A Free-Market Energy Blog

“Denier” Charge from Jerry Taylor: How Low Can He Go?

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 15, 2016

“Let’s switch out for a better [climate] policy…. Then conservative activists who continue to be in the denialist camp on climate change will find themselves completely isolated.”

– Jerry Taylor, quoted in “Libertarian Group Takes on Conservatives on Carbon Tax.” Energy & Environmental News (sub. req.), March 3, 2016.

“Alarmists … clearly have decided that the best way to win the global warming debate is by shouting down the opposition and demonizing them in the eyes of the public. But that is not dispassionate scientific debate; it is more like a ‘struggle meeting’ during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.”

– Jerry Taylor, The Heated Rhetoric of Global Warming, Cato Institute Commentary, September 15, 1997.

Climate ‘denier’ or ‘denialist’ is a term of political hate speech. Recently, it came from a source that for most of the last quarter century was labeled a ‘denier’ by the pugnacious Left. Jerry Taylor once seethed at that association, yet he now uses the Holocaust reference in the most public of venues. Raw emotionalism is at work, adding questions and doubt to a very strange intellectual conversion of Taylor from energy freedom to energy statism.

Even Joe Romm at Climate Progress, about as mean a climate campaigner as there is (he once called me a ‘sociopath’ for my nonalarmist climate views), revolted against using ‘denier’ in the climate debate. Romm stated:

Since I lost many relatives in the Holocaust, I understand all too well the unique nature of that catastrophe. The Holocaust is not an analogue to global warming, which is an utterly different kind of catastrophe, and, obviously, one whose worst impacts are yet to come….

Over the years, I have explained why “denier” is not my preferred term. I tried to coin the terms “delayer” and “disinformer” for those who make a living spreading disinformation about climate science — and I still use the term ‘disinformer.’  But coining terms is nearly impossible, and the fact is that almost everybody has embraced the term “deniers” — including many, many disinformers.

Conservatives and libertarians can shout back at Taylor that he has switched positions in the face of a weakening case for climate alarmism. Worse, his peculiar transformation has a lot to do with funding a new think tank with a lot of non-libertarian money. Why else, it may be asked, does Taylor’s Niskanen Center have a moratorium on frontally criticizing Obama energy policy and Left actions such as investigating climate skeptics? The silence is deafening.

Jerry Taylor not only offends conservatives with his inflammatory, inaccurate rhetoric about climate change views. He also offends the overwhelming majority of libertarians who smell a rat in the whole climate agenda/crusade.

Note to Jerry: We will not surrender or capitulate to climate alarmism or government-forced energy transformation. The intellectual arguments against pricing carbon dioxide (CO2) are too strong, combining a weak case for the alleged market failure and a strong case for government failure, global government failure, in addressing the issue.

21 Comments


  1. Geoff Price  

    “Climate ‘denier’ or ‘denialist’ is a term of political hate speech”

    And I suppose you see “alarmist” as simply a factual description of overheated concern about the apparent physical fact of human-driven global warming. 🙂

    “the Holocaust reference”

    I am pretty sure most everyone who uses the “denier” term emphasizes the root of the word in “deny”, and argues that the Holocaust reference would come from the word “Holocaust” which they don’t use. I think it is fine to ask for commentary to use some other word to avoid even the possibility of confusion on this (I personally use “critic” or a mouthful like anti-mitigation partisan for this reason) but the contrived victimization storyline does get a bit tedious.

    “Raw emotionalism is at work”

    Cough.

    “from energy freedom to energy statism”

    I think you mean, acknowledgement of the existence of negative externality problems in the world, as taught in capitalist economics 101 courses.

    “Conservatives and libertarians can shout back at Taylor that he has switched positions in the face of a weakening case for climate alarmism”

    Oh good lord. You can shout this, but it is ridiculous, and you will not be able to defend the position in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. You are aware it is 2016?

    (And for the record, you do not remotely speak for libertarians, only a particularly extreme/ideological anarcho-capitalist version of such, which tends to perplexingly deny the existence of basic market dynamics like negative externalities.)

    “the overwhelming majority of libertarians who smell a rat in the whole climate agenda/crusade”

    Is it not more fair to say – “the overwhelming majority of anarcho-capitalists who recognize that the existence of negative externalities complicates our ideological view of the world and therefore motivates us to react strongly to scientific claims about this”?

    “We will not surrender or capitulate to climate alarmism or government-forced energy transformation”

    “We will not capitulate to scientific evidence we do not like.”

    The melodrama appears extremely strong here.

    Reply

    • rbradley  

      1) Yes, ‘alarmist’ to exaggerated climate fears not unlike the population bomb, resource exhaustion, global cooling, etc. The whole ‘Malthusian’ list. 2) ‘Denier’ and ‘denialist’ have definite meaning and are used with utter condescension, even hate. 3) Climate sensitivity estimates and fat tails have come down in recent years, in keeping with the ‘pause’. Climate extremes are not increasing in any relevant sense — and might be decreasing in key areas. 4) No, this has nothing to do with anarcho-capitalism or a refusal to acknowledge in theory or see negative externalities. You’ve set up a straw man. It rests on CO2 having positive nonpriced effects — and ‘government failure’ in public policy.

      The ‘free market’ case against climatism as the new frontier for activist government, always weak, has gotten weaker. The old Jerry Taylor’s arguments ring truer than the new one’s. Libertarians hardly see a hole in their worldview from climate change — in fact, it is just another episode of the Malthusian virus.

      Reply

      • Geoff Price  

        “have definite meaning and are used with utter condescension, even hate”

        How are you unable to see the irony here? Do you not think “utter condescension” applies to the tone you adopt toward “alarmists”?

        “Climate sensitivity estimates and fat tails have come down in recent years, in keeping with the ‘pause’”

        You are speaking as if you are reflecting actual trends in scientific claims/understanding, which of course you are not.

        You mean, “some critics have tried to claim the short-term slowing of surface temps mean something significant about the overall theory of global warming, despite the offered explanations of trends and the fact that the bulk of heat accumulation in the ocean continuing more or less exactly on schedule”.

        It’s 2016 and time to evolve new talking points. The current surface temperature spikes are not that interesting in the scheme of things – right down the middle of what was expected – but it should put an end to this sort of foolishness about the grand significance of a short-term surface slowdown. The first law of thermodynamcis and that total heat in the system turns out to matter, whether you’d like to ignore it or not. All these cool phases of natural oscillations like ENSO that you are trying to capitalize on from a talking point point of view also have warm phases. Not understanding this has been the rather obvious folly of this particular game. (But, you work with the talking points you have – and I understand it is a big challenge to argue against science!)

        “CO2 having positive nonpriced effects”

        Such as?

        “Libertarians hardly see a hole in their worldview from climate change — in fact, it is just another episode of the Malthusian virus”

        Except that the facts don’t support your interpretation of data and evidence – in serious analysis, this is considered a problem for theory.

        Reply

        • rbradley  

          1) the Holocaust term does reflect “utter condescension, even hate”. My tone is very firm against Jerry’s hate speech and polite toward you.

          2) The IPCC temperature range fell in the last report, which has given rise to the ‘global lukewarming’ school; Judith Curry has documented the fall in sensitivity estimates and the fall in ‘fat tails’: https://judithcurry.com/2015/03/23/climate-sensitivity-lopping-off-the-fat-tail/

          3) the climate models are notoriously ‘too hot’: See Judith Curry: https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/17/climate-models-versus-climate-reality/

          4) On positive externalities, CO2 fertilization has a huge literature: 55 benefits discussed here: http://www.masterresource.org/carbon-dioxide/positive-externalities-co2/

          Reply

          • Geoff Price  

            2) There has been no reduction in temperature range in IPCC reports. I assume you mean the expansion of the uncertainty range from 2-4.5 back to 1.5-4.5, where it had been previously. The questions of mitigation deal with the IPCC temperature projections and impact statements, which take this range into account.

            Curry is entitled to her opinion, but she is a significant outlier in her opinions, obviously. The American Physical Society just completed the process of considering her views against the mainstream views and rejected them. Can you honestly say you embrace the outlier view for any other reason than it tells you what you want to believe politically?

            3) “Famously”… famously claimed, yes. Again, citing an outlier blog is not convincing. This is not the result of some peer-reviewed, well-structured apple-to-apple comparison of model performance against observations. Published studies of model performance and IPCC projections consistently show different results and produce different charts. Even updated WUWT charts show that observations are now running hotter than multi-model mean projections.

            NASA’s Schmidt provided this recent update on observations vs. CMIP5, with updated forcings i.e. apples to apples:

            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cb_9-vsW8AEVxOk.jpg:large

            Relevant studies:

            “models have skilfully simulated many large-scale aspects of observed climate changes, including but not limited to the evolution of the global mean surface air temperature in the 20th century” (Raisanen 2007), “coupled models have been steadily improving over time and that the best models are converging toward a level of accuracy that is similar to observation-based analyses of the atmosphere” (Reichler and Kim 2008), “global temperature continues to increase in good agreement with the best estimates of the IPCC” (Rahmstorf et al 2012), “claim that climate models systematically overestimate the response to radiative forcing from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations therefore seems to be unfounded” (Marotzke and Forster 2015) etc.

            The contrarian view is built on ignoring the ocean, where the bulk of heat accumulation happens, which has been right in line with model expectations throughout:

            https://static-secure.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/7/20/1437400442446/b791fce9-88a9-4e36-a944-a2b0009c403b-477×660.jpeg


          • rbradley  

            I have a really hard time with the ‘consensus’ and appeal-to-authority arguments. “Curry is entitled to her opinion, but she is a significant outlier in her opinions, obviously. The American Physical Society just completed the process of considering her views against the mainstream views and rejected them. Can you honestly say you embrace the outlier view for any other reason than it tells you what you want to believe politically?”

            All of the Malthusian scares were mainstream–and falsified. Peak oil, for example. Keynesianism and central planning were mainstream in economics decades ago. Model-predicted warming versus the real thing should be of comfort to you that the climate crisis is modeled but for not real world.


          • Geoff Price  

            oh, and 4) the available summary statement on total climate change impact is the working group 2 report out from AR5:

            Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerability
            http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/index.html

            “The number of scientific publications available for assessing climate-change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, with especially rapid increases in publications related to adaptation … Compared to past WGII reports, the WGII AR5 assesses a substantially larger knowledge base of relevant scientific, technical, and socioeconomic literature. Increased literature has facilitated comprehensive assessment across a broader set of topics and sectors, with expanded coverage of human systems, adaptation, and the ocean.”

            “[risks from] global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels […] include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year (high confidence). The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature (medium confidence).”

            “Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts (high confidence)”

            “The fraction of global population experiencing water scarcity and the fraction affected by major river floods increase with the level of warming in the 21st century.”

            “Due to sea-level rise projected throughout the 21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion (very high confidence).”

            etc.

            Cherry picking isolated, regional positive benefits out of a torrent of clear, projected negative impacts is very far from reasonable economic analysis!


          • rbradley  

            I do not doubt that high sensitivity estimates (that are increasingly speculative) have major costs. But the good news is that the climate models are proving quite inaccurate to refute ‘consensus science’. There are literally thousands of peer reviewed articles on the benefits of CO2 fertilization (see http://www.co2science.org/). And low sensitivity estimates lead many climate economists such as Robert Mendelsohn of Yale University to see a positive net externality from the human influence on climate (http://www.masterresource.org/climate-economics/a-positive-human-influence-on-global-climate-robert-mendelsohn-meet-gerald-north/).

            Science aside, the idea of perfect-knowledge government policy and costless implementation of the ‘solution’ is a double fallacy–a pretense of knowledge (Hayek) and naïve ‘romantic’ view of government (Public Choice economics).


  2. Floccina  

    The thing that gets me about the use if ‘denier’ is that considering what environmentalists were telling us in the 1970’s and 1980’s it is very, very understandable for people to be very sceptical.

    Reply

    • Geoff Price  

      What “environmentalists” were telling you? Perhaps listen to scientists instead?

      I assume this is a reference to the “in the 70s they predicted global cooling!” urban legend.

      Skepticism cures many ills.

      Reply

  3. rbradley  

    Regarding global cooling, it was quite an active fear. Paul Ehrlich and Steve Schneider of Stanford, John Holdren (Obama’s current science advisor), etc. More here: http://www.masterresource.org/global-cooling-climate-change/global-cooling-revisited/

    Reply

    • Geoff Price  

      On global cooling, yes there was concern about the effect of anthropogenic aerosols on cooling. That’s because it’s a real thing. Look at the AR5 chart for climate forcings:

      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/10/the-evolution-of-radiative-forcing-bar-charts/

      Anthropogenic aerosols are the dominant cooling influence on the climate currently. If it were not for anthropogenic warming, we would in fact be exerting a significant cooling influence. Humans are driving both the #1 and #2 influence on the energy budget currently, with opposite signs.

      The question isn’t whether there were reasons to talk about man-made cooling, but whether there is reason to condemn climate science for having done so (as Floccina is clearly arguing) because they foolishly believe one thing one year and the opposite later.

      That part is clearly (artfully constructed) urban legend. There was never anything like a scientific consensus on global cooling. The majority of papers in the period looked at greenhouse warming, which had been tracked for decades, like in this 1958 clip:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lgzz-L7GFg#t=27

      Throughout the period, scientific summary statements refer to both aerosol and greenhouse effects, generally explicitly acknowledging uncertainty on net understanding.

      E.g. compare “Understanding Climatic Change” from the National Academy of Sciences in 1975, which makes a case that the questions are significant enough to merit additional investments in research. There is nothing remotely like a “global cooling scare” in this document:

      https://ia801806.us.archive.org/7/items/understandingcli00unit/understandingcli00unit.pdf

      NAS is essentially the voice of scientific opinion – that’s it’s purpose. In 1975, they said there was no consensus, instead “the clear need is for greatly increased research on both the nature and causes of climatic variation”. Compare that to how they write about the subject today:

      “Detailed analyses have shown that the warming during this period is mainly a result of the increased concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases … It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The evidence is clear.”
      http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/exec-office-other/climate-change-full.pdf

      At best, this argument boils down to “scientists once had questions about this, therefore exceptional skepticism is required of anything they say now.” This is *obvious* fallacy.

      Reply

      • rbradley  

        Yes, the global cooling scare was certainly less pronounced than what was to follow. But it was a ‘scare’ liked to coal/SO2. My concern is that scientists seem to think that nature is optimal and that the human influence on climate is a per se bad. Modest warming to protect against a future little ice age, for example, is a positive ‘if’. It this whole debate was about cooling, the negative externality would be greater. And CO2 fertilization is a good thing.

        Reply

        • Geoff Price  

          Thank you for the replies above. I think we’ve identified the points where you don’t accept the facts as presented in science:

          * You insist that the “climate models are proving quite inaccurate” and ignore evidence, studies and citations to the contrary. Observations of system heat uptake have been dead on even during the temporary cool (PDO- ENSO- solar-) so-called “pause” period on the surface, surface observations are now running warmer than multi-model mean projections, and the underlying physics is extremely well validated. Somehow you invent confidence that we can ignore all this, leaning on mocked up / somewhat infamous charts about small parts of the problem from political partisans you agree with at the Cato Institute as preferable to that of scientists as you would find at the National Academy of Sciences or any other of the world’s national academies and physical science organizations.

          * You believe that climate sensitivity must be lower, apparently strictly on basis of cherry picking evidenced, and also believe small differences in climate sensitivity probably mean less impact (when in practice this just means a small number of years, on order of a couple of decades, before different impact levels are hit).

          * You again cherry pick only the science and evidence on positive CO2 impacts and ignore the bulk of evidence on impacts, without even apparent attempt at justification. CO2 fertilization is not the question; there are many complex factors governing plant and crop behavior in the real world including the question of whether a given region is still well-suited for growing a particular type of crop given drifting climate zones.

          We are not likely to agree on any of these points because they appear clearly to be examples of motivated reasoning. But it is useful to highlight where the points of divergence are and I appreciate your responses.

          “Science aside, the idea of perfect-knowledge government policy and costless implementation ”

          If you were accepting the (full range of) scientific evidence on the physical facts of earth’s energy budget etc., and focusing your opposition on economic/mitigation-related points, I would consider this much more defensible. However I think the very reason that you insist on backing up a priori reasoning into a rejection of matters of physical science itself is because you know this economic position is not very strong. If it was, you would just rest on that and would not need to creatively interpret the standing in science.

          That said, these alleged fallacies are not ideas advanced by anyone that I’ve seen. Perfect knowledge is not required – per conventional economic theory, economic risk is when we don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but we do know a definable distribution. “Costless implementation” is a red herring, and not something the WG3 report assumes, or any other mitigation/adaptation analysis I’ve seen. The most obvious conclusion in the larger assessments done (IPCC, World Bank, IEA, man academic and McKinsey type studies) is that delaying action is false economy due to the high economic costs of impacts. Per above you resolve this problem by optimistically assuming away the impacts, so the point of divergence is clear.

          Cheers.

          Reply

          • rbradley  

            ‘Cherry picking’ is wrong as to climate sensitivity estimates coming down. This is mainstream, beginning with the last IPCC report. Past this, the appeal to ‘consensus science’ or the argument from authority is not persuasive. We have the ‘pause’ (which might start up again after this El Nino-driven peak temperature year) and the extreme weather statistics that do not show unambiguous deterioration. This happy news is why the issue needs to be depoliticized. There are real here-and-now problems that require our attention, the ‘opportunity cost’ of climate-change debates and action.


  4. Rob Bradley Points Out Awkward Jerry Taylor Quote  

    […] In a recent MasterResource post: […]

    Reply

  5. Bob Murphy  

    Mr. Price,

    Just a few thoughts on your comments above:

    1) You raise an interesting point about the term “alarmist.” I use that term as well in my writings (intended for the general public), and I agree with you that it is a bit loaded. However, the point in my using it is to distinguish people who are, well, alarmist, from those who are merely saying, “I think because of the scientific evidence and claims of some economists that it makes sense to implement a carbon tax.” Those aren’t the people I am pushing back against when I use the term “alarmist.” Instead, I’m pushing back against people like Paul Krugman who says the fate of the planet itself rests on the next election. Give me a break.

    In contrast, Jerry Taylor et al. use the term “denier” not just to push back against radio talk show hosts who really do think “this is all a hoax cooked up by Al Gore,” but also to push back against people who merely disagree on the likely ECS and/or those who think government taxes and mandates are not the way to address anthropogenic climate change. I think you are being naive if you don’t think “denier” is supposed to carry with it a connotation of malevolence a la Holocaust denier.

    2) What is your reaction to the recent Working Paper from Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger on the climate models’ predictions? Would you say the actual observations of temperatures are “right down the middle” of these models’ projections? Are you saying they cherry picked the models in question? (I’m not being sarcastic. I want to know how people can have such widely divergent views on what the models have been predicting.)

    Reply

  6. David Appell  

    “Denier” is a word in the English language. It existed long before the Holocaust.

    In this case, it is the most accurate word anyone has come up with. I use it for that reason.

    Reply

    • ClimateOtter  

      And you like ATTP are an a–hole for that very reason.

      Reply

    • rbradley  

      Beyond its hate component (per Romm), it is highly ambiguous. ‘Deny’ what? Climate is changing? Human influence on changing climate? Problem with changing climate? It flunks intellectually. “Critics of climate alarmism’ would capture a lot of folks I know…. as in those who do not see the ‘market failure’ worth the ‘government failure’ to correct it.

      I quote Judith Curry: “Can climate scientists please stop the intimidation, bullying, shunning and character assassination of other scientists who they find ‘not helpful’ to their cause? Can we please return to logical refutation of arguments that you disagree with, spiced with a healthy acknowledgement of uncertainties and what we simply don’t know and can’t predict?” https://judithcurry.com/2014/05/24/are-climate-scientists-being-forced-to-toe-the-line/

      Reply

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