The more I study climate change economics, the more astounded I become at the chasm between reality and what has been sold to the American public. I give another example in my IER analysis of a recent book review by William Nordhaus. Here’s an excerpt:
What is fascinating is that if you go to the actual book review and read the full discussion, you will see that people like Weitzman and Nordhaus are discussing whether people should even be conducting cursory research into geoengineering options.
[New first paragraph:] What is fascinating is that if you go to the actual book review and read the full discussion, you will see that Nordhaus wonders whether scientists should even be conducting cursory experiments to learn more about geoengineering options.
Why in the world would interventionists who think the fate of humanity hangs in the balance not want scientists to broaden the options at our grandchildren’s disposal? What they fear is that if the public realizes there are techniques “on the shelf” that could very quickly and cheaply bring down global temperatures, then it would be hard to get humanity whipped up into a frenzy in spending trillions of dollars to merely reduce the probability of a future unlikely “fat tail” catastrophe.
Remember, the cutting-edge case for aggressive intervention against emissions has stopped trying to claim that a high carbon tax will likely produce large net benefits….
So already the aggressive interventionists have to make the “fat tail” argument of Weitzman and others—they have to say a disaster might occur if humans keep pumping lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But then in that case, it becomes very relevant to know that one of the leading geoengineering proposals would cost $250 million total to limit Earth’s warming. That’s less than Al Gore’s foundation is spending to “raise awareness” on the issue of climate change.
In contrast, if governments around the world implemented Nordhaus’ suggested “optimal carbon tax,” then his own model (in the 2008 calibration which I study here) shows that it would impose economic costs on the world of $2.2 trillion (see Table 4 at the link) in present-value terms.
Does anyone like that deal? Spending $2.2 trillion (in the form of forfeited conventional economic growth) merely to reduce the probability of catastrophe—because after all, we still might have a disaster even with a carbon tax—rather than waiting a bit longer to get more information, knowing that we’ve got the ability to indefinitely postpone global warming for a total cost of $250 million?