Doomed Planet

Blindness in academia

Professor John Quiggin is an economist at the University of Queensland:

Challenging Time for Ag Economists

by John Quiggin

Economists are famous for their disagreements. As George Bernard Shaw is supposed to have observed, ‘If all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion.’ Some of those disagreements will be aired at the annual conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society to be held in Melbourne this week (8-11 Feb). Economists, notably including Ross Garnaut, will discuss and debate how best to reduce CO2 emissions and adapt to inevitable climate change, how to manage the problems of the Murray Darling Basin and many other issues affecting both the agricultural sector and the natural ecosystems on which we all depend.

There will, doubtless be plenty of disputes to illustrate Shaw’s point. Some economists favor carbon taxes, others support emissions trading schemes, and yet others support some kind of hybrid. Similarly, there will be vigorous debate over the best way to manage water rights for irrigators, other users and the environment, and over how to measure environmental costs and benefits, among many other issues.

Despite this, the striking fact about economists working on these resource issues is not the fact that they disagree over some things, but the fact that they agree over many more. Taking climate change as an example, there will be no debate over whether global warming is real.

Economists have enough expertise with time series to distinguish a genuine upward trend from a random fluctuation. They recognise talking points like ‘there has been no warming since 1998’ as the kind of silly cherry-picking that goes on when people want to mislead (or be misled) with statistics. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single economist in Australia with any professional credibility who denies the reality of global warming or the need for a global policy response.

Source: On Line Opinion

See also: Peter Smith on “John Quiggin’s flying saucer world” here…

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