Climate change policy options: lots of heat, some light, patchy fog

Roger Pielke offers the Prometheus arena for a debate between and around economist Gary Yohe and Bjorn Lomborg. If you have any interest in assessing the range of policy options, you must allocate some time to read through the comments. And if you haven’t already done so, to read the subject Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Challenge Paper “Global Warming” by Yohe, Tol, and Blanford.

E.g., comment #19 by George Tobin — who seems to agree with my first reaction to reading Yohe’s editorial — that Yohe needed to attack Lomborg, lest he be seen as an “ally”

1) I think in some circles it is obligatory to respond negatively when cited favorably by Bjorn Lomborg. Notwithstanding specific differences regarding the characterization of his economic projections Dr. Yohe probably had to prevent the damaging perception that he might be a tacit ally of one of the world’s most dreaded non-alarmists.

E.g., comment #27 by Richard Tol [a co-author of the subject paper]. I don’t like the Copenhagen Consensus ranking of “government R&D only” at 14th position as the most efficient policy. Richard explains so clearly why a revenue-neutral carbon tax will generate better results than R&D subsidies:

…As to my disagreement with Chris Green, this is about facts, not values. (As far I can tell, Chris and I agree on many value issues.) Green proposes a large scale applied research programme funded by the government. Previous attempts to do that have failed — indeed, the proponents of this approach frequently quote the Manhattan and Apollo projects as their biggest successes. As this experience suggests that the Green proposal would be expensive and ineffective, I would rather not repeat it for climate. This type of research has to be done by companies, not by national laboratories, and companies respond better to taxes than to R&D subsidies.

Chris Green is the author of the challenge paper that was picked by the Copenhagen Consensus panel as #14, whereas the Yohe, Tol, Blanford policy was ranked #29 by the panel.

E.g., comment #28 by TokyoTom — who nails a key source of confusion and controversy

1. It seems to me that Tol and Yohe have a point that Lomborg has confused his readers as to what Yohe and Tol concluded, but fail to focus on the point of confusion – only Roger seems to have caught the drift, but doesn’t identify any responsibility for Lomborg in it.

Lomborg first mentions Yohe as “one of the lead economists of the IPCC” who “For the Copenhagen Consensus … did a survey”. But in concluding what climate policy should be, Lomborg completely ignores the strong recommendation of Yohe and Tol (for a policy that focusses on mitigation, with R&D investments to be primarily market driven and some limited government-funded efforts to aid adaptation in developing countries) for “the best climate solution from the top economists from the Copenhagen Consensus”, without making any effort to clearly distinguish Yohe/Tol from those who voted on the CC ranking.

…But none of these conclusions can be derived from the Yohe/Tol work, and since Lomborg first refers to them, it is a puzzle that he did not do a better job of distinguishing their conclusions from those of the CC voting panel of economists.

FWIW, TokyoTom (Twitter)is a reliable contributor of insights, setting a good example of critical thinking for the rest of us.

1 thought on “Climate change policy options: lots of heat, some light, patchy fog

  1. Many thanks for the kind words, Steve (just found them when I was taking a look back for that conversation).

    You might want to note that I blog as well at an account the Ludwig von Mises Institute kindly hosts (link above), and Twitter at

Comments are closed.