Archive for April, 2008

Get yer top climate skeptic arguments here!

April 11th, 2008 No comments

Here are rather exhaustive lists of the skeptics’ arguments on science grounds – coupled with brief analyses of the arguments and links to underlying publications:

I encourage all those who prefer not to argue about climate “policy” from an Austrian perspective (you know, the complicated stuff about doing harm to others, clear and enforceable property rights, homesteading, preferences, praexology, market transactions, information and transaction costs, the common law, the availability of judicial mechanisms, statism and rent-seeking) but would rather, as a first line of defense at least, to use the science as a basis for doing political batlle against the enviro-fascists, to visit the above sites to bone up and to expand their personal repertoire of arguments.  Visit the belly of the Beast, and review and prepare yourself for the tricky and deceptive counter-arguments by the enviro-propagandists!


For the intrepid only, here are further climate “resources”:


NCAR: Weather and climate basics
Pew Center: Global Warming basics
Wikipedia: Global Warming
NASA: Global Warming update

NOAA, National Climatic Data Center Global Warming, Frequently Asked Questions:

The Woods Hole Research Center, “The Warming of the Earth: A beginner’s guide to understanding the issue of global warming”,

National Academy of Sciences, Science Museum, climate change exhibits,

National Academy of Sciences, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, National Academy Press, 2001


John P. Holdren, Director, The Woods Hole Research Center, Professor of Environmental Policy, Harvard University, President, American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Meeting the Climate-Change Challenge”,

The Royal Society, “Climate Change Controversies: a simple guide,”

The Royal Society, Facts and fictions about climate change,

Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Information sheets,

History: Spencer Weart’s excellent “Discovery of Global Warming” (American Institute of Physics)

The IPCC’s AR4 Frequently Asked Questions (pdf).

Oxford University: The basics of climate prediction

Tom Rees, “Global Warming: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions”,


Those with some knowledge:

The IPCC reports themselves (AR4 2007, TAR 2001). 

The Arctic Council, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment 2005,

NOAA/NCDC:; and “A Paleo Perspective on Global Warming”,



The 2001 US National Assessment,;

National Center for Atmospheric Research, 




The American Association for the Advancement of Science has a page full of resources and links here:


By climate scientists:


RealClimate’s index:

R. T. Pierrehumbert, Principles of Planetary Climate, (treatise) 

Stephen Schneider, An Overview of the Climate Change Problem

Roger Pielke Sr., and

Categories: AGW, climate change, science, skeptic Tags:

[Update] Climate change lawsuits: Does the difficulty of proving causation mean there is no harm?

April 8th, 2008 No comments

There is a new climate change lawsuit in US courts, this time by the Inuit inhabitants of an Alaskan village that will soon be rendered uninhabitable by the rapid erosion resulting from the year-round pounding of seas that were once frozen; the villagers are blaming man-made climate change and suing oil, coal and power producers.

Similar climate change damages are being felt throughout the high latitudes, as startling rises in temperatures mean that buildings and roads are falling apart (and petroleum firm’s drilling schedules are being interrupted) as permafrost melts, and villages and other structures (like NORAD radar sites) are being lost to erosion, and forests are dying and burning as winters are no longer sufficiently cold to kill pine bark beetle grubs. 

There are of course winners as well – there is a race for countries and firms to figure out how to profit from the melting North and the prospects of a seasonally ice free passage – but they are not the same as the losers, and libertarian approaches have never justified actions based on bottom line decisions of net utility.  Rather, the traditional view espoused by Austrians and other supporters of common law approaches is that property owners have a right not only to damages, but also to absolutely stop the activities of others who interfere with their property.

The new lawsuit (and others out there) faces a heavy burden of proof of causation, even if the relevant court doesn’t wimp out by concluding, as others have – clearly wrongly, from a common law perspective – that issues of damages relating to climate change are “political questions” that must be left to the recalcitrant federal legislature and President, and are not justiciable by courts.  Surely Austrians and others who would like to see a turning away from statist legislative or regulatory approaches should be welcoming this case and others like it as an opportunity to affirm that courts certainly do have a role in judging claims of climate damage and fashioning solutions – and are even preferable to centralized legislation.

There are obvious, severe difficulties in linking individual plaintiffs to individual defendants, difficulties that remain even if a class action were to be used to try to link with other defendants, and these difficulties may be sufficiently great that the Alaskan plaintiffs are left with nothing but legal fees.  But note that the difficulties are orders of magnitude higher when we consider linking any supposed climate change victims elsewhere around the world with fossil fuel producers and power companies also globally, as there simply is no available judicial systems, and costs of action are much higher (both absolutely and relative to income).  And litigation would be even more difficult if we are to consider other sources (such as the cement industry), other GHGs (methane and CFCs) and other human influences such as soot.

But surely the very difficulty in using litigation as a means of recourse does not imply that (i) those who may in fact be injured – or those who are concerned about their plight – are either pretending their injury or wrong to be seeking redress for it or (ii) that we as a members of a society should continue to prefer to do nothing about the way industrial activity is affecting a crucial and shared global resource.  Nor does it mean that we have to wait for irrefutable proof, satisfactory to all, before we recognize that the atmosphere, like the crashing ocean fisheries, has no owner and must be protected by human institutions if we don’t wish to see it seriously trashed.

As Mises himself noted, private property institutions themselves arose in response to the economic inefficiency of older systems that did not force economic actors to bear the external effects of their actions:  “Mises on fixing externalities”,  We are intelligent and occasionally rational creatures – why should we not be pro-actively considering what institutions might be desirable and feasible for dealing with the effects of our activities on the atmosphere and  climate (and oceans, ecosystems and unowned species, or how to improve governance in countries that don’t recognize or protect property rights)?

More on the lawsuit by Alaskan natives here:

[UPDATE:  More on the legal theory of this case and on other recent climate change cases here, by Matthew Pawa, one of the attorneys representing the Inuit:]

More on Austrian approaches to climate change here: (a debate) (a debate)

–  Sheldon Richman, in his essay  “The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman”, in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:;

–  Gene Callahan, in his essay “How a Free Society Could Solve Global Warming”, in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman:; and

–  Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”


Categories: AGW, Callahan, climate, Dolan, litgation, mises, Pawa, Richman Tags:

Climate spin: Who changed "global warming" to "climate change"?

April 8th, 2008 No comments

Answer:  It wasn’t the enviros who changed the use of this term, but rather high-powered corporate lobbying interests and their allies in Bush government and the Republican party, spearheaded by leading Republican pollster/ spinmeister Frank Luntz, who in 2002 pushed Republicans to move the public discussion away from “global warming” to “climate change”.

Luntz wrote that :

“’Climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming.’ … While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge”

This seems to be a surprising bit of news to more than a few, who seem to forget not only the constant efforts of various statist corporate interests to win advantageous policies from politicians and regulators, but the active interest of Republicans in selling favorable policies that has led to such corruption in this Administration and among Republican Congrescritters.  Yes, the same folks who brought us fear of “Islamofascists” also deliberately brought us fear of gay marriage, fear of abortion, fear of immigrants and fear of enviros, the better to divide and hoodwink us while giving valuable favors away to friends willing to grease the wheels.

Hmm.  And what else did Luntz set up in the way of political strategy for Republicans and fossil fuel interests?

In his memorandum on environmental issues, Luntz provided the following “communication recommendations” in a section devoted specifically to “Winning the Global Warming Debate”:


The scientific debate remains open.  Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”


The most important principle in any discussion of global warming is your commitment to sound science.”


The scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.


You need to be even more active in recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view, and much more active in making them part of your message … [because] People are willing to trust scientists, engineers, and other leading research professionals, and less willing to trust politicians.”


(emphasis added)


Luntz offered these specific language suggestions – which the careful reader would see are full of canards and misleading statements:

We must not rush to judgment before all the facts are in. We need to ask more questions. We deserve more answers. And until we learn more, we should not commit America to any international document that handcuffs us either now or into the future.

Scientists can extrapolate all kinds of things from today’s data, but that doesn’t tell us anything about tomorrow’s world. You can’t look back a million years and say that proves that we’re heating the globe now hotter than its ever been. After all, just 20 years ago scientists were worried about a new Ice Age.

Luntz has now changed his mind, as he noted in an interview last year – even though he is actively peddling to Canadians his spin program, which still runs on at home among Republicans and their pet rent-seekers: 

TONY JONES: It will be an interesting experiment anyway. Frank Luntz, let me come to another issue that may well be a defining issue in the 2008 US Presidential campaign and the elections, the congressional elections there, but also certainly will be in the Australian elections. That is the whole issue surrounding global warming. Have you crossed a sort of scientific rubicon here yourself?

FRANK LUNTZ: I have, and as have most people. When I started doing work on this issue about a decade ago, a majority, a clear majority of Americans, in fact all over the globe, did not buy the science at that point. But over the last 10 years the science has been much clearer. The results have been much more comprehensive and I, like millions of Americans, have changed my point of view and you will see across the globe that people now have come to accept that there is an issue here.

How convenient that neither then, when Luntz knew that the scientific window was closing, nor now, when he has finally accepted the science, that his personal views haven’t gotten in the way of him making money by selling slick, convenient “truths” to those who profit by distracting voters with them.

Looks like Luntz has done a good sales job on himself, as well.

The discerning reader might note that all Luntz did was to repackage the devices that the tobacco industry deployed in the 60s, 70s and 80s:  viz., the game of “no consensus”, “scientific uncertainty”, and the “need for more facts”.  Not surprisingly, many of precisely the same people who helped the tobacco industry have been very busy helping fossil fuel interests – and their political enablers.


— “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman
Categories: AGW, climate, Luntz, republicans, statist, tobacco Tags:

Jim Hansen: As CO2 climbs, what are the long-term warming effects of CURRENT CO2 levels?

April 7th, 2008 No comments

What do climate scientists say that recently obtained data about our past climate tells us about the consequences of long-term increases in atmospheric CO2 (and other GHGs)?  They tell us that we are already at levels that, if sustained (and at current sink rates it seems that CO2 has an atmospheric half-life of fifty years or so), the result will be an Earth without ice caps if we are about 350 ppm – which we already are, and heading north rapidly.

At the December 2007 meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), according to the Washington Post NASA’s Jim Hansen “offered a simple, straightforward and mind-blowing bottom line for the planet: 350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”.  The WaPo report provided further background:

Twenty years ago, Hansen kicked off this issue by testifying before Congress that the planet was warming and that people were the cause. At the time, we could only guess how much warming it would take to put us in real danger. Since the pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of carbon in the atmosphere was roughly 275 parts per million, scientists and policymakers focused on what would happen if that number doubled — 550 was a crude and mythical red line, but politicians and economists set about trying to see if we could stop short of that point. The answer was: not easily, but it could be done.

In the past five years, though, scientists began to worry that the planet was reacting more quickly than they had expected to the relatively small temperature increases we’ve already seen. The rapid melt of most glacial systems, for instance, convinced many that 450 parts per million was a more prudent target. That’s what the European Union and many of the big environmental groups have been proposing in recent years, and the economic modeling makes clear that achieving it is still possible, though the chances diminish with every new coal-fired power plant.

But the data just keep getting worse. The news this fall that Arctic sea ice was melting at an off-the-charts pace and data from Greenland suggesting that its giant ice sheet was starting to slide into the ocean make even 450 look too high. Consider: We’re already at 383 parts per million, and it’s knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways. So, what does that mean?

It means, Hansen says, that we’ve gone too far. “The evidence indicates we’ve aimed too high — that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm,” he said after his presentation. Hansen has reams of paleo-climatic data to support his statements (as do other scientists who presented papers at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco this month). The last time the Earth warmed two or three degrees Celsius — which is what 450 parts per million implies — sea levels rose by tens of meters, something that would shake the foundations of the human enterprise should it happen again.

Hansen later released a paper online that discusses his views (including his policy suggestions, which I reserve for later – but readers should feel free to take a peek).  The paper is posted at Hansen’s Columbia University webpage (along with others of possible interest):

What does Hansen conclude?  Here are some key excerpts:

  • The approximate equilibrium characterizing most of Earth’s history is unlike the current situation, in which GHGs are rising at a rate much faster than the coupled climate system can respond.
  • Paleoclimate data show that long-term climate has high sensitivity to climate forcings and that the present global mean CO2, 385 ppm, is already in the dangerous zone (including substantial effects that are “built-in” but yet to be felt).
  • Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and icefree Antarctica.
  • No additional forcing is required to raise global temperature to at least the level of the Pliocene, 2-3 million years ago, a degree of warming that would surely yield ‘dangerous’ climate impacts.
  • If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.  If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects. 
  • Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 and climate requires that net CO2 emissions approach zero, because of the long lifetime of CO2.

Further background discussion includes the following:

  • Paleoclimate data and ongoing global changes indicate that ‘slow’ climate feedback processes not included in most climate models, such as ice sheet disintegration, vegetation migration, and GHG release from soils, tundra or ocean sediments, may begin to come into play on time scales as short as centuries or less.
  • Rapid on-going climate changes and realization that Earth is out of energy balance, imply that more warming is ‘in the pipeline’, add urgency to investigation of the dangerous level of GHGs.
  • GHG and surface albedo changes are mechanisms causing the large global climate changes in Fig. 1, but they do not initiate these large climate swings. Instead changes of GHGs and sea level (a measure of ice sheet size) lag temperature change by typically several hundred years.  GHG and surface albedo changes are positive climate feedbacks. Major glacial-interglacial climate swings are instigated by slow changes of Earth’s orbit, especially the tilt of Earth’s spinaxis relative to the orbital plane and the precession of the equinoxes that influences the intensity of summer insolation. Global radiative forcing due to orbital changes is small, but ice sheet size is affected by changes of geographical and seasonal insolation [e.g., ice melts at both poles when the spin-axis tilt increases, and ice melts at one pole when perihelion, the closest approach to the sun, occurs in late spring]. Also a warming climate causes net release of
    GHGs. The most effective GHG feedback is release of CO2 by the ocean, due partly to temperature dependence of CO2 solubility but mostly to increased ocean mixing in a warmer climate, which acts to flush out deep ocean CO2 and alters ocean biological productivity. GHG and surface albedo feedbacks respond and contribute to temperature change caused by any climate forcing, natural or human-made, given sufficient time.
  • Paleoclimate data permit evaluation of long-term sensitivity to specified GHG change. Plotting GHG forcing from ice core data against temperature shows that global climate sensitivity including the slow surface albedo feedback is 1.5°C per W/m2 or 6°C for doubled CO2 (Fig. 2), twice as large as the Charney fast-feedback sensitivity.  This long-term climate sensitivity is relevant to GHGs that remain airborne for centuries-tomillennia. GHG amounts will decline if emissions decrease enough, but, on the other hand, if the globe warms much further, carbon cycle models and empirical data find a positive GHG feedback. Amplification of GHGs is moderate if warming is kept within the range of recent interglacial periods, but larger warming risks greater release of CH4 and CO2 from methane
    hydrates in tundra and ocean sediments.
  • Human-made global climate forcings now prevail over natural forcings. Earth may have entered the Anthropocene era 6-8 ky ago, but the net human-made forcing was small, perhaps slightly negative, prior to the industrial era. GHG forcing overwhelmed
    natural and negative human-made forcings only in the past quarter century.
  • How long does it take to reach equilibrium temperature? Response is slowed by ocean thermal inertia and the time needed for ice sheets to disintegrate.
  • The expanded time scale for the industrial era (Fig. 2) reveals a growing gap between actual global temperature (purple curve) and equilibrium (long-term) temperature response based on the net estimated forcing (black curve). Ocean and ice sheet response times together account for this gap, which is now 2.0°C.  Climate models, which include only fast feedbacks, have additional warming of
    ~0.6°C in the pipeline today because of ocean thermal inertia.  The remaining gap between equilibrium temperature for current atmospheric composition and actual global temperature is ~1.4°C. This further 1.4°C warming to come is due to the slow surface albedo feedback, specifically ice sheet disintegration and vegetation change.
  • Present-day observations of Greenland and Antarctica show increasing surface melt, loss of buttressing ice shelves, accelerating ice streams, and increasing overall mass loss. These rapid changes do not occur in existing ice sheet models, which are missing critical
    physics of ice sheet disintegration. Sea level changes of several meters per century occur in the paleoclimate record, in response to forcings slower and weaker than the present human-made forcing. It seems likely that large ice sheet response will occur within centuries, if human-made forcings continue to increase. Once ice sheet disintegration is underway, decadal changes of sea level may be substantial.
  • GHGs other than CO2 cause climate forcing comparable to that of CO2, but growth of non-CO2 GHGs is falling below IPCC scenarios and the GHG climate forcing change is determined mainly by CO2. Net human-made forcing is comparable to the CO2
    forcing, as non-CO2 GHGs tend to offset negative ice-free aerosol forcing.
  • Theory and models indicate that subtropical regions expand poleward with global warming. Data reveal a 4-degree latitudinal shift already, larger than model predictions, yielding increased aridity in southern United States, the Mediterranean region, Australia and parts of Africa. Impacts of this climate shift support the conclusion that 385 ppm CO2 is already deleterious.
  • Alpine glaciers are in near-global retreat. After a flush of fresh water, glacier loss foretells long summers of frequently dry rivers, including rivers originating in the Himalayas, Andes and Rocky Mountains that now supply water to hundreds of millions of people. Present glacier retreat, and warming in the pipeline, indicate that 385 ppm CO2 is already a threat.
  • Equilibrium sea level rise for today’s 385 ppm CO2 is at least several meters, judging from paleoclimate history. Accelerating mass losses from Greenland and West Antarctica heighten concerns about ice sheet stability.
  • Stabilization of Arctic sea ice cover requires restoration of planetary energy balance. Climate models driven by known forcings yield a present planetary energy imbalance of +0.5-1 W/m2, a result supported by observed increasing ocean heat content. CO2 amount must be reduced to 325-355 ppm to increase outgoing flux 0.5-1 W/m2, if other forcings are unchanged. A further reduced flux, by ~0.5 W/m2, and thus CO2 ~300-325 ppm, may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago.
  • Coral reefs are suffering from multiple stresses, with ocean acidification and ocean warming principal among them. Given additional warming ‘in-the-pipeline’, 385 ppm CO2 is already deleterious.





Categories: AGW, climate change, CO2, hansen Tags:

Rudimentary climate science; the role of CO2, oceans and volcanoes

April 7th, 2008 No comments

I am posting here a brief summary that I just sent to a Mises Blog contributor, in response to an inquiry I received:

Thanks for your email. 

First, I’m no expert but simply read. With that as background, let me respond on a few points.
  • I think that the general scientific view is that CO2 is a GHG, so that increases in atmospheric CO2 increase the radiative forcing effect of CO2.
  • In the pre-industrial past,  warmings were typically initiated by other factors – chiefly wobbles of the Earth on its axis and in its solar orbit – but as these other factors warmed the oceans, that led to greater releases of CO2 from the oceans and an increase in atmospheric CO2, which reinforced the warming initiated by other factors.  The CO2 warming led to further warming of the oceans, etc., until other factors kicked in that initiated a cooling, which led to an uptake of CO2 by the oceans, etc.  Thus, in the past CO2 had a supportive (but still important) role.
  • Occasional volcanoes (either land or submarine) do not appear to release enough CO2 or warmth to significantly affect the climate, other than the short-tern (one – two year) cooling effect of dust and aerosols.
  • Presently, CO2 releases by volcanoes is orders of magnitude less than releases from fossil fuel combustion – volcanoes like Pinatubo do not even make a blip on the charts of climbing CO2 levels (which clear show season cycles), and there is no evidence of any general increase (or decrease) in volcanic activity.
  • However, there does seem to be evidence of rare cases in the past where massive and long-lasting vocanic eruptions (the Deccan traps and the Siberian traps) have severely affected climate – even being closely related to mass extinction events.
  • Presently, the oceans are absorbing carbon, leading to increase in ocead acidity (reduction of alkalinity).  This will eventually slow the further ocean uptake of CO2.  In the meanwhile, scientists are very, very concerned about the effect that relatively rapid pH change will have on corals and other critters that use calcium (including diatoms).
Here are a few links that might be helpful.


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Richard Feynman


Categories: AGW, climate change, CO2, ocean, volcanoes Tags:

Bruce Yandle on "no regrets", free-market approaches to climate change policy

April 4th, 2008 No comments

Bruce Yandle, Professor of Economics Emeritus at Clemson University and Senior Fellow at PERC (the “free market” environmentalism think tank founded by John Baden and now headed by Terry Anderson), has an article in PERC’ latest monthly report, in which he offers his thoughts on climate policy in the US: “A No-Regrets Carbon Reduction Policy”,  Yandle is a respected thinker on common-law and free-market approaches to environmental problems.

I present here the “TT Notes” precis of Yandle-sensei’s article.

Yandle first notes that “most of our wealth-producing engines exhale carbon. Population growth and longer life expectancies mean more carbon dioxide emissions. More gross domestic product (GDP), translates into more carbon emissions. Proposals for dramatic, short-run reductions are not just costly in dollars, they are draconian in terms of human well-being.”

Notwithstanding the costs of GHG-control efforts, Yandle specifically notes that many economic actors are already quite active in this endeavor (in a manner that indicates they obviously consider the science sufficiently convincing and the costs merited by potential gains):

“There are a vast number of carbon reduction activities taking place in the developed world, with many involving major U.S. firms. … There is a developing regional trading community composed of 10 northeastern states. … Carbon offsets produced by Iowa farmers who modify how they plow fields are purchased by Canadian industrial firms.”

But aside from ongoing private efforts – including those in response to regulatory approaches adopted elsewhere – what public policy approaches might be most efficacious domestically? Yandle asks,

“Can free market environmentalism (FME) provide guidance as to which policies might best promote human well-being? Consider these principles:

• Incentives matter.

• Property rights that reward asset managers improve environmental outcomes.

• Competition among suppliers of goods desired by consumers generates a larger yield.

• Decentralization increases experimentation, leading to more innovation and environmental quality at lower costs.”

Yandle suggests that policy makers should consider at least four important policy considerations (aside from being careful not to cater only to special interests):

“1. To what extent is the United States a net carbon dioxide emitter, and are we as a nation equipped to determine when and how much progress is made in reducing emissions? Should we establish procedures to evaluate legislative actions in terms of their carbon emission impact?  [Yandle doesn’t discuss the baseline efforts that have been underway for years.]

2. What about actions that might be taken to hasten the adoption of lower carbon-emitting processes? Is it possible to adopt a “no regrets” policy — one that will generate net benefits even if Americans later reduce their concern about climate change?

3. Simultaneously, if climate change is occurring, what are the actions that might be taken to encourage human adaptation? Can these be framed as “no regrets”?

4. Why have a one-suit-fits-all climate change policy that applies nationwide, if not worldwide? Why not encourage experimentation across the United States?”

With respect to possible “no-regrets” policies, Yandle indicates that, so far, “Less attention has focused on longer-term decisions that will support targeted research and development, increase capital turnover, encourage new technologies, and hasten the expansion of safer nuclear power plants that eliminate carbon emissions entirely. These actions could form a “no regrets” bundle.”

“Taking an FME-based, no-regrets approach to carbon reduction will recognize that:

Deeply rooted technologies and energy sources can and will be replaced by alternate technologies and non-carbon emitting energy sources;

Rapid depreciation of existing capital and reductions in capital gains and corporate taxes will hasten adaptation; and

Subsidies and regulations that distort energy consumption and investment decisions and increase carbon emissions should be eliminated.”

In particular, Yandle argues that “Higher corporate taxes of all forms discourage formation of new capital, which delays the introduction of cleaner technologies. Eliminating capital gains taxes, reducing corporate income taxes, and accelerating depreciation would get the incentives right for replacing high carbon emitting machines and activities with cleaner processes. Doing so would also increase U.S. GDP and employment growth—a “no regrets” outcome.”

Yandle also argues that nuclear power should be encouraged: “Nuclear power produces no carbon emissions but it does come with some risks. To protect community property rights, the current liability cap provided to utility companies by Congress should be reevaluated in terms of experience and preferences for risk reduction. Property rights should be protected with a meaningful liability rule. Yes, there is nuclear waste to deal with, but this too can and should be addressed by the federal government. Developing an expedited nuclear power plant approval process and eliminating the nuclear waste bottleneck would contribute to a long-run reduction in carbon emissions—another “no regrets” policy.”

Query to Austrians – is Yandle right by implicitly concluding that concerns about climate change present opportunities?  Or do such concerns only present costs and risks, to be avoided at all costs?

Yandle’s other work is described here:




Categories: climate change, no regrets, PERC, yandle Tags:

Pat Michaels – scientist AND paid advocate. Correspondence with Chip Knappenberger

April 2nd, 2008 No comments

In an earlier blog post  – WHY Pat Michaels says “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating” – I raised questions about the objectives and role of Pat Michaels in the political debate about climate change and climate change-related policy, and suggested that readers should bear in mind his self-described role as an “advocate” (for particular interested parties) in weighing the work that appears on his website, the “World Climate Report”.  Pat is a well-known commentator on climate change who has published many opinion pieces and along with some intermittent applied work, principally on human adaptation to rising urban temperatures:  The World Climate Report is published by Pat’s advocacy group, New Hope Environmental Services – which proudly trumpets on the first line of its web page that “New Hope
Environmental Services is an advocacy science consulting firm

By email, I alerted Pat Michaels to my post, and received a response from his colleague and fellow climate scientist-turned-advocate-blogger, Chip Knappenberger.  Chip and I exchanged several rounds of emails, which Chip kindly agreed that I might post publicly. Hence, this update to my prior post.

As further background, I note that my prior post was prompted by Walter Block‘s recent post, “Welcome to the new Ice Age“.  When I posted information here on the progress of understanding of climate change affecting the Southern Hemisphere and Antarctic (“Antarctic cooling?), Geoffrey Plauche directed me to the essay “The Antarctic Ain’t Cooperating” at Pat Michael’s website.  I thank Geoffrey for his reference.

The following are copies of my emails with Chip Knappenberger, unedited other than to remove email addresses (and to highlight a few points):


From: TokyoTom

To:      Pat Michaels


Sent:     Wednesday, March 05, 2008 1:49 PM


Subject: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?


Dear Pat:


It seems to me that your recent “exhaustively researched, impeccably referenced” post on Antarctica at the World Climate Report leaves quite a few important things out.  Accordingly, while your piece may be “timely” and “hard-hitting”, I fail how you can assert that it is “scientifically correct”, except in a very narrow and less than frank manner, that rather than informing panders to the cognitive biases of those who would prefer to believe that there is nothing to discuss, much less be concerned about.


I’ve posted a few remarks at on my blog (on the largely libertarian LVMI site); if I’ve been unfair, I hope you’ll let me know.  I`m sorry, but I think this kind of one-sided post undermines your credibility.


Me:  (in the Update)









“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman




from    Chip Knappenberger

to        TokyoTom

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 6, 2008 4:27 AM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?



Dear TokyoTom,


I must admit to be struggling a bit as to just what it is that you would like us to try to respond to.  Most of your blog posting espouses your personal opinions about the motives behind Dr. Michaels and New Hopes activities. Obviously these are your opinions and you are entitled to them, whether I agree with them or not.  So I won’t respond to them, as doing so would will prove fruitless. Just my opinions against yours. You needn’t have rooted your opinions in our recent Antarctica article, as I am sure that any of our World Climate Report postings would have served just as well.


Our “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating” piece was our coverage of the new publication from Monaghan et al. I don’t think we unfairly characterized that work.  Admittedly Monaghan et al. did talk about some weak non-robust possible upwards temperature trends during the past 10 years, but they were mostly grounded in the starting point, and not a robust result.  So we didn’t include that in our discussion.


We did not attempt in this piece to do a full review of the climate goings-on around Antarctica, as we cover the topic with a fairly high frequency, so we have a large body of articles that can be readily found in the WCR archives (, and which discuss most (if not all) of the bulleted points that you provided from the BAS or from Hansen.


Our take on the matter certainly seems different from yours, but I don’t think that our take is scientifically unsupportable, by any stretch. True, we don’t hype the alarmist claims, but rather highlight scientific results that stand counter to those claims (in Antarctica and around the world).


And, please, don’t get us wrong, we are not declaring that anthropogenic climate changes are not occurring, and will not continue to occur, simply that they will be on the low side of the ranges given by the IPCC–and that there is little than can, or need, be done to try to counter them.


Clearly your opinions may differ on the matter, but I don’t see where we have misrepresented the findings of the papers that we cover.


I hope that this helps.


Please let me know if you have further questions or comments.




-Chip Knappenberger


New Hope Environmental Services




from    TokyoTom

to        Chip Knappenberger

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 6, 2008 12:30 PM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?


Dear Chip:


I appreciate your response.


First, as to the science of this last Antarctica post, you are being disingenuous.  While purporting to describe “the truth from Antarctica”, this post lacks crucial context that you make no effort to provide or even refer to.  If you’ve got other posts up that provide that context, you should at least link to it.  Absent such context, the interested but under-informed reader comes away with the impression that nothing is happening in Antarctica, that this is inconsistent with the theory and models for anthropogenic climate change and thus, voila, said “anthropogenic climate change” is not occurring.  There are countless people who are just dying to have their confirmation biases affirmed and to leap to such conclusions, which service you and Pat thankfully provide.


In other words, while being strictly accurate on the science, you end up doing a great job of misleading.  If that is not what you intend, then you ought to seriously consider changing your approach.


Of course you have a point – why don’t the media and the “greenhouse advocates” talk more about how the warming picture is complicated and uneven?  Perhaps some of them are making decisions that, for their audience at least, too much detail means too much noise, and less understanding of the big picture rather than more.  But it is perfectly fair [for you] to criticize what you see as inadequate coverage and to seek to fill in details – but that is hardly what you come off doing in this piece.


While you attack “greenhouse advocates” by saying that “the facts are too inconvenient”, and that “Antarctica is definitely not cooperating with this greenhouse scare!”, you also create the impression that there is a strong scientific debate about whether anthropogenic warming is becoming manifest in Antarctica – but without providing any information on what is actually agreed or being debated.  In fact, you take a broad swipe at those who actually work in climate change science instead of policy by referring to recent discussions at Real Climate as an effort by members of the “greenhouse crusade” to fit Antarctica into their version of reality (rather than a discussion of reality), while declining to contest any of the positions they are taking.  Thus we have the rich irony of your site, which is self-avowedly a work of advocacy by two who are no longer hard at work in the field of climate science, putting up very incomplete posts while taking potshots at scientists who are pointing that, in the big picture, as noted by the selfsame IPCC reports that you cite, Antarctica (and the southern hemisphere) is quite different from the north and is not expect to warm at the same rate and in the same manner.  If you disagree with them, then why not argue with them directly, rather than pretending that your rather narrow post is the “inconvenient” “truth”?


This kind of “reporting” simply doesn’t inform, but rather misleads.  And that is why I decided to take a closer look at the “World Climate Report” and New Hope.  As I note in the blog, clearly you guys are in the business, at least here, of selling advocacy services.  Maybe that’s NOT what is driving any of these posts – you tell me.  But it sure explains alot, and I think it’s perfectly fair to point it out to others.  It’s not an ad hominem, but an effort to provide information so we can discern who is speaking for himself, and who is speaking for others.


Please understand that I do not see the interests of fossil fuel producers as evil or wrong per se.  It’s not their fault that the atmosphere is a commons or that the release of GHGs and soot is an unpriced activity.  But rather than trying to manipulate the debate via the science, they should be forthrightly engaging in the debate.  But whenever the government is involved in regulating economic activity or resources, we get this very pernicious dynamic where groups on both sides do their best to paint the others as evil and to spin the science.  I know that Pat, in his Cato hat, is making efforts to step above this.  But his work here continues to perform a disservice (except to his clients) and to undermine his credibility.


By the way, the “opinions” expressed in the blog post are mainly about the dynamics of confirmation bias and rent-seeking that I’ve mentioned again above, not about how New Hope is funded or what its mission is.  Rather, I’ve put forward what you guys expressly state about your mission and links to factual reporting.  If you’ve got more facts to offer that provide more clarity, I’d be happy to hear them.






PS:  Please let me know if you object to putting any of your response up on my blog – unedited, of course.


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman




from    Chip Knappenberger

to        TokyoTom

date      Mar 6, 2008 11:27 PM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?




Please fell free to post my response to you on your blog.


I realize, I guess, that you are not trying to be ad hominem but in your article you referred to Pat as a “former climate scientist, now policy critic” and in your response to me you wrote “two who are no longer hard at work in the field of climate science.”  What exactly do we have to do to keep our “climate scientist” credentials up to date?  While we may not be the most prolific of all researchers, we continue to publish in the peer-reviewed literature and have our work presented at scientific meetings.

At the end of this email is a list of our publications/meeting presentations for 2006-2007.  Currently we are finishing up research for submission on a reconstruction of Greenland melt extent (showing that the ice melt in 2007 was the highest in both the observed and reconstructed melt extent back to 1784) and are attempting to publish a piece in Eos demonstrating that the idea that global warming “stopped” 10 years ago is nonsense. The Eos article is currently under consideration by the editors. Additionally, we continue to work on weather/mortality relationships (although the going has been slow in the past year, it is picking up steam again—this is the nature of scientific research). So we have been and continue to be actively involved in climate research projects and publish in the literature as well as having degrees in the field and have been actively involved in climatology for more than 20 years each.


I am not trying to wave credentials around (because I don’t consider them to be a judge of a persons potential to have good ideas on a topic) but simply am trying to offer something to show that by any definition, I consider Pat and myself to be active climate scientists, and am a bit incredulous that you could think otherwise.


So again, I may ask you what more we have to do such that claims that we are not active participants in the field of climate science do become ad hominem attacks?


As far as World Climate Report goes, I’ll again reiterate that we have a body of material contained on-line, readily available, and organized by subject at our World Climate report site. I often link to our subject collections within our articles, but I don’t always do so. Perhaps, as you suggest, I should make it a more regular habit.  And, in hopes that it will increase the usefulness of our recent Antarctica piece, I will go back and add a link to our general list on Antarctica topics (the same link that I provided you in my previous email).


In my opinion, the biggest scare being put forward from continued fossil fuel use is the spectre of large and rapid sea level rise.  I think that the Monaghan et al. piece is evidence that temperatures changes over Antarctica are not indicating signs that the IPCC’s suggestions that Antarctica will have little contribution to sea level rise in the 21st century are clearly breaking down.  And this is the ultimate conclusion of our piece.


The general public think that Antarctica is melting and warming rapidly, largely because of the din that is raised by researchers and the press about the goings-on over the peninsula.  Our coverage of Monaghan et al. is another in a continuing line of articles that we have written trying to let people know that the peninsula is but a small piece of Antarctica, and that by and large, the rest of the continent does not go as the peninsula goes.


I think that this is a fair exercise.




Scientific Publications/Presentations 2006-2007


McKitrick, R. R., and P. J. Michaels, 2007.  Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded global climate data,  Journal of Geophysical Research,  112,  D24S09,  doi:10.1029/2007JD008465


Davis, R.E., Knappenberger, P.C., Frauenfeld, O.W., Michaels, P.J., 2007. Observed changes in North Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity using a multivariate model. 2007 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, San Francisco, CA, April 17-21, 2007


Michaels, P. J., P. C. Knappenberger, and R. E. Davis, 2007. Reply to “Comments on ‘Sea-surface temperatures and tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin’ by Kerry Emanuel,” Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L06703, doi:10.1029/2006GL027527.


Davis, R. E., P. C. Knappenberger, P. J. Michaels, and W. M. Novicoff, 2007.  A Mortality-based Heat Wave Climatology for U. S. Cities, 16th Conference on Applied Climatology, American Meteorological Society, San Antonio, Texas, January 14-18, 2007.


Michaels, P.J., P. C. Knappenberger, and R. E. Davis, 2006. Sea-surface temperatures and tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin. Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L09708, doi:10.1029/2006GL025757.


Davis, R. E., P. J. Michaels, and P.C. Knappenberger, 2006.  Global Warming and Atlantic Hurricanes.  2006 Annual Meeting, Association of American Geographers, Chicago IL, March 7-11




from    TokyoTom

to        Chip Knappenberger

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 7, 2008 2:43 AM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?          


Chip, it`s way past my bedtime, but thank you for your response, and for patiently trying to educate me a little more about what you and Pat are doing (which is news to me – but since I haven`t seen that much of your blog I might have missed it even if it was prominent).  Certainly we all have our own confirmation biases, so it`s not always easy to know when we`re seeing clearly and when we`re just deluding ourselves.


I know that Pat is much more informed than others on the “skeptic” side, have earlier corresponded with him about what the acclerated melting [in Greenland] means, and I`ve heard clips of Pat saying that clearly AGW is underway, so I was actually expecting something relatively balanced when I took a look at this latest piece.  But its obvious lack of context and rhetorical swipes at others make it really look like a piece of relatively clever advocacy, intended to hoodwink instead of inform.  It may not be your intention, but the skeptics certainly take it to mean that AGW isn`t real, and that those who say it is are to be laughed off.  That`s what got me off on trying to figure out just what you two are up to, and whether you weren`t being partial and disingenuously so.


I really can`t judge your motives, and I consider it unfortunate that the debate is so politicized that trying to do so is now second nature.  You guys are not to blame for the polticization – it`s something that is endemic whenever governments are in the middle.  I blame partly the governments and partly the rent-seekers, who clearly ARE doing whatever they think works best – including employing you folks – to ensure that they keep getting a good deal (free use of the atmosphere, at costs shifted to others).  Even with government, there probably is room for more neutral (non-government, non-industry) scientific commentary, and hope you keep trying to get there.  But posts like this one, your apparent affiliation with fossil fuel interests (who have an obvious agenda) and what seems to be a consistent tone of attacking “greenhouse crusaders” instead of obvious partisans on both sides – like a bunch of the folks at Planet Gore who like to say that it`s been cooling for 10 years – make it hard to take your protestations really seriously.


But here`s hoping that you really do take the steps needed to be seen as an impartial, fair and reasoned voice.  Your intention to report that the ice melt in 2007 was the highest in both the observed and reconstructed melt extent back to 1784 and that the idea that global warming “stopped” 10 years ago is nonsense both sound like great starts.  When can we expect to see something up on WCR or at Cato?






“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman




from    Chip Knappenberger

to        TokyoTom

date      Mar 7, 2008 4:03 AM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?         




Thanks for your response.


You won’t see anything about our latest research results at either Cato or WCR until we get them published (or give up trying) as prepublication of the results on the web usually disqualifies you from publishing in a journal. So, only time will tell.


As for WCR articles, we are not attempting to be dispassionate observers, but instead are trying diligently to counter alarmist claims that human-induced climate change will lead to some sort of general calamity on earth (that is, in net, worse than the benefits of our current methods of energy production). And further, that proposed restrictions on CO2 emissions are useless in trying to control the future course of the earth’s climate.  For a more detailed view of what I personally think the future holds in store, I refer you to the WCR article in which I laid them out (


I understand that we may see things differently. I don’t see a problem with this.





from    TokyoTom

to        Chip Knappenberger

cc        Pat Michaels

date      Mar 8, 2008 1:41 PM


subject Re: Is it true that “Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!”, as you put it?


Chip, thank you for your further email.


While I appreciate the partial frankness, I have to say the implications are disturbing.  Since you guys have your own minds made up as to what policy goals are desirable, and [are] not trying to be impartial (or dispassionate) on the science, it seems you are publishing whatever pieces of the science – and rhetorical flourish – that you think will help push policy in the way that you desire.  You are acting primarily as advocates, for a specific policy agenda that dovetails nicely with the interests of your clients.  Accordingly, it is difficult to see what you publish as being even-handed.


You might think that this helps you to achhieve your objectives, but a lack of balance obviously both muddles the debate and may be counterproductive to your own ends by leading many to discount what you have to say.  But I suppose you need to put bread on your tables, and of course he who pays the piper gets to call the tune, so I suppose my idealism here is a bit naive.  But that means discerning readers need to take what you say with a grain of salt, both on the science and the policy you suggest.


FWIW, I did take a look at your “future in store” post and have to say that, by suggesting massive government R&D funding hardly shows much faith in the market.  It would be far better simply for the government to create property rights in GHG emissions and offsets, and let the market do the rest.  We will of course need some regional and local infrastructure investments to cope with climate change, but that`s a different matter.


And as we know from other commons that we`ve manage to overexploit and crash throughout history, the only way to avoid this is to directly manage the commons via property rights or some other mechanism.  Just as we needed either pollution regulation or enforcement of liability claims to deal with more mundane air, ground and water pollution, so we need to do something about the atmosphere.  I`m not thrilled about having the government involved, but in this case there is more than one, so it is more of a negotiation than sheer fiat.  And pricing carbon/GHGs will lead to more rational economic behavior, not less.  There are plenty of efficiency gains to be captured by free markets – perhaps your clients would  appreciate if you`d push for greater utility deregulation, which could help by giving consumers more choice and letting utilities charge marginal costs instead of blended rates that encourage wasteful use.


Many thanks for the dialog.