Lawrence Solomon notes in his recent op-ed Model Mockery that the Integrated Assessment Models (IAM) used to perform cost-benefit analyses of climate policy options are badly flawed. I couldn’t agree more: the IAM models are garbage. I dedicate a full chapter in my upcoming book Waking the Frog to eviscerating exactly these sorts of economic analyses.
But Mr. Solomon is dead wrong to conclude that means we can safely ignore catastrophic climate change merely because it’s impossible to put a clear and coherent price on it. The models’ imprecision cuts both ways: we can’t be confident the costs will be bearable either.
The irony is the IAM models are normally used by the “What, me worry?” crowd – Bjorn Lomborg, Lord “I believe in ESP” Monkton, etc – to dissuade us from acting. Highly precise, and very low, costs of climate inaction are their typical output.
They are not used to quantify catastrophe. As Solomon admits, the models exclude the feedback mechanisms that would accelerate warming. And their economic predictions are admitted to be useless past a decade. And so on. Catastrophic climate change is ruled out of bounds before the analysis begins.
Solomon’s interpretation of the models rationalizes his existing position: but it’s disingenuous.
Those of us ‘alarmists’ who understand 5-6C of global warming is disastrous – which includes the vast majority of climate scientists, the Pentagon, the International Energy Agency, the National Academies of Science – don’t need or claim precision. We claim merely prudence.
The cost of action is low. The cost of inaction is high. Prudence dictates we take immediate action. Let’s just get the Alfred E. Neumann’s out of the way …