2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2012
The Stern Review is monumental. And it is very good. The first general work which tried to pull together what we knew about climate change in an economic framework.
- global warming or climate change is an economic disaster on the order of the largest world war we have ever staged-- ie on the order of 1/3rd to 40% of world GDP
- the costs of preventing global warming run 1-5% of world GDP in 2050. i.e. if we take strong action against GW, our economy in December 2050 will be about the size it would have otherwise been in December 2048
- the actual chapter on global warming is basically a summary of the existing scientific knowledge and uncertainties as at the point of publication. The rest of the book is economics
- what Stern now admits is that he did not spend enough time worrying about the outside possibilities, ie disaster scenarios of a rise in global temperatures of 5 degrees C. The risk there is the cost to world GDP will be 100%-- ie the end of civilization as we know it
Latham's review is biased. Because he starts from the assumption that GW or climate change is not happening (the 'not warming since 1998' argument is spurious-- see UK Met Office rebuttals, the 1998 date is cherry picked, move the date, the trend is there. And of course 5 of the 7 the hottest years ever recorded are now all since 2000).
So Latham really has nothing substantive to say about the Stern Review, because he fundamentally disagrees with its premise. He cannot engage with the argument.
This is a handy summary of what we knew about climate change when it was published but it is NOT a scientific treatise about climate change (see Sir John Houghton, or David Archer, or Michael Mann for that).
What it is is a study of the costs of climate change, and the costs of abatement (stopping it) and adaptation (doing something about it). Events like Hurricane Sandy (c. $50bn damage) raise real questions about whether we continue to live along vulnerable coasts, and the fate of major coastal cities like New York and London in this new world that we are creating.
Where it has been criticized is its use of a low discount rate (c. 1% real) to discount future costs. However counter arguments, pre 2007 financial crisis, suggesting a 3% real rate would be more appropriate. Here's the problem-- those rates were taken pre financial crisis. Now, rates on real government bonds are negative (ie below expected inflation).
So if 3% was the 'market set' rate then, then -1% would be now. Otherwise the whole argument that we should use 'market rate' is spurious. We are left to pick 3% out of the air as the number the discount rate 'should be'.
But as Stern points out, you cannot use a free market discount rate, where there are alternatives as to where to invest society's resources, on a binary question where there is no alternative Earth to move to.
You can read what William Nordhaus (who subsequently published articles in the New York Review of Books saying that yes, climate change is a real threat and we should do something about it) criticized Stern for, and also Partha Das Gupta's contribution (Stern undervalues the lives of people in 3rd world countries like Bangladesh, who will disproportionately die in all this). Das Gupta also critized Stern for insufficiently addressing the intergenerational equity point (we ruin the world, our grandchildren pay the price).
This book will not convince you if you do not believe in anthropogenic (human caused) climate change.
It just won't.
But dissing such a work on the basis that 'it's premise is wrong. New Labour. Leftist claptrap' simply refuses to engage with what the book actually says.
For the rest of you, who want to know what is in store, and what has to be done to ameliorate (stopping is now impossible) climate change, then you can read this a bit like a War Plan written by the British Government in 1939. It should be noted at that time they ordered 1 million grave markers, they thought that would be the civilian deaths from Nazi German bombing (the actual number of wartime civilian dead was less than 60,000 in the Blitz, V1 & V2 missiles, 'Hellfire Corner' in Kent, etc.). Governments and bureaucracies plan-- even for the unimaginable. That's what they do.
What you have here is a very British thing. A bureaucracy, faced with a task of unimaginable magnitude, a task that will change Western Civilization beyond recognition, beginning the step by step planning for that task. Read James Lovelock's latest for just what we might face in the days to come.
Stern is relatively optimistic, as befits a market liberal economist.
This book will give you a feel for the task ahead, and the costs of continued inaction.
6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2010
This comprehensive text by Sir Nicholas Stern (now Lord Stern,of course)was funded by and outlines Her Majesty's Government position on climate change.
The Labour government policy on the whole subject largely derives from the conclusions and predictions contained within this book.
Unfortunately much of this work was a matter of political opinion and the forecasts contained within reflect this.
A very well presented text with plenty of diagrams, charts and referenced texts. Although first published as recently as 2007 the subject has moved on and many of the affects of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) have been mitigated in the intervening three years by published data and of course the halt of global warming at the level of 1998, at least for the time being.
Those who wish to have a complete grasp of the subject of climate change from the British Labour government's point of view should read The Stern Review. This book is the corner stone of why we have a green taxation policy. For Ed Miliband, British Energy & Climate Change Secretary and Gordon Brown, PM, this will remain a standard text.
Knowledge of this book will assist environmentalists and students of climate change help build the big picture. It is not a definitive text on the subject although it set out to be such in 2007. Time and events have progressed.
Keep an open mind and you may enjoy it.