Blogging the Stern Review: Introduction

As it becomes ever more apparent that consensus has formed on climate change, both scientific and popular, the next question is what action(s) the international community should take and, of course, how much will they cost?

The book on this question was written by Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank, and a former cabinet officer and Treasury chief for Tony Blair. It’s a long, detailed book, written by a very distinguished man, published in October 2006.

Some of the concepts of the book have begun to make their way into the international conversation about climate change; to further that conversation, and to educate myself, I intend to blog my way through it, chapter by chapter. This should make it as painless as possible for others, as well as myself.

Please follow along! Here we go…


Nicholas Stern first states that global climate change is a serious threat, and after looking at a wide array of estimates of costs and risks, reaches "a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of not acting." He adds:

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could risk to 20% or more. (ppxv)

This concept has made it into the conversation (although I must say, that later estimate sounds a little fuzzy — we’ll see how well Stern and his cohorts nail it down later in the book). Continuing:

If no action is taken to reduce emissions, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could reach double its pre-industrial levels as early as 2035, virtually committing us to a global average temperature rise of 2C. In the longer term, there would be more than a 50% chance that the temperature rise would exceed 5C. This rise would be very dangerous indeed; it is equivalent to the change in average temperatures from the last ice age to today. (ppxvi)

Stern also says that we need not choose between economic growth and averting climate change, and that we must not choose either adaptation or mitigation — both ideas well familiar to those in the conversation. But the single most interesting statement in the introduction is this one, I think:

Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen. (ppxviii)

Could this explain some the the knee-jerk opposition to the concept on the libertarian right?

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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