Andrew Dessler Challenges Rick Perry: How Should Perry Respond?
I try not to play favorites between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to supporting or undermining the ideal of what Ludwig von Mises called the free and prosperous commonwealth. To this end, I have criticized Gov. Perry for his unfortunate windpower positions in Texas (see here and here), and I will do so again to the extent he buys into a government role in “green energy.”
Dessler Weighs In
A current spat is ongoing between Texas A&M climatologist Andrew Dessler and Perry, a front-runner for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, over global warming science and policy.
Dr. Dessler has written two opinion-page editorials published by the Houston Chronicle in recent months (July 10th and September 2nd) arguing that the science is settled in favor of climate alarm, meriting proactive public policy. And he takes pains to argue that he is an expert and real experts agree with him–knowing that the majority of the public does not trust his view. (The majority of nonclimate scientists, at least judging from the 37,000+ signatories here, also do not trust the climatologists, an interesting story in itself).
And with his out-there views, Dessler goes right after Gov. Perry, a fellow Texas Aggie and climate ‘skeptic’ (or ‘ultra-skeptic’).
In response to Dessler’s second op-ed, the Houston Chronicle published my letter-to-the-editor last week. My (necessarily brief) submission read:
Climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M makes a lawyer’s brief for climate alarmism and public policy activism. Gov. Perry would do well to make these points in refutation.
One, there is much we do not know about natural and/or human effects on climate, much of which points toward a benign if not positive view of future climate change.
Two, higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have many positive economic and ecological benefits, not only costs.
Three, economists cannot make a case for regulating carbon emissions short of (falsely) assuming the problem, the solution, and perfect government implementation of the solution.
And four, political attempts to curb fossil fuel usage are all pain and no gain.
In place of Big Brother, a far better approach would be to employ carbon-based energies to make us wealthier to deal with whatever future problems may arise—climate, weather or otherwise.
Each of these points deserves elaboration, and I have invited Professor Dessler to discuss and debate these multidisciplinary issues with me at an appropriate Houston forum.
Marlo Lewis’s Advice for Perry
Marlo Lewis, the Harvard Ph.D. in philosophy who has immersed himself in the climate debate for many years if not decades, also proffered his advice for Perry. It was in the context of a recent Republican debate question by moderator John Harris of Politico who asked Perry about the “credible scientists” who questioned the role of human activity in climate change.
Well, I do agree that there is – the science is – is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at – at- at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just – is nonsense. I mean, it – I mean – and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.
But the fact is, to put America’s economic future in jeopardy, asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impact on this country is not good economics, and I will suggest to you is not necessarily good science.
Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.
To which Lewis offered this better grounded and more precise answer for Perry to use in the future:
The premise of your question, if I’m not mistaken, is the notion, popularized by Al Gore, that any human contribution to climate change by definition constitutes a “planetary emergency” demanding urgent regulatory action.
This is ideology, not science. The key scientific issue is not whether greenhouse gas emissions have a greenhouse effect but how sensitive Earth’s climate is to the ongoing rise in greenhouse gas concentrations. The sensitivity issue is far from being “settled.”
You asked for names of credible scientists. Three who raise fundamental questions about the sensitivity assumptions driving the big, scary global warming forecasts are Richard Lindzen, PatrickMichaels, and Roy Spencer.
The debate on climate sensitivity will likely be with us for some time. At this point, all I can say is that those who assume a highly sensitive climate have a hard time explaining why there’s been no net global warming over the past 14 years.
And then Lewis goes from defense to offense on the climate question to provide more ammo for Perry:
Much of what we hear about global warming is hype and scaremongering. If climate change is the dire peril some people claim it is, then why has there been no acceleration in sea-level rise over the past five decades?
Why did heat-related mortality in the USA decline, decade-by-decade, from the mid-1960s to the late 1990s? Why has there been no long-term increase in hurricane-related economic damages once you adjust for increases in wealth, the consumer price index, and population?
Why have total deaths and death rates related to extreme weather events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since the 1920s? Why has U.S. farm output increased dramatically over the past half century?
For more than two decades, the environmental movement has been pushing an ideology that might be called Kyotoism or, alternatively, Gorethodoxy. This is the view that global warming is a catastrophe in the making from which we can save ourselves only by waging the moral equivalent of war on affordable energy. The real catastrophe would be in enacting their agenda of cap-and-trade, energy taxes, and more subsidies for companies like Solyndra.
Not even a prosperous America could afford to replace coal, oil, and natural gas with wind turbines, solar panels, and biofuel. We certainly cannot afford to do so in the current economic crisis.
Such is why Joe Romm at Climate Progress will not dare debate Lewis (or any other informed ‘skeptic’) in a public forum.
Gov. Perry has the microphone to educate and persuade a vast audience that the climate-change debate is settled against Big Government, even with numerous scientific questions unresolved.
As Lewis explains in his full post at www.globalwarming.org, politicians like Perry do not have to dwell on the sole question of whether there is a discernible human influence on climate. Let the scientists continue to hammer that out. Perry should focus on the positive side of the human influence and how government intervention (forced mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions) is inferior to a market capitalism wealth-is-health approach (adaptation).
The alarmists and public-policy activists are in big trouble when the relevant, broader questions are addressed.