Warmer and Richer

Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss a Cato study that finally gets at an issue I have tried to press for years:  That even if one accepts the worst of the IPCC warming scenarios (which I do not) the
cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in terms of lost economic growth, is far
higher than the cost of rising temperatures -- ESPECIALLY for the poor. 

Hurricanes are a great example.  The world is probably warming a bit due to man's CO2, but likely less than the catastrophic rates one sees in the press.  This warming may or may not increase hurricane severity.  But let's assume it does.  Let's say Asia faces an extra cyclone or two each year from global warming. 

Over time, trends in deaths from hurricanes and severe deaths have shown no correlation with storm frequency or severity.  Death rates from storms track nearly perfectly with wealth:  As wealth has increased in the US, severe storm deaths have dropped to nearly zero;  Where countries are less wealthy, they experience more death.  Bangladesh is not the site of some of the deadliest storms on record because they get hit by the worst storms, but because they are poor.  (figure source)


As a result, if we really face this tradeoff (which I doubt) the world still is better off richer with 10 hurricanes than poorer with 8.

One Comment

  1. m.jed:

    Your work on climate is fantastic and commendable, and while I agree with your sentiment in this post, your language is imprecise and you've fallen into a trap similar to the many people you criticize through your work.

    Severity and frequency are two different potential impacts. Even prominent AGW adherents acknowledge that there is no link between AGW and frequency (see Kerry Emanuel's FAQ page - he's a prof at MIT) - hence the last statement about 8 vs. 10 is the imprecision. Severity may or may not be affected by AGW (there's some that argue severity should be diminished, IIRC, because it would increased expected wind shear over the oceans, and wind shear is one of the factors that "kills" hurricanes), but that's a measure of intensity, or strength, not the number of hurricanes.