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Economists and Their Unfounded Claims About Global Warming – RealClearMarkets

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In a January 2020 column, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman made apocalyptic assertions about global warming: “On our current trajectory, Florida as a whole will eventually be swallowed by the sea … Much of India will eventually become uninhabitable …”

In August 2020, former Federal Reserve vice chairman and Princeton economist Alan Blinder similarly wrote that “cumulative CO2 emissions heat up the atmosphere, causing climate changes of all sorts – most of them bad. Because this huge negative externality has been allowed to run rampant, we are gradually making the Earth an inhospitable place for humans.”

In March 2022, Blinder reiterated his doomsday claim: “Climate change is the existential issue of our time. Nothing else poses a comparable threat to the continuation of human life on the planet.”

In April 2022, former acting chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers and University of Chicago economist Tomas Philipson wrote that government has gone “overboard” with its “continuing overreaction to global warming” – but then nevertheless prescribed an apparently massive new government program to deal with global warming: “The Biden administration needs an Operation Warp Speed for green-energy alternatives… We need general R&D subsidies in green-energy innovation.”

Krugman, Blinder, and Philipson are luminaries within the economics profession, but their pronouncements about global warming reflect that they have failed to take the most basic step in economics: review the data. The data that they have ignored show that global warming is beneficial rather than harmful and warrants no government action.

The data show that global warming saves lives. Three groups of scientists from around the world have analyzed millions of deaths in numerous countries over recent decades. Their studies, published in The Lancet in May 2015July 2021, and August 2021, show that cooler temperatures kill several times more people than warmer temperatures. This means that a warmer planet saves lives.

The data show that as the earth has warmed, deaths caused by natural disasters have sharply declined. Since 1920, the earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.11 degrees Celsius. Yet since 1920, even as world population has quadrupled from less than two billion to almost eight billion, data from EM-DAT – The International Disaster Database (presented by University of Oxford economist Max Roser and researcher Hannah Ritchie) show that the number of people killed each year by natural disasters since 1920 has declined by over 90%.

The data show that global warming has not resulted in more hurricanes. In a 2021 report, the U.S. EPA admitted the following: “The total number of hurricanes (particularly after being adjusted for improvements in observation methods) and the number reaching the United States do not indicate a clear overall trend since 1878.”

The data show that global warming has not resulted in more land burned by fires. Data from the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Remote Sensing of Environment, and Earth’s Future (presented by environmental statistician Bjorn Lomborg) show that the percentage of global land burned per year in 1905 through 2020 and most of 2021 has been declining.

The data show that the sea level has been rising at a microscopic pace. In July 2021, the EPA reported the following concerning the global average sea level: “When averaged over all of the world’s oceans, absolute sea level has risen at an average rate of 0.06 inches per year from 1880 to 2013 (see Figure 1). Since 1993, however, average sea level has risen at a rate of 0.12 to 0.14 inches per year – roughly twice as fast as the long-term trend.” This means that at even the faster rate of the last three decades, it will take 85 to 100 years for the sea level to rise just one foot!

Krugman, Blinder, and Philipson also apparently have failed to follow another basic step in economics: reviewing prior economic research.

An August 2019 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper (published in December 2021), for example, estimated that if the earth’s temperature rises by 0.01 degrees per year through 2100, world GDP in 2100 will be 1.07 percent lower in 2100 than it would otherwise be. In the extreme case, if the planet’s temperature instead rises by 0.04 degrees per year (almost four times the actual rate of increase since 1920), the working paper estimated that world GDP will be 7.22 percent lower in 2100 than it would otherwise be.

At first blush, this may sound like a significant negative impact, but putting it in context shows that even if it happens, it will be essentially irrelevant.

The context is that since 1960, as the earth has warmed by 0.87 degrees, World Bank data (presented by Macrotrends) show that world income per person (adjusted for inflation) has skyrocketed from $445 in 1960 to $10,926 in 2020. This increase reflects an average growth rate of about 5.48 percent per year.

If world income per person increases from the 2020 level at just 2 percent per year (without accounting for any reduction as a result of global warming), in 2100 it will reach $53,269 (adjusted for inflation). Applying the NBER working paper’s 1.07 percent reduction would only take this number down to $52,699. Even the working paper’s extreme 7.22 percent reduction similarly would still leave world income per person at $49,423.

In other words, even if global warming will reduce world GDP as the NBER working paper estimated, world income per person in 2100 will still be about five times today’s level.

The bottom line is that famous economists get it wrong just like others who ignore the facts and advocate policy based on speculation and hysteria. Global warming is beneficial, not harmful, and warrants neither an Operation Warp Speed nor any other government action.

David M. Simon is a senior fellow at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity and a lawyer in Chicago. For more, please see www.dmswritings.com.

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