Sunday, December 04, 2016

Economists Agree:  Economic Models Underestimate Climate Change - by David Roberts

It's fairly well-established at this point that there's a robust scientific consensus about the threat of climate change.  But analysts and journalists often say (or imply) that there's less of an economic consensus, that economists are leery of the actions recommended by scientists because of their cost.

Is it true?  It turns out there have been very few systematic surveys of economists' opinions on the subject, and the few that have been done suffer from methodological shortcomings.

Last year, the New York–based Institute for Policy Integrity tried to remedy that situation with just such a large-scale survey of economists who have published work on climate change.

The conclusion?  There is broad consensus on some questions, a wider spread on others, but in every case the median opinion of climate economists supports more vigorous action against climate change, sooner.  Like scientists, economists agree that climate change is a serious threat and that immediate action is needed to address it.
If nothing is done to limit climate change in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for the United States? (Credit: Institute for Policy Integrity) Click to Enlarge.
Most economists believe climate change is a serious problem that calls for immediate action
Most economists believe unmitigated climate change will be a serious problem for the US:

Which of the following best describes your views about climate change? (Credit: Institute for Policy Integrity) Click to Enlarge.
And most believe immediate action is warranted:

Economists support action
In both cases, these numbers are considerably higher than in most surveys of public opinion; the public is much more prone to seeing climate as a distant threat.

Economists believe climate change will harm the economy and reduce growth rates
When asked when climate change will begin having negative effects on the global economy, here's what economists said:
 Which of the following best describes your views about climate change? (Credit: Institute for Policy Integrity) Click to Enlarge.

The median answer here is 2025, which is considerably earlier than many prominent economic models estimate. For instance, Tol's FUND model — one of the three big models used in the field — estimates that impacts will not be net negative until 2080.

Implications for climate models and climate policy
The main takeaway from the survey is simply that economists, while their views do show a wider spread on various issues than the views of climate scientists, do widely agree that climate is a serious problem requiring immediate action. And some 80 percent of them think America could help induce others to take action by restricting its own emissions; 77 percent of them support the US acting unilaterally.

Like climate scientists, professional economists are more concerned about climate, and supportive of action, than the general public.

Read more at Economists Agree:  Economic Models Underestimate Climate Change

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