Monday, December 21, 2009

Climate Change: thinking like an economist

Following on from the debacle of the Copenhagen conference, just some thoughts.

1. Both the US and China are sitting on vast coal deposits which can provide energy at a tiny fraction of the cost of all the non-CO2-producing alternatives. So how likely was that, then?

2. There is nothing stable or even particularly significant about the pre-industrial level of CO2 in the atmosphere: what was it, 280 parts per million? Plants like a lot more.

3. I see no proper inventory of the economic advantages vs. disadvantages of x degrees of climate warming across the countries of the world. For the US, Canada, Russia, northern Europe and maybe parts of China, a measure of warming is probably beneficial.

4. The real concern is "runaway climate change" where global mean temperatures might increase 5-10 degrees in a"short period", say 20-50 years. As I understand it, there are a number of technologies including stratospheric aerosol insertion and atmospheric CO2 reclamation which would address this problem, if it were economically beneficial to do so on a time scale faster than the runaway change would take place.

There are other issues such as ocean acidification and a projected rise in sea level (not a fast process if caused by thermal expansion). However, these are also amenable to technology if a business case exists.

5. Such a shame that no economic/technical studies seem to exist which review these possiblities in a rational way. And what about this?

There, not a single wry remark about the recent weather.