Credit: Ellie Foreman-Peck
Nicholas Stern, created a life peer in 2007 as Baron Stern of Brentford, of Elsted in the County of West Sussex and of Wimbledon in the London Borough of Merton, wasn't always a global warming superstar. When he was knighted in 2004, he had just become second permanent secretary at HM Treasury after four years as chief economist at the World Bank. Before becoming a top civil servant, Stern taught at Oxford, Warwick, and the LSE, where it is unlikely that he did any more damage to the economy than other developmental economists of conventional outlook.
Stern's ascent began in 2005 when the then-Chancellor Gordon Brown chose him to head a large Treasury team charged with writing a report comparing the costs of global warming impacts with the costs of stopping warming by reducing drastically greenhouse gas emissions. It was understood by everyone involved that the report was to be a put-up job. Stern's team were well-equipped to deliver: they had little expertise in energy or environmental economics and, like many bureaucrats, appear to have had few scruples about letting facts get in the way of pleasing their masters.
The publication in 2006 of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change was an immediate international sensation; and it made Stern into a media star, a hero of the environmental movement, and a pillar of the global warming establishment. He set up a company to handle the cash rolling in from speaking engagements around the world. The LSE appointed him I.G. Patel Professor and founding "chair" of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. To cap it all, the British Academy recently elected Stern as its president, thereby making him one of Britain's most powerful and prestigious academics.
The Stern Review concluded that global warming's impacts were going to cost 5 per cent of global economic output "now and forever". However, preventing global warming (primarily by reducing carbon dioxide emissions produced by burning coal, oil, and gas) would cost only 1 per cent of global output. What a deal!