Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The global speed-reading menace hots up

Two days ago ex-World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the Government Economics Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development, was delighted to present his report to the UK Prime Minister, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (and the world) on the Economics of Climate Change.

The 700 page report is here but in this age of speed reading you don’t need to read it to evaluate it and see its worth. The press and blogosphere have already done this, analyzed its conclusions and deficiencies as well as how its implications will unfold for international and domestic politics. Whew!

Prime Minister Howard has already responded with an inquiry into reducing aluminum industry CO2 emissions and called for a new Kyoto Pact. A man of action. Whew again!

This seems to be an unread tipping point report that has turned us all green.

And this is all quite reasonable since leading economists praised the report the day it was released. Yes, they were given a preview.

The difficulty for me is that I am borderline dyslexic and need to play catch-up with the global speed-reading menace. I have started with a potted summary of the report’s conclusions (as they are here). These conclusions seem to be what I think the consensus among economists would be and are largely non-new.

Conclusions:

1. Climate change is a serious global threat that demands an urgent global response.
2. The benefits of strong, early action far outweigh the economic costs of non-action.

(2. is buttressed by ‘formal economic modelling’. If we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5-20% of global GDP each year, now and forever. But costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst of climate change are around 1% of global GDP each year. This modelling needs to be checked out but is encouraging if unsurprising).

3. Prompt and strong action is warranted.
4. Because climate change is a global problem, the response to it must be global based on a blah blah shared vision of goals and agreement on blah blah frameworks…
5. The poorest countries and populations – will suffer earliest and most.
6. The costs of extreme weather are already rising, including for rich countries.
7. Adaptation to climate change – taking steps to build resilience – is essential.
8. Key elements include emissions trading, technology cooperation, reducing deforestation and adaptation.

There is more in the report than this and my flippant critique is unfair. But nothing here surprises me. I am surprised at the strength of the political and media reaction to the report which suggests something dramatically new and powerful has been uncovered. As I am only up to page 10 I cannot confirm this. My main concern is that by the time I get to the end of this report and find I agree with all the learned commentators that a new contrary report will come along that will be devoured by the speedreaders - leaving me again left behind in a stream of reviews.

1 comment:

Steve Edney said...

I agree, most of the conclusions etc appear not to be new, but perhaps put together better in a definitive form.

I think it also suffers less than some of the IPCC reports from not having an international negiation process working through it debating different countries positions and modifying language.