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

February 13th, 2010 No comments

“Whhhaaat the heck is TT up NOW?” I can hear some of you asking yourselves. Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, the movie Avatar and climate?

Just what elusive illusions am I alluding to here? (Stop playing, you say.) Well, brace yourself, and bear with me.

Roger Pielke, Jr. has a post up regarding a interesting recent piece by Bill Gates on how to address climate issues (I will address Gates’ piece separately). The comment section at Roger’s predictably fell into into the usual patterns of questioning climate science, and a mutual questioning of motives and rationality. I just happened to run into it, and was moved to try to post a few thoughts there.

Libertarians ought to understand why suspicions run rampant on climate issues – even as they can’t seem to get past it (despite my annoying, incessant and level-headed ravings). But many others are so wrapped up in Climate KombatTM that they never think to even to question WHY – why all of the hostility, why all of the circling of wagons, and why the lack of interest in examining root problems and possible win-win approaches?

Well, that’s what my “Avatar” reference is intended to shorthand (pardon an archaic expression; maybe I shouldn’t telegraph my antiquity like this!): that movie was all about thefttheft that we can see all around us even today as I have noted in a number of posts (even as we may be blind to those that advantage us) –  group advantage, and communal responses to threats. Communal responses involve perceiving threats and banding together with brothers to defend all that is good, sacred, holy and OURS. This, I posit, is not only instinctive and reflexive, but EXACTLY what the climate discussion is about, on many levels.

It’s just that the disputants have entirely different views on who is trying to steal what from whom, and what or who is the threat, on who is an enemy, who is a brother, what is to be defended, and on strategy and tactics (as well as how to be advance personal interests).

I penned a few thoughts at Roger’s (I note that both Roger and his father. climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr. , are in the thick of the climate wars, their own positions frequently being misunderstood in the fog of war). Being a bit inspired and prolix, the Muses ran a bit long. Roger is pretty good at letting comments through but I thought I post a copy here; perhaps you will be amused.

Here is what I tried to post (cleaned up slightly and with additional links and emphasis), in response to several who said to the effect, “Why should we agree to anything, until it is established to our satisfaction that CO2 reduction is important?“, and to others who questioned the motivations of Roger and others:

Those who do not agree now – with either the AGW thesis/science or the good faith, motives, intelligence or rationality of those who profess concern about a clearly changing climate and about whether man’s activities pose serious threats to human welfare and to things
that we value – still have lots to gain from plenty of win-win policies, policies that
would advance the interests of those who profess to love free markets but that are now just sitting about unused because practically everyone is too busy fighting, vilifying and mistrusting to actually step back from the emotional rush of partisan battle, sit back and to
exchange their armor and weapons for thinking caps (more on
these policies at end of this comment).

political economist Elinor Ostrom reminds us that one sine qua non for solving
any commons problem is TRUST [see my post here].

that lack of that trust – nay, distrust and active hostility – are what
characterize our “discussions” on modern-day politics, and especially
climate change (the “our” in this case being a complex one at many

DISTRUST is the natural product of many factors:

– the
lack of property rights in the atmosphere & of any legal recourse by
individuals against GHG emitters/albedo changers
, which together mean that –
unlike for other resources that can be bought, sold and husbanded – the
voluntary actions of individuals and firms via market exchanges simply are not
functioning, thus forcing climate concerns – and scientists and this discussion
– into the political realm;

 – in
the US, both parties have grossly MIS-governed and abused the public trust, via
political pandering, grasping for power at all costs (cynically sowing division
and cheapening discourse by selling war, hatred and suspicion, corruptly
selling favors to the highest bidders, and simply managing resources
incompetently). As a result, I think many people rightly feel that the US
government generally DOES NOT DESERVE our trust (this sentiment can be seen not
only in the TeaParty movement, but in calls by the likes of Larry Lessig for a
Constitutional Convention
to fix our corrupt, broken political system);

 – as
has been the case since corporations were created as the faceless profit-making
of wealthy investors whose liability for the damage they do and risks
that they shift to others is limited by statute (, those corporations that have
licenses to pollute under current law and whose climate-risk generating
activities are now FREE and unregulated work hard to protect their favored status
(via behind-the-scenes influence-buying of politicians and
“free-market” pundit/voice-pieces, and deliberate PR
smokescreen/mis-direction campaigns designed to GENERATE mistrust)

likewise, other corporations/investors have been busy working to buy climate
legislation that will help to put money in their pockets
– while those who act
as spokesmen have not been voluntarily taking actions that show they put their
money (and life-style) where their mouth

 – most
of the science has been funded by governments
, which makes it easier for
skeptics to dismiss it – and to ignore all of the sophisticated private
institutions and corporations that now strongly agree with the
(viz., notably virtually all oil & gas majors and
virtually all insurers);

 – the
fact that the chief “solutions” proposed by our Western governments
are coercive and ham-handed
, would serve to further drive basic manufacturing
to developing countries
that care even less than we do about respecting
human/property rights, would give further give domestic industry rights to
behave in ways that are seen as harmful, would provide benefits to a host of
favorite insiders while shifting costs to middle and lower income classes
, is being agreed behind closed doors (and written up
drafted by lobbyists in mind-mumbingly long and opaque legislation) and our leaders lack the moral and political courage to be straight-forward and transparent about the need and purposes of the legislative/regulatory actions;

Mistrust is not only NATURAL, it’s something that we LOVE to do; there is an
undeniable human penchant for viewing issues in a tribal, “us against
them” manner, which reflects a natural cognitive conservatism that means
we subconsciously ignore information that contradicts our pre-existing mental
map of reality, and to a strong tendency to reflexively support our tribal
brothers and “comrades” and to defend our pre-existing views against
what we tend to see as “attacks” by “enemies”;

– this
leads to group-think, black & white views, hostility, self-justification and to strawmen that
ignores the real issues
: you know, “they have a religion”, we are
right and act in good faith, they are stupid, irrational, are evil and want to
destroy all we hold dear, versus capitalism is evil, those against cap and trade are
all pawns, of Big Oil and a host of other mantras regarding “truths” that respective group-thinks requires its members to hold as “self-evident”;

– while our moral senses are essential for managing our in-group interactions, unfortunately that lends itself both to moral outrage and to intolerance of the moral preachings and inconsistencies of others;

 – the
“climate” is enormously complex, will never be fully understood or
predictable,  the changes that we
are  forcing in it cannot be simply and
convincing demonstrated or understood by anyone
, the system has many
inputs/outputs and displays tremendous variability, has great inertia that is
played out on scales of centuries, 
millennia and eons, and we have NO OTHER EARTHS to run ANY independently
verifiable “TESTS” on … just a number of computer models – again,
funded by governments, and with innards none of us has any real ability to
verify, much less understand;

finally, as climate change is a global issue, it cannot be solved unilaterally
by ANY single individual, group, community, corporation or government/polity;
the “community” that must address it is the community of nations, the leaders and citizens of which all having a welter of differing interests and priorities.

To be flip – Trust
me; it’s natural for you NOT to trust me! Don’t we ALL understand this? (Roger,
I’m pretty sure you – and Joe Romm – know what I mean.)

But the high we get from self-righteousness and group struggle is such an easy
evil, such an addictive self-drug.

it is a clear political tactic by many on the climate issue to treat it as a war, and
to deliberately sow mistrust and misinformation,
with the intention either to
defend turf previously purchased from government or to use government to cram
down preferred solutions. But I repeat myself.

Let me
end by noting that

those who are concerned about climate change risks would do well by
fostering not anger but trust, and by seeking to use hammers only to build

those who are concerned chiefly with the mis-use of government might do well to
re-examine how government has already been misused, and explore whether there
are ways to harness the passionate “delusions” of evil/stoopid
enviro-fascists to actually achieve goals that self-professed market cultists
(I’m one!) ought to desire

 – I
have humbly picked up my own hammer and started an exploratory
“task-force” of one, to look at the ways that corporate interests
have already mis-used government to lot in economic rigidity and market share,
and stand in the way of economic freedom and the massive wave of innovation,
investment and wealth-creation that would surely result if existing blockages
were removed. My
chief thoughts are here, intended initially as a plea to fellow libertarians
(who are deeply distrusting of enviro-facists like me who hope to disguise
their nefarious goals by falsely putting on libertarian clothing):

A few
related thoughts at (libertarians/climate) and  (delusion).


Readers, thanks for your indulgence!


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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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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On climate, another libertarian bravely fights to keep Mises' light under a bushel

January 25th, 2011 No comments

I just left the following closing comment on Jim Fedako‘s December 30 Mises Economics Blog post, “What?!? No one mentioned the cult or kooky parts“:


TokyoTom January 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

You’re done here, Jim? Hardly, as you never even started — in the sense of honest engagement.

Once more, as you flee from engagement, you fail to address ANYTHING I’ve actually said, while continuing your penchant for attacking strawmen of your own making. I “continue to advocate for government interventions”, you say? Oh? Anywhere on this thread? I did offer you the following link to my thinking, but if you had troubled yourself to look, you’d see it’s a libertarian proposal for de-regulation:

You might not like to hear it, but the apparent lack of sincerity in your engagement IS shameful — even if one of a piece of many other libertarian/Misesean thinkers here who forget their thinking caps in favor of falling into partisanship and cognitive traps:

My reference to ‘libertarians’ was to this pantheon, who quite obviously have not really troubled themselves at LvMI pages to engage on climate or natural issues, other than in the most pathetic and shallow way.

A good recipe for libertarian irrelevancy, as I keep pointing out. Am I wrong to hope for better?



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More PR-novice scientists bring BB guns to the war over climate policy; fossil-fuel interests and "skeptics" tremble

May 11th, 2010 No comments

[Update: added a link  to Roger Pielke, Jr. at the end.]

My pal Stephan Kinsella has pestered me about the recent letter in Science by a bunch of the world’s leading scientists, so I suppose I ought to mention it.  (I won’t make another “Climate Confession”, but some of my earlier remarks about the Great Climate Email Kerfluffle may be worth repeating, particularly as various investigations concluded that no scientific dishonesty occurred)

Those who have more than a passing interest in science, the role of science in policy and in climate-related rent-seeking ought to read the letter, signed by 255 members of the the National Academy of Science, including 11 Nobel Prize winners (in hard sciences); I won’t post any extensive quotes here.  I simply note this conclusion:

“Compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.”

The letter is a reaction, chiefly by scientists not active in the IPCC process, to recent harsh attacks on their “climate science” colleagues (including threats of legal action by Sen. Inhofe and initiation of legal action by the Virginia Attorney General), and an effort to support such scientists by expressing a strong concerns about the possible consequences of continued inaction. The letter urges policy action and blames much of the attacks on efforts by rent-seeking fossil fuel interests to protect their advantaged position. The letter itself – as well as the fact Science put it behind a paywall along with a Photo-shopped photo of a polar bear on an ice floe! – showcases the political naivete and amateurishness of the scientific establishment.

Obviously scientists have no particular expertise in making public policy, but it IS striking that so many of them are willing to venture out onto thin ice by raising their voices in alarm.

Readers may find the following background/commentary on the letter to be useful:

1. I repeat some of remarks I made when the email scandal arose (altered somewhat):

  • The Climate Hack is certainly egg on the face of some climate scientists – although this has been spun ridiculously out of context (much criticism is clearly simply wrong, though those who find the whole thing “delicious” have a tough time looking past the sources they prefer to read) – but the implication that the science is nothing but a conspiracy is an obvious fantasy. The political amateurishness of the scientists alone tells us that. (If any readers honestly need help in finding their way through the fog – self-deluded or deliberate – of the “skeptics” here, please let me know.)
  • Austrians/libertarians already knew that much of the climate science is politicized, especially here, not simply because of public funding, but chiefly because all parties – fossil fuel investors seeking to protect a generous status quo, enviros, politicians & bureaucrats, and those seeking greater advantage or more investment climate certainty – are seeking to steer government in particular directions, in ways that may significantly affect all of us. A further factor in such politicization is the simple difficulty that laymen (and scientists) have in wrapping their own heads around the climate science, and for which personal confirmation may take a lifetime. Personal and tribal predilections to hate “environazis”and the like, on the one hand, or to disdain evil capitalists, on the other, has nearly everyone looking reflexively for whatever scrap of science confirms their existing views and/or suits their political preferences.
  • The discord among scientists and attempts at gate-keeping are part and parcel of science – publicly-funded or not – but because of the political importance of climate science, we need greater, not less, transparency. The apparent efforts at gate-keeping (seeking to influence what gets published in peer-reviewed journals and what appears in IPCC reports) is what seems most objectionable, but there has been plenty of disagreement and change in views even in the dominant view; the science is and will always remain unsettled. All dissenters have found ways to make their views known, most of which have been examined and found wanting, and few dissenters have mutually coherent views.What has happened is that scientists who are extremely concerned about climate change have felt that political action is needed, and that dissenting views are dangerous distractions, and have made efforts to limit “distractions”. Such a belief appears to have been well-founded, but acting on it in this way a strategic mistake. Greater openness is required for publicly-funded research, particularly here where there is a strong, established and resistant rent-seeking class that seeks to minimize the science and to distract public discussion. While the efforts of climate scientists to provide data to and to address the arguments of “skeptics” would necessarily entail a distracting amount of attention, it is apparent that they simply need to grin and bear it.
  • Much – though not all – of the “skepticism” is clearly revealed as an extended, deliberate campaign by fossil fuel interests, dressed up in part by scientists who are non-experts in the field they criticize, with support by “conservatives” and “libertarians” who prefer a massive unmanaged meddling with global ecosystems (and defense of a government-entangled, pro-fossil fuel firms status quo) over a likely expansion of government.

2.  Andrew Revkin’s NYT Dot Earth blog piece and an article at the Guardian both provide useful explanation of background and links.

3.  The related editorial by Brooks Hanson (deputy editor for physical sciences) and has some insightful remarks on the perceived urgency of the problem and how scientists can better interact with the public and policy makers.

4.  Nature, the highly respected British scientific journal, had an interesting (but misguided, I believe) editorial in March that appears to have influenced this letter; here is an excerpt:

Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.

Climate scientists are on the defensive, knocked off balance by a re-energized community of global-warming deniers who, by dominating the media agenda, are sowing doubts about the fundamental science. Most researchers find themselves completely out of their league in this kind of battle because it’s only superficially about the science. The real goal is to stoke the angry fires of talk radio, cable news, the blogosphere and the like, all of which feed off of contrarian story lines and seldom make the time to assess facts and weigh evidence. Civility, honesty, fact and perspective are irrelevant.

5.  While scientists have concerns and policy preferences, clearly they are not politically powerful, even as opposition to climate change policy is very solidly grounded in efforts by sophisticated fossil fuel interests to protect investment returns. Here is a brief introduction to the mis-information campaign.

6. The Royal Society of New Zealand has recently posted a statement regarding man’s impact on climate and ecosytems that is also worth review.

7. Roger Pielke, Jr. has some interesting comments; chiefly, he seems to castigate scientists for their poor PR skills – an approach consistent with his penchant for ongoing criticism of scientists (to the approval of “skeptics”), but hasn’t led any scientists to sign Roger up to be their PR coach.

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A note to Lew Rockwell regarding the reflexive irrelevancy of libertarians on the climate/big government morass

December 20th, 2009 4 comments

Lew Rockwell has a post up on the Mises Economics Blog – “The Left Fell into the Climate Morass” – that has just come to my attention. I`m not from the left, but as a right-leaning, free-market enviro, I offered Lew a few comments, which I copy below:

Lew, I think most of your criticism of the left and of environmentalists is apt, but “libertarians” have only to look in the mirror to see someone to blame for the lack of productive discourse on environmental and regulatory issues, and the reason why libertarians are being marginalized in the confused debate over the legitimate role of the state.

Libertarians in general continue to:

– ignore the opportunities created by widespread concerns about climate change risks to partner with both left and right to seek to undo counterproductive state/federal regulation:

– refuse to follow-up on their own analyses to dig more deeply to see that the roots of the disastrous cycle of regulation (and snowballing fights over the wheel of government) lie in the grant of limited liability to corporate investors, and the resulting externalization of risk and undermining of common law property protections:

– as Ed Dolan suggested, continue to act as the “conservatives” that Hayek despised by refusing to question the legitimacy of the favors provided to statist enterprises under the status quo, and turn a blind eye to the direct role that “libertarians” play in the gamesmanship such enterprises continue (such questions of motives being “ad homs” except when addressed to alarmists, in whch case it is “cui bono”):

– instead of acknowledging the legitimacy of concerns over man`s onslaught on nature and local communities (arising both from a lack of property rights problem and from the hand of kleptocratic governments) prefer a self-comforting irrelevancy, both on climate and on resource issues generally:

– rather than honest engagement, prefer a tribal hatred of misanthropic “watermelons” and a smug love of strawmen and ad-homs:

Time once again for some self-satisfied, but ultimately empty tribal holiday cheer?



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

November 6th, 2009 No comments

I left the following comment on John Quiggin`s “Libertarians and delusion” post (other comments are noted in my preceding posts):


November 6th, 2009 at 14:03 | #34


I “have started to entertain the view that there is either an
actual or perceived conflict between reality and libertarian ideology.”

Thanks for this concession, John, but of course this is true for ANY
ideology (as well for the rest of us more perfect humans who always
have to battle with cognitive conservatism). And yes, it leads to a
combination of tribalism and wishful thinking, and in some cases a
denial of inconvenient science.

Sea Bass says it well: “So what we have is many libertarians, who
are usually not experts on the science of climate change, being asked
to blindly accept scientific conclusions that are often promoted by
people and organisations whose political beliefs are antithetical to
their own.”

Thinking that libertarians are more susceptible to “delusion” than
anyone else is itself a cognitive trap – one that provides comfort to
those who believe that there is a serious cause for concern about
climate change (me too), and that it`s one easily addressed by
government, and leads them to ignore the empirical evidence for the
ways governments screw up (and are manipulated, and to conclude that
those who oppose government action are evil.

I`ve made several references to the empirical case for caution in
thinking that government is going to make things better rather than
worse; the work of Lin Ostrom and the reasons the Nobel Prize committee
gave her the award are a recent one. But as I noted in comments to a
post by Tim Lambert earlier this year on the “economists`s consensus”:

85 “Free market people do not argue that all government allocation
of goods is ineffective. It simply suffers from a high incidence of
moral hazard and inefficiency, and if it does not account for the
market (which it has little incentive to do as it is mostly about
politics) any growth from it will likely be unsustainable.”

Well said, Craig; commonsense examples of moral hazard and inefficiency can be seen in:

* our oversupply and overuse of our “defense”, e.g., Iraq &
Halliburton, Homeland Security, domestic spying, military-industrial
stuff generally;
* our agricultural pork: price supports, ethanol, sugar;
* the government’s provision of “war on drugs” to save us from mad
reefer smokers, etc., resulting in Prohibition-like
crime/corruption/stifled inner city growth, trampled stae and local
rights and troubles in all supplying/conduit countries;
* cheap oil/gas/hardrock mineral/timber/grazing leases;
* an oversupplied but underperforming levee system;
* huge bonuses and huge risks generated at Freddie and Fannie;
* an FDA and Ag Dept that notes bad peanut butter mfg but says nothing,
yet prohibits small dairy and meat producers from advertising
hormone-free milk and mad cow disease-free beef, etc.

Who couldn’t want more of this?

Posted by: TokyoTom | February 17, 2009 6:47 AM

All issues that Tim – and you, too, apparently – just conveniently
don`t seem to see at all, or at least have a tough time finding the
time or space to address, preferring to delve into arcania about
various libertarian cults. But of course now there are lots of
environmentalists, voters, pundits and even scientists like Jim Hansen
who are decrying what looks like an enormous C&T road wreck
emerging as the preferred climate option in Washington.

Just as I am working hard to make sure that libertarians are not
blunting their own message by hiding their heads in the sand on the
science, so do I think that those who (rightly I think) are concerned
about AGW ought to be paying quite a bit more attention to the problems
pointed out by libertarians about the misuse of government by powerful
insiders, the knowledge problem and bureaucratic perversities.

Sadly, there seems to be little interest by most in exploring the
very wide middle ground of undoing the screwed up policies that have
helped to generate the frustrations that many feel today and the
engender what has become a snowballing fight over the wheel of

Why can`t we have a little more exploration of root causes and
common ground? Must it remain a no-man`s land, while partisans battle,
and corporate interests scheme?


The Road Not Taken IV: My other hysterical comments on climate science & how Austrians hamstring themselves

November 2nd, 2009 2 comments

In my initial post, on how Austrians strive for a self-comforting irrelevancy on climate change, I copied my chief comment to Stephan Kinsella.

I copy below my other posts and some of the remarks I was responding to on Stephan`s thread, including the one that I was unable to post – for some reason I am trying to figure out (but that Stephan tells me was not a result of moderation by him; I note my full apology, as stated in my update to my preceding post):

  • TokyoTom

    fundamentalist: “I love the responses from the GW hysteria crowd.
    They have nothing to offer but ad hominem attacks and appeals to

    Am I excluded from the “hysteria” crowd, Roger? Because if I`m in,
    you seem to have entirely missed my post, and my point, as to the
    consistency of your arguments with Austrian principles and the
    effectiveness of approaches like yours in dealing with the rest of the
    world – including all of the deluded and others who are engaged in bad

    Published: October 30, 2009 9:44 AM

  • Stephan Kinsella
    [Note: this is the comment to which I responded with the remarks copied on my preceding post]

    “Tokyo” asked me to respond to his post but it’s so rambling I am
    not sure what to respond to. To me this is very simple. I think we are
    in an interglacial period. It’s going to start getting cooler
    eventually, unless by then we have enough technology and freedom (no
    offense, Tokyo) to stop it. If there is global warming maybe it can
    delay the coming ice age by a few centuries.

    If there were really global warming why not just use “nuclear
    winter” to cool things down? You don’t see the envirotards advocating that! 🙂 (see Greenpeace to advocate nuking the earth?)

    In any event as I see it there are several issues. Is it warming?
    Can we know it? Do we know it? Are we causing it? Can we stop it?
    Should we stop it?

    It seem to me we do not know that it’s warming; if it is, it’s
    probably not caused by Man; and if it is, there’s probably nothing we
    can do to stop it except effectively destroy mankind; there’s no reason
    to stop it since it won’t even be all bad, and in fact would be overall
    good. I do not trust the envirotards, who hate industrialism and love
    the state, and seek anything to stop capitalism and to give the state
    an excuse to increase regulations and taxes; why anyone thinks these
    watermelons really know what the temperature will be in 10, 100, 1000
    years, when we can’t even get accurate weather forecasts a week out, is
    beyond me.

    That said, I’ll take the watermelons seriously when they start
    advocating nuclear power. Until then, they reveal themselves to be
    anti-industry, anti-man, techo-illiterates. (See Green nukes; Nuclear spring?.)

    Published: October 30, 2009 10:03 AM

  • TokyoTom

    [my prior version ran off without my permission; this is a re-draft]

    It seems like I can lead a horse to water, but I can`t make him think,

    We all have our own maps of reality and our own calculus as to what
    government policies are desirable and when, but as for me, the status
    quo needs changing, and the desire of a wide range of people – be they
    deluded, evil, conniving or whatnot – to do something on the climate
    front seems like a great opportunity to get freedom-enhancing measures
    on the table and to achieve some of MY preferences, chiefly because
    they help to advance the professed green agenda. [To clarify, I didn`t mean that I want to advance “the green agenda”, but that the pro-freedom policy suggestions I have raised should be attainable because greens and others might see that they also serve THEIR agendas.]

    I see no reason to sit at home or simply scoff or fling poo from the
    sidelines, and let what I see as a bad situation get worse. There`s
    very little in that for practically anyone here – except of course
    those who like coal pollution, public utilities, corporate income
    taxes, big ag corporate welfare, political fights over government-owned
    resources, energy subsidies and over-regulation, etc. (and those folks
    aren`t sitting at home, believe me).

    I can keep on questioning everyone`s sanity or bona fides, or I can
    argue strongly for BETTER policies, that advance shared aims.

    Does Austrian thinking simply lack a practical political arm, other
    than those few who have signed up to support special interests?

    Ramblin` Tom

    Published: October 30, 2009 11:51 AM

  • TokyoTom

    Stephan, if I may, I am appalled and offended by your shallow and
    fundamentally dishonest engagement here. That there are a string of
    others who have preceded you in this regard is no excuse.

    You: (i) post without significant comment a one-page letter from a
    scientist – as if the letter itself is vindication, victory or a
    roadmap for how we should seek to engage the views and preferences of

    (ii) refuse to answer my straightforward questions (both above and
    at my cross-linked post, which you visited) on how we engage others in
    the very active ongoing political debate, in a manner that actually
    defends and advances our policy agenda, and (putting aside the
    insulting and disingenuous “Tokyo asked me to respond” and “it’s so
    rambling I am not sure what to respond to”); and

    (iii) then proceed to present your own view of the science, the
    motives and sanity “watermelons” (as if they`re running the show), a
    few helpful, free-market libertarian “solutions”, like open-air
    explosion of nuclear weapons to bring about a “nuclear winter” effect!

    And my attempt to bring your focus back to the question of how we
    actually deal with others in the POLITICAL bargaining that is, after
    all, underway is met with silence – other than your faithful report
    back from your trusty climate physicist expert policy guru friend about
    …. science (all being essentially irrelevant to my question, not
    merely the cute little folksy demonstration about how the troubling
    melting and thinning of Antarctic ice sheets actually now underway
    simply CAN`T be occurring, but also a further failure to address the
    very rapid ocean acidification our CO2 emissions are producing)!

    Maybe it`s me, but I find this type of insincere and shallow
    engagement on such a serious issue to be a shameful discredit to the
    Mises Blog (even if it does cater to those who prefer to think that the
    big to do about climate – which may very well result in a mass of
    ill-considered, costly and counterproductive
    legislation – is really groundless and so can simply be ignored, aside from a bit of internal fulminations here).

    If you are not actually interested in discussing policy on a serious issue, then consider refraining from posting on it.

    Maybe it`s not my position to expect better, but I do.



    Roy Cordato (linked at my name) said this:

    “The starting point for all Austrian welfare economics is the goal
    seeking individual and the ability of actors to formulate and execute
    plans within the context of their goals. … [S]ocial welfare or
    efficiency problems arise because of interpersonal conflict. [C] that
    similarly cannot be resolved by the market process, gives rise to
    catallactic inefficiency by preventing useful information from being
    captured by prices.”

    “Environmental problems are brought to light as striking at the
    heart of the efficiency problem as typically seen by Austrians, that
    is, they generate human conflict and disrupt inter- and intra-personal
    plan formulation and execution.”

    “The focus of the Austrian approach to environmental economics is
    conflict resolution. The purpose of focusing on issues related to
    property rights is to describe the source of the conflict and to
    identify possible ways of resolving it.”

    “If a pollution problem exists then its solution must be found in
    either a clearer definition of property rights to the relevant
    resources or in the stricter enforcement of rights that already exist.
    This has been the approach taken to environmental problems by nearly
    all Austrians who have addressed these kinds of issues (see Mises 1998;
    Rothbard 1982; Lewin 1982; Cordato 1997). This shifts the perspective
    on pollution from one of “market failure” where the free market is seen
    as failing to generate an efficient outcome, to legal failure where the
    market process is prevented from proceeding efficiently because the
    necessary institutional framework, clearly defined and enforced
    property rights, is not in place.”

    Published: October 31, 2009 1:00 PM

  • TokyoTom


    “Did rising temperatures cause an increase in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration”.

    This is a great, basic question; I`d love to answer it (actually, I
    already did, though a bit indirectly), but you see, I`m one of the
    nasty obfuscating members of the socialist hysterical crowd, so I
    really should defer to others here who have better ideological and
    scientific stature here (and who hate ad hominems and love reason),
    such as fundamentalist, or perhaps even our confident lead poster,
    Stephan Kinsella (who has nothing to offer on the question of how
    libertarians should engage with others on the political front), or even
    our humble physicist climate system authority, Dr. Hayden.

    Gentlemen, take it away.

    Published: October 31, 2009 11:31 AM

  • TokyoTom

    I`m sorry I don`t have time now to respond in more detail to those
    who have commented in response to mine, but let me note that not one of
    you has troubled to actually respond to my challenge, which was based
    on Austrian concepts of conflict resolution, understanding of
    rent-seeking embedded in the status quo, and the recognition that the
    present debate on climate, energy and environmental issues presents
    opportunities to actually advance an Austrian agenda.

    In my view, we can either try to improve our lot, by seeking items
    such as those I laid out previously or condemn ourselves to irrelevancy
    by standing by and letting the big boys and the Baptists in their
    coalition hammer out something worse from our Congresscritters.

    For this, the correctness of our own views of climate science
    matters little – nothing, in fact, unless we are willing to DO
    something about it, by engaging with OTHERS who have DIFFERENT views.

    For those who have too much trouble remembering the legal/regulatory changes that I suggested, here they are:

    [pro-freedom regulatory changes might include:

    * accelerating cleaner power investments by eliminating corporate
    income taxes or allowing immediate amortization of capital investment,
    * eliminating antitrust immunity for public utility monopolies (to
    allow consumer choice, peak pricing and “smart metering” that will
    rapidly push efficiency gains),
    * ending Clean Air Act handouts to the worst utilities (or otherwise
    unwinding burdensome regulations and moving to lighter and more
    common-law dependent approaches),
    * ending energy subsidies generally (including federal liability caps for nuclear power (and allowing states to license),
    * speeding economic growth and adaptation in the poorer countries most
    threatened by climate change by rolling back domestic agricultural
    corporate welfare programs (ethanol and sugar), and
    * if there is to be any type of carbon pricing at all, insisting that
    it is a per capita, fully-rebated carbon tax (puts the revenues in the
    hands of those with the best claim to it, eliminates regressive impact
    and price volatility, least new bureaucracy, most transparent, and
    least susceptible to pork).

    Other policy changes could also be put on the table, such as an
    insistence that government resource management be improved by requiring
    that half of all royalties be rebated to citizens (with a slice to the
    administering agency).]

    Many others come to mind.

    Well, what`s it going to be? Relevancy, or a tribal exercise in disengaged and smug self-satisfaction?

    Published: October 31, 2009 12:37 PM

  • TokyoTom

    1. Christopher and mpolzkill:

    Thanks for the favor of your comments.

    I was asking if Austrians never seek to practically engage others on
    questions of policy; the first of you brings up Ron Paul, but one man
    is not a policy, nor are his sole efforts a policy program; the other
    of you suggests succession from the U, which is hardly an effort at
    pragmatic engagement with anybody over a particular issue. (BTW, here
    is Ron Paul`s climate program.)

    I can see some engagement by libertarians on this issue, but such
    seeds either (i) die when they fall on the rocky ground of the Mises
    Blog or (ii) represent work by people paid to criticize one side of the
    debate, and consistently ignore problems with the definitely
    non-libertarian status quo.

    Why libertarians do not see any opportunity here for a positive
    agenda? Do they prefer to be taken as implicit supporters of the
    government interventions that underlie most enviros` complaints?

    2. fundamentalist:

    “I don’t see anyone doing that except the GW hysterical crowd.
    Honest scientists like Hayden try to present evidence and reason so
    that we can have a real debate, and the hysterical crowd flings poo
    from the sidelines.”

    Thanks for your direct comment (even as you lace it and others with
    ad homs), but can`t you see you also are missing my point? Are you NOT
    interested in trying to cut deals that would, say:

    * accelerate cleaner power investments by eliminating corporate
    income taxes or allowing immediate amortization of capital investment,
    * eliminate antitrust immunity for public utility monopolies (to allow
    consumer choice, peak pricing and “smart metering” that will rapidly
    push efficiency gains),
    * end Clean Air Act handouts to the worst utilities (or otherwise
    unwinding burdensome regulations and moving to lighter and more
    common-law dependent approaches),
    * end energy subsidies generally (including federal liability caps for nuclear power (and allowing states to license),
    * speed economic growth and adaptation in the poorer countries most
    threatened by climate change by rolling back domestic agricultural
    corporate welfare programs (ethanol and sugar),
    * insist that government resource management be improved by requiring that half of all royalties be rebated to citizens,
    * end federal subsidies to development on barrier islands, etc. or
    * improve adaptability by deregulating and privatizing roads and other “public” infrastructure?

    Or is it more productive to NOT deal with those whom you hate, and
    stand by while special interests cut deals that widen and deepen the
    federal trough?


    Published: November 1, 2009 2:21 AM

  • TokyoTom

    Allow me to outline here a few responses to the arguments raised by
    Dr. Hayden, even as I do not pretend to be an expert (and, to be
    pedantic, even though they are largely irrelevant to the question of
    whether Austrians wish to take advantage of the opportunity presented
    by the many scientists and others who have differing views, to roll
    back alot of costly, counterproductive and unfair regulation).

    1. Models: Dr. Hayden disingenuously casts aside what modern physics
    tells us about how God plays dice with the universe (via random,
    unpredictible behavior throughout the universe), and the limits of
    human knowledge (including the ability to measure all inputs affecting
    climate, including all of our own), and essentially asks us to wait
    until our knowledge is perfect, and our ability to capture and
    number-crunch all information relevant to the Earth`s climate
    (including changing solar and cosmic ray inputs and ocean behavior)
    before any of us, or our imperfect governments, can take any action on

    Physical and practical impossibility aside, is this how any human or
    any human organization structures its decisions? Narrowly, Dr. Hayden
    is of course right that “the science is not settled”, but so what?

    2. Was there a tipping point 300 million years ago (or whenever it was when CO2 levels reached 8000 ppm) ?
    Dr. Hayden plays with language, suggesting that a “tipping point” means
    something irreversible over hundreds of millions of years, when it`s
    very clear that there have in the past been numerous abrupt changes in
    climate (some taking place in as little as a few years, with a general
    return to prior values sometimes taking very long periods of time) and
    that scientists today are talking about tipping points that may be reached in human lifetimes.
    Will we lose all mountain glaciers? Will the Arctic become ice-free in
    winter? Will thawing release sufficient methane from tundras and seabed
    clathrates to push the climate even more forcibly than CO2? Are we set
    to lose glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, regardless of what we do?
    Will we dry out the Amazon basin, and interrupt the Asian monsoon?
    There is plenty of concern and evidence that these things are real

    3. “Global-warming alarmists tell us that the rising CO2 concentration is (A) anthropogenic and (B) leading to global warming.”

    But you never tell us whether you, too, Dr. Hayden, are an
    “alarmist”. Further down you acknowledge that “Nobody doubts that CO2
    has some greenhouse effect” admitting (B) (though not that it may be
    the chief factor), but as far as (A) goes, you only acknowledge that
    “CO2 concentration is increasing”. Care to make yourself an alarmist by
    admitting what cannot be denied – that man is responsible for rising
    CO2 concentrations? Or you prefer play with laymen`s ignorance by
    irresponsibly suggesting that rising CO2 is now due to warming oceans
    and not man`s activities?

    – “CO2 concentration has risen and fallen in the past with no help from mankind.”

    Yes, but what relevance is this now, when man is undeniably not simply “helping” but clearly responsible?

    – “The present rise began in the 1700s, long before humans could have made a meaningful contribution.”

    So? Does the fact that CO2 fluctuates naturally do to things other
    than man`s activities mean humans` massive releases of CO2 have NOT
    made a “meaningful contribution”? It`s very clear that the Industrial Revolution caused a dramatic rise in CO2. Surely you don`t disagree?

    – “Alarmists have failed to ask, let alone answer, what the CO2
    level would be today if we had never burned any fuels. They simply
    assume that it would be the “pre-industrial” value.”

    “Alarmists” of course is simply an unhelpful ad hom; and as for the rest, concerned scientists and laymen clearly note how CO2 has fluctuated prior to the Industrial Revolution.

    There undoubtedly many clueless laymen, just as there are some
    clueless scientists, so your sweeping statement may be narrowly

    But in the big picture, it is clear that man has had a drastic
    impact on CO2 levels – so what, precisely, is your point, except to
    confuse the issue?

    – “The solubility of CO2 in water decreases as water warms, and
    increases as water cools. The warming of the earth since the Little Ice
    Age has thus caused the oceans to emit CO2 into the atmosphere.”

    Sure, but this doesn`t mean man hasn`t been the dominant contributor to atmospheric CO2.

    Further, of course, warming oceans CEASED to release CO2 at the
    point that atmospheric CO2 started to make the oceans more acidic.

    – “The historical record shows that climate changes precede CO2
    changes. How, then, can one conclude that CO2 is responsible for the
    current warming?”

    The lag in the historical record BEFORE man simply shows that CO2,
    which has an acknowledged warming effect, was a warming reinforcer and
    not an initiator. This does NOT, of course, suggest that massive CO2
    releases by man magically have NO effect.

    4. Assuming that we ARE changing climate, is that a bad thing?

    – “A warmer world is a better world.” Maybe, but are there NO costs,
    losses or damages in moving to one? And do those people and communities
    who bear these costs or kinda like things as they are have any choice,
    much less defendable property rights?

    – “The higher the CO2 levels, the more vibrant is the biosphere, as
    numerous experiments in greenhouses have shown. … Those huge
    dinosaurs could not exist anywhere on the earth today because the land
    is not productive enough. CO2 is plant food, pure and simple.”

    I see; this is not a question of fossil fuel interests homesteading
    the sky (or being given license by govt) and so being entitled to shift
    risks and costs on us, but them beneficiently bestowing gifts on
    mankind – or dinosaurs, as Dr. Hayden may prefer! Wonderful gifts that
    cannot be returned for centuries or millenia! Yippee!

    [This is only scratching the surface of the letter, but I`m afraid I need to run for now.]

    Published: November 1, 2009 4:51 AM

  • TokyoTom [Note: my original post contained some bolding that went haywire and bolded most of the post; I`ve fixed that.]

    Okay, here`s a few more unconsidered thoughts to show how hysterical
    I am, am hooked on religion, hate mankind, [want to] return us to the Middle Ages
    and otherwise take over the world:

    – “Look at weather-related death rates in winter and in summer, and the case is overwhelming that warmer is better.”

    Sure, for If only it were so simple. The increase in AVERAGE global
    temps that we`ve experienced so far has meant little warming of the
    oceans (a vast thermal sink), and has shown up at higher latitudes,
    where we have seen a very marked warming and ongoing thawing, a shift
    of tropic zones away from the equator, disruption of rainfall patterns
    and stress on tropical ecosystems; all of this is considered to be just
    the beginning of a wide range of climate effects that have not yet been
    fully manifested for GHG and albedo changes so far,. much less to
    further increases in GHGs.

    – “CO2 is plant food, pure and simple.”

    It IS a “pure and simple” plant food, but your rhetoric implies much
    more – essentially that CO2 is NOTHING BUT plant food, and large
    releases of it have no effect on climate. And this, as you well know,
    is NOT a “pure and simple” matter.

    – “CO2 is not pollution by any reasonable definition.”

    You mean not by your reasonable definition, or under
    historical standards. But what IS “pollution”, but a social construct
    to describe the outputs of human activity that some of us have found to
    be damaging to our persons, property or other things that we value?
    Were CFCs released by refrigeration equipment “pollution” before we
    discovered that they damage the ozone layer?

    Scientists may be qualified to measure particular outputs and their
    consequences, but otherwise have no special insights into what others

    – “A warmer world begets more precipitation.”

    Sure, as warmer air generally holds more water – which in turn has a
    warming effect, let`s not forget. But as for the water itself, climate
    change leads to more severe rain events in some places but to droughts
    in others. And let`s not forget that a warmer world means that mountain
    snows don`t last until spring and summer as they once did, leaving
    streams and forests drier, and adversely affecting agriculture that
    relies on such water.

    – “All computer models predict a smaller temperature gradient
    between the poles and the equator. Necessarily, this would mean fewer
    and less violent storms.”

    Not so fast; this doesn`t hold for rain events or tornadoes.
    Further, independent paths of research indicate that while the North
    Atlantic may end up with fewer hurricanes, warming is likely to make them more intense.

    – How, pray, will a putative few degrees of warming melt all the ice
    and inundate Florida, as is claimed by the warming alarmists?

    First, note again the Dr.`s use of a strawman; no one is expect an
    imminent melt of “ALL” the ice. But significant melting and thinning of
    coastal ice IS occurring, and not merely on the West Antactic
    peninsula, which the good Dr. would realize if he`d trouble himself to
    compare his simple mental model, of reality with FACTS. As previously
    noted, coast ice sheets are plugs that slow the flow of glaciers from
    the interior. As these plugs are removed, the glaciers flow more
    quickly, via that exotic phenomenon we call “gravity”. I`ve already
    addressed this above, with links.

    – “If the waters around it warm up, they create more precipitation.”

    Yes, but does the new precipitation balance the ice being melted?
    Actual, detailed observations tell us that, despite your absolute
    certainty, that we are seeing increasing net mass losses far inland,
    not merely in Greenland but also in Antarctica. Your religious-like
    faith in your own superior understanding doesn`t make the facts go away.

    – “The ocean’s pH is not rising. It is falling, ever so slightly.
    Obviously your respondent has not the faintest clue as to how pH is
    defined. (BTW, the oceans are basic, not acidic.)”

    Yes, the good Dr. catches my mistake – pH is falling rather
    remarkably (from basic towards acidic) – but he too hastily skates past
    the main point, which is that this is due to increased atmospheric
    levels of CO2, which prove that the oceans are NOT actually releasing
    CO2 (or they`d be becoming more basic).

    I provided links in this last year here:

    Here`s more:

    From the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK) :

    “Until recently, it was believed that the oceans contained so much
    disolved carbonate and bicarbonate ions that any extra would have
    little effect. In fact this absorbtion was generally acknowledged a
    valuable process in protecting the planet from the worst effects of
    rising temperatures and climate change. However, in 2003 a paper was
    published in Nature (vol 425) which suggested that the increases in
    atmospheric CO2, occurring over the last 200 years, has actually
    increased the acidity of the oceans by 0.1 of a pH unit.The pH scale is logarithmic and this change represents a 30% increase in the concentration of H+ ions.

    “However, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have been
    higher during previous times in Earths history and these high CO2
    periods didn’t cause ocean pH to change. The difference now is that the
    rate at which CO2 concentrations are increasing, is 100 times greater
    than the natural fluctuations seen over recent millennia. Consequently,
    the processes that ultimately balance the carbon cycle are unable to
    react quickly enough and ocean pH is affected. About half of all
    released CO2 is absorbed by the oceans but even if we stop all
    emmissions today, the CO2 already in the atmosphere has been predicted
    to decrease ocean pH by a further 0.5 unit.”


    “Dissolving CO2 in seawater also increases the hydrogen ion (H+)
    concentration in the ocean, and thus decreases ocean pH. Caldeira and
    Wickett (2003)[1] placed the rate and magnitude of modern ocean
    acidification changes in the context of probable historical changes
    during the last 300 million years.

    Since the industrial revolution began, it is estimated that
    surface ocean pH has dropped by slightly less than 0.1 units (on the
    logarithmic scale of pH; approximately a 25% increase in H+), and it is
    estimated that it will drop by a further 0.3 to 0.5 units by 2100 as
    the oceans absorb more anthropogenic CO2.[1][2][9] These changes are
    predicted to continue rapidly as the oceans take up more anthropogenic
    CO2 from the atmosphere, the degree of change to ocean chemistry, for
    example ocean pH, will depend on the mitigation and emissions pathways
    society takes.[10] Note that, although the ocean is acidifying, its pH
    is still greater than 7 (that of neutral water), so the ocean could
    also be described as becoming less basic.”

    “The term global warming has given way to the term climate
    change, because the former is not supported by the data. The latter
    term, climate change, admits of all kinds of illogical attributions. If
    it warms up, that’s climate change. If it cools down, ditto. Any change
    whatsoever can be said by alarmists to be proof of climate change.”

    Wonderful observation, except for the fact that IT`S WRONG; the
    change instead being deliberately led by Republicans; leading
    Republican pollster/ spinmeister Frank Luntz in 2002 pushed Republicans
    to move the public discussion away from “global warming” to “climate
    change”, because, as Luntz wrote,

    “’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

    Of course there IS the inconvenient fact that “climate change” is
    actually more accurate than simple “global warming”, but who cares
    about accuracy anyway, right Dr.?

    – “the earth has handily survived many millions of years when CO2
    levels were MUCH higher than at present, without passing the dreaded
    tipping point.”

    I already addressed above the point that while the Dr. seems to
    what to recreate the Cretaceous, the better for dinosaurs, most of us
    seem rather to like the Earth that we actually inherited and that the
    rest of current Creation is adapted for. He is obviously a physicist
    and not a biologist, and doesn`t seem to give any thought to the
    rapidity of the scale at which we are conducting our little
    terraforming experiment, and te challenges the pace of those changes
    are posing to ecosystems.

    – “To put it fairly but bluntly, the global-warming alarmists
    have relied on a pathetic version of science in which computer models
    take precedence over data, and numerical averages of computer outputs
    are believed to be able to predict the future climate. It would be a
    travesty if the EPA were to countenance such nonsense.”

    To put it bluntly, this is largely rubbish; there is a tremendous
    and growing amount of climate change DATA. You just make it your habit
    not to let facts get in the way of your own opinions. I would be a
    travesty if we continue to countenance posts such as yours, questions
    of relevance to Austrian purposes aside.

    – “I don’t do politics”

    Fine; I can see why that would not be your forte. But what`s very
    puzzling is that you seem to think that climate science IS your forte,
    when all you`ve show is a shocking level of arrogant ignorance.

    – “I don’t pretend to be an economic theorist.”

    And on a blog dedicated to Austrian economists, just why, one
    wonders, do the “giants” in our Mises world keep filling the Blog pages
    with post such as this, which are, on their very face, IRRELEVANT, to
    the question of how Austrians wish to address the preferences of other,
    the misuses of government and the management of unowned common

    – “he only difference between the Republicans and the Democrats
    is, in practical terms, their rhetoric. I don’t pretend to be an
    economic theorist.

    – “But the notion that we can run an industrialized giant on
    chicken manure and sunbeams doesn’t even pass the giggle test. Except
    in Washington.”

    At long last, you say something something intelligible. Except
    Washington spends trillions on nonsense at the drop of a hat, if you
    haven`t noticed recent events.

    Published: November 1, 2009 10:02 AM

  • TokyoTom

    Sorry if I`ve been a bit intemperate; that I`m rushed doesn`t excuse it.

    Dr. Hayden, you are entirely welcome to your own opinion and your
    own mental map of reality, but not to your own facts. As to your
    opinion and mental map, they are by your own admittance uninformed as
    to matters of economics and political science, but I must confess that
    I find your understanding of climate science to be seriously wanting.

    Given these, I fail to see what you offer here, other than a
    convenient, if very thin, cover for others here who don`t want to
    think, or to fight to make the world (or our own government) better.



    Published: November 1, 2009 10:11 AM

  • TokyoTom

    Bala, I appreciate your polite persistence; I`m sorry I haven`t responded yet, but I`ll get to you.

    Please note that my time is both limited and my own (though indeed
    others have claims on it), and I have no obligation to spend any of it
    responding to your importunings regarding climate science, which are
    now shading into impertinence.

    Feel free to draw whatever conclusions you wish, but a fair reader might note that:

    – my priorities may (unsurprisingly) differ from yours,
    – my chief points (and Austrian principles as to how to engage with others) have nothing to do with climate science per se,
    – I explicitly make no pretense of being a scientist or climate expert, and
    – in any case, there is no simple course to understanding reality; we
    are all forced to make decisions as to how much energy to devote to
    puzzling things out on our own (and overcoming what we know of our own
    subconscious cognitive filters) versus outsourcing this effort to
    others (by accepting things without deliberation, “on faith” as it

    Others who have been around longer will know that I`ve also devoted
    what they might consider an unreasonable amount of my time over the
    past few years, “hysterical” trying to help others work through climate
    science (and policy) issues.


    Published: November 1, 2009 8:46 PM

  • TokyoTom


    – “Tom, believing you live in a Republic with 300,000,000 people is a delusion which heads off all actual pragmatism.”

    This is not a delusion I have, but in any case it`s not at all clear
    that this or any other delusion “heads off all actual pragmatism”.

    – “Until there is actual representation, everything said by we
    proles is literally hot air (unless it’s happens to coincide with
    whatever benefits the regime).”

    I use “our government” simply as shorthand for what you call “the
    regime”, but perhaps may be more accurately described as a multicentric

    In any case, the painstaking efforts of LVMI to grow the Mises
    website, and the welcome reception of and contribution to those efforts
    by everyone here – yourself included – belies both your near-nihilistic
    cynicism and your conclusion, as to virtually every topic discussed
    here. Words are deeds, though they be more or less frivolous, weighty,
    insightful or consequential.

    If the other Mises bloggers agreed with you as to the possible
    efficacy of their words, either generally or on this particular topic,
    they simply wouldn`t bother to post.

    However, I share your concern about efficiacy, which is why I
    criticize posts such these (whether by Stephan, George Reisman, Sean
    Corrigan, Walter Block, or Jeffrey Tucker), which are, by and large,
    more of a circle jerk than an effort to engage.

    – “thank you for being respectful”

    My pleasure, but you hardly need to thank me; this is a community, after all.

    – “even though you mistakenly think I’m a nut.

    In this case, it is you who are mistaken (not that you ARE a nut, but that you think I think you are).


    Published: November 1, 2009 9:35 PM


This is last version of the comment that I tried to post several times:

method fan:

[my first attempt apparently failed to post, so apologies if this shows up twice]

– “You are insofar wrong, that not only this “data” is analysed but it is also used to “predict” the future of reality by using it in simulations!”

You miss my criticism of Dr. Hayden`s refusal to examine facts about ongoing melting in Antarctica, but of course I do NOT disagree with you that current and paleo data can be used to “predict” the future.

But of course a scientific understanding of the world, and information – in this case, both about the past and current trends of climate inputs – certainly can give us useful information about what the future may hold in store for us.

“There is no sound experimental proof that human activity-emitted carbon dioxide is the cause for some sort of global warming.”

Nicely phrased; there of course plenty of experimental proof that carbon dioxide is an atmospheric warming agent, but no experimental proof that it is “the” cause for any global warming.

While we are now running such a global experiment – one that started centuries ago and will not be played out for centuries hence and is, for all intents and purposes irreversible – and thus cannot, in the Popperian sense, even be considered an “experiment”.

Whether our ramping up of the experiment is prudent or principled are entirely different questions, and properly the subject of much discussion.

– “These guesses remind one of the idea that rain dances are the cause for rain.”

I`m tempted to make a comeback, but surely you realize your flip comparison is entirely inapropos.

Here`s hoping for more sincere discourse.


Confirmation bias, rent-seeking and the rush to print the latest climate science "scoop" (Lindzen-Choi)

September 4th, 2009 1 comment

Since I`m in Tokyo and deprived of Bob Murphy`s enviable access, via talk radio, to cutting-edge climate science, I thank him using his blog to bring it to the attention of his audience (which occasionally includes me). Says Bob (emphasis added):

Chip Knappenberger explains
the significance (and remaining holes to be plugged) in the recent
Lindzen-Choi paper that’s got talk radio in such a tizzy
. The opening
sentence: “MIT climate scientists Richard Lindzen and collaborator
Yong-Sang Choi soon-to-be published paper (Geophysical Research
Letters, American Geophysical Union) pegs the earth’s “climate
sensitivity”—the degree the earth’s temperature responds to various
forces of change—at a value that is about six times less than the “best
estimate” put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Well, well, if talk radio is covering a new article that purportedly downplays climate risks, then others who have invested time in casting doubt

I`ve blogged previously about my various conversations with Chip Knappenberger, who is employed by the self-described “advocacy” group of Pat Michaels, New Hope Environmental Services.

I went to pay a visit to his post at Rob Bradley`s pro-coal, “free market” MasterResource blog, which I have discussed on any number of occasions here – especially after Mr. Bradley unceremoniously withdrew the welcome mat for libertarian critics (yours truly) while in mid-conversation with (and without notice to) several of his guest bloggers.

I reviewed Chip`s precis of the Lindzen-Choi paper and attempted to leave comments at MasterResource, but they were “disappeared” as soon as they were posted, so I forwarded a copy of my comments by email directly to Chip, which I copy below (with minor edits):

Chip, I couldn`t resist trying to comment on your post at MR, and
checking to see if Rob still has his blog set up to automatically
exclude all of my comments. Unfortunately, he still seems to be
convinced that a principled and libertarian approach (or his clients`
needs) requires maintaining his echo chamber by excluding me.

To check the sophistication of his method, I have for the first time
just tried commenting anonymously (I have until stayed away and simply
hoped Rob would change his mind), and to my surprise the comment went
through – though it is “awaiting moderation”. [update: this post has now received immoderate , “echo chamber” moderation]

I thought I would give you a head`s up on my pending comment, which I
do not expect to see published – but who knows?  Strange things
sometimes happen, such as Rob quoting with approval a link to a
comment that I have made:

My comment is below; I will wait until tomorrow before cross-posting
at my own blog.



[comment left at MasterResource]
“It is too early to tell whether Lindzen and Choi’s findings will
prove to be the end-all be-all in this debate.”

But it`s not too early for you, for others who act as paid mouthpieces
for fossil fuel and others who wish to avoid policy action, to trumpet
this as yet unpublished paper all over the intertubes, is it Chip?

By the way, continuing studies on the “sensitivity” of temperatures to
GHG increases should not lead us to ignore either the problem of ocean
acidification from our accelerating CO2 build-up or the very exquisite
sensitivity of the Earth`s climate and ecosystems to the 0.6 C average
temp increase that we have experience over the past 50 years
(remaining stuck at a peak for the past 10).  The Arctic and temperate
zone glaciers continue to rapidly thaw, and other changes affecting
ecosystems and human livelihoods are still underway.

I note I have seen very preliminary remarks by James
, and by

Schmidt here

“a waste of time and effort”

More directly, don`t you mean that such efforts would cost your clients money?

Sure, there are reasonable grounds to dispute practically any use of
government (though I note that Exxon and Margo Thorning of the ACCF
are both expressly advocating carbon taxes), but let`s not pretend to not

that those speaking most loudly in support of our radical, ongoing
planet-wide “experiment” on the affect of GHG emissions and albedo
changes are precisely the investors and firms (and their mouthpieces)
who benefit from the status quo (leaving all of these activities
unpriced), while it`s the world`s populations more generally who end
up with all of the risks.

This climate experiment and those paid to provide it cover are hardly
a “conservative” or “libertarian” enterprise.

I note that Bob Murphy is no climate expert, but simply posting blindly about something that he thinks cuts in the direct he wants; in a similar vein, Knappenberger also evidently is puffing the importance of a scientific article that is hot off the presses, but can`t be troubled to link to any articles providing additional context. (A recent blog post and comments by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit also point out the difficulties in reaching conclusions from the new research.)

I also note, as I have previously, that not only Chip but Bob as well – when he has on his “economist for IER” (which is a coal and public utility front group that was de-funded last year by Exxon) hat – are, at least in part, being compensated to undercut climate change policy.

In this context, we all are prone to note evidence that fits into our existing world view, while discounting contrary information, such “confirmation bias” is readily apparent in the internet and radio coverage of this piece.  While climate change and climate policy are certainly hot topics, it doesn`t seem to me that the so-called “skeptics” are at all taking this new study skeptically, but are instead eagerly lapping it up, assume it is good news, are are loudly trumpeting it. Now who`s fooling whom?  Many “skeptics” look just like the “alarmist” “global warming cult” “believers” whom they abhor.

Unfortunately, while it`s impossible to know what Rob and Chip are actually thinking and why, it`s clear that a dangerous mix of self-deception, confirmation bias and rent-seeking permeates the tribal conflicts that we are seeing in current over the use of government, not the least in the case of climate change, which is a difficult scientific and policy issue.


Duelling climate policy parables: in the face of RealClimate`s "tragedy of the commons", MasterResource`s Emperor has no clothes

May 26th, 2009 No comments

I`ve done a bit of blogging over the past few weeks regarding the “The tragedy of climate commons” post by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt and ensuing discussion at the RealClimate website.  Schmidt wrote the post in response to the implied suggestion by Chip Knappenberger at the MasterResource blog that, since unilateral policy action by the US would by itself be unlikely to significantly affect future climate (given the the rapid growth in CO2 emissions by China, India etc.), the wisest course for the US would be to do nothing.  

Knappenberger has now responded to Schmidt, this time with a parable of his own.  Knappenberger has good points, but he and Schmidt are talking past each other.  Since Rob Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research (BTW, no longer funded by pro-carbon-tax Exxon, all of you Exxon-haters out there) and founder/manager of MasterResource, won`t let me post at his self-proclaimed “free-market energy blog”, I put up a few thoughts at RealClimate, which I copy below (one typo fixed and link added below):


Allow me to stir the pot a bit, as it doesn`t appear that anyone has noticed Chip Knappenberger`s response to Gavin, in tbe form of his own climate parable, using the “Emperor`s new clothes” theme.

Waxman-Markey appears as the new clothes, with Chip apparently taking on the role of the bright and persistent voice of the insufficiently jaded little boy who can`t help but to see the truth, and bravely refuses to be cowed.

Some of the criticisms of W-M seem fair to me – after all, they manifest precisely the reasons that Jim Hansen has taken a strong stance in favor of more transparent and rebated carbon taxes over the pork and bureaucracy that comes with cap and trade.

1. But Chip is still failing to address the main premise of Gavin`s tragedy of the commons fisheries analogy: there is a commons problem that requires coordinated action (a multi-player, repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma), and the only way out requires initial measures at trust-building, with more effective measures to follow when the parties can agree on burden sharing and enforcement.

Thus Chip is simply perpetuating the problem that I have noted here:

“Unfortunately, what passes for discussion on climate change (and other environmental issues) is too often people talking past each other (frequently with all of the hallmarks of a tribal battle): some correctly see a looming commons problem that requires government regulation but ignore the risks of pork, partiality and wasted resources in the policies themselves, while others, not anxious for government to expand its regulatory purview, downplay or dismiss the resource problem and focus on the downsides of government action or the motives of those calling for government action (while ignoring those invested heavily in a status quo that is replete with moral hazard).

Capitalism, the destructive exploitation of the Amazon and the tragedy of the government-owned commons

2. Further, while Chip has good reason to criticize all of the pork that is loaded into the W-M hairshirt – there certain ARE plenty of corporate interests seeking to use climate policy to get sweet deals from government – it`s more than a bit coy of him to paint the critics of W-M as relative innocent truth-tellers, while somehow failing to note all of the sweet deals built into the status quo that fossil fuel firms, utilities, automakers and their investors have long enjoyed. (Not to mention that these interests have hardly been turned away from the W-M and other pork troughs.)

Chip`s convenient oversight might have something to do with the fact that the public advocacy firm he shares with Pat Michaels is funded by coal interests, as Marion Delgado points out in #677, and as I have previously discussed directly with Chip: Pat Michaels – scientist AND paid advocate. Correspondence with Chip Knappenberger.

It doesn`t end there, unfortunately, as Chip is posting on the “MasterResource” blog run by Rob Bradley, who is CEO of the coal-industry-funded Institute for Energy Research. For the sin of pointing out the political-favor-protection game that IER and MasterResource are engaged in, Rob Bradley has exercised his Constitutional right to ban me from the MasterResource blog (mid-conversation with, but without notice to, Chip, as it turns out).

So sure, let`s fight the pork as best we can, Chip, but let`s not ignore the fact since there are NO property rights in the atmosphere or climate, markets are not protecting it, but instead steadily producing an ever-growing tragedy of the commons. Care to acknowledge that, or to offer any suggestions?