A Free-Market Energy Blog

Michael Brune/Sierra Club’s Non Sequitur (Letter to Koch assumes a market problem, a government solution)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 5, 2016

Dear Mr. Koch,

Recently, at a Wall Street Journal forum, I heard from your company’s environmental, health and safety director, Sheryl Corrigan, that you believe that “the climate is changing,” and that “humans have a part in that.” …. [Let’s] stop denying there’s a problem and get to work solving it.

– Michael Brune, “An Open Letter to Charles Koch.” (May 5, 2016)

Does Michael Brune understand the argument of classical liberals against climate alarmism (neo-Malthusianism) and forced energy transformation (global government)? We understand the Sierra Club’s, so why not the Sierra Club ours?

Assuming that climate changes and humans are a factor in climate change does not assume that there is a global market failure. It does not assume that government can satisfactorily understand the nature of the problem or project the appropriate solution. It does not assume that the solution, if there is one and it is known, should be undertaken by government. And it does not assume that government would be able to implement the ‘solution’ even if the problem and solution were known.

Niskanen: Seven Steps before Statism

William Niskanen stated the issue clearly back in 1997. As summarized by Jerry Taylor, then of the Cato Institute:

As Cato Institute chairman William Niskanen has noted, for any international action to merit support, all of the following propositions must be proven true: 

(1) A continued increase in the emission of greenhouse gases will increase global temperature. 

(2) An increase in average temperature will generate more costs than benefits. 

(3) Emissions controls are the most efficient means to prevent an increase in global temperature. 

(4) Early measures to control emissions are superior to later measures. 

(5) Emissions controls can be effectively monitored and enforced. 

(6) Governments of the treaty countries will approve the necessary control measures. 

(7) Controlling emissions is compatible with a modern economy.  

The case for any one of those statements is surprisingly weak. The case for a global warming treaty, which depends on the accuracy of all those statements, is shockingly weak.

Item number one (of the seven) could be amended to conclude that there is detectable anthropogenic global warming but that the last 19 years strongly suggests that the climate models are running too hot and that ‘global lukewarming’ is the increasingly likely verdict. (And in this regard, let’s talk about the greening of planet earth from carbon dioxide–and the environmental benefits of dense energies over dilute energies.)

Points #2 to #7 are also quite open and do not augur well for the statist case for forced energy transformation at the expense of consumers, taxpayers, and civil libertarians.

Response to Brune: Debate Epstein

Sheryl Corrigan, Koch Industries’ director of health and safety, should invite Michael Brune (or a representative, but perhaps not Aaron Mair) to discuss the issue with an advocate of the classical liberal perspective. Alex Epstein, who recently testified before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, would be one person to represent Koch’s view.

Let’s debate!




  1. Ed Reid  

    We KNOW that the globe is warming, as it has done during the first half of each inter-glacial period, though we do not KNOW how much is has warmed, since the data have been “adjusted” and the adjustments are not transparent. We do not KNOW the “ideal” global average near-surface temperature, nor do we KNOW the current global average near-surface temperature, though we have a working estimate.

    We KNOW that the addition of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere will increase the absorption of infrared energy in the atmosphere; and, thus, the temperature of the atmosphere and of the earth’s surface. We do not KNOW the “ideal” atmospheric concentration of CO2, though we do KNOW that the current atmospheric CO2 concentration is less than “ideal” for most plant materials, including food crops.

    We do not KNOW the sensitivity of the earth’s climate system to higher concentrations of CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere, which is why the climate models are run with a range of estimates of climate sensitivities. We do not KNOW the magnitude of climate forcings and feedbacks. In some cases, we are unsure whether the feedbacks are positive or negative.

    In short, we are being encouraged to embark upon vast programs with half-vast ideas.

    What could possibly go wrong?


  2. Mary Kay Barton  

    The Sierra Club has been taken over from within by renewable industry interests who are looking to enrich themselves at taxpayer, ratepayer and our environment’s expense. The Sierra Club’s energy goal: Destroy jobs, slaughter our eagles, make electricity more expensive & less reliable.

    This Investor’s Business Daily article sums it up well:


    As does Jon Boone’s good report:

    The Sierra Club: How support for Industrial Wind technology subverts its history, betrays its mission, & erodes commitment to the Scientific Method

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:


  3. Mark Krebs  

    I doubt Sierra Club is willing to debate. Besides, it would probably be like trying to negotiate with ISIS.


    • rbradley  

      Let there be an empty chair, then. And I am waiting for Mr. Brune or anyone from the alarmist/forced energy transformation side to respond to this post.


  4. James Rust  

    I am a member of the Sierra Club and I get a newsletter several times a week asking for money to fight climate change and now Donald Trump for president.

    This is all about money. The Sierra Club makes about $100 million per year on these issues.

    James H. Rust, professor


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