31 January 2010

Robert Muir-Wood on the Stern Report

Robert Muir-Wood is quoted in today's Sunday Times on how the Stern Review Report used his work. Muir-Wood was a valuable participant in our 2006 Hohenkammer workshop. It is unfortunate that both IPCC and Stern chose to misuse his work, which has placed Muir-Wood in a difficult position. Here is what the Times reports today (emphasis added):
Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at Risk Management Solutions, a US-based consultancy, said the Stern report misquoted his work to suggest a firm link between global warming and the frequency and severity of disasters such as floods and hurricanes.

The Stern report, citing Muir-Wood, said: “New analysis based on insurance industry data has shown that weather-related catastrophe losses have increased by 2% each year since the 1970s over and above changes in wealth, inflation and population growth/movement.

“If this trend continued or intensified with rising global temperatures, losses from extreme weather could reach 0.5%-1% of world GDP by the middle of the century.”

Muir-Wood said his research showed no such thing and accused Stern of “going far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence”.

The criticism is among the strongest made of the Stern report, which, since its publication in 2006, has influenced policy, including green taxes.

Here is Stern's spokesman's odd response to Muir-Wood's comments:
A spokesman for Stern said: “Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.”
My published critique of Stern's dodgy disaster dossier can be found here:
Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Mistreatment of the economic impacts of extreme events in the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 17, pp. 302-310.


  1. Perhaps they meant disabused by his own observations.

  2. Roger that quote from the Stern spokesman basically sums up the mindset of the alarmists: The observations and data doesn't matter, its what we and the models "know" to be true that counts. It falls back on that old tired cliche "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

  3. Dodgy dossier? Next you'll be saying Stern sexed up the report. You always know when a Yank has been reading British newsrags. ;-)

  4. “Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.”
    I'd call that a chutzpah...

  5. Mark B.-

    Stern sexed up the report? Did it make it into Pachauri's new book, Return to Almora?

  6. The Australian is helpfully (gleefully?) keeping track of IPCC missteps for us down here. A few articles today, including one focused on the effect of rainfall on the Amazon, which apparently came, once again, from a WWF report that exaggerates or misinterprets research findings:


  7. Wow, this is really adding up. Here's another one (ABC news this time) pointing to claims about mountain ice in a variety of locations disappearing due to climate change:


    This time the sources are a Masters thesis that draws on interviews with mountaineers, and an article in a Mountaineering magazine.

  8. "Here is Stern's spokesman's odd response to Muir-Wood's comments:"

    "A spokesman for Stern said: 'Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.'”

    Yes, can we get a translation from British to American?

  9. British English
    'Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.'

    American English
    Muir-Wood believed his lying eyes

  10. Hmm, in reading your paper, Eli notes that you use the obviously misprinted 1.3% from Table 5.2 to criticize the Stern Report, while, as has been pointed out to you by Richard Tol and others, this was not carried forward into the report itself. You do use the actual .13% of the Stern Report later in your manuscript. Some people, of course not Eli, he hastens to add, would think that you should in an excess of openness, see that a note is added to the paper explaining this.

    Another issue, of course, is the cost of increased flood and storm protection. Muir Wood mentions this in passing, but it is a major cost imposed by increasing flood danger. Perhaps you have discussed this somewhere? If so, how does that affect your analysis?

  11. Eli Rabett brings up the 1.3% / 0.13% issue, though this point was addressed in the comments of a prior post. Still, #10 is refreshing for the absence of the strangely intense and personal tone that a whispered "Pielke" sometimes calls forward from Mr. Rabett's keyboard.

    Perhaps the proprietor's polite and issue-oriented demeanor can be appreciated by adversaries as well as by onlookers.

  12. Hey A, although the 1.3/0.13 issue was addressed in the comments, our hmble host somehow keeps bringing it up and yes, we still are looking for an answer to part 2

    Prof. Pielke carefully corrects for all possible factors that would increase hurricane damages over time, yet avoids factoring into his analysis the costs of those that decrease damages (improved hurricane tracking, including from satellites, better building codes, flood control etc). For such a great adaptation fan, you would think he would be all over the costs of these adaptations, but all we hear is the birdies chirping. These are real costs.

    In the US alone, the costs of flood control efforts are billions of dollars per year.

    The obvious conclusion is that the cost of flood damage is not a very useful marker by itself.