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Posts from — January 2009

Global Warming Realism over Alarmism: Is the Public Leading?

The new survey report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that only 3 in 10 of those interviewed ranked climate change as a "top priority" in terms of public-policy concern. Climate came in dead last of 20 categories. "Protecting the environment" scored higher, indicating that the public sees the difference between here-and-now environmental issues and iffy future climate scenarios.

On the other hand, 6  in 10 rated energy as a top priority, which means making sure that motorists do not have a repeat of $4 gasoline.

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January 23, 2009   4 Comments

Gotta Love Lovelock

Despite creating the neo-pagan Gaia Hypothesis so beloved of eco-worshippers, and despite his equally unsupportable belief that global warming will be catastrophic, James Lovelock occasionally says interesting things. In this interview with New Scientist, Lovelock observes that:

Most of the “green” stuff is verging on a gigantic scam. Carbon trading, with its huge government subsidies, is just what finance and industry wanted. It’s not going to do a damn thing about climate change, but it’ll make a lot of money for a lot of people and postpone the moment of reckoning.

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January 23, 2009   1 Comment

Poorly Defined Climate-Change Questions Lead to Meaningless Poll Results

The American Geophysical Union’s house organ, Eos, has an article entitled “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” written by Peter Doran and Kendall Zimmerman of the University of Illinois at Chicago. (h/t Roger Pielke, Sr.)

The paper explains that the two “primary questions” asked were:

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

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January 23, 2009   5 Comments

John Holdren and "The Argument from Authority" (Part VII in a Series on Obama's New Science Advisor)

Paul Ehrlich treated his intellectual rival Julian Simon with great disrespect during Simon’s lifetime. Ehrlich refused to debate Simon or even meet him in person. He insulted Simon in print. Ehrlich even scolded Science magazine for publishing Simon’s 1980 breakthrough essay “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of Bad News,” with the words: “Could the editors have found someone to review Simon’s manuscript who had to take off this shoes to count to 20?” (quoted in Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource II, 1996, p. 612)

Such intolerance for reasoned dissent, unfortunately, has also been a trait of Ehrlich protégé John Holdren. After I published my review of John Holdren’s criticism of Bjorn Lomborg in 2003, I emailed  Holdren my paper, “The Heated Energy Debate,” and alerted him to a new book I had coming out, Climate Alarmism Reconsidered. I also asked why in his course he did not see fit to assign any non-alarmist readings to his Harvard class on environmental sustainability.

I reproduce pertinent parts of our email exchange from September 17, 2003: [Read more →]

January 22, 2009   6 Comments

More on the Unstimulating Stimulus

The Washington Post reports on a new CBO study looking at the proposed economic stimulus program. Not surprisingly, the study finds that the majority of the spending will not happen until after 2011, and even then, will phase in slowly thereafter.

“For example, of $30 billion in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. And of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.”

Who’d have guessed…oh wait, nearly everyone would.

January 21, 2009   1 Comment

Scientist Behaving Strangely? The Case of James Hansen

Historian of science Thomas Kuhn warned of “scientists … behav[ing] differently” and experiencing “pronounced professional insecurity” when one of their long-held beliefs comes under increasing pressure from new science (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1962. Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, pp. 24, 67–68).

Is this the case with NASA scientist James Hansen, who (in the opinion of his many and growing critics, and even some friends) keeps putting his foot where his mouth is?

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January 21, 2009   8 Comments

Sea-Level Rise: Still Inches, Not Feet

In recent days, several stories have hit the presses regarding climate change and, more specifically, the future threat from rising sea levels. The EPA has just released a report on the potential impacts of sea level rise along the mid-Atlantic coast, while NASA’s Jim Hansen, apparently worrying that the economy is going to dominate the Obama administration’s attention, has cited rapidly rising sea levels as the primary basis for his warning that we only have four years to save the world. [Read more →]

January 20, 2009   5 Comments

Exxon Laughs all the Way to the Bank

This summer, we had the entertaining spectacle of scions of the Rockefeller family joining with environmental activists such as Greenpeace to urge a change in ExxonMobil’s corporate governance, including redirecting their investment towards green technologies.  Part of their argument was that research ‘proved’ that the world would need these new techologies and that they would be economically viable soon.

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January 20, 2009   2 Comments

Green Jobs: Is the Science "Settled" on This, Too?

When I passed around my critique of William Nordhaus’s case for a carbon tax, a typical complaint was that I wasn’t a climate scientist, and so I had no business saying that some of the IPCC projections were possibly biased towards the alarmist side.  Of course no one likes to be criticized, but I understood that it was a perfectly fair objection to raise.  As an economist, I really wasn’t qualified to cast aspersions on the models of Jim Hansen and such.

So it is with great amusement that I watch the extreme global-warming crowd react to minor expressions of doubt coming from their previous allies in the context of a “green recovery.”  Many economists who are completely sold on manmade climate change–and even think that it is important for the federal government to take quick action to curb the problem–are merely pointing out that the Obama Administration efforts to link this issue with the recession may be inefficient.  To repeat, they are NOT saying that the government should ignore global warming, or even that the government should ignore the unemployed.  All they are saying is that it might be foolish to try to design a single, magic bullet policy that solves both problems in one stroke (i.e., “Green Jobs”).

For this heresy, these green economists have had their heads bitten off by some of the loudest alarmists.  And some of the alarmists–most notably Joe Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress–have no qualms telling professional economists that they know nothing about job creation.  In fact, Romm thinks mainstream economists should drop out of the debate altogether, even though one might have thought policy issues like a carbon tax would involve both climate scientists and economists.

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January 19, 2009   3 Comments

Carbon Tax or Cap-and-Trade? Don't Forget "Neither"

An article in today’s Houston Chronicle, “Debate Flares over How to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” compares the relative merits of a carbon tax and cap-and-trade. We will be hearing a lot about these two approaches in the weeks and months ahead.

But the Chronicle article did not consider the other major alternative: neither a tax nor a cap-and-trade program. [Read more →]

January 18, 2009   3 Comments