Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Mound Of Sound Guest Post: Climate Change By The Numbers

One of the great malignancies of the 20th century was the spread of neo-classical economics. the macro- and micro-stuff that you probably had to learn in university.

I did a good bit of fraud work in my legal career. One of the key ways to unravel a well-crafted fraud was to ferret out the inconsistencies, the gaps, the irreconcilable contradictions. Neo-classical economics, being a work of fraud, also is replete with inconsistencies, illogic and irreconcilable contradictions, but it bundles them all up and jettisons them under the category of “externalities.” It’s sort of like your teenager shoving all the dirt and debris under the bed before proclaiming his room ‘clean’ before demanding the keys to the family car.

The use of externality is a dandy way of keeping incidental costs off the balance sheet. Carbon emissions? An externality. Impacts on climate change, ditto. Deaths in the hundreds of thousands? That too.

In yesterday’s Guardian there’s an item that reveals the face of climate change since the 1970s in 8 charts. It’s taken from a UN study.

What is most telling are two bar graphs toward the end of the article. One of these is titled, “Disasters ranked by reported deaths (1970-2012)”. The countries that dominate that list are Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Mozambique – essentially the Third World. The other is entitled, “Disasters ranked by economic losses (1970-2012)”. Here the top players are Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Andrew and Ike along with flooding in China and Thailand.

What this reveals is that for the Third World, climate change is a matter of life and death. For the developed and developing countries, it’s an economic problem. Economic challenges are approached from a “cost/benefit” basis. That’s where externalities, such as all those Third World deaths and suffering, come into play. Even though the industrialized world is responsible for almost all of the greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution that are wreaking death and suffering in the Third World, we externalize that. We keep it off our books. It’s not relevant.

What have we become?


  1. Proposals to tax energy consumption as an aid to regulating climate fall afoul of one simple fact : there is no way to test a premise that increasing co2 will affect climate...data is always unavailable for the future.
    But we can be certain that sending money to the UN at the behest of its agency tasked with generating alarm about climate will hurt most those affected by currency games which undervalue their labour market. Not to mention adding concepts like carbon sequestration to leverage control of forests and jungles away from their aboriginal residents concerned with their health and into the maw of corporate control.

  2. Your difficulty, opit, is that you don't want to address the point made but to talk past it. You indicate some sympathy for aboriginal peoples of the forests and jungles yet you seem disinclined to do anything about the root cause of so much of their loss and suffering. The relationship between CO2 levels and their effect on climate isn't a 'premise' as you suggest and there are indeed tests, several of them. There's a reason why you're at odds with every national academy of science of every OECD nation, with NASA, NOAA, and NCAR, with the Met Bureau and EnviroCan, with the Pentagon and the Brit Ministry of Defence, every major insurer including the large reinsurers like Munich Re, the UN and thousands of the most highly educated and accomplished scientists around the world. They're all wrong and you're right.