I wrote before that part of the problem for climate hawks is that even expected damages from climate change are not that large. Not zero by any means but not as high as they would like. In particular a number of folks seemed to be upset with CBO testimony on the matter. Brad Johnson writes

The failure of the economics profession to come to grip with the clear science of climate change is a scandal that far outstrips its cheerleading of the housing bubble and other financial disasters. As previously discussed in the Wonk Room, conventional economics not only fails to accurately assess the threat of global warming, but also totally misrepresents the economic impact of taking action.

There are a couple of points to be made. First, they are doing analysis as it pertains to the United States, not as it pertains to the rest of the world. There are some big differences here because the US has an advanced, Northern Hemisphere economy.

The situation is different for some parts of the world, most notably Bangladesh and the analysis is considerably more difficult.

However, absent the entire global warming, anthropogenic debate, think about what economists would say if you said that over the next 100 years, from completely natural forces, the United States was going to get substantially hotter and its coasts were going to sink.

The debate would center around three possibilities.

The non-alarmists would say that we need to build seawalls and perhaps aqueducts in case of water shortages. Yet, more or less we should expect the primary response to be a booming air conditioning industry. America will become more like Phoenix and South Texas, and that seems to be good enough for the millions of people of flocked there over the last decade.

Those who were a little more concerned would say that we should start to rethink long-term infrastructure. No rail or even perhaps even highways for Miami. Its not going to be here so why dump money into it. Maybe we should also think about building infrastructure to the West of the Eastern Seaboard as well, as people will likely backup slowly. Lastly we might want to invest in some crop research for warmer climes and perhaps some tropical infectious disease prevention.

Those pulling their hair out would be talking about how we need plans to remake the Mid-West. People are going to be flooding back and the region is unprepared. Rather than letting the infrastructure rot, we need to be putting in major projects NOW! We need to create an economic substrate on which the New America can quickly be built.

There might also be a few radicals who mused about the opportunity to start some cities from the ground up, this time putting in mass transit first and institutions designed to stop anti-density constituencies.

In any case our core observation would also be three-fold. First people can and will move. They are not likely to just sit there while their town is flooded. There is enormous migration across the United States right now , mostly from colder places to warmer. We simply would expect that to reverse.

Second, temperature variation around the United States is so great now that even large increases in average temperature are not likely to create a United States were no place is, is a place people want to live.

USA Temperature Map for January

Even as natural disasters increase people will either decide they want to live with them or move to safer ground. Its not like those of us in the Southeast are ignorant of the existence of Hurricanes or the fact that they can kill you.

Lastly, building new housing is not something the United States finds challenging. We absorbed 200 Million people over the last 100 years and new housing is typically only a small fraction of the economy. It uses the type of labor that is increasingly in less demand and so reigniting the housing industry would not be a major cost. We would have to come up with something and it would not enter positively into our damage calculations, but the damage would be small..

Getting the result that the US would fall off a cliff due to climate change as projected over the next century is hard to produce. If someone has data on how you might reach this conclusion I would be happy to hear it.

About these ads