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Bob Murphy’s Bogus “Consensus” Argument on Climate Change

October 24th, 2019 No comments

Bob Murphy’s got a new climate change post, originally written for the Institute of Energy Research, now gracing the pages of The Mises Institute.

I made a few remarks, but my links seem to have triggered a spam filter, so I’m re-posting them here.


what they actually found was that of the sampled papers on climate change, only one-third of them expressed a view about its causes, and then of that subset, 97% agreed that humans were at least one cause of climate change.

Thanks, Bob. That sounds like there are damned near ZERO climate scientists who argue that human activities (CO2, other GHGs, soot, particulates?) AREN’T a cause of climate change.

I co-authored a Cato study with climate scientists Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, in which we strongly opposed a U.S. carbon tax. Yet both Michaels and Knappenberger would be climate scientists who were part of the “97% consensus” according to Cook et al. That is, Michaels and Knappenberger both agree that, other things equal, human activity that emits carbon dioxide will make the world warmer than it otherwise would be.

WOW. So EVEN the Cato guys (the ones who deceived Jerry Taylor into thinking CO2 does nothing, and who quit and started Niskanen when he realized he’d been lied to) AGREE that human-emitted CO2 (fossil-fuel emissions; that have increased global atmospheric levels by ~50%, and are also affecting ocean pH and vegetation) WILL MAKE THE WORLD WARMER? [Alarmists!] Do YOU agree with them too, Bob?

[From Leder’s New Republic piece:]

Deniers have managed to undermine how the public views climate science, which in turn makes voters less likely to support climate action.

Interesting that you don’t address this charge about rent-seeking/-defending behavior at all. Could it have something to do with who funds IER, which pays you? IER and its more honestly political sister group American Energy Alliance (which also pays you) are fossil fuel industry front groups; they were once funded in part by Exxon, until it decided (1) in 2008 to “discontinue[] contributions to [IER and] several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner” and (2) to come out in 2009 in support of carbon taxes:

Your unwillingness to be straight up with your motives on this topic, especially at the Mises Institute, is disappointing — and doubly so, since you’ve made a noble appeal for truth-in-advertising, something foreign in the political discussion to which all AGW issues now seem to descend.

The sad result? Unfortunately at Mises Institute it’s pretty much exactly the debasement that you decry: “the reaction here is to guffaw at the hubris and creepy lack of doubt about how the world [works],” on the parts of scientists and other alarmists.

It’s too bad our leading Austrian thinkers won’t explain, much less live up to, their principles, but I DO thank you for showing more careful readers how strong you, Pat and Chip think the case is among scientists for concern about AGW. 


I wonder if Bob’s posting at the right site? Or is this the kind of crap that the Mises Institute wants for traffic and that ‘Austrians’ these days lap up in order to avoid hard thinking about big-government crony capitalism?

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On climate, why are so many anarchists/libertarians/conservatives part of a Bootlegger-Baptist coalition that protects the crony status quo?

April 21st, 2015 No comments

[from a Facebook post]

On climate, why are so many anarchists/libertarians/conservatives part of a Bootlegger-Baptist coalition that protects the crony status quo?

Could it be that tribalism and confirmation bias makes hating on lefty enviro-fascist watermelon commies so much fun?

Is there a “burden of proof” before we have to start criticizing government ownership/mismanagement of resources, grants of public utility monopolies that crush competition and consumer choice, pollution regulations that provide free rights to pollute (and grandfather the dirtiest polluters), and government creation of corporations that provide grants of limited liability to investors?

Come on.

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On climate, how to avoid being a blind, self-righteous ideologue in a “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition

April 21st, 2015 No comments

[from a Facebook post]

Trust me — you don’t have to agree with those who say “climate science is scary, so we need to do something about it” to be willing to have a decent conversation about how governments play a deep role in generating problems, and seeing ways to use the concerns of “warmers” as leverage to try to start fixing what is broken.

Elsewhere, I got head-scratches when I said, “I think there is little we can do to change temps …, but I still think that there is room for productive “climate” policy.”

Allow me to reconcile what for some is an apparent contradiction:

The climate system is complex, and we are engaged in a massive experiment that simply cannot be turned on a dime even if we were all to make the effort (even if we stopped all fossil fuel CO2 releases tomorrow, the processes now set in motion will take centuries to play out); already CO2 levels are now higher than they’ve been for 3 MILLION years:

I am not one of those who are fine and dandy with this “experiment” and who act as if it is a “conservative” venture or that market or libertarian principles justify it.

Nor, however, am I one of those who think that climate concerns — like other environmental/healthy/safety/welfare concerns — mandate massive further interference with people’s lives and economic activities, in the manner of past interventions.

Governments have been and continue to be hugely disruptive, incompetent and corrupt, and in fact are the friends of the “crony capital” corporations that are the object of popular scorn (but in fact such corporations are made, fed, coddled, catered to and protected from competition and market forces by governments).

So I “get” some of the reflexive whinging by shallow market fundamentalists that the science must be wrong and that “enviros” must be evil — though these people also piss me off, because in effect they are ideologues who are protecting crony capitalists and a very fucked up system, rather than engaging in good faith with people who can see quite clearly that there are no “property rights” or “market prices” in the air that magically direct economic activity “invisible hand”-like towards optimal outcomes.

My suggestions that there are productive climate policies is one that is NOT based on either a certainty of climate science or some false expectation that we could easily “fix” the climate (we can’t), but on the awareness that our current economic order is profoundly corrupt, costly/inefficient, significantly hampers consumer choice and innovation, socializes real (and generally recognized) pollution costs and protects bureaucrats.

And even the deepest skeptic of climate change science and theory ought to be interested in seizing the opportunity of the concerns of others to FIX what is deeply fucked up about economic regulation. That is, of course, unless they’re hooked the adrenaline rush that comes from being a blind, self-righteous ideologue in a “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition.

Here are some thoughts, both on productive climate policies and on seeing past illusory certainty:

Note: I have reworked this from a comment I made on another post:

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In which I try to help Bob Murphy clear the air on climate proposals by the Niskanen Center

April 2nd, 2015 No comments

I left this comment at Bob Murphy’s Free Advice blog, where he has post noting A Critique of Jerry Taylor’s “Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax”, which links to a piece authored by Bob at the “Institute for Energy Research”. [Note: I’m not sure when/if Bob will actually clear this comment.]

Bob, I know that as senior economist for the Institute for Energy Research DC fossil fuels lobbying outfit (one that was expressly abandoned by Exxon in 2008 because its “position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner”) you’re not allowed to make consistent libertarian/market-principled arguments on climate/energy policy, so allow me to note my old post that summarized what I thought might be a productive libertarian approach to climate:

Btw, I see that Jerry Taylor/Niskanen Center has responded to you here:



P.S. Here are a few of my old blog posts on IER, from when my blog was still hosted at the gracious Mises Institute:

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The state as a tool of corrupt and unaccountable elites in enclosing the commons; and climate

June 16th, 2014 No comments

[Excerpted from a 2009 note to John Quiggin on “libertarians and delusionism“. My delusionism is smaller than yours!]

Would domestic cap-and-trade be an enclosure of the atmospheric commons, for the benefit of firms receiving grants of permits and costs flowing regressively to energy consumers, and internationally represents a vast expansion of state authority and bureaucracies, with attendant enclosure of local resources?

Many of the problems that concern libertarians also concern progressives, chief of these being the negative effects of state actions on communities, development and on open-access (and hitherto local, indigenous-managed) commons. This is the same concern that the Nobel Prize committee expressed when extending the prize in Economics to Elinor #Ostrom, signalling their desire for a change in international aid policy. [I have blogged on Ostrom’s views on the climate commons.]

Readers might find these remarks by Nicholas Hildyard, Larry Lohmann, Sarah Sexton and Simon Fairlie in “Reclaiming the Commons” (1995) to be pertinent:

The creation of empires and states, business conglomerates and
civic dictatorships — whether in pre-colonial times or in the modern
era — has only been possible through dismantling the commons and
harnessing the fragments, deprived of their old significance, to build
up new economic and social patterns that are responsive to the
interests of a dominant minority. The modern nation state has been
built only by stripping power and control from commons regimes and
creating structures of governance from which the great mass of humanity
(particularly women) are excluded. Likewise, the market economy has
expanded primarily by enabling state and commercial interests to gain
control of territory that has traditionally been used and cherished by
others, and by transforming that territory – together with the people
themselves – into expendable “resources” for exploitation. By enclosing
forests, the state and private enterprise have torn them out of fabrics
of peasant subsistence; by providing local leaders with an outside
power base, unaccountable to local people, they have undermined village
checks and balances; by stimulating demand for cash goods, they have
impelled villagers to seek an ever wider range of things to sell. Such
a policy was as determinedly pursued by the courts of Aztec Mexico, the
feudal lords of West Africa, and the factory owners of Lancashire and
the British Rail as it is today by the International Monetary Fund or
Coca-Cola Inc.

Only in this way has it been possible to convert peasants into
labour for a global economy, replace traditional with modern
agriculture, and free up the commons for the industrial economy.
Similarly, only by atomizing tasks and separating workers from the
moral authority, crafts and natural surroundings created by their
communities has it been possible to transform them into modern,
universal individuals susceptible to “management”. In short, only by
deliberately taking apart local cultures and reassembling them in new
forms has it been possible to open them up to global trade.[FN L.
Lohmann, ‘Resisting Green Globalism’ in W. Sachs (ed), Global Ecology:
Conflicts and Contradictions, Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1993.]

To achieve that “condition of economic progress”, millions have
been marginalized as a calculated act of policy, their commons
dismantled and degraded, their cultures denigrated and devalued and
their own worth reduced to their value as labour. Seen from this
perspective, many of the processes that now go under the rubric of
“nation-building”, “economic growth”, and “progress” are first ad
foremost processes of expropriation, exclusion, denial and
dispossession. In a word, of “enclosure”.

Because history’s best-known examples of enclosure involved the
fencing in of common pasture, enclosure is often reduced to a synonym
for “expropriation”. But enclosure involves more than land and fences,
and implies more than simply privatization or takeover by the state. It
is a compound process which affects nature and culture, home and
market, production and consumption, germination and harvest, birth,
sickness and death. It is a process to which no aspect of life or
culture is immune. ..,

Enclosure tears people and their lands, forests, crafts,
technologies and cosmologies out of the cultural framework in which
they are embedded and tries to force them into a new framework which
reflects and reinforces the values and interests of newly-dominant
groups. Any pieces which will not fit into the new framework are
devalued and discarded. In the modern age, the architecture of this new
framework is determined by market forces, science, state and corporate
bureaucracies, patriarchal forms of social organization, and ideologies
of environmental and social management.

Land, for example, once it is integrated into a framework of
fences, roads and property laws, is “disembedded” from local fabrics of
self-reliance and redefined as “property” or “real estate”. Forests are
divided into rigidly defined precincts – mining concessions, logging
concessions, wildlife corridors and national parks – and transformed
from providers of water, game, wood and vegetables into scarce
exploitable economic resources. Today they are on the point of being
enclosed still further as the dominant industrial culture seeks to
convert them into yet another set of components of the industrial
system, redefining them as “sinks” to absorb industrial carbon dioxide
and as pools of “biodiversity”. Air is being enclosed as economists
seek to transform it into a marketable “waste sink”; and genetic
material by subjecting it to laws which convert it into the
“intellectual property” of private interests.

People too are enclosed as they are fitted into a new society where
they must sell their labour, learn clock-time and accustom themselves
to a life of production and consumption; groups of people are redefined
as “populations’, quantifiable entities whose size must be adjusted to
take pressure off resources required for the global economy. …

enclosure transforms the environment into a “resource” for national or
global production – into so many chips that can be cashed in as
commodities, handed out as political favours and otherwise used to
accrue power. …

Enclosure thus cordons off those aspects of the environment that are
deemed “useful” to the encloser — whether grass for sheep in 16th
century England or stands of timber for logging in modern-say Sarawak
– and defines them, and them alone, as valuable. A street becomes a
conduit for vehicles; a wetland, a field to be drained; flowing water,
a wasted asset to be harnessed for energy or agriculture. Instead of
being a source of multiple benefits, the environment becomes a
one-dimensional asset to be exploited for a single purpose – that
purpose reflecting the interests of the encloser, and the priorities of
the wider political economy in which the encloser operates….

Enclosure opens the way for the bureaucratization and enclosure of
knowledge itself. It accords power to those who master the language of
the new professionals and who are versed in its etiquette and its
social nuances, which are inaccessible to those who have not been to
school or to university, who do not have professional qualifications,
who cannot operate computers, who cannot fathom the apparent mysteries
of a cost-benefit analysis, or who refuse to adopt the forceful tones
of an increasingly “masculine” world.

In that respect, as Illich notes, “enclosure is as much in the
interest of professionals and of state bureaucrats as it is in the
interests of capitalists.” For as local ways of knowing and doing are
devalued or appropriated, and as vernacular forms of governance are
eroded, so state and professional bodies are able to insert themselves
within the commons, taking over areas of life that were previously
under the control of individuals, households and the community.
Enclosure “allows the bureaucrat to define the local community as
impotent to provide for its own survival.”[FN I Illich, ‘Silence is a
Commons’, The Coevolution Quarterly, Winter 1983.] It invites the
professional to come to the “rescue” of those whose own knowledge is
deemed inferior to that of the encloser.

Enclosure is thus a change in the networks of power which enmesh
the environment, production, distribution, the political process,
knowledge, research and the law. It reduces the control of local people
over community affairs. Whether female or male, a person’s influence
and ability to make a living depends increasingly on becoming absorbed
into the new policy created by enclosure, on accepting — willingly or
unwillingly — a new role as a consumer, a worker, a client or an
administrator, on playing the game according to new rules. The way is
thus cleared for cajoling people into the mainstream, be it through
programmes to bring women “into development”, to entice smallholders
“into the market” or to foster paid employment.[FN P. Simmons, ‘Women
in Development’, The Ecologist, Vol. 22, No.1, 1992, pp.16-21.]

Those who remain on the margins of the new mainstream, either by
choice or because that is where society has pushed them, are not only
deemed to have little value: they are perceived as a threat. Thus it is
the landless, the poor, the dispossessed who are blamed for forest
destruction; their poverty which is held responsible for
“overpopulation”; their protests which are classed as subversive and a
threat to political stability. And because they are perceived as a
threat, they become objects to be controlled, the legitimate subjects
of yet further enclosure. …

People who would oppose dams, logging, the redevelopment of their
neighbourhoods or the pollution of their rivers are often left few
means of expressing or arguing their case unless they are prepared to
engage in a debate framed by the languages of cost-benefit analysis,
reductionist science, utilitarianism, male domination — and,
increasingly, English. Not only are these languages in which many local
objection — such as that which holds ancestral community rights to a
particular place to have precedence over the imperatives of “national
development” — appear disreputable. They are also languages whose use
allows enclosers to eavesdrop on, “correct” and dominate the
conversations of the enclosed. …

Because they hold themselves to be speaking a universal language,
the modern enclosers who work for development agencies and governments
feel no qualms in presuming to speak for the enclosed. They assume
reflexively that they understand their predicament as well as or better
than the enclosed do themselves. It is this tacit assumption that
legitimizes enclosure in the encloser’s mind – and it is an assumption
that cannot be countered simply by transferring what are
conventionbally assumed to be the trappings of power from one group to

A space for the commons cannot be created by economists,
development planners, legislators, “empowerment” specialists or other
paternalistic outsiders. To place the future in the hands of such
individuals would be to maintain the webs of power that are currently
stifling commons regimes. One cannot legislate the commons into
existence; nor can the commons be reclaimed simply by adopting “green
techniques” such as organic agriculture, alternative energy strategies
or better public transport — necessary and desirable though such
techniques often are. Rather, commons regimes emerge through ordinary
people’s day-to-day resistance to enclosure, and through their efforts
to regain livelihoods and the mutual support, responsibility and trust
that sustain the commons.

That is not to say that one can ignore policy-makers or
policy-making. The depredations of transnational corporations,
international bureaucracies and national governments cannot be allowed
to go unchallenged. But movements for social change have a
responsibility to ensure that in seeking solutions, they do not remove
the initiative from those who are defending their commons or attempting
to regenerate common regimes — a responsibility they should take

Might there be good reason NOT to rush into a vast expansion of government world-wide?

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Bin Laden dead! Now, "If Only We Could Shoot Climate Change in the Face," too!

May 12th, 2011 No comments

Kate Sheppard’s pithy and wistful observation at Mother Jones on May 4, If Only We Could Shoot Climate Change in the Face, seems wryly correct:

Here are excerpts (emphasis added):

Might the death of Osama bin Laden give President Obama a chance to revive a climate and energy bill? That’s what former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson thinks. Via Politico:

“My hope is that from this success in the foreign policy arena two days ago, that he will be emboldened to take once again to the Congress legislation — not just to increase a renewable energy standard — but climate change legislation that this country and the world need,” Richardson said Tuesday at a Climate Leadership Gala hosted by the Earth Day Network in Washington.

It certainly is the case that the bin Laden’s death has put some wind in Obama’s sails. But I don’t think it’s enough wind to change the minds of a House majority that doesn’t even think that the climate is changing, let alone get them to support a bill to deal with it. Unfortunately, passing climate legislation isn’t an issue that American politicians are as unified on as they are about hunting down a terrorist mastermind.

Seems to me that Sheppard is on to something, but fails to really grasp it: citizens are rather easily stirred up by politicians for “defense” reasons to approve extremely costly and counter-productive policies, but not so easily stirred up for other reasons where the threat does not appear as tangible and where it is clear that someone’s ox will be “Gored” (pardon the pun; it fell into my lap here).

Further, the supposed hunt for OBL turned out to be a joyride into Iraq that a wide range of people believe was a failure, but to our defense industry (and  our connected political class) – which has received around a trillion dollars, with the meter still running – and to government itself, which greatly expanded its domestic reach, has been a smashing success.

Sheppard seems to concede that, for the sake of chasing OBL, this was somehow justifiable rather than a scam, and thus is unable to see the hypocrisy of those on the Right who supported the looting and expansion of government power while it benefitted the GOP and friends in the defense industry, but who moan about the “climate scam” because policies proposed will disadvantage their friends while benefitting firms that have politically supported the Left.

One hopes for more people and the left and right who can perceive the rent-seeking games inexorably involved with exercises of power by government. It is only by doing so that problems of collective action be productively and cooperatively addressed.

And now for some Fun with (Counter-)Propaganda, from an edgy young Australian Broadcast Co crew and Aussie climate scientists!

May 11th, 2011 No comments

Ran across a fun little 2-minute YouTube clip that is apparently going to run shortly on the ABC’s “Hungry Beast” program.

In this episode, the Hungry Beast crew, with the help of Aussie “climate scientists” and wannabees, have put together a rap video that is skeptical … of fossil fuel firms and of ‘skeptic’ pundits. 

(The “Hungry Beast” crew have done some other interesting work, which can be seen herehere, and here. Their March 3 piece on Google and their March 24 Is Public the New Private are certainly worth a look.)

Seems like just a bit of fun, similar to the soundtracks by climate scientists Roy Spencer, John Christy and their Christian “EcoFreako” rock band (looks lik the website is down, but I might have the files around somewher if anyones’s interested).

It’s interesting to see climate scientists taking part in this, but like their policy skeptics, they live in this world too, and certainly have a right to have and express their opinions on matters of concern to them.

Without further ado:



Here’s the script:

In the media landscape there are climate change deniers and believers, but rarely are those speaking about climate change actual climate scientists…

yo….we’re climate scientists.. and there’s no denying this Climate Change Is REEEEALL..

Who’s a climate scientist.. 
I’m a climate scientist.. 
Not a cleo finalist 
No a climate scientist

Droppin facts all over this wax 
While bitches be crying about a carbon tax 
Climate change is caused by people 
Earth Unlike Alien Has no sequel 
We gotta move fast or we’ll be forsaken, 
Cause we were too busy suckin dick Copenhagen: (Politician)

I said Burn! it’s hot in here.. 
32% more carbon in the atmosphere. 
Oh Eee Ohh Eee oh wee ice ice ice 
Raisin’ sea levels twice by twice 
We’re scientists, what we speak is True. 
Unlike Andrew Bolt our work is Peer Reviewed… ooohhh

Who’s a climate scientist.. 
I’m a climate scientist.. 
An Anglican revivalist 
No a climate scientist

Feedback is like climate change on crack 
The permafrosts subtracts: feedback 
Methane release wack : feedback.. 
Write a letter then burn it: feedback 
Denialists deny this in your dreams 
Coz climate change means greater extremes, 
Shit won’t be the norm 
Heatwaves bigger badder storms 
The Green house effect is just a theory sucker (Alan Jones) 
Yeah so is gravity float away muther f**cker

Who’s a climate scientist.. 
I’m a climate scientist.. 
I’m not a climate Scientist 
Who’s Climate Scientists 
A Penny Farthing Cyclist 
A Lebanese typist 
A Paleontologist 
A Sebaceous Cyst
No! a climate scientist! Yo! PREACH~!

Written and performed by Climate Scientists, Dan Ilic, Duncan Elms and production by Brendan Woithe at Colony NoFi.

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Great news! IPCC climate panel acknowledge in new report that it will be extremely difficult to find alternatives to fossil fuels in time to stabilize CO2 levels for many decades

May 10th, 2011 No comments

[Warning: obvious snark above]

1.  See this analysis by Roger Pielke, Jr.:

The IPCC has just issued a new summary for policy makers for a forthcoming special report on renewable energy that appears (indirectly and obliquely) to finally admit that we just do not have the technology necessary to achieve low targets for the stabilization of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (e.g., something like 450 ppm). 

2.  The FT discusses the report as well: has a

3.  Here’s the report itself.

4.  My own view is that our energy sector is massively skewed by government ownership of energy resources that it wants to see exploited (both to feed government and to satisfy insiders), and by a wide range of government policies, from the creation of limited liability corporate engines of moral hazard, risk-shifting and commons destruction, to a refusal to allow ordinsry citizens and resource users to protect private property and common resourcves, to the creation of utility monopolies.

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Lund University, Sweden: Effects of climate change in the Arctic more extensive than expected

May 7th, 2011 No comments


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Oh well: Independent, Koch-funded group headed by ‘skeptic’ Berkeley physicist announces to Congress that climate change data is reliable

May 6th, 2011 No comments
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