Are climate models like economics models?

Here’s another reader request:

You’ve spent a lot of time studying economic models.  You probably have an opinion about their overall reliability.

How should that opinion influence your view of the issue of
environmental change, given that many of the inferences about such
change come from general climate models that are, in some ways, very
similar to economic models?

I would prefer betting markets, but I don’t think they would suggest something much different from the current scientific consensus.  Economic models aside, economic empirics give us every reason to believe that (apart perhaps from environmental issues) today’s mixed economies with democratic capitalism have produced, and will continue to produce, entirely satisfactory outcomes.  Make of climate models what you may, there is lots of evidence that a) biodiversity is being hammered, and b) climate change will bring desertification, drought, and possibly coastal flooding to many parts of the world, among other dilemmas.  I don’t have a lot of faith in the exact predictive powers of climate models, or for that matter economic models, but uncertainty about outcomes should make us worry more not less.  Uncertainty usually has two tails, not just one.


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