“[Andrew] Dessler said he would not debate the science because it isn’t a ‘both sides’ issue. ‘I think you overestimate the ability to settle these issues in a debate,’ Dessler told [Joe] Rogan.” (here)
“[Steven Koonin]’s a climate flat earther…. He’s just a old white dude whose vast experience in the halls of power gives him a unique ability to point out the errors that other people make? Nope.” (here)
So why is angry Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M University, going to debate “flat earther” Steven Koonin of New York University? As it now now stands, on Monday August 15, 2022, the two will square away on the resolution: Climate science compels us to make large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
This is strange. Dessler is clearly on record as not wanting to legitimize non-alarmist science. Dessler’s mentor Michael Mann has been clear on this:
All of the noise right now from the climate change denial machine, the bots & trolls, the calls for fake “debates”, etc. Ignore it all….Report, block. Don’t engage.
Second, Dessler has disengaged from mainstream climate economics. (“In order to solve the climate problem, the first thing we need to do is ignore the economists,” he stated.) But physical change just opens up the question of good or bad, unless the verdict is the Deep Ecology standard of nature-is-optimal, nature-is-fragile, human influence is bad-to-catastrophic.
Human betterment is surely the standard–the one that Alex Epstein has set for the energy/climate debate with little pushback (as far as I know). So how does increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions impact life, liberty, and welfare? How do costs and benefits compare, particularly current costs versus future unknown benefits?
The Oxford-style debate is hosted by the SoHo Forum, a libertarian organization, sponsored by the Reason Foundation. It describes itself as featuring “topics of special interest to libertarians and aims to enhance social and professional ties within the NYC libertarian community.”
There will be a tally of votes before and after the debate, and let me guess that Dessler will “win” the debate over Koonin, hands-down. In a previous debate with Alex Epstein before a free market group in Colorado, Dessler complained that “those people hated me.” He must expect the votes this time to give him sweet revenge. My guess is that the huge Left network has done its part to fill the seats to avoid any semblance of public belief in “flat earth climate science.” Just color me suspicious….
Koonin has the superior case. The affirmative, Climate science compels us to make large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, doesn’t play well anymore for several reasons:
The free market policy of anticipation and adaptation is really the only game in town; there is no plausible mitigation strategy along the lines of the above affirmative resolution.
Expect Dessler to rely on Stanford engineer Mark Jacobson to argue, Amory Lovins-style, that massed forced transformation is not only a free lunch but one you are paid to eat. No oil, no natural gas, no coal, no carbon capture and storage, no nuclear–just sun, wind, water, and storage.
This imagined utopia is a dystopia of getting from dense mineral energies to dilute, intermittent ones. But central planners have long been subject to a fatal conceit, and engineering is not economics. Coercion and false assumptions are no substitute for a market of willing buyers and sellers under private property and the rule of law.
Andrew Dessler, having ditched economics, can embrace engineering models of totalitarian repurposed human action. But he is the outlier–and, to use his own term, an energy flat-earther.
This is Koonin’s show. But I would debate Dessler on these points:
Human betterment gets the last word. Energy affordability, reliability, and convenience are essential for high-energy, modern civilization. Unreliable, exaggerated climate model predictions are little reason to threaten energy sustainability for the masses–and the freedom to choose.