For it would appear that some scientists are remarkably ignorant about what is going on. And this rather worries me: the idea that people who quite literally do not know what they are talking about making government policy is scary.
I present as my example this from Sir David King, until recently the chief scientific advisor to the UK Government. There are various misunderstandings of how economics and finance work in his expressed views but this is particularly horrible:
He also believes it is imperative to fund other major infrastructure projects, such as the Severn Barrage, which would provide three gigawatts of electricity and still run in 200 years with minimum maintenance.
“The problem is that the longest time an economist will work on investment returns is 25 years. We need to look at taking a much longer view. What is missing is clear direction from number 10 and 11.”
The problem with this is that it is entirely nonsense. The report by economists into that Severn Barrage is here. You will see there, at the top of page two, that the costs and benefits are projected out to 120 years: the rough lifespan of the asset if it is ever built.
The reason the economists have downvoted the plan is not because they’re not looked out beyond 25 years: it is because they have. They’ve looked at it and found that all possible variations of the project lose money. All are more expensive than not building it and doing something else instead.
I’m entirely happy to take climatologists’ word for it about climate. Hydrologists’ about water, cloud specialists about clouds and so on but I do object vehemently when the experts on those same subjects decide to try pronouncing on a subject they’re ignorant of, economics. As Sir David clearly has done here.
This is more than just a whine or whinge: there’s an extremely important underlying point here. Whether or not climate change is happening is properly the work of those who understand climate science. However, once the determination has been made it becomes a matter of changing peoples’ behaviour and that’s not something that climate scientists know about. Whereas it is exactly what economists study. Assuming that climate change is happening, that we’re causing it and that something must be done it then becomes and economic problem, to be dealt with using economic methods and methodology.
And it’s rather worrying don’t you think that the man who until recently was the main technical advisor to the government on the subject is entirely ignorant of those matters economic?