Samuelson on Stern: “…a masterpiece of misleading public relations”

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson has a bracing take on the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change today:

[Based on the report’s findings] no one could fail to conclude that we should conquer global warming instantly, if not sooner. Who could disagree? Well, me. Stern’s headlined conclusions are intellectual fictions. They’re essentially fabrications to justify an aggressive anti-global-warming agenda. The danger of that is we’d end up with the worst of both worlds: a program that harms the economy without doing much to cut greenhouse gases.

Let me throw some messy realities onto Stern’s tidy picture. In the debate over global warming, there’s a big gap between public rhetoric (which verges on hysteria) and public behavior (which indicates indifference). People say they’re worried but don’t act that way. Greenhouse emissions continue to rise despite many earnest pledges to control them. Just last week the United Nations reported that of the 41 countries it monitors (not including most developing nations), 34 had increased greenhouse emissions from 2000 to 2004. These include most of the countries committed to reducing emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.

Even though Samuelson favors policies like higher gas taxes and more stringent fuel economy standards, he gets the economics of global warming right — on almost all of his analysis here,
we agree.