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The Stern Review: A Dual Critique


  • Sir Ian Byatt
  • Bob Carter
  • Ian Castles
  • Chris de Freitas
  • Indur M. Goklany
  • David Henderson
  • David Holland
  • Lord Lawson of Blaby
  • Richard S. Lindzen
  • Ross McKitrick
  • Julian Morris
  • Sir Alan Peacock
  • Colin Robinson
  • Lord Skidelsky


The Stern Review, described as the most comprehensive review ever carried out on the economics of climate change, was published on 30 October 2006. The twin papers from a combined team of scientists and economists present a critique in two parts of the Stern Review. Part I focuses on scientific issues and their treatment in the Review. It forms the point of departure for Part II which deals with economic aspects. Each paper has its own list of authors. In relation to both scientific and economic issues, the authors question the accuracy and completeness of the Stern Review’s analysis and the objectivity of its treatment. They conclude that the Review fails to present an accurate picture of scientific understanding of climate change issues, and will reinforce ill-informed alarm about climate change. Two interrelated features of the Stern Review are that it greatly understates the extent of uncertainty as to possible developments, in highly complex systems that are not well understood, over a period of two centuries or more; and its treatment of sources and evidence is persistently selective and biased. These twin features have combined to make the Review a vehicle for speculative alarmism. In the judgement of the authors of the Dual Critique, the Stern Review mishandles data; gives too little attention to actual observation and evidence, as distinct from the results of model-based exercises; and takes no account of the failures of due disclosure, and the chronic limitations of peer reviewing, that have been characteristic of work relating to climate change which governments have commissioned and drawn on. As to specifically economic aspects, the authors note among other weaknesses that the Review systematically overstates projected costs of climate change, partly though by no means wholly as a result of its failure to acknowledge the scope for long-term adaptation to possible global warming; underestimates the likely cost—including to the world’s poor—of the drastic global mitigation programme that it calls for; and proposes worldwide adoption of a specially low rate of interest for discounting the costs and benefits of mitigation, on the basis of inadequate analysis and without regard for the problems and risks that would result. So far from being an authoritative guide to the economics of climate change, the Stern Review is deeply flawed. It does not provide a basis for informed and responsible policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Sir Ian Byatt & Bob Carter & Ian Castles & Chris de Freitas & Indur M. Goklany & David Henderson & David Holland & Lord Lawson of Blaby & Richard S. Lindzen & Ross McKitrick & Julian Morris & Sir Alan, 2006. "The Stern Review: A Dual Critique," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 7(4), pages 165-232, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:wej:wldecn:261

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Pollitt, M., 2010. "Green Values in Communities: How and why to engage individuals with decarbonisation targets," Working Papers wp398, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
    2. Pizer, William A. & Popp, David, 2008. "Endogenizing technological change: Matching empirical evidence to modeling needs," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 2754-2770, November.
    3. Tol, Richard S. J., 2008. "The Social Cost of Carbon: Trends, Outliers and Catastrophes," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 2, pages 1-22.
    4. Tol, Richard S.J. & Yohe, Gary W., 2009. "The Stern Review: A deconstruction," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 1032-1040, March.
    5. Frank Jotzo, 2007. "Climate policy in Australia and globally: where to and how?," Economics and Environment Network Working Papers 0703, Australian National University, Economics and Environment Network.
    6. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2008. "Public policies against global warming: a supply side approach," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 15(4), pages 360-394, August.
    7. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2007. "Public Policies against Global Warming," NBER Working Papers 13454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ackerman, Frank & Stanton, Elizabeth A. & Hope, Chris & Alberth, Stephane, 2009. "Did the Stern Review underestimate US and global climate damages?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2717-2721, July.
    9. Stephanie MacLeod & Yves Filion, 2012. "Issues and Implications of Carbon-Abatement Discounting and Pricing for Drinking Water System Design in Canada," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 26(1), pages 43-61, January.
    10. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
    11. Rick Baker & Andrew Barker & Alan Johnston & Michael Kohlhaas, 2008. "The Stern Review: an assessment of its methodology," Staff Working Papers 0801, Productivity Commission, Government of Australia.

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