Richard Murphy rather strikes out

In a comment upon an earlier post Richard Murphy tells me this:


Where’s the evidence of concensus we can grow 11 times, contain CO2 and do this whilst running out of oil?

There is none – it’s your fantasy.

Well Richard, that\’s not actually what I said. What I said was:

For the scientific consensus is that the economy will grow between 5 and 11 times in this coming century. That scientific consensus telling us that as long as we can reduce CO2 output (which we clearly and obviously can, as the scientific consensus also tells us) everything is going to be just hunky dory.

What is it about Greens that they refuse to read or understand the scientific consensus? The IPCC reports themselves?

And the clue would have been in the link I gave there, to the SRES. That is, the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios.

Now, I\’ll take this a little slowly, for people like Richard and Caroline Lucas who appear to have comprehension problems.

We\’ve had thousands of scientists working for nigh on a couple of decades now trying to look at this problem of climate change. Their ruminations are collected in a series of reports, commonly known as the IPCC reports, the latest of which is actually called AR4.

This is indeed the scientific consensus on the matter. This is the groups of scientists, the series of reports, that recently shared the Nobel Prize with Al Gore.

No, this isn\’t some cabal of right wing nutters (and, for the more excitable of some of my readers, nor is it a cabal of left wing nutters either). This is it, the scientific consensus.

Now, the basic structure of the way they\’ve done their work is that they\’ve run likely future emissions scenarios through a variety of different models of the climate and the way in which different factors interact. This is what gives us estimate for future temperature rises, sea level rises, droughts, floods and all the rest.

With me so far?


Now, in order to get an idea of what future emissions paths are going to be it is necessary to come up with some economic models. You need to know how many people, at what level of wealth and using what technologies there will be so that you can estimate emissions. This is what is then fed into climate models. This all seems rather logical, no?

Those economic models are that SRES. These models are actually considered sufficiently robust that they\’ve not been revised since 2000. Both of the last IPCC reports were based entirely on the projections of emissions from these models. Within the science of climate change these are not now matters of concern or doubt: they are the very basis upon which all of the rest of the structure rests.

Now, these various models are actually broken up in a number of different ways. There are in total 40 scenarios: a scenario is one specific projection of population, wealth (or rather GDP and thus value added but let that slide) and the technology path. It\’s the technologies which really define the differences between scenarios, all of them fitting into one of four families. The families are distinguished by different populations and different levels of wealth. A scenario in essence applies a technological path to the underlying structure of a family.

Everyone still with me?

The families also have a backstory, a rough guide to what would lead to such populations and wealth. In shorthand (and this is a part which might be considered arguable) we have A and B and 1 and 2. A roughly and readily denotes a capitalist world, B a world with greater attention paid to equity, the distribution of production and consumption. 1 denotes a globalised world, 2 one with more regional and localised economies.

We can thus have the A1 family, capitalist and globalised, or the A2, captialist and localised. Just as an example, it is A2 which the Stern Review used as the basis of his projections (I told you these models were the basis of it all, didn\’t I?). B1 is more equitable and globalised, B2 is equitable and localised.

We then go on to the specific scenarios so we might get one like A1T, a specific technological path within the A1 family. We\’ll come back to that model in a little bit.

One thing that it is absolutely essential to understand. None of the scenarios, none of the families, include any attempts  to either mitigate or adapt to climate change. All are pointing to results without carbon taxes, cap and trade, bans, restrictions, and all of the rest.

Right, so, what do the four families rest upon as the basics of the economics of that future world (s)?


  • Strong commitment to market-based solutions.
  • High savings and commitment to education at the household level.
  • High rates of investment and innovation in education, technology, and institutions at the national and international levels.
  • International mobility of people, ideas, and technology.

As I said above, a rough and ready description would be globalised capitalism. What happens next?

In the A1 scenario family, demographic and economic trends are closely linked, as affluence is correlated with long life and small families (low mortality and low fertility). Global population grows to some nine billion by 2050 and declines to about seven billion by 2100. Average age increases, with the needs of retired people met mainly through their accumulated savings in private pension systems.

The global economy expands at an average annual rate of about 3% to 2100, reaching around US$550 trillion (all dollar amounts herein are expressed in 1990 dollars, unless stated otherwise). This is approximately the same as average global growth since 1850, although the conditions that lead to this global growth in productivity and per capita incomes in the scenario are unparalleled in history.

OK, given a current world GDP of around $50 trillion, there\’s our 11 times the current economy. Note again, please, this isn\’t me or some weird offshoot of the libertarians, this is the basic economic model (or one of them) upon which the entire IPCC process is based.


The A2 scenario family represents a differentiated world. Compared to the A1 storyline it is characterized by lower trade flows, relatively slow capital stock turnover, and slower technological change. The A2 world \”consolidates\” into a series of economic regions. Self-reliance in terms of resources and less emphasis on economic, social, and cultural interactions between regions are characteristic for this future. Economic growth is uneven and the income gap between now-industrialized and developing parts of the world does not narrow, unlike in the A1 and B1 scenario families.

As I said, capitalism and regionalism. The results?

The A2 world has less international cooperation than the A1 or B1 worlds. People, ideas, and capital are less mobile so that technology diffuses more slowly than in the other scenario families. International disparities in productivity, and hence income per capita, are largely maintained or increased in absolute terms. With the emphasis on family and community life, fertility rates decline relatively slowly, which makes the A2 population the largest among the storylines (15 billion by 2100). Global average per capita income in A2 is low relative to other storylines (especially A1 and B1), reaching about US$7200 per capita by 2050 and US$16,000 in 2100. By 2100 the global GDP reaches about US$250 trillion.

There\’s our five times current global GDP.


Economic development in B1 is balanced, and efforts to achieve equitable income distribution are effective. As in A1, the B1 storyline describes a fast-changing and convergent world, but the priorities differ. Whereas the A1 world invests its gains from increased productivity and know-how primarily in further economic growth, the B1 world invests a large part of its gains in improved efficiency of resource use (\”dematerialization\”), equity, social institutions, and environmental protection.

Globalisation and equity.

The demographic transition to low mortality and fertility occurs at the same rate as in A1, but for different reasons as it is motivated partly by social and environmental concerns. Global population reaches nine billion by 2050 and declines to about seven billion by 2100. This is a world with high levels of economic activity (a global GDP of around US$350 trillion by 2100) and significant and deliberate progress toward international and national income equality.

That\’s 7 times current global GDP then.


The B2 world is one of increased concern for environmental and social sustainability compared to the A2 storyline. Increasingly, government policies and business strategies at the national and local levels are influenced by environmentally aware citizens, with a trend toward local self-reliance and stronger communities. International institutions decline in importance, with a shift toward local and regional decision-making structures and institutions. Human welfare, equality, and environmental protection all have high priority, and they are addressed through community-based social solutions in addition to technical solutions, although implementation rates vary across regions.

Localisation and equity.

Education and welfare programs are pursued widely, which reduces mortality and, to a lesser extent, fertility. The population reaches about 10 billion people by 2100, consistent with both the UN and IIASA median projections. Income per capita grows at an intermediate rate to reach about US$12,000 by 2050. By 2100 the global economy might expand to reach some US$250 trillion. International income differences decrease, although not as rapidly as in storylines of higher global convergence.

And again, five times current global GDP.

So, that\’s the scientific consensus on what future growth paths for the global economy might look like. We all might complain that our estimate isn\’t in there but these are indeed what the IPCC is using to scare the Bejasus out of us about sea levels rising 70 metres sometime around 2,800 AD. Maybe.

So the scientific consensus clearly is assuming that we can indeed grow the economy by five to eleven times by 2100. They\’re not just clearly assuming it, they have assumed it.

I\’ll take that as rather more proof than \”There is none – it’s your fantasy.\”

As to the oil running out, well, again, my original statement was about the scientific consensus, which the SRES is: and it doesn\’t mention the oil running out. So the scientific consensus is that the oil isn\’t about to run out.

Finally, there\’s the bringing the CO2 (and CO2-e) emissions under control.

If we look at cumulative emissions, Chapter 5.1 gives us those from all of the different scenarios. The perceptive will note that all of the low emission scenarios are globalised: from the A1 and B1 families. This does rather make a mockery of Caroline Lucas and her insistience that we need more localised, regional, economies to beat climate change.

Which brings us right back to the A1T scenario mentioned above. This has (Table 4-20) one of the lowest cumulative emissions of all of the scenarios.

So there we have it, the evidence of the scientific consensus. We can indeed grow 11 times and contain CO2. For all of the above is in fact the scientific consensus, the basis for the IPCC report that shows that we\’re at risk of having dangerous levels of climate change.

My own view (note, this is my view, not the IPCC\’s) is that we really ought to take note of what they\’ve been saying. Clearly, a global economy is better in terms of climate change than a non-global one. We should, therefore, in the name of defeating climate change, move as swiftly as possible to a fully globalised economy.

We should also whack a carbon tax upon emissions and reduce other taxes to keep gross revenue neutral. And  there we are, job done. But as I say, that is my view: everything except these last three paragraphs is the scientific consensus on the economy of climate change. Yes, we can grow 11 times and constrain CO2.

Richard, you may apologise to me for accusing me of fantasy if you should so wish.

22 thoughts on “Richard Murphy rather strikes out”

  1. “We should also whack a carbon tax upon emissions and reduce other taxes to keep gross revenue neutral.”

    Notwithstanding you have used the s-word, in principle I agree, but isn’t it also the case that we already have taxes on emissions, i.e. primarily fuel duty, that roughly cover the cost of road maintenance + the magic $80 per ton?

  2. Tim

    No apologies

    Anyone who claims a 9 year old report – now superseded – is scientific consensus – and which ignores peak oil, is quite clearly clutching at straws. You can do that – it’s your right

    But it’s my right – and you suggest I have rights – to say otherwise

    If you don’t like the term fantasy – how about just accepting that it’s evidence of an attachment to wishful thinking in the face of the evidence?

    I am entirely happy with the idea of a global world – as you are. I also accept people live and work and are governed locally. I imagine you have no desire for a global government.

    I am also entirely convinced there is man made global warming.

    I am entirely convinced we will see peak oil soon.

    I am entirely convinced we face major issues such as water shortage – not really anticipated even nine years ago

    And I am entirely convinced an economist can model 11 times growth – and that this proves nothing.

    The reality is that in a finite world we cannot sustain real growth of this scale – there is not enough resource to do so

    I therefore maintain my position – you are wrong

    In which case adherence to that opposition is fantasy in my opinion

    And you are welcome to say the same of mine – and you usually do somewhat more robustly


    Tim adds: Richard, you seem to have missed the major point here. This is the IPCC. This is the scientific consensus. This is the set of economic models upon which everything, AR4, the Stern Review, the EU EUTS, Obama’s cap and trade proposals, the building of windmills, the Copenhagen Meeting coming up….all of them, everything, are based upon this one set of economic scenarios.

    There are no other economic models within climate change. There are no other such inputs into hte process. This is it. This is what the entire towering edifice is built upon.

    You cannot reject this without rejecting all of the rest of it. Without these economic models there are no predictions of climate change at all!

  3. Continuing the theme of Murphy’s life of make-believe, perhaps he will build a new school of climate change to go along with his new school of economics.

  4. Richard,

    “Anyone who claims a 9 year old report – now superseded”

    It’s customery when making these statements to provide a link. Especially as the IPCC is the UN’s chosen, and accepted by most Governments around the world, forum for ensuring a united approach to CC.

    Unless you are refering to the fact that since 2000 CO2 has continued to increase yet temperatures stubbornly refuse to follow?

  5. Richard writes:

    “The reality is that in a finite world we cannot sustain real growth of this scale – there is not enough resource to do so”

    The world is finite but human ability is not.

    Just as we discovered Oil after Malthus, so too could we discover new forms of energy that will increase the global stock of resources. We could discover new foods and new ways of growing foods again just as we have done down through the generations.

    Resources are not fixed, they are determined by human application. If we want to grow our resources we should encourage people to use their talents with things like low taxes and freer trade. This is why A1FI will make us 11 times better off, whereas the ‘protect our producers and make everyone equal’ approach (B2) leaves us 5 fold better off.

    Besides, although the SRES is 9 years old, can anyone point to a peer reviewed study contradicting it as being too optimistic to any great degree?

    Are we going to have to back to taking bets like Julian Simon with Ehrlich, Holdren et al in the 80’s. If so, my money’s on GWP being twice 2000’s level by 2030.

  6. Pingback: First Class posts on Saturday | Letters From A Tory

  7. About the turn of the century (19th/20th) , Mark Twain ran a hoax on the (eastern, mainly) U.S. literary establishment. Precise details escape my memory but, essentially Twain managed to embroil various literary pundits in a series of newspaper pieces concerning criticisms of Twain and his writing made by M. Paul Bourget, a Frenchman. After a few pieces by Bourget, answered by Twain, the pundits were solidly lined up behind the Frenchman, roundly criticizing Twain not only for literary ineptitude but for a variety of faux pas and indelicacies.
    Then, being almost universally scorned and ridiculed, Twain revealed that Bourget was none other than himself–writing for the express purpose of “showing up” the establishment bootlickers. At first, his claim was ridiculed and denied but he shut his opposition down with an offer of $10,000 to anyone who could offer evidence that he and Bourget were not the same.

    Every time I read this Murphy fellow, I almost suspect Tim of stirring up controversy by playing both ends, a la Twain–surely nobody’s as stupid as the guy seems. But I know I’m wrong about that–there are plenty just that stupid. And the fact that such beliefs are more characteristic of those on the “left” (not the political–the normal curve of IQ distribution is what I’ve got in mind) helps not at all, since there are so many on the advantaged side of that curve who, for one reason or another, are intent on leading the stupid further down their stupid path. It’s enough to make one pessimistic about the future., regardless of how the climate might

  8. Hmmmn. Interesting theory. I see ‘Ritchie’ has ‘learned’ how to spell “consensus” correctly now.

  9. Neil S,

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Richard try to “prove” that Paul Ehrlich actually won his bet with Julian Simon.

  10. Have you made any provision for a really good war. possibly religious and maybe mildly atomic.
    Why not ?
    – the world bristles with weapons and quarrels.

  11. “IPCC reports … This is indeed the scientific consensus on the matter.”

    No it is not. It is the political consensus. Not only does th IPCC have few scientists working in their own fields, but the political report always comes out first and they have a rule that the scientific report must align with the political report. To suggest that there is a scientific consensus is wrong, but to suggest that the IPCC report has anything to do with serious science is just laughable.

  12. Tim:

    Though I would suppose that “Random” and I may have somewhat different viewpoints on some of the matters concerned, I’d very much share his opinion with respect to using the term “scientific consensus.” It may, as “Random” suggests, be primarily a type of political consensus. But, even if it weren’t, it’s still a micharacterization to call it “scientific.”
    At best, it’s a consensus opinion of people who
    work in science-related fields and addresses not at all (actually seems deliberately calculated to
    “beg the question” as to) the qualifications of those included in the consensus and, as well, the “scientific” methodology(ies) employed to yield such opinion. A simpler, less confusing, and more clearly neutral expression might have well been employed, “consensus opinion of climate scientists (or whatever they might’ve been).

    No need to “pile on” to diminish Murphy’s arguments–he does a good job all by himself.

  13. Pingback: Tax Research UK » On growth

  14. Pingback: Oh dear Richard, oh dear

  15. Pingback: The Great Simpleton » Bangladesh and climate change

  16. Pingback: Can We Save The Planet - And Grow? - Charles Crawford

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *