World GDP and Global Warming
By Arnold Kling
Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its GDP by 1,800 percent, by one estimate. How much of that 0.7 degrees can be laid at the feet of that 1,800 percent is unknowable, but let’s stipulate that all of the warming was the result of our prosperity…
That’s still an amazing bargain. Life expectancies in the United States increased from about 47 years to about 77 years. Literacy, medicine, leisure and even, in many respects, the environment have improved mightily over the course of the 20th century, at least in the prosperous West.
Given the option of getting another 1,800 percent richer in exchange for another 0.7 degrees warmer, I’d take the heat in a heartbeat.
In this post, I calculated the increase in world GDP as being even more–close to 50 times more GDP, although only 9 times more GDP per capita. But the point about the trade-off is still the same.
To be fair, it is not the global warming that has taken place so far that has people’s knickers in a twist. It’s the global warming that models project for the future. Some of that is projected even if our GDP grows no further, based on feedback effects from the existing level of CO2. Some of it is projected based on additional increases of GDP and more CO2 in the process.
These statistical projections are highly uncertain. In fact, I do not think that the climate modelers have anywhere near enough data to make usable predictions.
99 percent of the people who knowingly tell you that global warming is real and that the science is conclusive have no clue about statistical modeling. The statistical challenges of climate modeling that scientists understand among themselves are quite different from the popular conceptions that imagine some concrete certainty. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never before in the field of public policy have so many had such confidence in model forecasts based on so few meaningful observations.