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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Overselling Global Warming

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Overselling Global Warming

Lydia Saad, writes for Gallop in "Increased Number Think Global Warming Is “Exaggerated” (March 11, 2009) that,
PRINCETON, NJ -- Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated. This represents the highest level of public skepticism about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in more than a decade of Gallup polling on the subject.
Perhaps its stories like "Global warming of 7C 'could kill billions this century'," by Louise Gray in the Telegraph create the skepticism. 
Global temperatures could rise by more than 7C this century killing billions of people and leaving the world on the brink of total collapse, according to new research.

The study, carried out in unprecedented detail, projected that without "rapid and massive action" temperatures worldwide will increase by as much as 7.4C (13.3F) by 2100, from levels seen in 2000...

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tom Picken said that if the new research by MIT is accurate the results for the planet would be catastrophic.

Or perhaps it is Congress using catastrophic climate change as the pretext for enacting legislation to pass taxpayer dollars to special interests like biofuels producers that create the skepticism.  Ted Gayer explains in "Lose-Lose on Biofuels?," published in The American describes the economic and environmental impact of the legislation.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released its analysis of the renewable fuel standard enacted by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The standard requires 11.1 billion gallons of renewable fuel to displace petroleum fuel in 2009, ratcheting up each year until reaching 36.0 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022. There are separate volume requirements for advanced biofuels, cellulosic, and biodiesel.

Forcing the market to produce large amounts of renewable fuel will harm consumers in two ways: it will increase prices at the pump, because biofuels are more costly than gasoline, and it will drive up the price of food, because it diverts crops into fuel. The impact of food price inflation will weigh most heavily in developing countries where food purchases comprise larger shares of consumption. Food expenditures account for as much as 70 percent of household consumption among lower income groups in the developing world.
The direct economic impact is bad enough, but the environmental impact is the kicker. 
An article published in Sciencemagazinein 2008 found that “corn-based ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years.” Another article in Scienceconcluded that crop-based biofuels create a “biofuel carbon debt of 17 to 420 times more carbon dioxide than the greenhouse gas reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels.”
Gayer provides a little ameliorating information about other biofuels that perform better, but even in a best case scenario, carbon reductions would not occur until the world passes the "tipping point" described in the worst case scenarios. 

1 comment:

  1. Kayla Harding19/6/09 12:45 PM

    I think people need to start caring about Global warming. After reading this article I care more about it. I realized how serious it is and how important it is to the economy. I can't believe how worse its going to get. I want to know more about the "tipping point" known as the worst case scenarios.

    Your student,
    Kayla Harding