There is currently a consensus amongst the political establishment -- and amongst the intellectual communities that feed into it -- that detailed and wide-ranging government intervention is necessary to combat the effects of climate change. This monograph challenges that consensus. The authors look in detail at a number of the underlying, assumptions and proposals of the policy activists and find that there is enormous uncertainty relating both to the economics and to the science of climate change. As one author shows, the policy activists have form: alarmists have been wrong, time and time again, about ecological disasters. However, the authors of this monograph have more humility than their critics. They do not argue that there is no threat from climate change, merely that the level of uncertainty is huge. Given this uncertainty, and the historic failure of central planning to do anything other than undermine economic welfare, the editor, Colin Robinson, one of the country's leading energy economists, argues that it is prudent to proceed with caution. The flexibility of the market economy will deal better than central planning with any problems arising from man-made climate change. The wide ranging array of regulations, taxes, subsidies and artificially created incentives proposed by climate change activists should be rejected.
One very popular scenario among the doomsters has been that human population growth will outrun food supplies and result in mass starvation, unless enough people are previously removed by natural disaster, disease or war. It is an old theme put forward most persuasively by Thomas Malthus. The crux of his argument was that human memnbers will grow, like those of any other members of the animal kingdom, as long as there is enough food for them to survive, and then they will collapse when the food runs out. Tragically, he claimed, while the human population grows geometrically, food supplies grow arithmetically. Starvation is therefore a perpetual threat to mankind, only to be avoided by sexual abstinence - forlorn hope.
Colin Robinson was a business economist for eleven years. He was then appointed to the Chair of Economics at the University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom where he founded the Department of Economics and is now Emeritus Professor. For many years he has been associated with the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs and from 1992 to 2002 he was the IEA’s Editorial Director.