Davos: Lord Stern goes even further over the top with his hysterical cries of doom
Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more “blunt” about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.
In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”
The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.”
He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.
“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”
Stern said he backed the UK’s Climate Change Act, which commits the government to ambitious carbon reduction targets. But he called for increased investment in greening the economy, saying: “It’s a very exciting growth story.”
You will remember that, in 2002, the Government produced an intelligence dossier about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. In his foreword to the document, Tony Blair wrote that the dossier “discloses that his [Saddam's] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them”. You will also remember that there was, to put it gently, a fuss about these and other claims made by the Prime Minister.
Now consider a more recent claim by Mr Blair, about something completely different. After Sir Nicholas Stern’s report, The Economics of Climate Change, appeared at the end of October, the Prime Minister warned: “The consequences for our planet are literally disastrous … without radical international measures to reduce carbon emissions within the next 10 to 15 years.” This was the eco-equivalent of the 45 minutes — frightening, dramatic, and, it increasingly appears, “dodgy”.
Mr Blair’s version of what Stern says is, in fact, more restrained than Sir Nicholas himself. The Stern report’s summary declares: “If we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least five per cent of global GDP each year, now and for ever.
“If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 per cent of GDP or more… Our actions now and over the coming decades could create risks … on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century.”
When these striking assertions first appeared, they were, of course, virtually unquestioned. Most of the media, especially the BBC, had been against the Iraq war, and so were hypercritical of government claims on the subject. With Stern, it was the opposite. Most of the media, especially the BBC, are highly credulous about prophecies of environmental doom, so they lapped up Stern, bawling at politicians about why they weren’t taking enough action now.
Besides, most reporters and commentators on public affairs — including, I hasten to admit, myself — are neither scientists nor economists; so it is easier for us just to repeat the claims of people such as Stern, sexing them up as we go along.
this is funny..here is the guy who exaggerated back in 2006 and had his report compared with the infamous iraq WMD dossier..and now he comes out and says he underestimated!!..no..liar..you are just doing what your bosses expect you to do..i wonder if his descendants were actually called sternberg? look what his family gets up to..
your country is blanketed in snow..again.moron..its really warming..
Stern is the son of the late Bert Stern and Marion Stern and nephew of Donald Swann—half of the Flanders and Swann partnership. Richard Stern, former Vice-President, World Bank, and Brian E Stern, former Vice-President Xerox Corporation, are his brothers, and his sister is Naomi Opalinska. He was the Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 2000 to 2003, and was recently a civil servant and government economic advisor in the United Kingdom. In June 2007, Stern became the first holder of the I. G. Patel. In 2008, he was also appointed Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, a major new research centre also at LSE. He is also Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at Leeds University and LSE.