Sunday, December 05, 2021

Europe’s Climate Target for 2050: An Assessment

Richard S. J. Tol has done a scientific study of the costs of European climate policy. It is heavy with numbers, graphics and references so is much more careful and objective than the sort of handwaving we usually get. Because of the great detail in it, it is a very long article. So I reproduce below just the beginning and the end of it. His finding is that the cost is much greater than the benefit

The European Union has set ambitious targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction. Net emissions should fall to 45% of their 1990 levels by 2030, and to zero by 2050. What are the costs and benefits of this? Do the benefits exceed the costs?

The European Commission has not answered this question. This is unfortunate, as the decision has been made to pursue these goals. The European Commission (2020) has published an Inception Impact Assessment, which is largely qualitative.1 The in-depth analysis accompanying the Communication for the earlier, less ambitious targets does not report a cost-benefit analysis either (European Commission, 2018), even though the European Commission (2014) has continuously promoted its use. Studies by independent academics find that EU climate policy does not pass the cost-benefit test (Pearce, 2004; Tol, 2007; 2012). However, these studies do not assess the latest plans. This paper fills that gap.

Cost-benefit analysis should not dictate policy. It should inform policy along with other concerns. Yet, economic efficiency is an important criterion. If the costs exceed the benefits, all other policy demands would be harder to meet as there is less money to go around.

This paper reviews the targets set by the European Union, discusses the costs of greenhouse gas emission reduction as well as some political claims about those costs, surveys the benefits of avoided climate change and concludes by comparing costs and benefits, in total and at the margin.

Discussion and conclusion

The numbers reviewed above are sobering. The total cost of greenhouse gas emission reduction could be 3% or more of GDP. The benefits would be only 0.3% of GDP, a benefit-cost ratio of one in ten. The marginal costs and benefits give the same message. The marginal costs of greenhouse gas emission reduction would reach €500/tCO2 by 2050 while the marginal benefits would be less than €150/tCO2, a benefit-cost ratio of three in ten.

It is often argued that the impacts of climate change are underestimated. Impact estimates are certainly incomplete (Arent et al., 2014). However, arguing that the impacts are off by a factor of ten or even a factor of three is quite a stretch. In fact, the percentage above is the global average; a rich region such as Europe would be less vulnerable (Tol, 2018). The social cost of carbon is the global social cost of carbon; the EU social cost of carbon would be a fraction of this (Tol, 2019).

Besides, the costs of climate policy are underestimated too, based on the rather unrealistic assumptions of a first-best implementation in an economy without other distortions. In reality, we observe a jumble of policies, uncoordinated not just between countries but within countries as well, and sharp shifts over time as political whims and electoral fortunes come and go.

That said, the above estimates assume stringent climate policy outside the EU too. If climate policy elsewhere were more lenient, then the costs of greenhouse gas emission reduction in Europe would be lower as there would be less competition on the markets for renewables and offsets. At the same time, the benefits of climate policy would be larger. While this would improve the benefit-cost ratio, it is unlikely to make a factor of three, let alone ten difference.

It is therefore safe to conclude that the benefits of the European Union’s climate policy do not outweigh its costs. There are no immediate political implications of this finding. The European Union has put stringent emission targets front and centre of its entire policy agenda. There is little political opposition. However, in the longer term, the stringent targets are vulnerable as the costs and other implications of meeting them become apparent to a growing number of people. As climate continues to change, it will also become clear that the weather disasters foretold will not have materialised. At that point, public and political support for the EU’s climate policy will likely crumble, and result in a tax revolution as predicted by Dowlatabadi (2000) and observed with the gilets jaunes in France in 2018.

Further research is needed on all aspects of climate policy. I do not expect much progress on the economic impacts of climate change, not until the literature gets itself out of the rabbit hole of confusing weather shocks and climate change, despite previous warnings not to (e.g. Dell et al., 2014). More progress can be expected from the new empirical literature on the costs of greenhouse gas emission reduction, the somewhat belated realisation by economists that climate policy started in 1991 and can be studied ex post as well as the more common ex ante. The resulting papers suggest that climate policy is more difficult and expensive than is commonly assumed (Leahy and Tol, 2012; Fowlie et al., 2018; Lin and Wesseh, 2020; Runst and Thonipara, 2020). Yet more progress lies in the study of second-best climate policy, with studies revealing again higher policy costs (Barrage, 2020; Tol, 2020b).

Until research has progressed, the conclusion remains that the costs of EU climate policy far exceed the benefits.


Contrary to what you've been reading, the massive new IPCC report offers grounds for optimism on climate science and policy

Roger Pielke Jr.

The current IPCC report is notable because it has stated that among the 5 “illustrative” scenarios that it emphasizes, it assigns no likelihood to any of them.

That is important because it represents a 180-degree turn from the previous IPCC assessment, which identified one scenario as most likely, called a “reference scenario.” Because the 2021 IPCC has decline to attach a likelihood to its scenarios, that means that in order to properly interpret the new IPCC report, you and I have to assess the likelihoods of different scenarios.

That’s a big ask. But you are in luck because I and my colleagues have spent years studying the plausibility of IPCC scenarios. Our peer-reviewed work, along with other relevant studies, put us in a very good position to help you to understand the significance of scenarios in the current report.

Much to its credit (and seemingly at odds with its claim to assign no likelihoods to scenarios), the IPCC has concluded — just as we have in our research — that several of its scenarios are of low likelihood. This is very good news because these implausible scenarios are the report’s most extreme scenarios.

For my technical readers, the scenarios judged unlikely by the IPCC are high emission (“such as RCP8.5 or SSP5-8.5”) and the scenarios “in line” with current policies are intermediate scenarios (“RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and SSP2-4.5”).

This is huge news. Fantastic in fact. Why? The extreme scenario RCP8.5 was in the most recent IPCC report identified as our most likely future. Now IPCC has completely reversed that, and it is now considered low likelihood. There could not be a more profound change in the scenario foundation of climate science.

Instead of apocalyptic warnings about “immediate risk” a top line message of this report should be: Great News! The Extreme Scenario that IPCC Saw as Most Likely in 2013 is Now Judged Low Likelihood. I am actually floored that this incredible change in such a short time apparently hasn’t even been noticed, much less broadcast around the world.

For its part, the IPCC claims to be “neutral” with respect to scenario assumptions, despite also, seemingly contradictorily, identifying certain scenarios as low likelihood and others more in line with current policies. Here is where the IPCC gets into some trouble.

Despite acknowledging the low likelihood of the most extreme scenarios RCP8.5 and SSP5-8.5, which were the dominant focus of the 2013 IPCC report, the extreme scenarios dominate the current report as well.

The phrase “extreme scenario” might be a little difficult to understand in the abstract. So let me explain what an extreme scenario looks like, and why it is obviously, undeniably implausible. All of RCP8.5, SSP5-8.5 and SSP3-7.0 assume that the world is going to massively increase consumption of coal in the future. The scenarios project that we will replace natural gas with coal, we will replace nuclear with coal, we will replace wind and solar, we will even chose to abandon gasoline for cars and use coal-to-liquid as fuel. If that sound ridiculous — it is!


The Global Average Temperature Dropped 0.29C Last Month — Now Sits At Just 0.08C Above The 30-Year Baseline

The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for November, 2021 has come in at 0.08 deg. C above the 30-year baseline. This is down quite a bit (0.29 deg. C) from the October, 2021 value of 0.037 deg. C, and down substantially (0.51C deg. C) from where we were at the beginning of 2020.

A continuation of this downward trend is expected in the coming months/years as La Nina conditions/low solar activity persist.

Saying that, this recent drop has come as somewhat of a surprise — even for me.

For those who check in daily with (a dataset maintained by the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine), you likely would have expected November’s LT to have held near its October reading of 0.37C–due to daily readings of between 0.4C – 0.7C above the mulitidecadal base prevailing throughout all of November. However, worth remembering here is that Climate Reanalyzer is just a forecast, it relies on models (the GFS) for its predictions, and we all know the trouble relying solely on models can get you into; whereas the UAH uses real-world data collated by satellites to paint its picture.

The far more reliable UAH has spoken, and according to those 15x NASA/NOAA AMSU satellites that measure every square inch of the lower troposphere (where us humans reside), Earth’s temperature cooled quite drastically in November (note also that the satellite data is preferable to ground measurements, with the latter susceptible to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect — see here, too).

A drop of 0.29C takes us to just 0.08C above the baseline and continues the downward trend from 2016. As it stands, Earth’s temperature was actually warmer back in the early-1990s and late-1987.

image from

Every region of the planet cooled last month, with the largest drop occurring in the Arctic where a plunge of more than 1 Deg. C (from +0.63C to -0.42C) was observed.

Moreover, since its 2016 peak, Earth’s average temperature is down 0.62C. However, irrefutable contradictions to the so-called ‘consensus’, such as this, won’t stop AGW Party members from pursuing their end goal of ‘total climate misinformation’. Stories of linearly-rising global temperatures and rapidly-melting polar sea ice are still being published by a corrupt MSM, stories which are veering ever-further away from our changing climatic reality:


We are entering a new phase in the climate debate

Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, gave a talk for the Irish Climate Science Forum and CLINTEL. His online presentation was titled: After COP26, with a looming energy crisis, is there a realistic alternative to Net Zero?

The GWPF recently rebranded the name of their campaigning arm to Net Zero Watch. So it was not surprising the focus of his talk was the obsession current western leaders, like Biden and Johnson have with Net Zero.

The reason of this obsession is the 1.5 target that was now the main focus of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Remember, in 2015 in Paris countries agreed they would try to stay below 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial and preferably even below 1.5 degrees. The IPCC then published a special report in 2018 about this 1.5 C threshold. In this report they calculated the remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5 and 2 degrees. Since then these carbon budgets play a key role in international climate negotiations. You get messages like “we have only 12 years to save the planet”.

In practice staying below 1.5 C means Net Zero for the whole world in 2050. Peiser showed with graphs from the recent past and projections from the EIA that such ambitious goals are totally unrealistic.

At the top what is needed (according to models) to stay below certain targets. Under projections by the EIA. From the presentation by Benny Peiser.

The US Energy Information Administration projects that the energy production from renewables will increase in the coming decades but so will the contributions from coal, oil and gas. Peiser called a quick change to Net Zero totally unrealistic and an “utopian change”. He reminded us though that groups like Exctinction Rebellion really seem to believe that we will go exctinct if we cross the magic 1.5 C barrier. He showed a google search term for “climate emergency” indicating the term came up pretty quickly in 2019 when governments around the world were announcing this “climate emergency”. We live in an era of climate hysteria.

Boris Johnson and Biden wanted countries to acceleratie the phase-out of coal altogether. However during the conference they had to water down the formulation until at the end a meaningless promise by countries like India and China remained. Peiser showed the different formulations.

Literally minutes before closing the conference China forced the western countries to water it down to the “phase down” of coal power (whatever that means) and even make it conditional to “targeted support” which means in practice that India is asking for one trillion dollar if the west really wants India to quit coal any time soon. So as the skeptics predicted the conference ended in a huge deception. Targets are not binding and remain conditional on a huge wealth transfer.

Issue Attention Cycle

Peiser called this 1972 figure about the issue attention cycle the key graph of his presentation. According to him we are just entering – at least in the UK – phase 3 of this cycle in which people start to realise the cost of the policies. In phase 1 scientists try to get the issue on the agenda. This was the fifties to the eighties. Since the start of the IPCC we are in phase two in which there is “alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm”. The media is helping a lot to hype the issue. Peiser told that in this phase public discussion is all about the science (is it really CO2? Is it really bad?) leading to the science is settled and we have to do something. On the policy side people were told climate policies will improve the climate and the environment and at the same time it will benefit the economy (green jobs).

However now mitigation policies are implemented people are starting to feel it in their pocket. And this hurts. In England this winter, especially when it will be a cold one, lots of people will literally sit in the dark and cold in their houses, unable to pay the bills. People begin to realise climate policies make them poorer and colder. Peiser sees a new movement coming up, including tenths of MP’s who want to scrutinize the costs of going to Net Zero. Peiser also noticed that he is approached much more by the media than a few years ago. The media is picking it up, they have to.

How long the third phase of the issue attention cycle will last is impossible to predict. It could definitely take ten years at least. So skeptics who hope for a sudden change in the atmosphere surrounding climate change will need to be patient.




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