NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 9, 2008

Over the past five years the scaremongering of the climate alarmists has led the governments of Europe to commit themselves to a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, regardless of the economic cost of doing so, says Lord Nigel Lawson former British Chancellor of the Exchequer.

For example:

  • Given the so-called greenhouse effect, the marked and largely man-made increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the earth's atmosphere has no doubt contributed to the modest 20th century warming of the planet.
  • But what remains a matter of unresolved dispute among climate scientists is how great a contribution it has made compared with the natural factors affecting the earth's climate.

Indeed, given that warming produces benefits as well as costs, it is far from clear that for the people of the world as a whole, the currently projected warming, even if it occurs, would cause any net harm at all.  By contrast, slowing down world economic growth, by shifting to much more expensive non-carbon sources of energy, would be massively costly, as Dieter Helm, Britain's foremost energy economist, has recently spelt out.

That is one good reason why the sought-after global agreement to cut back drastically on carbon dioxide emissions, embracing China, India and the other major developing countries, is not going to happen.  But two very real dangers remain, says Lawson:

  • The first is that the European Union, which already has the bit between its teeth on this issue, will severely damage its own economy by deciding to set an example to the world.
  • And the second is that it will seek to limit that damage, as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and others are already urging, by imposing trade barriers against those countries that are not prepared to accept mandatory cuts in their emissions.

Source: Nigel Lawson, "A Foolish Overreaction To Climate Change," Financial Times, April 6, 2008.


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