Archive for the ‘contrarian’ Category

"Heroic" contrarians, proven wrong on AGW, make another slick cry for relevance at Bali

December 14th, 2007 No comments

On the main blog, Sean Corrigan posts the latest missive of what he considers the brave dissenting voices on climate science.

The letter nods briefly at the concerns summarized by the IPCC reports about warming and the role of human economic activity, and raises good issues about how global society should react, including the respective merits of public policy and private measures directed towards mitigation and adaptation.

But Sean does not examine any of these issues, but simply (i) touts the supposed “heroism” of the dissenters, (ii) complains about the supposed unfairness of the Bali conference sponsors (the 180+ states that are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) for not providing them a soapbox, (iii) cries about the supposed hysteria of the UN Secretary General (Mr. “Barking-at-the” Moon”!) [okay, points for being clever, anyway] and (iv) finally, for good measure, tries to sweep away the undeniable and rapid climate change in the Arctic with a link that tells us about a possible localized factor but nothing about the wider scale changes, which just MIGHT be due to the fact that air temperatures over the Greenland ice sheet have increased by about seven degrees Fahrenheit since 1991

Interestingly, while Corrigan seems to think his ongoing rants on “carbolic socialism” helps to clarify the issues and the interests of all parties, he constantly fails to note how a large and powerful group of rent-seekers packages the items that he swallows whole. In this case, only a modicum of research shows that these brave dissenters have been smoothly packaged by yet another new “grassroots” organization established to influence policy for the benefit of energy interests.

The whole issue deserves much better discussion, but it seems that many Miseseans are fundamentally not interested, either in conducting a serious analysis or even in being taken seriously.  Instead, they would rather be taken in, either by one group of rent-seekers or by themselves, by swallowing all manner of uninformed science (see my preceding post;  This kind of cantankerous self-delusion and naivete is hardly the best way to show the strengths of Austrian analysis to the world.

I`m getting tired of what I see as the Mises blog fundamentally counterproductive approach to this and related problems – which surely will NOT go away until some sort of management regimes are extended to important global and regional open-access “commons”.

Below is a copy of my initial response on Wrong-Way Corrigan`s thread: [snark on]

Heroes, Sean? Really?

This is an eclectic group (weighted towards social sciences and others outside of climate science) but still more like a bunch of grumpy emerituses who have been wrong time and again over the past thirty years (and don`t even agree with each other) but now wish to assert relevance by reluctantly conceding that change is in the cards and arguing that, given our long delay, sunk costs in current infrastructure and long lead times to change changes, our best course is to simply start getting ready for the ride.

Well, if even these folks think we need to start getting ready, then perhaps even the most skeptical should admit some slight concern. (I note that climate science “skeptics” John Christy and Pat Michaels didn`t sign on; can you guess why?)

 – Our most respected scientific bodies have been stating unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and that human economic activity is a significant factor. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which in 2005 the White House called “the gold standard of objective scientific assessment,” issued a joint statement with 10 other National Academies of Science saying “the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.” (Joint Statement of Science Academies: Global Response to Climate Change [PDF], 2005);

I know; they and all of the other scientists who participated in the IPCC process are all hysterical misanthropes, whom freedom-loving rationalists can sweep away, in favor of this hero`s lot, who are now clearly changing tactics to argue adaptation instead of mitigation. (The lack of stomach in this second group is enough to make one wonder whether we might be better off without ALL scientists, isn`t it?)

– You and others are good at pointing out evil and rent-seeking motives on the part of everyone you disagree with – practically everyone now, it seems – but do you ever to trouble to notice how you`re being played by this letter? Like a string of others (this is the fourth in the past five years), it was started in Canada, organized and pushed by smooth PR professionals via a sophisticated vehicle (that are designed to provide “balance” while conducting “grassroots” campaigns) that clearly has significant backing from energy interests; this campaign differs in that it was perhaps more polished – for example, though the core signers remain the same over all four letters, this one was “by invitation only”:;;;

While energy firms have entirely legitimate interests, they too are rent-seekers and it behooves one to note that when they speak they certainly have their own interests in mind. Even more so when they try to hide who they are and pretend to be impartial, grassroots groups concerned only about the pubic interest.

– The letter itself argues that we’d be better off adapting to/managing the effects of climate change rather than trying to prevent it. This is no slam dunk, but clearly there are more iummediate returns from investments in adaptation than in trying to mitigate future climate change. But serious standard cost-benefit analysis has clearly shifted in the past two years to the conclusion that investments in mitigation also make sense:


Marty Weitzman/Harvard: “On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change”, December 5, 2007;

Richard Tol: “THE SOCIAL COST OF CARBON: TRENDS, OUTLIERS AND CATASTROPHES”, August 9, 2007;; Yohe, G.W. and R.S.J. Tol (2007), Precaution and a Dismal Theorem: Implications for Climate Policy and Climate Research,

These are the papers that the policy crowd is reading.