Climate

Voodoo economists, Part 2: Robert Mendelsohn says global warming is “a good thing for Canada.”

I asserted in Part 1 that economists don’t understand climate science. Exhibit 1 would be Robert Mendelsohn, an economics professor at Yale University, whose “research” has prompted headlines in our neighbor up north like “A warmer climate could hold lots of benefits for Canada” and “The UP side of global warming“:

Leading the charge is Robert Mendelsohn, an economics professor at Yale University, who says the benefits of global warming for Canada — from a longer growing season to the opening up of shipping through the Northwest Passage — will outweigh the negative effects.

“You’re lucky because you’re a northern-latitude country, Mendelsohn says. “If you add it all up, it’s a good thing for Canada.”

This series will have three recurring themes about Voodoo Economists aka Mainstream Economists who Opine on Weather (MEOWs):

  1. MEOW’s understanding of what global warming is doing to the planet now and what it is likely to do by 2100 on our current emissions path ranges from arrogantly incomplete to criminally ignorant. They really talk more about the weather than the climate.
  2. MEOW’s cost-benefit calculations [“if you add it all up”] are analytically unsound and qualify more as an opinion than a scientifically accurate statement.
  3. The right wing loves what the economics profession is saying and publishing on climate, which is why they quote and cite them so giddily.

For instance, you would never know from this article — or any of Mendelsohn’s comments — that Canada is already suffering widespread and completely unpredicted devastation from climate change, as I’ve written (see “Climate-Driven Pest Devours N. American Forests” and “Nature on stunning new climate feedback: Beetle tree kill releases more carbon than fires“):

The pine beetle infestation is the first major climate change crisis in Canada” notes Doug McArthur, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

The pests areprojected to kill 80 per cent of merchantable and susceptible lodgepole pine” in parts of British Columbia within 10 years — and that’s why the harvest levels in the region have been “increased significantly.” One analyst calls the devastation “probably the biggest landscape-level change since the ice age.”

Losing every harvestable pine tree in British Columbia is apparently not a big deal to arrogant MEOWs like Mendelsohn:

Forests will become more productive, Mendelsohn says. The northern forests will expand into the tundra and the southern forests will grow better. The types of trees in different regions will change. Fire and disease might well take out old forests, but Mendelsohn says forestry companies can also be allowed to go in and take out at-risk trees. “Rather than let it be destroyed naturally, you harvest it into the marketplace and then just let the natural systems replace what should be there next.”

Yeah, cut down the “old forests” before the climate-driven pests get them and replace them with “what should be there” — that’s an economic plus for everyone! If you look up hubris in the dictionary….

The reality on the ground is quite different the opining from Mendelsohn’s ivory tower [Note to self: Maybe the towers are made of ivory because in economist-land there ain’t no friggin’ trees left]. As the Chicago Tribune reported this month in a story titled, “Canada’s forests, once huge help on greenhouse gases, now contribute to climate change“:

Canada's threatened forests

[“Forestry officials in British Colombia used a controlled fire to check the spread of a devastating infestation by the mountain pine beetle.”]

As relentlessly bad as the news about global warming seems to be, with ice at the poles melting faster than scientists had predicted and world temperatures rising higher than expected, there was at least a reservoir of hope stored here in Canada’s vast forests.

The country’s 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the “lungs of the planet” by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth’s total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.

But not anymore.

In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists have concluded that Canada’s precious forests, stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires, have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering.

Worse yet, the experts predict that Canada’s forests will remain net carbon sources, as opposed to carbon storage “sinks,” until at least 2022, and possibly much longer.

Well, not little-noticed here, but apparently little noticed by the economics profession, which really prefers to stick with what it can model:

In his work, Mendelsohn and his colleagues look at economic impacts of global warming, but focus mostly on agriculture, because this is the realm most affected by global warming. “With agriculture we think that’s going to be a big benefit for Canada,” Mendelsohn says….

Some high-value crops, like corn and soybeans, that can mainly be grown in the U.S., will be grown more commonly in Canada, Mendelsohn says.

“The more the temperature rises, the bigger the benefits will be (for agriculture). As far as Canada is concerned, over the next century whether it’s a two-degree rise or a five-degree rise, it’s probably going to be beneficial.”

That is criminally ignorant.

Even in economist-land where the primary impacts are agricultural, what Mendelsohn and his models seem blind to is the fact that the warming is continuous and accelerating. Yes, if you model a single step change in temperature of 2° or 5°, followed by a stable climate, then maybe, over a period of decades, a steady state, higher productivity agriculture could occur — if we also unjustifiably assume no unproductive changes in rainfall intensity or soil moisture (see “The Century of Drought“).

But on our current path, we are just going to get warmer and warmer and warmer decade after decade after decade. When is there ever a steady state absent mitigation efforts far, far beyond that endorsed by MEOWs?

The Hadley Center warns of “catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path. The interior of a big, northern country like Canada is typically projected to warm 50% or more faster than the planet as a whole. So much of Canada might see 10°C warming by 2100. If inland Canada starts warming some 1°C a decade by mid-century, is that still “probably going to be beneficial,” Dr. Mendelsohn?

At least the article hints at the narrowness of Mendelsohn’s modeling, by quoting “geographer David Sauchyn, a professor at the University of Regina, who recently led a federal government study on the impacts of climate change on the prairies”:

Mendelsohn’s optimistic outlook for Canada is based on average annual rises in temperature and precipitation, but this overlooks how things might be in exceptionally dry and hot years, Sauchyn says.

Any gains that come from an increased growing season in some years could be wiped out by a lengthy drought, Sauchyn says.

“A shift in the distribution of water from season to season and from year to year and from basin to basin, is by far the most challenging scenario under climate change.”

“Duh” for those who understand even the basics about climate science, but apparently “too damn tricky to model” for MEOWs.

Immediately after Mendelsohn is quoted in the article saying “If you add it all up, it’s a good thing for Canada,” the piece continues:

Such benefits could well make Canadians feel ambivalent about taking measures to stop global warming, says economist Thomas Gale Moore, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in California.

“When it comes down to doing something about global warming, it quickly turns out to be kind of expensive and certain people … would look out and say, ‘Wow, global warming, that’s going to be nice. I don’t want to spend any money stopping that.’ “

Note to economics profession: When the global warming deniers and delayers at right wing think tanks like the Hoover Institute agree with your analysis, you should start to ask yourself whether you really know what you’re talking about.

What about sea level rise?

With global warming, the ocean level will also rise, but this shouldn’t be a big issue in Canada, because most of the country’s coastal areas are uninhabited, and it won’t be significant if some of that land is claimed by the ocean, Mendelsohn says. Populated areas will fight back by building higher. “It turns out not to be a big issue. The land is extremely valuable and people will defend it.”

Sure the latest research says we “most likely” face sea level rise of 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100, but what do climate scientists know? Mellow out, Canada! Dr. Mendelsohn says it’s no big deal — “The land is extremely valuable and people will defend it.”

But again, Mendelsohn seems stuck with a static view. On our current emissions path, not only do we face 5 feet of sea level rise by century’s end, but by then, the rate of sea level rise may be 10 inches a decade (ultimately rising to 20 inches a decade), which could last for centuries until we are a completely ice-free planet and sea levels are 250 feet higher. How the heck do you “defend” against that, Dr. Mendelsohn?

But cheer up, Canada. To make up for the loss of their forests and the loss of their extremely valuable coastal property, the MEOWs say you will get more tourists!

Warmer temperatures will mean more tourists for Canada, reports Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland. The optimal annual average temperature for a tourist destination is now found in cities like Barcelona and Atlanta. Canada will see a 220-per-cent increase in tourists this century, followed by Russia at 174 per cent, Tol told USA Today.

Yeah — I just bet people are going to be flocking to Russia.

If people are going to flock to the north, however, it is going to be driven by the billion-plus environmental refugees from sea level rise and agricultural decline in the tropics and subtropics (see “Half of world’s population could face climate-driven food crisis by 2100“).

Tol may be the leading voodoo economist in the world, and I will deal with him in a separate post.

The article ends with a bunch of contradictory quotes by our MEOW from Yale:

“It’s important that we start trying to control greenhouse gases … Eventually it’s going to get too warm. Damages will far exceed the benefits.”

In the end, civilization won’t be brought down by global warming, Mendelsohn believes. “There’s an enormous amount of adaptations we can undertake. And at least the stuff that is going to happen this century, we will be able to adapt to it.

“I’m not saying that climate change is a non-issue. It is an issue and it is going to cause damages. It’s just that it’s not the calamity that people say. People exaggerate how bad it is.”

Damages will far exceed the benefits, yes, but for MEOWs, that justifies only the most modest carbon price, as future posts will discuss. Ironically, or rather, tragically, if we listen to voodoo economists like Mendelsohn and Tol and Norhaus, then global warming is all but certain to be the calamity that people say.

The bottom line is that non-scientist Mendelsohn has a knowledge of climate science and impacts that ranges from arrogantly incomplete to criminally ignorant. He has no business telling anybody that on our current emissions path it will not be a calamity. He simple has no clue.

The economics profession should throw him out for malpractice, but they won’t do that because, as Part 3 (and 4 and 5) will make all too painfully clear, his views are solidly in the mainstream of MEOWs. You just can’t teach an old cat new tricks.

Note: A draft of this post was accidentally published last night. Apologies.

Also, sometimes people are quoted out of context, though rarely this extensively, but in any case Mendelsohn has had over a month to comment on the original news article, and I can’t find any correction on his website or through Google.

40 Responses to Voodoo economists, Part 2: Robert Mendelsohn says global warming is “a good thing for Canada.”

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    “global-warming experts, made up mainly of university economists and anthropologists”

    And if you believe that…

    [JR: This quote refers to the third paragraph of the article, which precedes the two I cite to open this post: “But a group of global-warming experts, made up mainly of university economists and anthropologists, is pushing the notion that global warming might not be an unmitigated disaster, especially for certain northerly regions, such as Canada, Russia and Scandinavia.”]

  2. John Mashey says:

    Of course, where most Canadians live is one of the places where there are indeed some benefits, although the pine beetles now chowing out in British Columbia are not viewed with great favor.

    For economists with different views, I recommend e3network – Economics for Equity and the Environment. See Economists’ Statement on Climate Change.

    Frank Ackerman, in particular, wrote a nice piece on Lomborg’s errors in Cool It!”, from an economics view.

    Anyway, economics is a large tent indeed, and some there are well woth encouraging.

  3. Bob Wallace says:

    Did he include the impact of Candida having to absorb a 1-2 billion population increase?

    Let’s see we’ll have 8 billion soon. Send portion to Northern Russia.

    Maybe 3 billion more new Canadians over a very few decades. That should make a few maple-leafers say “Eh?”.

  4. Will Koroluk says:

    Yup. We’re going to wait until the permafrost melts, then we’re going to seed the remaining mess of peat, rock and water to pineapples.
    Folks should be careful what they wish for; they might get it.

  5. Anthony says:

    North to Alaska, Texas will be uninhabitable and a chunk of Florida underwater. When they had the wonderful Medieval Warm Period in Europe Texas, the Mid West and Mexico had the mega drought and disease.

    Cold bad, but it controlled the pine beetle.

    Adapt: we are going to have to. Probably to little to late, and more often after the event rather than prevantative.

  6. “Adapt” means “Die” or “Go EXTINCT.”
    Would the extinction of the human species have enough economic impact for those economists?

    Global Warming can lead to Hydrogen Sulfide gas coming out of
    the oceans. Hydrogen Sulfide gas will Kill all people. Homo
    Sap will go EXTINCT unless drastic action is taken NOW.

    October 2006 Scientific American

    “EARTH SCIENCE
    Impact from the Deep
    Strangling heat and gases emanating from the earth and sea, not asteroids, most likely caused several ancient mass extinctions. Could the same killer-greenhouse conditions build once again?
    By Peter D. Ward
    downloaded from:

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000&sc=I100322

    ………………..Most of the article omitted………………….
    But with atmospheric carbon climbing at an annual rate of 2 ppm and expected to accelerate to 3 ppm, levels could approach 900 ppm by the end of the next century, and conditions that bring about the beginnings of ocean anoxia may be in place. How soon after that could there be a new greenhouse extinction? That is something our society should never find out.”

    Press Release
    Pennsylvania State University
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Monday, Nov. 3, 2003
    downloaded from:
    http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/2003/prPennStateKump.htm

    “In the end-Permian, as the levels of atmospheric oxygen fell and the levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide rose, the upper levels of the oceans could have become rich in hydrogen sulfide catastrophically. This would kill most of the oceanic plants and animals. The hydrogen sulfide dispersing in the atmosphere would kill most terrestrial life.”

    http://www.astrobio.net is a NASA web zine. See:

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=672

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1535

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/article2509.html

    http://astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2429&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

    These articles agree with the first 2. They all say 6 degrees C or 1000 parts per million CO2 is the extinction point.

    The global warming is already 1.3 degree Farenheit. 11 degrees Farenheit is about 6 degrees Celsius. The book “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas agrees. If the global warming is 6 degrees centigrade, we humans go extinct. See:
    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian

    “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., 2007. Paleontologist discusses mass extinctions of the past and the one we are doing to ourselves.

  7. The Kill Mechanism: Ocean bacteria make H2S.

    Hydrogen sulfide [H2S] combines with oxygen to make water
    and sulfur dioxide SO2:

    2H2S + 3O2 = 2H2O + 2SO2

    Sulfur dioxide combines with moisture and oxygen in your lungs,
    becoming sulfuric acid:

    SO2 + H2O = H2SO3

    2H2SO3 + O2 = 2H2SO4

    So the overall equation is:

    H2S + 2O2 = H2SO4

    Your lungs dissolve in battery acid. This is NOT a pleasant
    way to die. It is what 6 degrees Centigrade of global warming does.

  8. Downloaded from:
    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian

    ‘Six steps to hell’ – summary of Six Degrees as published in the Guardian 23 April 07:

    1ºC Nebraska …shortened… These innocuous-looking hills were once desert, part of an immense system of sand dunes that spread across the Great Plains from Texas in the south to the Canadian prairies in the north. Six thousand years ago, when temperatures were about 1C warmer than today in the US, these deserts may have looked much as the Sahara does today. ….shortened… devastating agriculture and driving out human inhabitants on a scale far larger than the 1930s

    2ºC ….shortened…Two degrees is also enough to cause the eventual complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which would raise global sea levels by seven metres. …shortened…

    3ºC Scientists estimate that we have at best 10 years to bring down global carbon emissions if we are to stabilise world temperatures within two degrees of their present levels. ….shortened… 3C may be the “tipping point” where global warming could run out of control, leaving us powerless to intervene as planetary temperatures soar. The centre of this predicted disaster is the Amazon, where the tropical rainforest, which today extends over millions of square kilometres, would burn down in a firestorm of epic proportions. …shortened… Once the trees have gone, desert will appear and the carbon released by the forests’ burning will be joined by still more from the world’s soils. This could boost global temperatures by a further 1.5ºC – tippping us straight into the four-degree world.
    ….shortened…

    4ºC At four degrees another tipping point is almost certain to be crossed; indeed, it could happen much earlier. ….shortened… hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon locked up in Arctic permafrost – particularly in Siberia – enter the melt zone, releasing globally warming methane and carbon dioxide in immense quantities. ….shortened…

    5ºC ….shortened… methane hydrates. This unlikely substance, a sort of ice-like combination of methane and water that is only stable at low temperatures and high pressure, may have burst into the atmosphere from the seabed in an immense “ocean burp”, sparking a surge in global temperatures ….shortened… . Today vast amounts of these same methane hydrates still sit on subsea continental shelves. As the oceans warm, they could be released once more in a terrifying echo of that methane belch of 55 million years ago. In the process, moreover, the seafloor could slump as the gas is released, sparking massive tsunamis ….shortened…

    6ºC ….shortened… end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago. By the end of this calamity, up to 95% of species were extinct. The end-Permian wipeout is the nearest this planet has ever come to becoming just another lifeless rock drifting through space. ….shortened… most of the world’s plant cover was removed in a catastrophic bout of soil erosion. Rocks also show a “fungal spike” as plants and animals rotted in situ. Still more corpses were washed into the oceans, helping to turn them stagnant and anoxic. ….shortened…
    Whatever happened back then to wipe out 95% of life on Earth ….shortened… we mess with the climatic thermostat of this planet at our extreme – and growing – peril.

  9. Charles says:

    This is the kind of report the Conservative government here in Canada will relish. Mendelsohn’s comments on Canadian forests were stunning. Yeah, we’ll just go in there and take out the damaged trees. No big deal.

  10. Anne says:

    Economists are taught that money solves all problems, and are not taught about the second law of thermodynamics, ecological balance, or the strong role water plays in growing food and keeping people alive, not to mention how difficult it is to transport water long distances. Nothing personal against Mendelsohn, he learned his economics lessons well., but it seems he would benefit from a regular check-in with fellow Yalies Gus Speth, Dan Esty, and others in the school of forestry. His statement — “There’s an enormous amount of adaptations we can undertake. And at least the stuff that is going to happen this century, we will be able to adapt to it.” — sounds foolishly optimistic and short-sighted. What about four, five, and six generations from now? Those people don’t count? In economics, they likely don’t count for much. Therein lies the problem, perhaps. When do we admit that the entire field of economics as it is currently taught in the schools is fundamentally flawed?

  11. Joe says:

    All comments prior to this one were made on the accidental posting, which was nothing more than a reprinting of the entire article. Anyone above should feel free to revise and extend their remarks.

  12. John Mashey says:

    I’m sure Canada will enjoy kudzu as much as they like pine beetles.

    Here’s a study from U of Toronto following the spread of kudzu (“the plant that ate the South”) Northward. Kudzu is inhibited by coldspells. The UT folks think that within 20 yers, kudzu can start survivng in Canada. It likes CO2 also.

  13. Jim Eager says:

    Yeah, that longer growing season will do wonders for expanding agriculture into the Precambrian Shield and muskeg. (Rolls eyes.)

  14. Jay Alt says:

    Anne –
    In years past he was in the Yale School of Forestry, but has since found a different home.

    I want to comment on this quote by Mendelsohn, about CA forests –
    “Rather than let it be destroyed naturally, you harvest it into the marketplace and then just let the natural systems replace what should be there next.”

    Most economists assume that ecosystems have no intrinsic worth, unless we can somehow ‘improve’ them. They also assumed that ecosystems are constant, never running down or degrading. Their only purpose in our system is to be transformed, faster and faster, into commodities to be used by humans and sold for money. This converts objects that cam decay into money, which is ‘safe’ from decay (or not, as we have seen recently). The system therefore protects us from those scary cycles of nature. (Except of course that it causes new and scarier cycles that can destroy civilization)

    Commodities are manufactured by soulless corporations and then rocketed
    onto the shelves. As we buy them we rarely considering where they came from, who made them or what their underlying value might be. The systems of production, consumption and disposal (asap) disconnect us from our surroundings, our place, our neighbors, and from the natural world that sustains us. The Amish have long understood some of these things.

    What an efficient, ravenous system. If anyone believes tweeking the rules by putting a price on carbon and then building some renewable energy plants will solve things is sadly mistaken. It will take a basic reassessment and renewal of our morals and our values to give us the determination to complete the tasks ahead.

  15. I know this is just anecdotal… But I live in Nova Scotia, on the Atlantic Coast. During the first 38 years of my life, we had two hurricanes… The first while I was still in diapers, and the second when I was 13… It wasn’t that big a deal.*

    We’ve had three in the last 12 years, including Hurricane Juan in 2003. It took down more than 100,000 trees in Halifax — more than 70,000 in Point Pleasant Park alone — and left most of the city without power for a week. As the park has been losing trees for a variety of reasons for the last 15 years, including ice storms and beetle infestations, it’s likely that this national historic site will need 50 years to recover.

    I posted a few photos here.

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=78007641%40N00&q=point+pleasant+park&m=text

    Last year, tropical storm Noel washed away one of the favorite beaches of my youth, AND one of the prettiest beaches near my new home, in Lunenburg… destroying a protected marsh that was the nesting ground of an endangered bird in the process.

    It’s heartbreaking.

    My sister’s retirement home, right on the Atlantic… used to be 100 feet from the ocean. It’s now about 60.

    And so it goes… I’m with John Holdren; climate change is too benign a phrase… Global Climate Disruption is more like it.

    Just a few short months after Juan, Halifax was hit by what people up here call White Juan… a weather bomb that dropped 98 cm of snow on the city in 24 hours. That might have been ever worse than the hurricane… We were largely stuck in our homes for a week, trying to dig out. I was caring for a dying parent at the time, and I’ve never felt so isolated and alone.

    Climate change is good for Canada… I call bullsh*t!

    *I’m reading Hell and High Water

  16. Brewster says:

    “With global warming, the ocean level will also rise, but this shouldn’t be a big issue in Canada, because most of the country’s coastal areas are uninhabited, and it won’t be significant if some of that land is claimed by the ocean”

    I’m sure that my fellow Canadians living in Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, St. John’s, Saint John and Charlottetown, among others, will be quite surprised to find out that our coasts are uninhabited.

  17. tom says:

    What a great use of investment and infrastructure capital! Replant forests that we destroyed; build seas walls to protect coastal and St. Lawrence River cities; put agricultural infrastructure and planting were none has existed to replace land no longer usable. A recylcing of the silly idea that repairing from a hurricane or wildfire will help the economy. How much capital will be left for schools, hospitals, and other on going needs?
    Economists were cheer leaders for the bums that got us into our recession/depression and now they are going be cheer leaders for climate change. OMG, what a failure that profession is!

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Brewster — Don’t forget Bella Coola.

    Not exactly coastal, but at sea level.

  19. John Mashey says:

    Brewster: I’ve been all of those except Halifax & Saint John, and they will suffer, but still, I think Canada has a lower fraction of people living right on/near the coasts compared to {USA, Australia, UK, France, Japan, etc.}

    In the US, some people living in, say Colorado,seem to worry less about sea-level rise than we do here in the SF Bay Area.

  20. Economists might not be the group that leads us out of this mess, but they are not a dumb crowd.

    If we are to find a workable solution we need to try hard to think about the economic side of things. Maybe the need is for marketing to augment the campaign by scientists to get the public to respond.

    In the end there may be some need for adaptation, especially if discussions always descend into cheerleading.

    The set of solutions on the table so far look like a path to migration to Canada, or even Russia. There is a lot of frozen open space in both countries.

    Next thing we know Putin will be talking about “manifest destiny” as the calling to settle Northern Russia.

  21. paulm says:

    Never mind economists, what are the insurers saying?

  22. @Paulm

    Last week, insurer MunichRe was pleading with countries to finalize a post-Kyoto climate deal… or else their industry won’t survive.

    The company said that 2008 was the third-most-expensive year on record for the insurance industry, after 2005 and 1995. Six hurricanes and more than 1,700 tornadoes swept the US alone, costing well over $40 bn US. In Europe, hailstorms and flash floods cost insurers more than $3 bn, though exact figures were not available.

  23. The thing to do is to tutor Dr. Mendelsohn by sending email to him at robert.mendelsohn@yale.edu. It is easy to find the email address of professors if you know where they teach. I have found that I was able to make a federal appeals court judge pull in his horns by explaining his ignorance of science.

  24. John Mashey says:

    When it comes to building seawalls and new infrastructure, recall that when people start doing that seriously, there wil l be a lot less petroleum around.

    Leave a note now for great-grandchildren of 2100: “Exercise is good for you! Raising dikes with shoves is fun!”

  25. paulm says:

    There are a lot of folk like Mendelsohn who just don’t realize the devastating impact of a small GLOBAL temp rise.

  26. jorleh says:

    Don´t forget the number one voodoo “economist” Lomborg. There are many ridiculous moneymakers, but always somebody is the number one.

  27. Bob Wright says:

    It looks like the skeptics/deniers/delayers/unawares will need to see another decade or so of sharp temperaure increases. The apparent leveling off (some interpret decline) of the GISS and HADCRUT temp plots since ’98 has given them room to debate. This author (Mendelsohn) doesn’t see the real consequences – yet.

  28. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Happy New Year Joe!

    RE: “Climate-Driven Pest Devours North American Forests”

    This is just flatout wrong! You and the numerous, know-nothing nincompoops nattering neo-evironmental nonsense (Eat your heart out, Spiro!) don’t know squat about the biology and chemical ecology of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae (Hopkins) and the phenology of this very aggressive tree-killing beetle and the lodgepole pine forest.

    FYI, I was the senior organic chemist in Prof. John Borden’s Chemical Ecology Research Group at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. for about 25 years. A forest entomologist, Prof. Borden is _the_ world’s expert on this beetle and a great many other econo,ically insects pests.

  29. Pete says:

    Anne Says:
    January 11th, 2009 at 7:46 am

    “Economists are taught that money solves all problems, and are not taught about the second law of thermodynamics, ecological balance, or the strong role water plays in growing food and keeping people alive, not to mention how difficult it is to transport water long distances.”

    Anne, you are WRONG. The first start of this statement is so untrue as to be laughable. The second part is also patently false. Why would you write this Anne? You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Then,
    Jay Alt Says:
    January 11th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    “Most economists assume that ecosystems have no intrinsic worth, unless we can somehow ‘improve’ them. They also assumed that ecosystems are constant, never running down or degrading. Their only purpose in our system is to be transformed, faster and faster, into commodities to be used by humans and sold for money.”

    Jay Alt, you too are just flat-out wrong. Why would you write this? Google “non-market valuation” and see what you come up with. Seriously, it’ll only take a second to do a little work before writing something that the world will read.

    All of you people, most especially Joe, who laughingly calls this blog “Climate Progress”, please stop making broad-brush statements regarding a discipline about which you are hopelessly misinformed. In short, STFU or do some basis research please. You are doing a great deal of damage by spewing misinformation about things that you know very little about.

    Thanks.
    Pete

  30. Stuart says:

    Pete:

    Joe is not the one spewing misinformation here.

    Maybe some economists understand ecology and climate, but this article shows Mendelsohn sure doesn’t. I think we should apply the standard of your last paragraph to economists who want to opine on ecology and climate – do some research on the actual science or STFU.

  31. Joe says:

    Pete:

    It is you who are mistaking the work of a few economists whot are decidedly outside of the mainstream (like Daly) with the published writings and remarks of those who are considered the leading economists in the area of climate analysis. You are also confusing what economists are “taught” in a few electives that they ignore with the core elements of their thinking.

    I have only begun this series, but by Part 5, it will be rather painfully clear that, as I’ve said, Mendelsohn’s absurd views are decidedly in the mainstream.

  32. Pete says:

    Stuart,
    Really? Did you read this load of BS? http://climateprogress.org/2009/01/08/economists-are-part-of-the-problem-part-1-robert-stavins-cant-walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time/

    I’m certainly not saying that *some* economists have it wrong, or that *some* economists stretch their research into areas where they shouldn’t. Obviously, that would be true of econ and of course, would also be true every area of study you can name. That’s not the point Stuart, and you know it.

    No one that I’ve read, other than Joe and his sheep….

    [JR: Rest of post deleted. Pete, you have offered it not a single analytical rebuttal to any of my points. But you have attacked the people who comment here, all of whom have made far more thoughtful remarks, both pro and con. So I’m putting you on moderation. I’d be happy to publish analytical or factual responses to posts or comments here.]

  33. Jay Alt says:

    Harold D Pierce Jr –
    Happy New Year to you too. I’m glad that Dr. Borden had a long career working to develop pheromone insect controls. I hope he’s enjoying a well-deserved retirement. I’ve long consider pheromones a safer and smarter method than spraying pesticides on trees and all else. I admit I know very little about insect attractants.

    But I do know that scientists have studied pine bark beetles for more than 60 years; much more intensely in recent years. I read journals for my work and in my spare time. And while I may not grasp all implications of articles outside my field, I always come away with something.

    Ecologists and foresters study entire ecosystems, and not just the chemical signals of species. They have ruled out other causes and conclude that rising temperatures are responsible for the vast size of recent outbreaks. These are unprecedented since Europeans 1st arrived.
    And here are some examples reviewing how that was done –

    The bionomics of the mountain pine beetle in lodgepole pine forests: establishing a context
    http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfd/library/MPB/carroll_2004_bionomics.pdf

    Ecological Consequences of Climate Change: Altered Forest Insect Disturbance Regimes
    http://www.usu.edu/beetle/documents/Logan-Powell2005.pdf

    Modeling cold tolerance in the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae
    http://www.usu.edu/beetle/documents/Regniere_Bentz2007.pdf

  34. Dano says:

    Good point above:

    I want to comment on this quote by Mendelsohn, about CA forests –
    “Rather than let it be destroyed naturally, you harvest it into the marketplace and then just let the natural systems replace what should be there next.”

    Mendelsohn has forgotten his history: when CDN harvested all this beetle-kill and put it into the marketplace, the US screamed bloody murder and ululated about ‘softwood wars’.

    But maybe he’s a Free Marketeer and still thinks The Market will make us free.

    Best,

    D

  35. Dano says:

    Harold Pierce:

    I’ve have asked you numerous times to publish your Galileo-like revelations that will change the world and forever stifle these greennazienviroweenies. See, the literature seems to find that the lack of cold and drought is doing it.

    But not you, no sir! Correct the world, sir!

    Best,

    D

  36. Stuart says:

    Yeah Pete, I saw that post and the very good comment thread after, but I don’t consider that post “misinformation” – I leave that term for the denialist crap I see parroted in the mainstream media.

    What riled me up about the Mendelsohn article was the bit about the forests being replaced by “what should be there next”. When you replace a complex ecology in a short period of time many of the available niches will be filled by opportunistic invasive species which can reproduce and establish themselves before the more specialized native species.

    The future belongs to the R-selected, which sucks for us and many of the ecosystems we cherish.

  37. David B. Benson says:

    Make the world save for kudzu!

  38. David B. Benson says:

    Safe, that should read.

    Safe.

  39. Steve Bloom says:

    Just to be clear, Joe, my point in the first comment was simply that I would expect to find very little global warming expertise among a grouping “made up mainly of university economists and anthropologists.”

    [JR: THat’s how I took it. I thought I was adding clarity. Sorry if I subtracted it.]

  40. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: Dano!

    I’m just about done with the analyses of the Quatsino weather station and lightstation records. However, I still need the data for December 2008, which has not been posted by Enviroment Canada on their website.

    The Quatsino weather station is quite unique because it is the only one I could find on the B.C. coast that has a continuous, unbroken station record that began before 1900.

    I’m about half done of compiling the data from worksheets into a text file.
    Send your email address to my gmail account, and I’ll send you this file.

    Briefly, I now have rock solid, bullet proof emprical evidence for the existence of a six-decadal Pacific Oscillation that went into a warm phase in 1940 and shifted into a cool phase in 2006. Since PDO has recently shifted into a cool phase, the climate in the Pacific Northwest is going to cool down big time. And this is a whole lot of good. The salmon runs in the Fraser river have been below average to very poor since ca 1980 because they don’t like warm water. This warm water also allows predators of baby salmon to expand their range into BC coastal waters.

    The combined effect of these two oscillation also explains the “global warming” phase from ca 1970 to ca 2000.

    Ths method of analysis that I have used is not new and is a modification of that I found in “Climate Change and Global Warming”. GO: http://www.usefulinfo.co.uk/climate_change_global_warming.php

    [JR: Don’t be silly. PDO is net neutral over time. Does not explain the warming of the past half century, just some of the shape of the rise.]