Warmest 12 months in recorded history, and then some

A picture stolen from Brad Delong, who writes:

"We have just experienced the hottest twelve-month period in at least the past thousand years."

So much for emailgate, which, as it turns out, only shows how bad scientists are at handling the politics in which they are immersed.

Anyway.  It's clear the planet is warming and that it is almost certainly due to human caused CO2 emissions.  The recent volcano eruption may cool us off an iddy bit for an iddy while. 

Much harder questions persist about the costs and benefits of curbing emissions and induced warming.  But as time goes on, it seems to me the costs of action decline and the cost of inaction increase.  Would it really be such a crime to develop a global system of property rights to manage this problem?  Maybe while we're at it we can work on development of property rights for the other big global commons, the oceans.

Perhaps the largest issue here is not the price level we should put carbon but rather the development of the institutions to deal with truly global commons.

Interesting times...


  1. OK, so I was only off by, what, 9 months?


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  3. Interesting times indeed. Thanks for scaring the crap out of me. Just kidding - it is scary, but I'm glad you shared!

  4. Hi, the last bit about creating property rights and the "development of the institutions to deal with truly global commons" sounds intriguing. Do you have any more detail on this?

  5. 1st: getting nations to cooperate on this seems a lot like a game theory problem to me. Solving from backward induction, it seems like the solution to the game is to pollute.

    2nd: In respect to the graph, why do economists continue to give their 10cents on whether global warming is occurring? I see one set of data from someone who believes in it and it runs totally counter to what someone who does believe in it says. Why can't economists just admit, "we don't know crap about climate change, but if it IS occuring (or it may occur with x probability) these are suggested policies"??

  6. Jacob:

    Economists, like everyone else, can read what the real climate scientists have to say. While today's fractured media has many benefits, one challenge for many of us is sorting out the science from political agendas and, err, somewhat misleading presentations of fact. For those of us who have spent a lot of time sorting through all of this stuff, it seems we should try to spread that knowledge around.

    Some economists also spend a lot of time judging the merits of observational (non-experimental) data, which is the kind of data that is obviously used to evaluate climate science. I'd put myself in that category. I have read enough of the science and have seen enough of the data to know why theory and evidence of human-induced global warming is compelling despite the fact that the evidence is observational. I won't get into those details here, but links from this blog will get interested readers that information.

    Hopefully readers of this blog know that I do bend over backwards to see all sides and will try to clearly separate opinion from fact when appropriate. But this is not ambiguous. As a scholar and educator doing research on climate-related issues I feel obligated to call it as I see it.

    So, to be clear: The above data comes from NASA and compiles the best information the planet has on global temperatures. They have been cross-checked a zillion different ways. Any stories you may have read about anomalies, errors, or different measurements from different models have been shown to be: (1) blatant errors themselves or (2) so small in magnitude as to be invisible on the above graph.

    Perhaps more to the point: If there remained a popular debate about whether the earth were flat or round, and I did my homework on physics and astronomy to know the truth that it was round, would it not be irresponsible for me to say so? Even though I'm "just" an economist?

  7. Just so you know, I wasn't trying to call you out personally. It was meant to span the whole breadth of economics. I do work on the issue as well, (well, I work under the assumption that government wishes to mitigate global warming and go from there), and I admit I don't know one way or the other with certainty what is happening to climate or where we will be in 20 years. I know some very smart, very qualified, well published economists who also work a lot around the issue who wholeheartedly disagree with you and say global warming is bs. I pose the same question to them denying it as I would to someone who supports it.

  8. According to the NOAA, the past 12 months was near normal in temperature.


    I gotta call you out.

  9. Anonymous,

    I had a hard time getting information from your link.

    But, as promised, I'm not misleading here. This post is a little old but the forecast is the same. This is likely to be the warmest year on record.

    It could be that you are looking only at the United States, which differs a lot from the global average. The biggest part of global is ocean temperatures, which are quite warm. That's why the hurricane outlook is so bad this year (albeit with a lot of uncertainty).


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