Home > George Will, Malthusians, markets, property rights, truthiness > [Update re: Truthiness] Property rights? Why George Will WON’T be consistent on climate change when bashing climate "Malthusians"

[Update re: Truthiness] Property rights? Why George Will WON’T be consistent on climate change when bashing climate "Malthusians"

[Update below]

George Will has gifted us with a thoroughly confused op-ed in the Sunday WaPo

Will predictibly trots out the 1980 bet that Paul Ehrlich lost to Julian Simon over the prices of minerals and commodities – but fails to note that the reason that Simon won that bet was that people own land and that markets functioned to both to change demand and to elicit further supply.  None of this logic holds true for unowned, open-access resources – like the global atmosphere and the climate it modulates – as there simply are no property rights or markets in the air.  Until there are, people with legitimate preferences as to climate and man’s affect on it have little effective ways of expressing those preferences.

I made a few further comments at the “Denialism” Science Blog, which has a post up that points out that Will has greatly overstated the case for scientific concern over cooling in the 70s.

I think Will simply has a difficult time changing his mind,
particularly given his conservative leanings – he doesn’t want more
government programs – and the fact that climate change doesn’t happen
at the same speed as weather.

I sympathize with his complaint about alarmism – after all, that’s
how Bush got us into Iraq, and it’s how Obama justified the stimulus
package – but there is, after all, cause for concern about climate
change and it’s very difficult to see as a problem that markets
themselves can be expected to address – as the atmosphere is shared
globally and no one has any property rights in it.

However, Will has had better moments, such as last June when he
argued FOR a carbon tax
– at least as a better option to cap and trade
and tech subsidies:

This should not be ignored by either the skeptics or the AGWers.

However, this latest editorial is indeed disappointing, because it
turns its back on suggesting or considering any of the “no regrets” or
pro-free market policies that ought to be explored as possible win-win common ground
betweem “alarmists” and “skeptics”, as I keep noting:




[Update:  On top of the points above, respected science writer Carl Zimmer at Discover Mag has noted in a post titled “George Will: Liberated From the Burden of Fact-Checking” that George Will also has his data wrong on the extent of sea ice, so much so that the data center that Will referred to posted their own correction of Will.

Zimmer further notes that Will is using a metric (the sum of
northern and southern hemisphere sea ice extent) that actually masks
the degree of climate change and melting.  Climate scientists have specifically noted:

In the
context of climate change, GLOBAL sea ice area may not be the most
relevant indicator. Almost all global climate models project a decrease
in the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area over the next several decades
under increasing greenhouse gas scenarios. But, the same model
responses of the Southern Hemisphere sea ice are less certain. In fact,
there have been some recent studies suggesting the amount of sea ice in
the Southern Hemisphere may initially increase as a response to
atmospheric warming through increased evaporation and subsequent
onto the sea ice. …

we urge
interested parties to consider the many variables and resources
available when considering observed and model-projected climate change.
For example, the ice that is presently in the Arctic Ocean is
younger and thinner than the ice of the 1980s and 1990s. So Arctic ice
volume is now below its long-term average by an even greater amount
than is ice extent or area
.  (emphasis added)

Is George Will becoming a master of truthiness?]

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