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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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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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Callahan and Richman have asserted the efficacy of moral suasion in getting people and organizations to change climate behavior; here are two people's efforts to persuade, post-tornado

May 6th, 2011 No comments

I discussed Callahan and Richman at some length previously.

Since I hope they are right, I bring you some comments I recently ran across:

1. Peter H. Gleick, A Cost of Denying Climate Change: Accelerating Climate Disruptions, Death, and Destruction, Huffington Post, April 28, 2011. Gleick is a Water and climate scientist; President of the Pacific Institute, and a MacArthur Fellow.

While I agree with much of what he says, I would note that his headline is off – given the thermal inertia of the oceans, the warming and climate change phenomena were are experiencing now are largely a result of CO2 emissions and other radiative forcings decades ago, and not a consequence of inaction over the last decade. Those consequences will be felt, but LATER. (I post his piece in its entirety, with his permission; emphasis added.)

Violent tornadoes throughout the southeastern U.S. must be a front-page reminder that no matter how successful climate deniers are in confusing the public or delaying action on climate change in Congress or globally, the science is clear: Our climate is worsening.

More extreme and violent climate is a direct consequence of human-caused climate change (whether or not we can determine if these particular tornado outbreaks were caused or worsened by climate change). There is a reason it isn’t called global warming anymore. Higher temperatures are only one — and not the most worrisome — of the consequences of a changing climate.

Climate science tells us unambiguously that we are changing the climate and trapping more energy on the planet. Trapping more energy will cause more extreme events and worsen extreme events that would otherwise happen.

In the climate community, we call this “loading the dice.” Rolling loaded dice weighted toward more extreme and energetic weather means more death and destruction. And it is only going to get worse and worse, faster and faster, the longer our politicians dither and delay and deny. Climate deniers who have stymied action in Congress and confused the public — like the tobacco industry did before them — need to be held accountable for their systematic misrepresentation of the science, their misuse and falsification of data, and their trickery.

The conservative (and economically driven) insurance industry understands the reality of data and observations: Munich Re (one of the world’s leading reinsurers) has said:

“The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change. The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge.”

The extreme nature of the ongoing severe weather is well described by Jeff Masters on his Weather Blog. The 3-day total of preliminary tornado reports from this week’s outbreak is nearing 300, close to the 323 preliminary tornado reports logged during the massive April 14 – 16 tornado outbreak. That outbreak has 155 confirmed tornadoes so far, making it the largest April tornado outbreak on record.

Of course, tornado outbreaks have occurred before. In 1974 and 1965, collections of tornados killed hundreds of people. But according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, it is unprecedented to have two such massive tornado outbreaks occur so close together. Loading the dice. At least 11 of these tornadoes were killer tornadoes; deaths occurred in six states. (Wikipedia maintains an excellent and growing compilation of historical tornado outbreaks for those interested, and raw data can be obtained from NOAA.) Only two other tornado outbreaks have had as many as 150 twisters — the May 2004 outbreak (385), and the May 2003 outbreak (401).

And it is not just the devastating tornadoes: parts of the Mississippi River are about to experience record flooding. As spring rain joins with winter snowmelt, a massive pulse of floodwater is moving south. As it joins with the record water levels coming out of the Ohio River it is expected to create the highest flood heights ever recorded on the Mississippi, according to the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service.

Yet while we call this a “1-in-a-100 year” flood event, that term is losing its meaning. The August 1993 flood event was a “1-in-a-500 year” event. Yet in June 2008 there was another such event. Now, three years later, we see another massive flood on the Mississippi, and record floods elsewhere. Loading the dice. As FEMA’s director, Craig Fugate, noted in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.” And that was last year.

The science community knows that we’re affecting the climate; in turn, that will affect the weather; and that, in turn, will affect humans: with death, injury, and destruction. There is a cost to tackling climate change, but there is a real, growing, and far larger cost of continuing to deny it.


2.  Lou Grinzo has an edgier reaction to Peter Gelick at his blog, also on April 28. Grinzo is Writer and editor of the blog, The Cost of Energy, 2004-present. He was a software programmer, designer, tester, IBM, 1980-1989; is a programmer, writer, editor, and consultant, 1989-present. In addition, he is author of Zen of Windows 95 Programming, Columnist and Contributing Editor, Windows Magazine, Columnist, features author, and Reviews Editor, Linux Magazine and Editor,

I don’t agree entirely with Grinzo, as I think much proposed climate policy has been counterproductive, inefficient and/or unprincipled. But I can sympathize with where he’s coming from, even as I think that his anger is more productive channelled into different approaches – such as at freeing energy markets specifically or reining in corporate statism arising from the grant of limited liaibility more generally.

Peter, whom I know somewhat from an e-mail group we both belong to, is far too decent a person to put the ragged and rusty edge on this issue that it deserves. Not being so burdened by politeness, I’ll do it.

Did you enjoy what happened yesterday in the US South, when blissful reality was shredded by the brute force physics of our atmosphere and hundreds of people died horrible deaths, many hundreds more were injured, and millions were terrified because they just happened to live too close this climatic ground zero? Did you like watching houses and businesses and possessions being ground into so many tons of rubble? Did you?

No, of course you didn’t enjoy it, because it was a sickening nightmare from which none of us could awake. What reasonable human being could have liked it? That unremarkable observation leads inexorably and directly to one question: If you’re not fighting as hard as you can to keep such situations — and hurricanes and crushing heat waves and floods and droughts and inundated coasts thanks to sea level rise — from happening much more often and with much more devastating effects in the coming decades, then you’re failing miserably as a responsible adult and member of society. You’re nothing more than the equivalent of an underage drunk driver who endangers everyone around him because he’s too selfish to stop doing what he wants in order to serve his own best interests as well as those of others around him.

You’re telling the world that rather than do your part you want to keep flying to vacation spots, keep driving your much larger than needed/less fuel efficient vehicle, keep running your home electronics for many hours a week when no one is even using them, keep refusing to change your bloody light bulbs because you claim you “don’t like the light from those new ones”, etc. The timing is different, the individual acts are different, but the lack of maturity, the toxic mix of ignorance and arrogance, and the utter insanity of such destructive behavior are the same.

So make sure the next time there’s a heat wave in Russia that kills tens of thousands of people, or a devastating flood in Pakistan, or tornadoes or hurricanes ripping up parts of the US or some other unlucky spot, or another country violently slips closer to or into being a failed state and suddenly becomes newsworthy, that you switch your immense screen TV from the latest reality show or NASCAR event for a few moments to watch the highlights on the news. It’s the least you could do.

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Tornadoes, fires and floods, oh my! Time to stop hiding our heads in the sand. Who benefits from our loading of the climate dice?

May 6th, 2011 No comments

[My apologies for weird formatting, I find it very difficult to deal with html embedded in text that I cut and paste!]

No doubt a locally cold winter helped many readers put behind them thoughts about last year’s worldwide record droughts, floods and heatwaves.

But the storms and firestorms are back with a vengeance, and neither the overall global warming nor our ongoing radiative forcing have stopped.I urge readers to take a look and reflect. There is, after all, a libertarian climate agenda of freeing markets and dismantling corporate risk-shifting and resulting over-regulation (as well as apparently serious suggestions from George Reisman and Stephan Kinsella that we start experimenting with atom bomb-based climate modification or other deliberate geo-engineering measures). 

Given the great heat sink that are the world’s oceans, we are only now feeling the forcing attributable to GHGs emitted 40 years ago (with a similar lag before the full effect of what we are emitting now will be felt). And the emissions of China and India are expected to double further before peaking in a few decades.

A few links and excerpts, in reverse chronological order:

Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog; April’s tornado outbreaks the two largest in history; Posted by:JeffMasters, 2:54 PM GMT on May 05, 2011



Stu Ostro, Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist, “The Katrina of tornado outbreaks“:

The atmosphere was explosively unstable with summerlike heat and humidity, interacting with a classic wind shear setup as a strong jet stream and upper-level trough crashed overhead….

The atmosphere is extraordinarily complex, and ultimately what’s happened the past month is probably a combination of influences, including La Nina, other natural variability, and anthropogenic global warming.

Extreme weather disasters, especially deluges and floods, are on the rise — and the best analysis says human-caused warming is contributing (see Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding).  Last year, we hadTennessee’s 1000-year deluge aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’.  And  Coastal North Carolina’s suffered its second 500-year rainfall in 11 years.

Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year” (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).

Former hurricane-hunter Masters has a good analysis of how the “Midwest deluge [is] enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures”

UPDATE:  “Persistent, heavy rains have helped swell the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to the highest levels ever recorded,” CNN reports.  And the rivers are still rising.

The Effect of Climate Change on Tornado Frequency and Magnitude:  “There is an obvious increase in tornado frequency between 1950-1999. This could be due to increased detection. Also this could be due to changing climatic conditions.”

For decades, scientists have predicted that if we kept pouring increasing amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we would change the climate.   They specifically predicted that that many key aspects of the weather would become more extreme — more extreme heat waves, more intense droughts, and stronger deluges.

As far back as 1995, analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (led by Tom Karl) showed that over the course of the 20th century, the United States had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events, the very ones you would expect from global warming, such as more — and more intense — precipitation. That analysis concluded the chances were only “5 to 10 percent” this increase was due to factors other than global warming, such as “natural climate variability.” And since 1995, the climate has gotten measurably more extreme.

Multiple scientific studies find that indeed the weather has become more extreme, as expected, and that it is extremely likely that humans are a contributing cause (see “Two seminal Naturepapers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment” and links therein).

Beyond that, as Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained here last year: “There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms.”  He told theNY Times, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.” 

Jeremy Hance;; Are US floods, fires linked to climate change?; April 28, 2011

“There have always been extreme events,” Peter Stott, a climatologist from the UK’s Met Office, told Yale360 in a piece on extreme weather and climate change. “Natural variability does play a role, but now so does climate change. It is about changing the odds of the event happening.”  

“By now, most people get that you can’t attribute any single weather event on global warming,” John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas’ state climatologist and a professor at Texas A&M University, told the McClatchy-Tribune news service. “But some things are clear: temperatures have been going up, and models all agree that the temperature rise will continue unless we get some massive volcanic eruptions or the sun suddenly becomes much dimmer.”

 Multiple torrential downpours are setting the stage for more 100-year floods in the coming days, as meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters reports today.

Several papers published in the journal Nature demonstrate that such extreme precipitation events in specific localities is the result of climate change and not an overactive imagination. The scientists studied the actual, observable precipitation patterns in the 20th century and then compared them to climate model simulations and a splash of probability to discover a close, predictive match up.

They claim that their results provide “first formal identification of a human contribution to the observed intensification of extreme precipitation.” The scientists, led by Seung-Ki Min at the Climate Research Division from Environment Canada in Toronto, say that the global climate models may, in fact, be underestimating the amount of extreme weather events, “which implies that extreme precipitation events may strengthen more quickly in the future than projected and that they may have more severe impacts than estimated.”

In another study, this one led by Pardeep Pall at the University of Oxford, looked at a specific weather event: the 2000 floods in England and Wales, which occurred during the wettest autumn since 1766. …

Climate change could signal prolonged droughts in American Southwest
Think the 1930s “Dust Bowl” was bad in the American West? Scientists have found evidence of “mega-drought” events that lasted centuries to millennia in the same region during warm, interglacial periods in the Pleistocene era (370,000-550,000 years ago). The evidence heightens concern over how the region will react to the modern day global temperature spikes.

The American Southwest is already predicted to get pretty dry during climate change, due to a drop in winter precipitation that would increase evaporation rates and lead to smaller snow packs that normally provide water during the warmer months.


New York Times, In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming, (August 14, 2010)

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Matt Ridley, the "Rational Optimist," blasts Japan’s "Nuclear Crony Capitalism" but fails to examine limited liability corporations

March 30th, 2011 No comments

Matt Ridley, British author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, and populat TED presenter “When Ideas Have Sex“), has a couple of blog posts out in response to Japan’s troubled post-earthquake and post-tsunami nuclear reactors owned by TEPCO.

In a somewhat ironic post, “Nuclear Crony Capitalism“, Ridley first notes that the troubles at TEPCO’s Fukushima plants have caused environmentalist George Monbiot to change his mind about nuclear power  — and to SUPPORT it, as demonstrating the low risks of nuclear power. (I find this perverse by both Monbiot and Ridley, as radiation releases from four of the reactors have already done substantial damage to people, property and livelihoods in the Fukushima region, as well as to cause grave concerns in Tokyo and indeed, globally. Moreover, the situation is not yet stabilized, strong earthquakes continue, and strong radiation in the vicinity of the plants is seriosuly hampering efforts to regain control over the plants and ope-air spent fuel rod pools.)

Yet despite his views on the safety of nuclear power (he noted a few days ago in the WSJ that much safer designs may be available, and that the TEPCO designs are a product of the Cold War and nuclear bomb production designs), Ridley castigates Japan’s government and nuclear power industry.(emphasis added) [readers, html is a pain. If the quote isn’t here, it’s the italicized text that wants to be at the bottom.]

What worries me is the economics of an electricity generating industry that requires massive capital projects, whose costs usually over-run and whose costs per kilowatt hour are roughly double those of the newest gas turbines. … But a perceptive article by Shikha Dalmia explains where nuclear’s flaws come from — its symbiotic relationship with government. Nuclear power requires, demands and gets subsidies of many different kinds.

That’s exactly the problem with crony capitalism, whether in finance or energy or anything else. The `market’ and `capitalists’ are not on the same side and against `government’. No, its government and capitalists colluding against the market, which is on the side of the people. The `financial market’ proved to be no such thing; it was a casino for favoured clients run by central banks. The `energy market’ is no such thing. It is a scheme run by governments for favoured clients in the nuclear, renewable and environmental-pressure group industries.

As Adam Smith so astutely observed,

The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.


Nice to see Ridley both recognizing the corrupt and skewing dynamics, AND taking not merely government but the industry itself to task, TEPCO and its finaciers are, after all, real people who have moral responsibility for their own actions – right? – whether they are aware of such responsibility or not.

Unfortunately, Ridley, like Dalmia, fails to extend his analysis to the state-created corporate structure itself, which systematically shifts risks from shareholders and managers to the public at large, particularly via the grant of limited liability to shareholders, which reduces incentives for shareholders to care about risks to others and exacerbates the “agency problem” which leaves managers as essentially unsupervised actors who typically do not bear liability for so-called “corporate torts” – thus leaving the “corporation” as a legal fiction without a clear locus of responsibility or liability.

The grant of limited liability is of course the driving feature for choosing the main corporate form over other alternatives (Amex was long a coproaton whose shareholders had unlimited liability), and why corporations establish subsidiaries (US nuclear plants are virtually all held by different legal entities), and why traditional partnerhips have pushed for LLC and LLP entity forms that retain partnership-like tax treatment but no personal liability.

One hopes that some day our leading lights will devote a little time to exploring the obvious perverse incentives and massive negative consequences generated by the state-created corporate form. What we have instead is a sympathy for faceless corporate “victims” of a faceless state, and a beside-the-point defense of the poor existing, irresponsible shareholders, which didn’t bargain for a downside risk. Shall libertarians forever defensd this Heads I Win, Tails You Lose mentality? Do they have so little faith that, if limited shareholder liability was NOT granted by the state, that shareholders would not increase their diligence, or engage insurers to mitigate risks?

I note that I pointed out the issue of the corporate form itself to Matt Ridley, he responded with a “very interesting”. Stay tuned!



Posted by, TokyoTom [follow link to cross-post here]

Matt, great post — but I think you’ve only barely scratched the surface on the ‘crony capitalism’ institutionalization of risk.

I’ve spent a bit of time delving into this at my blog that Ludwig von Mises Inst kindly hosts:

– Sorry, but I can’t resist asking: Feel Sorry for Tokyo Electric Power Co?, ‘a tribute to Lew Rockwell’s ‘Feel Sorry for BP?’)

– Institutionalized moral hazard: Fun with Nuclear Power in Japan, or, prepare for a glowing twilight, with scattered fallout in the morning,

– My posts exploring the ramifications of the state grant of ‘limited liability’ corporation status:

– The case of BP:

– Not surprisingly, similar issues arise with respect to the rest of the Govt-licensed energy sector and climate:

Thus small things contribute to the Road to Serfdom:

I hope you’ll take your concern for nuclear crony capitalism even further.


Wednesday 30th March 2011 – 04:39am


Posted by, Matt Ridley


very interesting. Thanks. will follow up.


Wednesday 30th March 2011 – 04:54am
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That annoying off-beat drummer: In response to the 'heretic' Dr. Curry, more on my pig-headed libertarian open-mindness on climate issues

March 24th, 2011 No comments

I alerted readers in January to a blog post on libertarianism and the environment by Dr. Judith Curry, who heads the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is known for her work on hurricanes, Arctic ice dynamics and other climate-related topics.

Scientific American  noted last October, in “Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues; Why can’t we have a civil conversation about climate?“, that:

over the past year or so she has become better known for something that annoys, even infuriates, many of her scientific colleagues. Curry has been engaging actively with the climate change skeptic community, largely by participating on outsider blogs such as Climate Audit, the Air Vent and the Black­board. Along the way, she has come to question how climatologists react to those who question the science, no matter how well established it is. Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points—and by lumping the good with the bad, climate researchers not only miss out on a chance to improve their science, they come across to the public as haughty. “Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”

While I recommend that interested readers review the whole thread, I copy below my comments and some related:

Judith, a climate scientist friend kindly gave me gave me a head’s up to your post.

I have been blogging and commenting for quite some time on environmental and climate issues from a libertarian perspective, and have also spent considerable time on trying both to help libertarians engage productively on environmental issues and to help leftist-environmentalists understand where libertarians are coming from.

Sadly, it’s largely a messy tale, reflecting how fights over government policy tend toward zero-sum games that blunt cooperation, the success that fossil fuel and other corporate interests have had in gaming the system, and how our tribal human nature leads many to abandon critical thinking in favor of choosing and reflexively defending sides and positions.

I have been highly critical of many libertarians in perpetuating unproductive discord, and have been the resident environmentalist pain-in-the-neck at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (for libertarian economics), which kindly hosts my blog. In particular, even while try to build bridges I have been critical of the Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute and MasterResource, which I view as being skewed by donations toward corporate agendas. There are of course some highly productive libertarians working on environmental and conservation matters; Terry Anderson and others at PERC (Properrty and Environment Research Center) have led the way on fisheries, water and other issues. (And then there are quasi-libertarians like Elinor Ostrom.)

Since you’ve expressed interest, allow me to load you up with a few links, to my exchanges with others such as John Quiggin, to my cajoling and castigating of libertarians, and to some of my views on climate/environment issues :

“Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues ”

“John Quiggin plays Pin-the-tail-on-the-Donkey with “Libertarians and delusionism” ”

“A few more comments to John Quiggin on climate, libertarian principles and the enclosure of the commons ”

“A few more “delusional” thoughts to John Quiggin on partisan perceptions & libertarian opposition to collective action”

“To John Quiggin: Reassuring climate “delusions” help us all to avoid engaging with “enemies” in exploring common ground ”

“The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government ”

The Road Not Taken II: Austrians strive for a self-comforting irrelevancy on climate change, the greatest commons problem / rent-seeking game of our age

For climate fever, take two open-air atom bombs & call me in the morning; “serious” libertarian suggestions from Kinsella & Reisman!?

Thanks, Dr. Reisman; or, How I Learned to Hate Enviros and Love Tantrums

“Escape from Reason: are Austrians conservatives, or neocons, on the environment? ”

“The Road Not Taken V: Libertarian hatred of misanthropic “watermelons” and the productive love of aloof ad-homs”

OMG – those ecofascists hate statist corps, too, and even want to – GASP – end that oh-so-libertarian state grant of limited liability!

“Who are the misanthropes – “Malthusians” or those who hate them? Rob Bradley and others resist good faith engagement despite obvious institutional failures/absence of property rights ”

On non-climate issues:

“Too Many or Too Few People? Does the market provide an answer? ”



  • Tokyo Tom, thanks much for your input. your post originally went to moderation owing to the large number of links.

    • Dr. Curry, thanks for your indulgence on this; given the time differences (bedtime now!) and my schedule tomorrow, I thought throwing out a few links might be useful (though I may be mistaken!!).


    • If I can add one further thought before I head off to bed, it would be that a key prerequisite (as Ostrom points out) for tackling commons issues like climate change that involves many players and countries is the need for TRUST, an element that is sadly lacking (a resource that libertarian analysis indicates is destroyed by squabbles over government) .

      Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies?

      On climate, myopic progressives console themselves by pointing out fossil $ behind science “skeptics”; but miss the same from left and ignore middle ground



One wee error in your intro:
“Sadly, it’s largely a messy tale, reflecting how fights over government policy tend toward zeronegative-sum games that blunt cooperation”
There. All fixed! ;)

Tom is someone who has managed to separate the difference between science and policy.

  • I am honored that you visit me, as you must be very busy in the Year of the Wabbit.

    Thanks, Eli, but it means that Tom is someone for whom the thrills of tribal comabt do not offset the woes of being the odd man out, if not “the enemy”.


Michael, Climate Etc. has technical threads and discussion threads. This is a discussion thread. I usually monitor things quite closely on technical threads, which are pretty much troll free. There have been excellent discussions with very knowledgeable skeptics on many of the technical threads. If you look at the denizens list, there are many people spending time here with serious credentials and wide ranging and varying professional experiences. This is not a place where mindless people bother hanging out.

What am I hoping to accomplish on discussion threads? I raise thorny topics on the discussion threads, at the interface between science and society. People challenge their own prejudices by arguing with people having different opinions. Invariably I learn something when people suggest interesting things to read (on this thread, i have found some of Tokyo Tom’s links to be interesting.)

Assuming i have time in the next day or do (which is not a good assumption, I’m afraid), i will do a Part II on this thread, picking out some points/ideas to focus on in a follow on thread. Once we get the heat out of the way, we often generate some light over here.

bob, I would be interested in a part II to this subject, and it would be great if Tokyo Tom or Rich wanted to do this, provided the topic was about how to deal with global environmental issues and potential tragedy of the commons issues.

  • Not sure how you could reconcile the distance between these two. Yes, they are both Libertarians. But one sees the climate issue like so:

    Yeah, I deny the anthropogenic carbon dioxide global temperature forcing “hypothesis” (not that it deserves even the courtesy use of that term). It started out as an extraordinary – hell, preposterous – effort to account for a completely screwed interpretation of insufficient surface temperature data (gained initially, it appears, from Stevenson screen thermometers “sited next to a lamp” by way of all sorts of instrumental screw-ups related to urban heat island effect and similar artifact) thirty years ago, and has proceeded through those three decades not only without the development of convincing evidence supporting this brain-dead blunder but suffused with a continuing agglomeration of data-doctoring, book-cooking, code-jiggering, suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, peer-review-perverting, dissident-censoring, cork-screwing, back-stabbing, dirty-dealing, and bald-faced lying.

    and the other sees it a bit differently: [my emphasis added]

    On environmental issues in general and climate in particular, find me someone ranting about “Malthusians” or “environazis” or somesuch, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand – or refuses to acknowledge – the difference between wealth-creating markets based on private property and/or voluntary interactions/contracts protected by law, and the tragedy of the commons situations that result when there are NO property rights (atmosphere, oceans) or when the pressures of developed markets swamp indigenous hunter-gather community rules.

    So what’s the deal? Here’s a perfect opportunity for skeptics to educate the supposedly market ignorant, but they refuse, preferring to focus instead on why concerned scientists must be wrong, how concerns by a broad swath of society about climate have become a matter of an irrational, deluded “religious” faith, or that those raising their concerns are “misanthropes” or worse.

    Some on the left likewise see libertarians and small-government conservatives as deluded.

    Both sides, it seems, prefer to fight – and to see themselves as right and the “others” as evil – rather than to reason

    While we should not regret that we cannot really constrain human nature very well, at least libertarian and others who profess to love markets ought to be paying attention to the inadequate institutional framework that is not only poisoning the political atmosphere, but posing risks to important globally and regionally shared open-access commons like the atmosphere and oceans (which are probably are in much more immediate and grave threat than the climate). And they also ought to recognize that there are important economic interests that profit from the current flawed institutional framework and have quite deliberately encouraged the current culture war.

    So, once again, ideological affiliations aside, there are people who look for ways to solve possible problems and people who look for reasons to ignore possible problems.

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By popular demand, more meta-thoughts on climate confusion

March 24th, 2011 No comments

Yes, I’m Worried in Tokyo, as I keep running across tweets like this:

Should Residents Of Tokyo Be Preparing For Massive Radiation Exposure? 12 Disturbing Facts To Cons..

But a rare comment to my recent, Yes-I’m-Still-Alive post asked me to comment on something the poster recently wrote regarding libertarian views on climate policy. As this is a topic that I have, with no great reluctance, addressed from time to time, I felt compelled to respond — and thought that some of you might be interested.

The comment I received:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 8:21 PM by gryposaurus

Hey Tom, If you get a chance, please check out this blog post I wrote about Jonathan Adler’s paper on climate change. [Note: this site hosts many layman-friendly explanations of climate science and reviews of arguments by ‘skeptics’.]


(I note that I have referred to libertarian law prof. Jonathan Adler several times.)

My response:

Thanks so much for your visit to LvMI – just to give me a comment?? – and your cross-link to your interesting post at Skeptical Science.

I’ve taken a quick look; my chief comment would be that you and the ‘libertarians’ you discuss have all missed that the status quo favors massive corporations whose very status is suspect from a libertarian standpoint: they are creatures of government that could not exist without govt in their present form, and that embody moral hazard via the govt grant of limited liability to shareholders.

Cato and other vocal ‘libertarian’ organizations are in fact corporate fronts and won’t bite the hand that feeds them, and thus avoid delving too deeply when they defend a ‘free market’ that is predominated by organizations that are not controlled by shareholders or communities and that are dedicated to extracting gains irregardless of costs that others may be forced to bear.

I also think a significant problem is groupthink – all around – as I’ve discussed w John Quiggin.

Here are a few places you can look to get a better handle on my thinking

The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government

Judith Curry, climate scientist who is controversial because she talks with ‘skeptics’, wonders about “Libertarianism and the environment” (look for my comments in her linked post)

My posts re: Rob Bradley‘s ‘Master Resource’ (interchanges w John Quiggin) (is climate a religion, and whose?)

Probably another two related points worth making are that (i) our governments today richly deserve the mistrust that makes collective action impossible, and (ii) those interests which benefit by the most from the status quo are quite busy with the cynical game of sowing such mistrust and confusion (of course the “warmers” doo this too).

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BBC's naive 'Meet the Climate Sceptics' ignores that our governments today richly deserve the mistrust that makes collective action impossible

February 6th, 2011 No comments

In the not-unsympathetic hour-long presentation that BBC broadcast on January 31 (after surviving a legal challenge), climate ‘skeptic’ Christopher Monckton (the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) says something about climate science that I can agree with and that is important:

The central question is this: it’s not whether CO2 or other greenhouse gases can cause warming, because we’ve known for 200 years that they can.

It’s not whether we are causing the CO2 in the atmosphere to rise, because we are.

The only question that really matters is, given the rate that we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere, is how much warming that will cause, if it continues.

In other words, Monckton is correct that the core climate science issue is about what is known as “climate sensitivity”; that is, how much warming is going to be triggered by the rapid ramping up in atmospheric CO2 as we use fossil fuels.

Climate science skeptics like MIT’s Richard Lindzen and company adviser Pat Michaels agree and suggest that climate sensivity will be low (though in this film Lindzen rather jaw-droppingly suggests that “I can live with 5 degrees; you can live with a degrees” Fahrenheit increase in avergage global temperatures!).

The producer, Rupert Murray, suggests that the skeptics wrongly overstate their case and underplay the risks. Murray leaves unstated his premise (and that of the climate scientists he includes) that, if one accepts more conventional views of climate science, then one must also agree that government-imposed restrictions on personal freedom are necessary in order to moderate the threats posed by our use of fossil fuels.

Interestingly and sadly, rather than examining whether there may be common ground in policies that reduce climate risks, Monckton and other prominent skeptics like Lindzen and Michaels (and British commentator James Delingpole), all also appear to make the same assumption that the only possible policy responses are those that reduce personal freedom. Thus, rather than a focus on the content and merits of policy alternatives, we have a rather frantic search to find reasons to dismiss climate risks, and to question the motives and sanity of those who are concerned about them – all, of course, while ignoring the question of what economic interests benefit from the status quo. This behavior is, of course, also mirrored by many of the “warmers”; both sides have their own “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalitions lined up.

Not surprising when so much is at stake, and all are fighting over the use of government. Thoughtful people among the skeptics will acknowledge that the climate is a shared commons that can only be managed via collective action; thoughtful people among the “warmers” likewise should recognize that government itself is a commons that continues to be mismanaged for the benefit of elites and the expense of most citizens (witness our financial crisis and the BP disaster).

As Nobel Prize-winner Elinor Ostrom coninues to point out, trust is a sine qua non for effective management of common resources. Unfortunately, however, that trust is precisely what we are missing the most – and for good reason, as our politicians, bureaucrats and leading corporations have proven themselves unworthy of it.

It should not go unnoticed, however, that a policy to destroy public trust and foster our love of partisan acrimony is one that would be very effective in protecting the interests of those who benefit from the status quo. Creaming the commons while socializing risks is an inherent aspect of corporate business models (starting with the state grant of limited liability to shareholders).

Here’s a link to the video; my apologies that I couldn’t figure out how to embed it here:

[Update: It seems that he BBC has forced the removal of all non-BBC postings of the program, and only viewable via servers located in the UK. As skeptic Anthony Watts puts it: “the BBC does not allow people outside of Britain to watch the video; some sort of cranial-rectal problem I’m told, a proxy server in the UK is needed to view it if you live elsewhere”. Here is James Delingpole’s take on the the program – prior to actually seeing it: And here is one take by a relatively perceptive viewer:]

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How should libertarians react to the similarities between statist IP and the statist "climate agenda"?

November 7th, 2010 No comments

I wish to make note of a brief comment thread in the blog comments to  Stephan Kinsella‘s October 22 Mises Daily post, Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics:

TokyoTom October 26, 2010 at 1:47 am/span>

“Basically, IP protection schemes favour the large and well resourced over the man of modest means.”

Well said, Sione, and welcome back.

Large industrial firms now use patent IP as a way to erect barriers to entry; while media enterprises use copyright to loot. Meanwhile, the state is happy for help in controlling informal markets.


Sione October 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm


Yes indeed. Now extend your line of enquiry some.

Basically, global-warming schemes favour the large and well resourced over the man of modest means. Large well-connected firms now use environmental regulations as a way to erect barriers to entry; while academia uses the politics of “scientific consensus” to loot. Meanwhile, the state is happy for the helpful justifications in controlling all.

Not a great difference from the IP situation really.

Did you realise?

TokyoTom November 7, 2010 at 1:55 am

Sione, thanks for your comments; sorry to be so late in responding.

Did I realize?

– that “Large well-connected firms now use environmental regulations as a way to erect barriers to entry”? Sure, it’s been one of my continuing refrains. If we removed environmental barriers to entry+permits, public utility monopolies, limited liability of corporate shareholders, and the role of governments as owners of resources, no doubt we’d see dramatic changes in fossil fuel consumption+technology.

– that “the state is happy for the helpful justifications in controlling all”? Sure, it’s a concern that I have always shared

– that “academia uses the politics of “scientific consensus” to loot”? Academia doesn’t loot so much as it takes advantage of opportunities. Moreover, most researchers believe sincerely that we face a real serious problem; this belief is widely shared in the insurance industries and even in the oil+gas cos. No doubt they and others like Bill Gates would step in to provide funding were governments to stop doing so.


By the way, did you realize that there are principled, libertarian approaches that would address climate change risks and concerns?

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Not that it matters to libertarians, but the conservative National Post says "Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause"

August 18th, 2010 No comments

Last month the conservative Canadian National Post ran a surprising editorial. It certainly caught me by surprise, and I thought I would share it with you.

It is somewhat reminiscent of Jim Manzi’s shocking takedown of climate “wingnuttery” by Mark Levin at NRO last April.

I quote liberally (emphasis added):

Bad science: Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause

  July 15, 2010

Have you heard about the “growing number” of eminent scientists who reject the theory that man-made greenhouse gases are increasing the earth’s temperature? It’s one of those factoids that, for years, has been casually dropped into the opening paragraphs of conservative manifestos against climate-change treaties and legislation. A web site maintained by the office of a U.S. Senator has for years instructed us that a “growing number of scientists” are becoming climate-change “skeptics.” This year, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation gave a speech praising the “growing number of distinguished scientists [who are] challenging the conventional wisdom with alternative theories and peer reviewed research.” In this newspaper, a columnist recently described the “growing skepticism about the theory of man-made climate change.” Surely, the conventional wisdom is on the cusp of being overthrown entirely: Another colleague proclaimed that we are approaching “the church of global warming’s Galileo moment.”

Fine-sounding rhetoric — but all of it nonsense. In a new article published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, a group of scholars from Stanford University, the University of Toronto and elsewhere provide a statistical breakdown of the opinions of the world’s most prominent climate experts. Their conclusion: The group that is skeptical of the evidence of man-made global warming “comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers in the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups … This result closely agrees with expert surveys, indicating that [about] 97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of [man-made global warming].”

How has this tiny 2-3% sliver of fringe opinion been reinvented as a perpetually “growing” share of the scientific community? Most climate-change deniers (or “skeptics,” or whatever term one prefers) tend to inhabit militantly right-wing blogs and other Internet echo chambers populated entirely by other deniers. In these electronic enclaves — where a smattering of citations to legitimate scientific authorities typically is larded up with heaps of add-on commentary from pundits, economists and YouTube jesters who haven’t any formal training in climate sciences — it becomes easy to swallow the fallacy that the whole world, including the respected scientific community, is jumping on the denier bandwagon.

This is a phenomenon that should worry not only environmentalists, but also conservatives themselves: The conviction that global warming is some sort of giant intellectual fraud now has become a leading bullet point within mainstream North American conservatism; and so has come to bathe the whole movement in its increasingly crankish, conspiratorial glow.

Conservatives often pride themselves on their hard-headed approach to public-policy — in contradistinction to liberals, who generally are typecast as fuzzy-headed utopians. Yet when it comes to climate change, many conservatives I know will assign credibility to any stray piece of junk science that lands in their inbox … so long as it happens to support their own desired conclusion. (One conservative columnist I know formed her skeptical views on global warming based on testimonials she heard from novelist Michael Crichton.) The result is farcical: Impressionable conservatives who lack the numeracy skills to perform long division or balance their checkbooks feel entitled to spew elaborate proofs purporting to demonstrate how global warming is in fact caused by sunspots or flatulent farm animals. Or they will go on at great length about how “climategate” has exposed the whole global-warming phenomenon as a charade — despite the fact that a subsequent investigation exculpated research investigators from the charge that they had suppressed temperature data. (In fact, “climategate” was overhyped from the beginning, since the scientific community always had other historical temperature data sets at its disposal — that maintained by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, most notably — entirely independent of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, where the controversy emerged.)

…I personally know several denialists whom I generally consider to be intelligent and thoughtful. But the most militant denialists do share with conspiracists many of the same habits of mind. Oxford University scholar Steve Clarke and Brian Keeley of Washington University have defined conspiracy theories as those worldviews that trace important events to a secretive, nefarious cabal; and whose proponents consistently respond to contrary facts not by modifying their hypothesis, but instead by insisting on the existence of ever-wider circles of high-level conspirators controlling most or all parts of society. This describes, more or less, how radicalized warming deniers treat the subject of their obsession: They see global warming as a Luddite plot hatched by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Al Gore to destroy industrial society. And whenever some politician, celebrity or international organization expresses support for the all-but-unanimous view of the world’s scientific community, they inevitably will respond with a variation of “Ah, so they’ve gotten to them, too.”

In support of this paranoid approach, the denialists typically will rely on stray bits of discordant information — an incorrect reference in a UN report, a suspicious-seeming “climategate” email, some hypocrisy or other from a bien-pensant NGO type — to argue that the whole theory is an intellectual house of cards. In these cases, one can’t help but be reminded of the folks who point out the fluttering American flag in the moon-landing photos, or the “umbrella man” from the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination.

In part, blame for all this lies with the Internet, whose blog-from-the-hip ethos has convinced legions of pundits that their view on highly technical matters counts as much as peer-reviewed scientific literature. But there is something deeper at play, too — a basic psychological instinct that public-policy scholars refer to as the “cultural cognition thesis,” described in a recently published academic paper as the observed principle that “individuals tend to form perceptions of risk that reflect and reinforce one or another idealized vision of how society should be organized … Thus, generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings.”

In simpler words, too many of us treat science as subjective — something we customize to reduce cognitive dissonance between what we think and how we live.

In the case of global warming, this dissonance is especially traumatic for many conservatives, because they have based their whole worldview on the idea that unfettered capitalism — and the asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture it has spawned — is synonymous with both personal fulfillment and human advancement. The global-warming hypothesis challenges that fundamental dogma, perhaps fatally.

The appropriate intellectual response to that challenge — finding a way to balance human consumption with responsible environmental stewardship — is complicated and difficult. It will require developing new technologies, balancing carbon-abatement programs against other (more cost-effective) life-saving projects such as disease-prevention, and — yes — possibly increasing the economic cost of carbon-fuel usage through some form of direct or indirect taxation. It is one of the most important debates of our time. Yet many conservatives have made themselves irrelevant in it by simply cupping their hands over their ears and screaming out imprecations against Al Gore.

Rants and slogans may help conservatives deal with the emotional problem of cognitive dissonance. But they aren’t the building blocks of a serious ideological movement. And the impulse toward denialism must be fought if conservatism is to prosper in a century when environmental issues will assume an ever greater profile on this increasingly hot, parched, crowded planet. Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined — and discredited — by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists.

Most of the article was cross-posted at David Frum’s FrumForm, which is his vehicle for rebuilding the GOP

Anyone familiar with my presence at LvMI will be aware that I have encountered much the same phenomenon that Jonathan Kay referes to, and have been saying much the same thing in response.

But I’ve also gone to the trouble of fleshing out libertarian approaches to the climate challenge:

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