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Nordhaus dangerous gamble for humanity’s future

Summary:
Nordhaus dangerous gamble for humanity’s future Nordhaus’s transgressions are immense. His ‘damage function’ which he uses to estimate global warming damage is incorrect and uses data that has nothing to do with climate change. Despite this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses his model to advise governments about the economic impact of global warming. Nordhaus and other mainstream climate economists certainly have a lot to answer for. Their thinking has seriously delayed action to avert damage done from climate change. The central problem with Nordhaus’s model is the “damage function”, which is a mathematical fiction that has little to do the real world. Using a spurious method, he calculates that 2°C of warming will only reduce

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Nordhaus dangerous gamble for humanity’s future

Nordhaus’s transgressions are immense. His ‘damage function’ which he uses to estimate global warming damage is incorrect and uses data that has nothing to do with climate change. Despite this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses his model to advise governments about the economic impact of global warming.

Nordhaus dangerous gamble for humanity’s futureNordhaus and other mainstream climate economists certainly have a lot to answer for. Their thinking has seriously delayed action to avert damage done from climate change.

The central problem with Nordhaus’s model is the “damage function”, which is a mathematical fiction that has little to do the real world. Using a spurious method, he calculates that 2°C of warming will only reduce global economic output – GDP – by 0.9 percent, and 4°C would cut GDP by 3.6 percent.

These are trivial changes. If it were true, there would be little to worry about. This is the reason that Nordhaus has repeatedly argued that from the point of view of economic rationality an “optimal” path would be 3.5°C of warming above preindustrial levels.

Climate scientists, meanwhile, are truly panicked about a 2°C increase. They assert that global warming must be kept to 2°C or below, or risk tipping us into a “domino-like cascade that could take the Earth’s system to even higher temperatures”.

Nordhaus’s damage, however, function projects a smooth transition. So it is like describing a canoe trip along a river with a waterfall by saying you will descend seven metres for every kilometre paddled. That would describe the river section of the journey very well, but not the part where you plummet over the waterfall …

Nordhaus it seems has completely failed to understand climate science.  The only changes he has made to his research over the years have made it less able to handle tipping points.

Steve Keen

Lars Pålsson Syll
Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

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