of others from pouring into your country to freely partake of your society’s benefits. Here in California we place such invaders ahead of even other American citizens, so they get free medical care (which I suppose you do also) and the same school privileges as Califonians; which are not available to Americans from the other States.

    Well we just had an earthquake; maybe that apartment building finally fell into the sea.

    Yes the world’s view of America is that we do everything wrong. We still let working people keep most of what they earn in their jobs; but that will stop very soon, as we are rapidly closing in on that tipping point where most of the population pay no taxes, so they want to live freely on the backs of those who do pay taxes. You didn’t mention what percentage of their salary, the average Swedish worker gets to keep.

    Many of the high earners in America, can afford to live anywhere on earth; which is why the outflow of such people from California, exceeds that of citizens moving in from other States. Maybe a lot of them are moving to your country to enjoy your idyllic state.

    I just can’t figure out for the life of me, why millions of people will stop at nothing to get into this failing country; and they do so repetitively, even though it is a felony to re-enter the USA after being once deported.

    But I think I said it before (essentially), I’m happy that you can enjoy living the way you and your fellow countrymen want to; and I’m all for letting all the world’s peoples do likewise; without being told by a United Nations unelected body what they can and can’t do.

  37. gkai (08:52:17) :

    If you put your mind to examples of the technology plateau, you will find farmers using laser levelling devices to contour plough to make best use of water; you will find the GPS system has reduced fuel consumption thorough fewer wrong turns; you will find people released from non-productive clerical jobs by the computer, turning to productive, income producing jobs (like making more computers). You will find powerful computers have improved seismic interpretation and hence oil resources … and improved global climate model predictions(?) … the list goes on. The human genome project, designer drugs, animal cloning, stem cells for curing disease, etc etc.

    The failure of the Club of Rome was its underestimation of the innovative capacity of people. Your argument makes the same mistake. Now if someone could tell me how to set the channels on my new plasma tv, we could see another form of progress, namely, the greater dissemination of knowledge. (If only Arnie would convert to using ever-smaller guns, to the point where guns are not seen on TV).

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