Articles about climate change

Why the Paris conference may not be enough
March 11, 2016 – 08:01 pm

In December talks in Paris involving more than 200 countries may result in a new agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions. In the months leading up to the conference, The Economist will be publishing guest columns by experts on the economic issues involved. Here, John Quiggin of the University of Queensland, Australia, argues why policymakers need to take further action to reduce carbon emissions if climate change is worse than expected.

WITH global temperature data setting new records each month, "sceptical" positions about climate change have crumbled. Those seeking a more credible basis for opposing action to reduce carbon emissions have shifted their ground. Most have moved to the view advocated by "lukewarmers" like Bjorn Lomborg: that unmitigated global warming would not be so bad after all, and that adaptation is the best response.

Surprisingly, advocates of this view cite the authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for this assertion. The leading source for this claim is Jim Manzi, editor of the National Review, who summarises the evidence presented in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report as follows:

There are six estimates for expected impacts of warming at 3°C or above, with a median estimated impact of a 3.6 percent reduction in global GDP for 3–4.9°C of warming.

If this claim is combined with a high-end estimate of the cost of holding warming to 2°C, of up to 5% of global GDP, then action to mitigate climate change will harm the world more than the economic impact of climate change itself. So, lukewarmers such as Mr Manzi conclude, we should not bother with interventionist policies like carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes.

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