Archive for the ‘climate’ Category

Bush – hoist by own petard – prepares global warming initiative

April 14th, 2008 No comments

More at the Washington Times:

And at the Wall Street Journal’s enviro blog:

And, finally, at a press briefing at the White House:

But there are more questions than answers here about Bush’s motives and intentions.  Given Bush’s lame duck staus in the face of a Congress not controlled by Republicans, what is he hoping to achieve?  Is his focus on making some kind of breakthough with China and India, where he probably has the greatest room to act, or is he just trying to fend off the regulatory changes that his own recalcitrance – with the help of environmentalists and courts – have boxed his administration into regarding regulating CO2 under the Clean Air Act and protecting polar bears under the Endangered Species Act?


For convenience, I’ve excerpted the relevant portions of the press briefing (by Dana Perino) below:

Q You said this morning that the story that was in The Washington Times pretty much laid out where the administration was in terms of this global warming thing. It said, basically, that, you know, he was ready getting ready to propose something. So where are we, exactly, and —

MS. PERINO: No, I think if you read it carefully that is not exactly true.

Q Well, that’s what the lead says —

MS. PERINO: We’ll back up —

Q The lead says that “We’re poised to change course and announce as early as this week” —

MS. PERINO: Well, I didn’t say he got everything right. (Laughter.)

Q Okay. Well, maybe you can sum up more where we are and what we’re doing.

MS. PERINO: I will; let me sum up for you, and let me just walk you through —

Q And also is there a change of course?

Q What are you guys working on?

MS. PERINO: Well, for those of you who follow this issue — and I think that in the White House briefing room, reporters here have to dip in and out of this issue because you cover all the issues that we deal with at the White House. So let me take you back through just a little bit of what we’ve been doing.

Over the course of several years the President has advocated a range of policies, both legislative and regulatory, to address the global challenges of climate change. Last year in the State of the Union address, the President called for reducing traditional gasoline use by 20 percent in 10 years; it is called 20-in-10 program. In December of 2007 he largely got what he wanted, except it didn’t go as far and as fast as he wanted to, to help us wean ourselves off of traditional uses of oil.

Also, last May he gave a speech in which he said that the United States would lead an effort to establish a post-Kyoto discussion for nations of the world to address the global challenges of climate change, and that in this process we would work to include China and India and other developing nations who were excluded from the Kyoto process, and which we believe made it unworkable. So discussions have been ongoing in the administration to follow up on these policy processes.

After that speech in May last year, he went to the G8, in which he presented this to the G8 — and it was well received. Then in September of 2007 the President hosted a meeting here at the State Department, in which he gave a speech and talked about how the major economies of the world needed to work together to help solve this problem, and that we would all establish a national goal, and that each country would come forward with its own plan as to how they were going to reach that goal.

We are a part of that process as well. And so as we’ve moved along and to try to follow up and continue to be the leader in the major economies process, we’ve had ongoing discussions, and we have kept Congress informed along the way. That includes getting ready for this week’s major economies meeting, which is being held in Paris and hosted by President Sarkozy.

On a separate track — or at the same time, I should say — here in this country we are dealing with what we call a regulatory train wreck. We have several different laws that were never meant to deal with — to address climate change, heading down a path that we believe is not reasonable, nor sustainable, would hurt our economy, and is not good public policy. This would have the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act all addressing climate change in a way that is not the way that they were intended to.

At the same time on Capitol Hill, we are getting ready for a legislative debate. And Senator Reid, I believe, has called for the first week of June to be the one where they bring up these bills for debate in the Senate.

We have been in discussions with Congress. Internally, we have conversations. We have conversations with Congress to let them know where we are. And we have been not shy about saying that we don’t support legislation that is currently on the Hill. We think that it would be bad for the economy, and that it wouldn’t — ultimately, it wouldn’t address the problem. And so while there’s nothing on the schedule this week yet for the President to actually make a speech, we do have Jim Connaughton and Dan Price of the National — CEQ and the National Security Council, respectively, who are headed to Paris later in the week, to be there Thursday and Friday, and they’ll be representing the United States as we work towards the G8 time frame, which is in July, which will be held in Japan, in which these countries would lay out their national goals.

So we are having these discussions and we are moving forward and talking about how to deal with it.

Q The U.S. national goal, is that what you’re saying?

MS. PERINO: They’re working towards what we would establish as our national goal.

Q So it would have to pass Congress then, right?

MS. PERINO: We believe that the regulatory path that we are on right now is not sustainable; it will not solve the problems —

Q It’s a legislative proposal?

MS. PERINO: There are legislative proposals up there as well. We haven’t come forward yet and said definitively where we are, and that’s because we’re having a very robust discussion. And I think that it’s fair to say that in this administration there is — we have had more discussion about climate change in a thoughtful, deliberative way, a way that thinks about all the different aspects of it, from the way it would affect different regions of the country. And one of our big concerns is that developing nations in the Kyoto Protocol weren’t included.

So what happens in that regard is you have major economies like the United States who under the agreement would have had to ratchet down their emissions. So if we ratcheted down the emissions, that’s important, that would be a good thing. But if you ratchet down too far and too fast and the technologies can’t keep up, and you force businesses in America to find another place to manufacture, they’re likely going to go to a place that doesn’t have those emission limits or doesn’t have any sort of environmental control. And those jobs that we’ve seen over the past have moved to countries like China and India.

But the problem when you deal with a global problem though, is if you have emissions that are going up — if all you’ve done is move the emissions from here over to Asia, then you’ve not addressed the global warming problem, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Q I don’t want to dominate here, but I just want to know what you’re mulling. Are you mulling a legislative proposal? Are you mulling executive action of some sort?

MS. PERINO: There’s a — well, there’s a basket of things that we are dealing with. And we are considering whether or not — we are considering how to move forward on the regulatory path that we have. We are considering how to respond to legislative proposals that are in front of Congress right now. It’s not as clear cut as I think you’re asking me to make it. There’s a range of issues that we have to work on.

Q How much urgency is there? I mean, you’re inside seven months to Election Day. How much urgency?

MS. PERINO: Well, we have a couple of different things. One, if you look to, like, the 20-in-10 program that we passed last year, we are in the middle of implementing that law and that is not easy. One of the things that was a part of that law was mandating 35 billion gallons of alternative or renewable fuels to replace traditional fuel use. Those regulations have to be implemented and that has to take place across the board.

But at the same time, while those things are ongoing, you have a legislative debate that you’re going to have in June. And we think that the reasonable and responsible thing to do is to have a conversation that takes into consideration all of the different issues and figures out what is the right way to do something and what is the wrong way to do it.

Categories: AGW, bush, China, climate Tags:

Climate science resources

April 14th, 2008 1 comment

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

Further  resources are here, for those interested:


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

NOAA, National Climatic Data Center Global Warming, Frequently Asked Questions: Royal Society, climate change controversies: a simple guide,

The Royal Society, Facts and fictions about climate change, Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Information sheets,

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

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

Oxford University: The basics of climate prediction

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


Those with some knowledge:

RealClimate: Start with their “Start here” page,

RealClimate’s index:

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

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



The 2001 US National Assessment,;

National Center for Atmospheric Research, 


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

Stephen Schneider, An Overview of the Climate Change Problem

Roger Pielke Sr., and 



Categories: AGW, climate, science, skeptic Tags:

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

April 8th, 2008 No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on the lawsuit by Alaskan natives here:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

April 8th, 2008 No comments

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

Luntz wrote that :

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


(emphasis added)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thank you, Prof. Block, for feeding our confirmation biases

February 26th, 2008 10 comments

Walter Block of Loyola University has graced the main LvMI blog with a rare post, this time a clipping – without commentary – from a piece entitled “Forget global warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age“, by Canadian conservative commentator Lorne Gunter concerning the relatively high snowfalls this winter in various parts of the North Hemisphere:

What’s the point, except to show that Prof. Block is happy to find something that feeds his own reluctance (and that on the LvMI blog generally) to talk about climate science or policy?  Where’s the beef, Prof. Block?

I posted the following to his thread; as it’s pending there I thought I’d put it up here (with a few typo corrections)

[snark level: high]

Dear Prof. Block:

Thank you for continuing in the hoary LvMI blog tradition, followed by Dr. Reisman, Sean Corrigan and many others here, of doing one’s level best, by way of self-example, to illustrate how strongly we are in the grip of reflexive cognitive patterns such as confirmation bias.

This confirmation bias helps us at LvMI to report, with self-reassuring glee, any iota of evidence that the planet might be cooling, while dodging evidence to the contrary, and to mock those who say that the “climate” is complex and not the same as the weather.

We just love confirmation bias, because it allows us to dismiss all those who have concerns about how our long-term and unmoderated experiment with the Earth’s climate and eco-systems are going as evil and/or crackpots – AND thus spares us from doing any heavy lifting on a number of distasteful tasks:

– actually trying to understand what climate scientists are saying about the climate system, our influences on it and present or future system responses;

– considering the likely consequences if we continue to treat the atmosphere and oceans as unmanaged open-access commons (Mises himself noted: “The extreme instance is provided by the case of no-man’s property referred to above. If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is utilized without any regard to the disadvantages resulting [to others]”);

– engaging in a good faith discussion with those who have differing views (and their own confirmation biases, no doubt); and

– exploring Austrian and libertarian principles and explicating their possible application to the problem that others declaim (i.e., the general efficacy of property rights, problems of information and transaction costs, rent-seeking, bureaucratic mal-incentives, the lack of rule of law relating to shared global/regional commons and in poorer nations, and with coordinating action for transborder commons under a Westphalian global order, and the legacy of 150+ years of – as you have put it – the “failure of the government to uphold free enterprise with a legal system protective of private property rights“).

It is precisely this cognitive bias that Friedrich Hayek noted in his 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative”:

Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it—or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. . . . By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts.”

Hayek noted these additional traits that distinguish market liberals from conservatives, which also are commonly manifested here:

• Habitual resistance to change (hence “conservative”);
• Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change; and
• Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.

The upshot?  That most of us here at LvMI are engaged in the task of convincing ourselves that the climate is not changing or that those who have concerns about it are illogical man-haters, and that we refuse to engage these others by (i) understanding first that for resources where property rights are undefined or uneforceable, public debates rather than private transactions are the chief means of expressing one’s preferences, and (ii) actively defending or advancing freedom – through attempting to persuade others.

There are other freedom-loving thinkers who have made modest starts in a productive engagement with others, such as:

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

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

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

But we here at LvMI don’t want to be troubled to be productive, engage others or advance the cause of freedom, so we don’t post, cite to or discuss authors like that.  Being thoughtful or engaging is too much work!  We prefer to cherish our existing beliefs and to nourish our hatred of “enviros”, while ignoring everyone else, as I’ve noted here:

I am relieved that you seem to want to be one of us, and are not challenging us to get engaged, like Callahan, Richman or Dolan.



PS:  One of the conditions of membership in the “Reisman/Corrigan Club”, as we sometimes call it, is that we forswear reading any of the IPCC reports and the reports of all major academies of science.  Can you confirm that you have you have not yet tainted yourself with such “information” and undertake not to?  Also, you must avoid posts by apostates such as this who post other “science” tripe:

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

February 23rd, 2008 No comments

In my recent post, “Escape from Reason: are Austrians conservatives, or neocons, on the environment?“, I noted two recent posts by George Reisman and Sean Corrigan and wondered whether a significant number of LvMI blog authors and commenters, on a host of “environmental” issues for which in Austrian (beginning prominently with Ludwig von Mises) and similarly-minded thinkers have many cogent insights, have begun to turn away from good faith discourse and productive rational thinking (and from the task of exploring and explicating to others how Austrian and libertarian principles apply to various resource problems), and towards the easier and more viscerally satisfying approach of making and appealing for partisan attacks on a strawman – the very poorly constructed strawmen that are “environmentalists”.

Dr. Reisman has been calling for a jihad against man-hating enviros for the past two full years now on the LvMI main pages (, and a chance glimpse of one such post happened to stir my own interest in exploring more deeply Austrian and libertarian insights on resource issues.  (While the encounters have been felicitous for me, let’s say that the reception committee for squeaky wheels has been rather … less than welcoming.) 

The post which prompted my musings this time ran with the screaming headline, “ENVIRONMENTALISM IS RECYCLED COMMUNISM AND NAZISM“.  Dr. Reisman has since responded indirectly to certain comments via two more recent and longer posts that are distinguishable from the first not for their tight substantive arguments but for their even more glaring use of strawmen (the level of dispepsia remains about the same, despite abandoning all caps) – in chronological order, Word to Environmentalists and The Nature of Environmentalism.  My further comments are noted on the respective threads.

In these posts, Dr. Reisman profoundly disappoints – though fellow lovers of hatred find him bracing.  I keep wondering, when will our “giants” act like senior statesmen, and when will Austrians and their allies be brave enough to embrace on resource issues the reason they say they love so dearly? 

Or does reason simply require the surrender of logic and principle in favor of fevered enviro-bashing?

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

February 19th, 2008 9 comments

In their more considerate writings, Austrians have counseled a cool, rational approach to environmental issues.  But recent posts lead me to wonder whether a number of LvMI blog authors and commenters prefer hot-headed emotional outbursts and partisan, ad hominem attacks over Austrian principles, rational thinking and productive, good faith discourse.

1.  As a starting point, let me note that Roy Cordato has elegantly explored and summarized the views of various Austrian thinkers as they apply to environmental issues, including his own:

“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. Furthermore, in all three approaches, social welfare or efficiency problems arise because of interpersonal conflict. For Rothbard such conflicts arise because of interferences with the voluntary use of one’s own property. This prevents a demonstration of true preferences, moving one to a lower level of utility than would otherwise be achieved. For Kirzner interpersonal conflict that cannot be resolved by entrepreneurship and the market process gives rise to a lack of plan coordination and therefore social inefficiency. And for Cordato, conflict, that similarly cannot be resolved by the market process, gives rise to catallactic inefficiency by preventing useful information from being captured by prices. A theory of environmental economics and pollution that evolves from problems associated with human conflict then would be a natural implication of each of these welfare standards.

“In addition, these standards would argue that irresolvable inefficiencies, i.e., inefficiencies that cannot find a solution in the entrepreneurial workings of the market process, arise because of institutional defects associated with the lack of clearly defined or well enforced property rights. In a setting where rights are clearly defined and strictly enforced, plans may conflict but the resolution to that conflict is embedded in the exchange process. In other words, conflict may arise at the planning stages but is resolved before the actors proceed with implementation of those plans.”

“In the absence of clearly defined and strictly enforced property rights this process breaks down and the conflict becomes irresolvable through the market process. Under all three Austrian approaches to welfare economics, therefore, the solution to pollution problems, defined as a conflict over the use of resources, is to be found in either clearly defining or more diligently enforcing property rights. Not surprisingly this is the approach that has been taken by nearly all Austrian economists who have looked at the issue dating back to Menger.”

I have previously explored more extensively elsewhere Cordato’s summary of Austrian views on environmental matters.

Cordato’s view of course meshes with that of Ludwig von Mises, who troubled himself to write directly about externalities, as I have noted earlier:

Carried through consistently, the right of property would entitle the proprietor to claim all the advantages which the good’s employment may generate on the one hand and would burden him with all the disadvantages resulting from its employment on the other hand. Then the proprietor alone would be fully responsible for the outcome. In dealing with his property he would take into account all the expected results of his action, those considered favorable as well as those considered unfavorable. But if some of the consequences of his action are outside of the sphere of the benefits he is entitled to reap and of the drawbacks that are put to his debit, he will not bother in his planning about all the effects of his action. He will disregard those benefits which do not increase his own satisfaction and those costs which do not burden him. His conduct will deviate from the line which it would have followed if the laws were better adjusted to the economic objectives of private ownership. He will embark upon certain projects only because the laws release him from responsibility for some of the costs incurred. He will abstain from other projects merely because the laws prevent him from harvesting all the advantages derivable.”

The laws concerning liability and indemnification for damages caused were and still are in some respects deficient. By and large the principle is accepted that everybody is liable to damages which his actions have inflicted upon other people. But there were loopholes left which the legislators were slow to fill.”

“Whether the proprietor’s relief from responsibility for some of the disadvantages resulting from his conduct of affairs is the outcome of a deliberate policy on the part of governments and legislators or whether it is an unintentional effect of the traditional working of laws, it is at any rate a datum which the actors must take into account. They are faced with the problem of external costs. Then some people choose certain modes of want-satisfaction merely on account of the fact that a part of the costs incurred are debited not to them but to other people.”

The extreme instance is provided by the case of no-man’s property referred to above. If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is utilized without any regard to the disadvantages resulting.

It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in this system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.”

2.  But in recent posts on the main blog on environmental issues, rather than a forthright discussion of whether there are persistent or troubling externalities that (i) prevent a demonstration of true preferences, or (ii) result in interpersonal conflict that cannot be resolved by entrepreneurship and the market process and thus gives rise to catallactic inefficiency (a lack of plan coordination and social inefficiency), we are treated to a petulant turning from good faith engagement, in favor of emotional venting, manifested as either a persistent but unsupported mockery of the views of others or as an outright, Manicheaen dismissal of the preferences of others.

a.  Exhibit 1 might be Sean Corrigan, who in a string of posts (most recently “Cold Wave Attributed to Global Warming”- manifests a rather conservative streak much like that decried by Friedrich Hayek, in his 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative”.  Mr. Corrigan’s oeuvre is here:;

Hayek identified the following traits that distinguish conservatism from market liberalism:

• Habitual resistance to change, hence the term “conservative.”
• Lack of understanding of spontaneous order as a guiding principle of economic life.
• Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change.
• Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.
• A propensity to reject scientific knowledge because of dislike of the consequences that seem to follow from it.

Edwin Dolan, in his Fall 2006 Cato Journal essay, “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”, specifically cautions that market liberals appear to be hamstringing their own analytic strengths by falling into a reflexive and conservative mindframes that benefit established economic interests.

Query:  why is it that LvMI blog authors such as Mr. Corrigan seem to consistently care more about defending an existing legal framework that clearly protect the privileges of established interests (especially the privilege to continue to freely and without restraint to exploit all commons), rather than to examine whether there is any cost-shifting going on, or any valuable resources in which there are no clear or effective owners?  Is this not a profoundly “conservative” approach, instead of one that is concerned with libertarian or Lockean principles?

Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education also recommends Dolan’s essay and calls for less wishful thinking and greater engagement by libertarians in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman:  The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman,

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

Mr. Corrigan’s blog posts on environmental matters regularly elicit a fair degree of enthusiasm among fans of the Manicheaen strawman style, as I noted on an earlier blog post:


b.  We now turn reluctantly to Exhibit 2, who is none other than Dr. George Reisman, whom I understand ironically to be the translator of the von Mises passage on externalities that I quoted above.  In his latest post, trumpeted in an all-caps “ENVIRONMENTALISM IS RECYCLED COMMUNISM AND NAZISM” headline, Dr. Reisman equates Environmentalism with  Communism and Nazism, in that they share “the essential common core of hatred and destruction” and “the fundamental principle of hatred for human life and happiness.”

While some environmentalists may be socialists in disguise, how is this blanket and sweeping condemnation of all who care about the environment helpful, much less consistent with Austrian understanding of the externalities that give rise to environmental concerns or the Austrian principles of how to begin to address what others have expressly recognized as “tough cases”?

When I noted in my comments to Dr. Reisman’s post that environmentalists used to be called “conservationists” and were once largely wealthy conservatives, I was quickly advised by one clever fellow, more concerned with correcting me than in disagreeing with Dr. Reisman, that “these aren’t the same environmentalists that we’re talking about here”.  Allow me to paraphrase my response to him:

Yes, when challenged on these strawmen, LvMI blog commenters will acknowledge that they really only want to talk about the EVIL enviros. The rather poorly defined “Enviros” who are the target of these attacks are simply a convenient strawman, one that allows all the good freedom-loving folks at LvMI to ignore everyone else who cares about their own property, their backyard or shared commons:  wealthy people and consumers, regular folks stymied by the 150+ years that Walter Block has identified that US courts have NOT protected private property, Ruppert Murdoch and Richard Branson, the firms behind the new “Carbon Principles”, the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), the CERES group of institutional investors, the firms that are members of the PEW climate change coalition, the firms that are entering to voluntary carbon trades, the religious groups and the scientists who are suffciently concerned to publish or speak publicly, etc.

It seems rather obvious to me, at least, that the persistent use of such a sweeping strawman is simply unhelpful for analyzing whether there any so-called problems, understanding the concerns or preferences of those who declare their concern or in considering how such concerns could be best addressed within an Austrian framework.  So what explains the prevalence of this rather blind enviro-bashing?  That, I’m afraid, is rather simple, albeit understandable – it is a surrender to the ancient tribal imperative of (and emotional rewards from) engaging in partisan conflict.

As I quoted on Dr. Reisman’s comment thread, Glenn Greenwald also examines psychological motives in a recent post in which he takes neocon Mark Steyn to task for his continued war-mongering:

“There is nothing more psychologically invigorating than the belief that you are staring down the Greatest and Most Evil Enemy Ever in History, courageously waging glorious war for all that is Good and Just in the world. Nothing produces more pulsating feelings of excitement and nobility like convincing yourself that you are a Warrior defending Western Civilization from the greatest threat it has ever faced, following in — even surpassing — the mighty footsteps of the Greatest Generation and the Warrior-Crusaders who came before them.”  Clearly this type of analysis has its limits in any given case, but it is such an identifable phenomenon that I couldn’t help wondering on Dr. Reisman’s comment thread:

Mark Steyn : Islamofascism : : George Reisman : Environmentalism?

Those who think they’ve identified demons ought to have sense to question whether they are falling into a cognitive trap – of the kind that throws reason and caution out the door, while giving free rein to confirmation bias, prejudice and fears of enemies.  This is quite common and indeed predictable, as many have noted.  We aren’t computers, after all, but merely human.

But this is the very reason why many on the blog (as on sharp display in Mr. Corrigan’s last thread) like to thrill to the emotional satisfactions of seeing those with whom they disagree (viz., yours truly) as close to the Devil incarnate, simply because I persist in being an outlier and thus a sore thumb here.  To them I say, okay, but have some sympathy for the Devil, as my diabolic aspects may simply be your own creation – and I continue to call you to constructively engage with those you least sympathize with.

Or have I fundamentally misunderstood Austrianism?

Let me close by repeating my statement on Sean Corrigan’s most recent thread:  it is has been my sad experience over the past two years here that there is very little appetite for exploring Cordato’s “tough cases”. Rather, on environmental matters, the modus operandi of many LvMI authors and commenters appears to be: Abandon all logic, all ye who enter here, and let’s band together and blame everything on those evil misanthropes (whomever they may be) – ignoring all others but those hated strawmen!  In honor of two leading lights who regularly exhibit this behavior, I have begun to call it the “Reisman Rule” or the “Corrigan Creed”:

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

Voluntary action on climate change: Wall Street’s new "Carbon Principles"

February 14th, 2008 2 comments

Voluntary action on climate change continues to grow.  I’m not sure who noticed besides power project sponsors, financiers and regulators, but last week (on February 4) Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, three of the world’s leading financial institutions, announced the formation and release of “The Carbon Principles” and an Enhanced Diligence framework – which they describe as “climate change guidelines for advisors and lenders” for “evaluating and addressing carbon risks in the financing of electric power projects” in the United States. 

The banks issued identical releases; Morgan Stanley’s is here:

The Principles were developed based on perceptions of “the risks faced by the power industry as utilities, independent producers, regulators, lenders and investors deal with the uncertainties around regional and national climate change policy”, and were the result of a nine-month intensive effort by these Wall Street banks, in consultation with leading power companies American Electric Power, CMS Energy, DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG, Sempra and Southern Company and enviros at Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council.  It is probably no coincidence that this announcement follows on the heels of recent rejections by regulators of conventional coal-fired power plants in Kansas, Florida and elsewhere.

 According to the press release:

This effort is the first time a group of banks has come together and consulted with power companies and environmental groups to develop a process for understanding carbon risk around power sector investments needed to meet future economic growth and the needs of consumers for reliable and affordable energy. The consortium has developed an Enhanced Diligence framework to help lenders better understand and evaluate the potential carbon risks associated with coal plant investments.

The Principles recognize the benefits of a portfolio approach to meeting the power needs of consumers, without prescribing how power companies should act to meet these needs. However, if high carbon dioxide-emitting technologies are selected by power companies, the signatory banks have agreed to follow the Enhanced Diligence process and factor these risks and potential mitigants into the final financing decision.

The principles are a shot across the bow of new coal-based power projects.   According to the press release: the effort is intended to “establish a consistent approach among major lenders and advisors in evaluating climate change risks and opportunities in the US electric power industry” and to “provid[e] banks and their power industry clients with a consistent roadmap for reducing the regulatory and financial risks associated with greenhouse gas emissions.”

Here are the principles:

Energy efficiency. An effective way to limit CO2 emissions is to not produce them. The signatory financial institutions will encourage clients to invest in cost-effective demand reduction, taking into consideration the value of avoided CO2 emissions. We will also encourage regulatory and legislative changes that increase efficiency in electricity consumption including the removal of barriers to investment in cost-effective demand reduction. The institutions will consider demand reduction caused by increased energy efficiency (or other means) as part of the Enhanced Diligence Process and assess its impact on proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.

Renewable and low carbon distributed energy technologies. Renewable energy and low carbon distributed energy technologies hold considerable promise for meeting the electricity needs of the US while also leveraging American technology and creating jobs. We will encourage clients to invest in cost-effective renewables and distributed technologies, taking into consideration the value of avoided CO2 emissions. We will also encourage legislative and regulatory changes that remove barriers to, and promote such investments (including related investments in infrastructure and equipment needed to support the connection of renewable sources to the system). We will consider production increases from renewable and low carbon generation as part of the Enhanced Diligence process and assess their impact on proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.

Conventional and advanced generation. In addition to cost effective energy efficiency, renewables and low carbon distributed generation, investments in conventional or advanced generating facilities will be needed to supply reliable electric power to the US market. This may include power from natural gas, coal and nuclear technologies. Due to evolving climate policy, investing in CO2-emitting fossil fuel generation entails uncertain financial, regulatory and certain environmental liability risks. It is the purpose of the Enhanced Diligence process to assess and reflect these risks in the financing considerations for certain fossil fuel generation. We will encourage regulatory and legislative changes that facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS) to further reduce CO2 emissions from the electric sector.

This is a rather remarkable effort, that appears to reflect not only shared concern about climate change, but also a perceived need to move ahead on a coordinated basis even absent any federal legislation (which is rather naturally called for on several fronts) – both to (i) take steps to mitigate potential climate change – steps that must be made on a coordinated basis across the power sector in order to be effective – and also to (ii) lower risks that (a) expensive projects will not see drastic changes in their cost or revenue structure mid-stream (if climate change prompts regulatory changes) and risks that (b) sponsors and financiers (and their managers) face to their reputations.

Except to the extent that participants are calling for new legislation, one would think that this type of cooperative approach to a shared commons problem is one that would be welcomed by the libertarian community.  Or should market liberals, coal producers, and consumers (and politicians and prosecutors) be upset at what is in effect a shared effort to restrict the use of coal and shift to other, higher-cost energy sources?

Categories: Carbon Principles, climate, voluntary Tags:

Edwin Dolan: applying the Lockean framework to climate change

February 13th, 2008 2 comments

I would like to bring readers’ attention to Edwin G. Dolan’s “Science, Public Policy and Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position“, from the Fall 2006 issue of The Cato Journal:  Dolan examines libertarian, “market liberal” reactions to climate change and walks through Lockean provisions that he believes require further consideration and elaboration by libertarians in the context of climate change.

FWIW, Dolan was the editor of the Austrian classic, The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976)(online here:, and author of the classic pamphlet TANSTAAFL: An Economic Strategy for the Environmental Crisis (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1971), which outlined Dolan’s chief perspective:

The fundamental principle on which this strategy is built may be expressed in a simple slogan—There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, the “TANSTAAFL principle,” for short. The TANSTAAFL principle is closely related to the fundamental theorem of ecological economics, that everything depends on everything else. Everything worthwhile has a cost. Whenever you think you are getting something for nothing, look again—someone, somewhere, somehow is paying for it. Behind every free lunch there is a hidden cost to be accounted for.

The task of ecological economics is to figure out how to restructure the economic system so that these hidden costs will be brought out into the open, with the ultimate aim that no one who benefits from the use of the environment will be able to escape without paying in full. The rest of this book is devoted to working out specific applications of this general strategy in order to deal with specific problems.

In the interest of assisting readers, I take the liberty of excerpting liberally from Dolan’s Cato article below.

First, Dolan suggests that many libertarian climate skeptics are acting quite as if they are “conservatives” of the type condemned by Friedrich Hayek.  Dolan cites Hayek’s 1960 essay, “Why I am Not a Conservative” (1960), in which Hayek identified the following traits that distinguish conservatism from market liberalism:

• Habitual resistance to change, hence the term “conservative.”
• Lack of understanding of spontaneous order as a guiding principle of economic life.
• Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic change.
• Claim to superior wisdom based on self-arrogated superior quality in place of rational argument.
• A propensity to reject scientific knowledge because of dislike of the consequences that seem to follow from it.

Second, Dolan examines whether any of the above “conservative” traits are at work in libertarian positions on climate change.

… We need to address several questions. One issue is what the status is of the privileges and interests of those who are threatened by the possibility of climate change and of those who are threatened by proposed actions to mitigate it. Which of these has the greater claim to the sympathy of market liberals, when viewed in terms of the standards they apply in other areas of public policy? Another issue is what the values are that lie behind the positions taken by various parties to the debate. The issue of values may determine when market liberals can make principled alliances with one of the other corners of the triangle and when they want to make only tactical alliances. Still another issue is what manner of argument should be employed. For example, what is the proper attitude toward the purely scientific element in the global warming controversy? It will be worth taking a closer look at this last issue before proceeding further.

Hayek expresses himself so well on the role of science that it is worth quoting him at length:

Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it—or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. . . . By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would hardly be moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts [Hayek 1960: 404](emphasis added).

This passage raises obvious questions for the global warming debate. What lies behind the skepticism of market liberals regarding the propositions that the world is getting warmer at a rate that is unusually rapid in climate history, if not altogether unprecedented, and that this apparent trend is likely the joint product of natural cycles and human activity, rather than of the former acting alone? Are liberals correctly rejecting an inadequately grounded scientific fad? Or are they refusing to acknowledge facts for fear that doing so would upset their cherished beliefs?  …

Fortunately, the supposed dilemma is a false one. Liberals have long acclaimed the market as a way of adapting to change, and climate change should be no exception. … Also, market liberals should know well that effective environmental policy does not have to take the form of heavy-handed commandand-control measures. … The same kind of market-oriented policies should be possible in the case of climate change.

In short, if one takes into account both the market’s potential for adapting to change and market-based policy alternatives, there is no reason for market liberals to be anything but open-minded toward ongoing developments in climate science, whether those developments, as they unfold, reveal indications or counter-indications of global warming.

There could, instead, be another explanation for some market liberals’ apparent close-mindedness toward the global warming hypothesis. It could be that, when taking a position on issues of climatology, they are speaking not from perceived threats to their beliefs, but out of loyalty to conservative interests with whom they have struck some tactical alliance. For example, policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, no matter how carefully market-guided in their design, are likely to undermine the interests of politically powerful producers of carbon-based energy. Equally, they are likely to have a disproportionate impact on the United States relative to other, less carbon intensive, economies. It is understandable that a conservative member of Congress could be pledged to uphold the interests of energy industry workers or shareholders from his or her home constituency. It is also understandable that a U.S. negotiator at an international conference could work to increase the benefits for the United States of a proposed treaty while shifting the costs to other countries. What is harder to understand is why market liberals would see fit to support such positions, unless for the narrowest of tactical reasons. …

(emphasis added) 

Third, Dolan spends considerable time discussing how the Lockean framework of rights and duties applies to climate change, which he frames as follows:

In the case of global warming, the relevant unenclosed commons include the world air-shed, which, in one of its several competing uses, serves as a sink for greenhouse gasses, and the oceans, which serve as a sink for heat generated by the greenhouse effect and a catchment basin for melting ice. (We are still stipulating scientific certainty of these effects.) Whatever adverse impact the Midwestern power plant has on the Bangladeshi farmer are transmitted through the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on these common-property resources. What does a Lockean approach tell us about rights to make use of the global atmospheric and oceanic commons, and about how those rights might be established?

Dolan walks carefully through Locke’s three rights and three corresponding duties, which he summarizes as follows:

• to property in one’s own person
• to property in the fruits of one’s own labor
• to property in land and natural resources taken from nature when mixed with one’s own labor

• to abstain from harming others
• to abstain from taking property of others
• to leave enough and as good for others when taking from the common

His discussion here is quite useful.

Finally, Dolan summarizes his own analysis of “the proper market-liberal position on global warming,” that is, one “constructed on a sound Lockean respect for the persons and property of others”:

First, market liberals should keep arguments based on comparisons of costs and benefits in proper perspective. The fact that an action produces net benefits, even very large net benefits, does not shield the actor from liability if it also does harm. The relative magnitude of the costs and benefits, or their relative probabilities, is, in this regard, irrelevant. The duty not to harm people in their persons or property is not to be bypassed on the basis of any facile cost-benefit calculus. This is an essential part of what distinguishes the classical liberal tradition from other political theories that would invoke the power of the state to override individual rights in favor of some greater societal utility. This being said, cost-benefit calculations may in some other respects be relevant to the formulation of a market-liberal position on global warming. They may help choose between different mechanisms for implementing climate change policy. They may be relevant to the decision of whether to abstain from possibly harmful actions, or to risk possible harm while accepting a contingent duty of restitution. And they may be relevant to whether harm is better avoided by mitigation of climate change, or instead compensated through investments that help victims of climate change to adapt.

Second, the market-liberal position should be distinct from a conservative position that defends unjustly acquired privileges. Liberalism in America, in particular, grew up in a Lockean state of nature where it was really true, or at least seemed true, that homesteaders, loggers, grazers, and industrialists could take what they needed while leaving “enough and as good for others.” What the environmentalist side of the global warming debate is telling us is that we no longer live in such a world. It is not just that we can take no more from the commons; we have quite possibly already taken so much as to have breached our duty not to engross. To be sure, the science of just how much can safely be taken is not yet perfect. We may be way past the limit already or still a bit short of it. But to cry foul because those who have taken the most are now asked to bear a substantial share of the costs is not liberalism.

Third, market liberals should keep a clear head when it comes to the relationship between science and public policy. It is fine to be legitimately cautious when policies are urged on the basis of weakly established scientific fads. One should be vigilant against attempts to smuggle questionable economic or political assumptions into scientific analysis, as is sometimes done in the global warming debate, and also to possible biases in research produced by grant-seeking and public choice considerations. But at the same time, as Hayek warned, any reluctance to accept new scientific theories must itself be rational and must be kept separate from the regret that the new theories may upset cherished beliefs (let alone that they threaten the financial interests of useful allies). This is a fine line to walk, and I fear that the market-liberal camp may at times have overstepped it.

Fourth, market liberals should think about the implications of their principles not just for public policy, but for their personal conduct. It is fashionable in some conservative circles to ridicule environmentalism as a new religion that calls for a personal morality of abstinence (see, for example, Schlesinger 2005). Perhaps market liberals would not want to describe their beliefs as a religion, but all of the great thinkers to whom they pay homage make it clear that the duty not to harm others in their persons or property is not just an abstract guideline for public policy, but a specific imperative of personal morality.  To cede the moral high ground on environmental issues to the left is not just tactically foolish, it is unprincipled. To put it simply, a market liberal should not be ashamed to drive a Prius rather than a Humvee.

These broad outlines of a market-liberal position on global warming leave a great deal of room for debate and discussion. They leave open the whole area of how to design a policy to deal with global warming. Are the flaws of the Kyoto Protocol so serious that it is worse than doing nothing at all? Perhaps so—even its staunchest supporters acknowledge that it has many limitations. Should we act now, based on current scientific knowledge? Or should we wait, while firmly insisting on the principle of contingent liability, being prepared to make restitution should subsequent harm turn out to be greater than optimists think it will be? In formulating global warming policy, should each country act unilaterally, based on a duty to avoid harm regardless of what others do, or is it best to try to negotiate international agreements? If measures are to be taken, what role should be given to market-based mechanisms like tradable permits? How can such market-like devices, if used, be introduced in a way that respects existing property rights? How do such devices relate to Lockean principles regarding enclosure and management of residual unenclosed commons?

By addressing these and other questions, market liberals can make a uniquely valuable contribution to the global warming debate. If, however, they allow themselves to be perceived as ostriches whose only policy in the face of uncertainty is to hope for the best while ignoring the worst, and base their position on climate policy on arguments that they would disdain in any other context, they will end up making no useful contribution at all.

(emphasis added)

I hope others will take the time to look through Dolan’s framework, which I believe is useful as a call for constructive engagement by libertarians, even as it does not examine particular policy suggestions* or claim to be complete.  (For example, as Jeff Tucker has observed on another thread, Dolan’s article does not discuss the competency of the state to address climate change, if it is a problem.)

(h/t Donny with an A:  I note also that Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education also recommends Dolan’s essay and calls for less wishful thinking and greater engagement by libertarians in the December 8, 2006 edition of The Freeman: The Goal Is Freedom: Global Warming and the Layman,

*  I note that Dolan has previously discussed pollution trading permits in the context of acid rain; his remarks were examined by Robert McGee and Walter Block in their “Pollution Trading Permits as a Form of Market Socialism and the Search for a Real Market Solution to Environmental Pollution,” Fordham Environmental Law Journal, vol. 16 (1994): 58

Categories: Block, climate, Dolan, Hayek, libertarian, Locke, TANSTAAFL Tags:

"Pay Your Air Share" – Libertarian think tank advocates carbon taxes!

February 13th, 2008 10 comments

1.  Check out the San Diego-based The Prometheus Institute,, which has just launched a new website calling for carbon taxes:

They propose that:

  • A tax be levied on all major emitters of greenhouse gases, set so that fossil fuel prices will reflect their true social cost, which will create a seamless market-based incentive for the development of alternative energy.

  • Most of the revenue raised should be returned to the people in the form of an across-the-board income tax cut, but as the climate system has great inertia, a portion of the carbon tax revenues should support private sector and community-based projects to adapt to effects of climate change.

The site contains a number of articles to explain just how in the heck The Prometheus Institute ( could convince itself to come up with this Pigouvian scheme. 

(h/t Greg Mankiw:

2.  Another recent piece that I highly recommend is Edwin G. Dolan‘s “Global Warming: Rethinking the Market Liberal Position”, from the Fall 2006 issue of The Cato  Dolan argues that a Lockean position does not permit an easy dismissal of calls for policy changes relating to climate change.

FWIW, Dolan was the editor of the Austrian classic, The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1976).

(h/t Donny with an A: