A Global Warming Denier Turns “Economist”

Mark Steyn spends most of his Chicago Sun-Times admitting he doubts Global Warming and talking about his credentials on this topic. He undermines everything in his silly op-ed that came before with this:

In the course of the 20th century, the planet’s temperature supposedly increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius, which (for those of you who want it to sound scarier) is a smidgeonette over 1 degree Fahrenheit. Is that kinda sorta staying the same or is it a dramatic warming trend? And is nought-point-seven of an uptick worth wrecking the global economy over?

This 0.7 degrees Celcius over the past century seems to have been the latest rightwing talking point, but it omits the fact that 0.6 of this 0.7 has come in the last 50 years. Steyn also tries to play economist on TV with his “wrecking the global economy” and this:

And, in return for this meaningless gesture, American GDP in 2010 would be lower by $97 billion to $397 billion – and those are the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s somewhat optimistic models. And now Jerry Mahlman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says “it might take another 30 Kyotos” to halt global warming: 30 x $397 billion is . . . er, too many zeroes for my calculator. So, faced with a degree rise in temperature, we could destroy the planet’s economy, technology, communications and prosperity. And ruin the lives of millions of people. Or we could do what man does best: adapt. You do the math.

Steyn is referring to the EIA’s Impacts of the Kyoto Protocol on U.S. Energy Markets and the Economy, October 1998, which noted:

The loss in GDP, plus the funds used to purchase permits internationally, represents the total cost to the economy. Over the period 2008 to 2012, the annual average total cost ranges from $77 billion (1992 dollars) to $338 billion, depending on the level of carbon reductions and the recycling assumptions. This cost is relative to a total economy of $7 trillion in 1996, growing to about $9.5 trillion in 2010, and about $11 trillion in 2020 (1992 dollars).

Steyn is again reading from the standard rightwing talk points, which often omit the “plus the funds used to purchase permits internationally”. Steyn is also suggesting that we have only two choices – ignore global warming or go with the Kyoto Protocol. I would hope the debate would be more directed towards more efficient approaches to slowing the reducing the rate of global warming. Economists often argue that we should weigh the benefits of reducing global warming – which recognizes that a warmer climate imposes costs on our productive capacity and our general wellbeing – against the costs of addressing this problem. But for global warming deniers, their question seems to be “what costs on our productive capacity and our general wellbeing?” Let’s face it, Mark Steyn’s credentials to be an economist are zero.