What would it take to convince you about global warming?

by Judith Curry

If the objective is to change public opinion, then changing elite opinion is a necessary prerequisite. In fact, I would say necessary and sufficient. I don’t think you need to win a war on talk radio to have your impact on right-of-center opinion. – Jerry Taylor


About a month ago,  Reason’s Ron Bailey, a former climate change skeptic, penned an article:  ‘What Evidence Would Persuade You That Man-Made Climate Change Is Real?‘ Bailey’s article laid out the scientific evidence that convinced him that man-made global warming could likely pose a significant problem for humanity by the end of this century.

This article was followed by a number of responses from the ‘unconvinced’:

There are probably others.  I found these essays very interesting to read, to see what an individual finds to be convincing evidence, and how they reason about the evidence to come to an overall conclusion.  I flagged these articles for a possible post, but never quite found the motivation to pull together a post on this, until I saw an article yesterday on libertarian Jerry Taylor (which interrupted a post I was preparing on libertarian Richard Epstein – stay tuned).

David Roberts interviews Jerry Taylor

David Roberts (now at Vox) has an interesting article on Jerry Taylor, long time veteran of Cato, who recently founded his own libertarian organization, the Niskanen Center.

Until about 5 years ago, Taylor’s position on climate change was essentially Pat Michaels + Bjorn Lomborg.  About 5 years ago, his position switched,after a series of discussions with other right-leaning thinkers. In March, he released a new policy brief, “The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax.”

Sure, he’s convinced by the ‘consensus’ and thinks that the scientific arguments have become stronger (for a reality check, see my recent Congressional testimony, plus the essays by Spencer et al. linked to above).

I.  But what really changed things for me … it began with an essay by Jon Adler [JC note: Adler’s perspective was discussed previously on CE here]. Libertarians tend to compare the cost side of climate change [mitigation] to the benefits. They say, when [person or company] A harms [person or company] B, if the gains to A are greater than the harms to B, then fare thee well. No! If you believe in property rights and individual liberty, it simply does not matter if aggression from A gains more than is lost by the victim. I just never thought of it that way. And I thought he was exactly right. So that was the first thing that changed for me.

II.  Bob Litterman laid out what I thought a very powerful argument. In brief it went like this: the issues associated with climate change are not that different from the risk issues we deal with in the financial markets every day. We know there’s a risk — we don’t know how big the risk is, we’re not entirely sure about all of the parameters, but we know it’s there. And we know it’s a low-probability, high-impact risk. So what do we do about that in our financial markets? Well, if it’s a nondiversifiable risk, we know that people pay plenty of money to avoid it.

[Litterman’s] point was that if this sort of risk were to arise in any other context in the private markets, people would pay real money to hedge against it. He did it every day for his clients. Even if Pat Michaels and Dick Lindzen are absolutely correct about the modest impacts of climate change as the most likely outcome, it’s not the most likely outcome that counts here. Nobody would manage risk based on the most likely outcome in a world of great uncertainty. 

III. At this time, it was nagging at me what [economist] Marty Weitzman had come up with. This was another big intellectual development, his long-tail [risk] argument, how these long-tail risks are accounted for in cost-benefit calculations. And as each rebuttal was issued to Weitzman, they were just shredded. And then Litterman comes along and marries that analysis to the financial markets. That was very powerful stuff. So my position fundamentally switched at that point.

IV. And about that same time was Mass v. EPA [the case in which the Supreme Court authorized EPA to regulate carbon emissions] — the baseline was no longer non-intervention. It was no longer a conversation about whether we should do something, but a conversation about how we should do something. And with the endangerment finding at EPA, and the Clean Power Plan going forward, the regulatory drumbeat is banging. It’s pretty hard to argue that a carbon tax is a less attractive answer than, say, EPA regulation.

 JC’s critique of Jerry Taylor’s argument

For the sake of argument here, lets grant the ‘consensus’ position on climate science (WG1)  as a starting point.  Does Jerry Taylor’s argument for a carbon tax hold up?

I.  Adler’s arguments on property rights and climate change are interesting, but  require an attribution of adverse consequences to human caused climate change.  This is the weakest part of the whole UNFCCC/IPCC argument.  In the context of cost-benefit analysis, when values such as property rights and individual liberty and social justice become dominant considerations that trump cost-benefits, then that is a signal that you are operating under conditions of deep uncertainty.

II.  How to deal with a low probability high-impact risk is at the heart of the problem.  Climate change is definitely a non-diversifiable risk.  However, the climate risk is different from risks in financial markets, since financial risks are bounded, and there is no question of paying more to avoid the financial risk than the amount of assets that are actually at risk.  In essence, financial market risk is a relatively tame problem, whereas the climate risk is a wicked problem – we don’t know how to bound the climate risk, and we don’t have a hedging strategy that will actually protect us from the most adverse possible outcomes.  We are fooling ourselves if we think a carbon tax is up to the task of protecting us from the possibility of truly adverse climate outcomes.

III.  Weitzmann’s fat tail argument.  I have followed only some of the literature responding to this, but the bottom line is this.  Weitzmann’s fat tail, with 10% chance of climate sensitivities out beyond 10C are circa 2007 (AR5); these extreme values have been pretty much debunked by the AR5 (not to mention Nic Lewis’ recent work, see Climate sensitivity: lopping off the fat tail; see also Tall tales and fat tails).

IV.  The EPA has changed the baseline – the baseline is no longer inaction.  This will be a main topic of the forthcoming Richard Epstein post.  The EPA endangerment finding is not a firm legal basis for regulating energy policy and CO2 emissions, and this will probably become a political football if a Republican becomes the next President.  But the bottom line is that these regulations will not change the climate in any significant way (see my recent Congressional testimony).

JC reflections

So . . . it is interesting to see Libertarian arguments about climate change policy  they don’t seem overly caught up in the UNFCCC/IPCC ideology, or its antithesis ideology. The Climate Hawks (e.g. Dave Roberts) love this kind of libertarian ‘conversion’ story.  But to my mind, Jerry Taylor’s argument for a carbon tax doesn’t really hold up.

But these are exactly the kinds of issues that need to be raised and discussed as we ponder what to do about climate change.  Let me return to the quote at the top of the post:

If the objective is to change public opinion, then changing elite opinion is a necessary prerequisite. In fact, I would say necessary and sufficient. I don’t think you need to win a war on talk radio to have your impact on right-of-center opinion.

I think this is exactly right.  All of the propaganda efforts (by both sides) to influence  public opinion isn’t really useful for either the policy debate or even for building political will.  Ross McKitrick has an article today making the point that climate change consensus among the misinformed is not worth much.  It is really the ‘elite opinion’ among policy makers, business leaders, the media and other thought leaders that matter.  And the propaganda (notably from President Obama and talk radio) is just noise that polarizes the policy makers.

We need to have a serious discussion about these issues, that acknowledges the the substantial uncertainties in the 21st century climate and discusses how to deal with a low probability high impact risk that is global and whose bounds are unknown and probably unknowable.

Libertarians and libertarian perspectives have much to bring to the table in this discussion, in my opinion.  Stay tuned for a different libertarian perspective on all this, from Richard Epstein.



261 responses to “What would it take to convince you about global warming?

  1. Interesting points. The problem is reasoned argument is an effective way to persuade the elite. Politicians, especially, react to a host of different stimuli that rarely are trumped by simple obvious reason.

    • David Wojick

      There is no simple obvious reason in the climate debate. Nor are politicians, or people, stupid as you seem to suggest, missing simple obvious reason, whatever that means. Politicians are sensitive to the complex variations in people’s thinking, because that is their job. Politics is the complex task of democratic decision making. It is probably more complex than climate.

    • Mike Jonas

      I think you meant that reason is NOT an effective way to persuade the elite.

      And sorry Judith but it is surely incorrect to think that changing elite opinion is a necessary prerequisite for changing public opinion. History is full of occasions when the public rejected elite opinion. I think it was Jim Hacker (fictional UK prime minister) who put it very clearly : “I’m their leader, I must follow them”.

  2. Any argument (pro or con) using EPA positions is fraught with problems. It is a cabinet-level agency, so it ultimately must toe the Presidential line. They may employ scientists, but it is anything but an objective, science-based entity.

    The bounded/unbounded risk analysis is interesting, but I think it misses a key point: technology and other advancements are almost assuredly going to come to pass as we push ahead to the turn of the century. I’m reminded of the “peak oil” worries a few decades ago. They were real and many “experts” were pulling out their hair over it. But, obviously, technological advances overcame that worry (at least it gave us much more breathing room). I strongly suspect that necessity will mitigate much of the current gloom-and-doom of a future embroiled in more heat.

    • David Wojick

      EPA is not a cabinet agency (would that it were). It is an independent agency, which means that the President does not control it. Nobody controls it. That is the problem. The interesting thing is that there is no provision in the Constitution for independent agencies. Independent of what is the question? They began with the Federal Reserve because everyone agreed tacitly that the central bank should not be political. But EPA represents a powerful social movement. This is an independent problem.

      • EPA is not technically a cabinet-level agency, but for all intents and purposes, it is. And yes, the EPA is part of the Executive Branch… at least that’s what the EPA itself claims at their site: “EPA, as an Executive Branch agency…” [http://www.epa.gov/ogd/sdd/history.htm].

        Also, the EPA Administrator is appointed by the POTUS. He/She serves at the President’s pleasure. As I correctly stated, EPA toes the Executive Branch’s line. That’s a fact.

      • Good point about the EPA being independent except the President has been known to treat them differently than the Fed, namely sacking the administrator more at will.

    • Cryptid, technology didn’t give us that much breathing room. The technology we use today was enabled by higher oil prices. Most of the new technology we apply to extract oil becomes uneconomic in a 1990’s price environment. Gas is in a little better condition, but not by much.

      I realize there’s a lot of cornucopian wishful thinking going on, but reality is going to bite very hard within the next 20 years.

      Twenty five years ago I pointed out to senior exploration managers in the company where I worked that exploration didn’t make sense if we performed at the industry average under prevailing prices. They worked hard at getting better than the average, and prices rose, so we had a slight breather. But the key was higher prices, not reorganizing or developing better seismic gadgets. At the time, I didn’t say anything about “peak oil”, because in 1990 I didn’t see it. I did realize we were going to need higher prices.

      The higher prices were a natural consequence of population and GDP growth, lack of real competition by renewables and nuclear, AND the gradual depletion of the better fields. We did cherry pick and produced the easier oil first, as a general rule.

      This means that, if population and GDP continue to grow, we will need higher prices to satisfy demand. But there’s a limit to what we can do even with higher prices. When higher prices are high enough, renewables or nuclear will take up the “growth wedge”. At that point, when growth is accommodated by renewables or nuclear, we will have reached peak oil. Later, we will reach peak gas and coal.

      What I see tells me we have reached peak conventional crude, will reach peak crude and condensate within a 20 year window, and should reach peak gas very soon thereafter. I’m not that familiar with coal, but it seems we should peak by 2040 to 2050, driven by market forces alone. This means the high emission scenarios are using unsound and poorly supported fossil fuel resources (as far as I’m concerned).

  3. Judith, good critique. Re Taylor’s point I, see Ronald Coase “The Theory of Social Cost.” I cited this in a submission to the Harper Competition Policy Review, I’ll dig that out later.

    Re his pt II, that is insufficient without regard to other risks an alternative uses of resources – cf Lomborg.

    Re pt IV: absolutely, the actions taken and proposed will have negligible effect on climate, whether or not AGW is significant.

    Overall, I’m not convinced that this is a major issue – 17 years of non-warming and counting – but even if it is/were, I’d continue to favour capacity-increasing measures (which depend on free markets etc rather than central directives) as the best response – we win whether or not harmful warming occurs.


    • Here’s a relevant CE post on Coase 13 July 2013:

      The “polluter pays” principle is flawed. Ronald Coase’s seminal paper The Problem of Social Cost was concerned with those actions of business firms which have harmful effects on others. Most economists had thought of the question as one in which A inflicts harm on B, and what is to be decided is how A should be restrained. Coase points out that this is wrong – we are dealing with a problem of a reciprocal nature. To avoid the harm to B would be to inflict harm on A. The real question is to avoid the more serious harm, so as to maximise social welfare.

      Coase demonstrated that where parties have conflicting interests which occasion an adverse impact on one party, the most economically efficient outcome will arise from a negotiated outcome. An approach of determining fault, damage and appropriate compensation will generally produce a sub-optimal outcome. When the question of compensation arises, the economic issue is not “Who has been harmed?” but “What arrangement is most efficient from a social perspective?”

      Coase stresses the need to take account of opportunity costs and to compare the returns from a given combination of factors with alternative arrangements. Using the pricing system to allocate resources to their highest value use can leave both parties and society better off, and does so at less cost than alternative systems.

      An optimal arrangement can rarely be achieved by legal processes – the immediate question faced by the courts is not what shall be done by whom (to achieve a socially optimal outcome) but who has the legal right to do what. But whatever the initial legal rights, it is always possible to modify them by market transactions. Of course, the costs of a market transaction are often sufficiently high to prevent many transactions that would be carried out in the absence of such costs – a rearrangement of rights will take place only when it creates more value than the costs involved in bringing it about [FN ].

      Coase notes that in cases where some damage is caused there will almost always be some gain to offset the harm, allowing scope for a negotiated settlement. All social arrangements for dealing with harmful effects of an activity have costs: the problem is one of choosing the most appropriate arrangement. This requires a detailed investigation of the actual results of handling the problem in different ways, using soundly-based economic analysis.

      The message from Coase is that decisions on compensation must have regard for the welfare of society as a whole, and be subject to a net public benefit test.

      [Footnote: In general, economists see great value in measures which reduce transaction costs. This was a particular focus of Coase.]

      The above is a slightly edited extract from my 1999 paper on The Economics of Compensation and its Relevance to Taxi Deregulation. I went on to discuss alternative rules to achieve efficiency and fairness, the purposes of collective action, compensation and economic efficiency – the notion of property, compensation and fairness, and developed a framework for addressing compensation questions; but I’ll stick with Coase for now.

      Coase’s 1960 paper can be downloaded from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/724810?uid=3737536&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102463921071

    • “…free markets etc rather than central directives…”

      I agree free markets are preferable if they are free. But many markets are monopolized, corrupted or gamed. It is very hard to make a market out of monetized credits for not producing an invisible gas that is everywhere. How do you measure how much is a reduction? Congress measures spending cuts as less of a spending increase than they would have liked. Don’t we expect other countries will quickly learn that game?
      Taxing the production of an invisible gas that nature produces everywhere has similar problems.

    • Yes. Negotiated settlements are preferable. That can be seen as a far out idea. I think we’d find moderate to pure libertarians would pay CO2 damages. Of course those are hard to determine, but would follow what Adler said. We have the tragedy of the commons. We dump our CO2 into the commons. My share has no effect on me. This scales up to the National level. If the U.S. does something, it doesn’t matter to the U.S.

    • Excellent priorities. Note also that the fat tail has been bloated with unreal descriptions of the consequences of warming, all of which fail reasonableness tests. There is zero historical precedent for societal harm from warming; all instances and evidence is to the contrary — that societies and the biosphere blossom when it’s warmer, not crash.

  4. We need to have a serious discussion about these issues, that acknowledges the the substantial uncertainties in the 21st century climate and discusses how to deal with a low probability high impact risk that is global and whose bounds are unknown and probably unknowable.

    There is insufficient information to know whether higher CO2 will be beneficial or harmful or even possible.

    Until the CO2 forcing and the CO2 rise are bounded to about +/-10% it is premature to take action.

    We have taken action before the data was in – and it appears to have delayed the science indefinitely. If we refuse to spend another dime on global warming mitigation until science serves up some well bounded and accurate answers, we will get some well bounded and accurate answers.

    We have plenty of time, maybe one or two hiatuses-worth, to get the science right.

    • + 10 I’m convinced!

    • Hmm. I agree that fat tail risk has been diminished (Yay! and yay again!). I also agree that cost/benefit needs to be taken into account.

      However… a revenue neutral carbon tax offers benefits that other regulatory or legislative responses do not.

      It would be an additional spur to the secular substitution trend for our fuel portfolio. We still have that next rung on the fuel density ladder to climb, moving from dung to fusion. Fossil fuels are not a demon–they have been an incredibly useful too and have changed the world and the lives of inhabitants. But then, so did whale oil and timber. Government (in particular the British Navy) spurred the transition from coal to oil and had previously spurred the transition from timber to coal. I have no problem with the EPA applying spurs for this transition (although I wish they were more accountable). Fossil fuels will become more valuable as they get harder to reach, but their ongoing value will surely be for industrial uses and fueling air transportation rather than their current use.

      It seems fairly obvious that a goodly portion of the current warming period should be attributed to human emissions of CO2. It seems like a real risk that temperature rises above 2C will prove damaging, especially to the developing world.

      One thing we do know about taxes used in similar fashion to what is proposed for a carbon tax–they have worked in the past. Whether you want to label it Pigouvian or a sin tax, we can accelerate substitution by using it. If it is revenue neutral then those worried about increased government influence should be mollified.

      As we do not have final answers about the extent and impact of climate change, we should spend our resources on adapting to the weather of today and build in a sober safety margin. It doesn’t cost much to build a seawall 2 feet higher than warranted by current storm surges.

      I really don’t care that the subject of this piece is a libertarian. I’m a progressive liberal and have found that partisan political position is not a predictor of intelligence, commitment or willingness to look at evidence. I more or less agree with much of what he says.

      Sounds like a lukewarmer to me…

      • Fuller, does the carbon tax apply to cement plants? Can we get an offset if we dump trees in the dead zone off the Mississippi delta?

      • Can we get an offset if we dump trees in the dead zone off the Mississippi delta?

        Why trees? Why not agricultural waste?

        Something to consider though: it’s not a “dead zone”. It’s just anoxic. Plenty of life there, plenty of redox activity. AFAIK the primary mediator is sulfur and its compounds: sulfate created at the upper boundary with aerated water, reduced to H2S at depth by bacteria that are oxidizing organic carbon. Which, in turn, diffuses back up.

        So, while it might work, especially in the short term, it’s a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface. Like most things in nature.

      • Steven Mosher


      • I was thinking of some sort of system to dump organic slurries in deep water within a dead zone. I’m not sure if it’s better to pump it right on the sea floor or put it in a series of pipes driven say 300 meters into bottom sediments. A properly designed system should fracture the sediments with a horizontal fracture and allow a huge volume to be injected.

        I don’t think there’s enough sulfur in those sediments, but the bacteria may manage to make methane. It would make a pretty decent place to dump liquid CO2 if the water is deep enough.

      • Don Monfort

        If you want to be honest, figure out some other label than than the benign sounding “revenue neutral tax”. It is highly unlikely to be designed by a legislative body to be revenue neutral. They won’t be able to properly calculate the costs of implementation and compliance for a multitude of different interest groups. The effects won’t fall on everyone equally. There will be unintended consequences. Most people will get screwed, some more than others. Why not just be up front and say it’s a carbon tax? And then make your case for it. Nobody is going to believe it’s revenue neutral, anyway. Does anybody not know that “choice” means “abortion”?

      • I think that there is a recognition that even adaptation is not free (and is sometimes used as a friendly term for damage recovery). So it makes sense to have a dedicated revenue stream for this coming out of a carbon tax.

      • michaelspj

        Tom, do you really think $3 Trillion will walk down K street unmolested? That’s what’s required for a “revenue neutral” tax.

      • “I also agree that cost/benefit needs to be taken into account.”
        How can you do a cost/benefit analysis between two alternatives where one of them has only costs but no benefits?
        “Renewbles” are only cost, no benefit. They are incapable of supplying our energy needs and therefore – of mitigating any CO2 emissions from those sources that do supply energy (fossil fuels) and will continue to do so.

      • “However… a revenue neutral carbon tax offers benefits that other regulatory or legislative responses do not.”

        That may well be true, but how do you make sure that you don’t get the carbon tax with all other “regulatory and legislative responses” on top of it?
        Why do you present it as an either-or alternative?
        In real life you’ll get the carbon tax AND all other (harmful) measures as well.

      • “As we do not have final answers about the extent and impact of climate change, we should spend our resources on adapting to the weather of today and build in a sober safety margin. It doesn’t cost much to build a seawall 2 feet higher than warranted by current storm surges.”

        Amen to that!

      • “It seems fairly obvious that a goodly portion of the current warming period should be attributed to human emissions of CO2. It seems like a real risk that temperature rises above 2C will prove damaging, especially to the developing world.”

        It may “seem” obvious to you, but given all of recorded history and empirical evidence, neither assertion holds. They indicate high probability that the contraries are true, in fact. A properly weighted payoff table would recommend encouraging and exploiting warming, up to levels higher than 2K. So you are not only wrong, but destructively wrong.

  5. I wrote Ronald Bailey a lengthy reply mostly citing the low end responses, numerous reasons for decreasing rates of warming going forward and the benefits versus detriments of the low end warming. I believe the scope and multi-disciplined aspects of anything global intimidates some in political circles who want to avoid perceived risk – even if they aren’t able to identify exactly what it is they’d be avoiding. Human, perhaps, but not reason.

    • Eddie, I agree that anyone in the public sector is risk averse by training as the hidden costs of lost opportunity and inefficiency never get accounted for. Public career advancement is about avoiding gaffs or getting caught not following the letter of a policy (unless you make it to top administration level).
      For the national leaders the game shifts from being risk averse to consolidating power directly by internal politics or indirectly by advancing national influence (or preferably both simultaneously). Government envy of big oil and desire to put reigns on is has been around since Teddy Roosevelt busted up Standard Oil. It was an oil lease corruption scandal that brought down President Harding. Leaders are not the least bit intimidated by attempting to take over industries “for the national good.” The industry then becomes postalized but political control is gained. BTW, we don’t need a national postal service any more do we?

    • michaelspj

      Don’t worry, neither he nor Taylor will listen. They have become creatures of Washington–what Milton Friedman warned would happen if Cato moved to DC. Fortunately, it only happened to a few of us, Taylor and Ron Bailey being examples.

  6. “What would it take to convince you about global warming?”

    I have no doubt the earth gets warmer and colder.

    What’s the real question?


    • Global warmers fail on two questions:

      1. If we do absolutely nothing, what is the CO2 driven temperature rise going to be in °C within 0.1°C.

      2. Is the aggregate effect of that temperature increase, including all factors including fertilization benefit and other benefits, negative, if so how negative?

      If the temperature change isn’t going to be big or the result isn’t going to be net negative – who cares – we can move on to a real problem.

      • Why within 0.1 C? That is impossible for anyone, probably better than we actually “know” the value of the global mean temp. of the earth.

        Within 1C would be impressive, actually. Within 0.5C would actually be useful. If they somehow knew with 95% certainty that the rise would be 2.0C =/- 1C, that is not all that useful if one believes that 2C is dangerous as the range falls between not bad at all (same as last 100 years) and really, really bad (again, if one believes that 2C is bad).

        0.5C precision/predictability would be what was needed. But, more importantly are two other things. First, over what time period? By 2080? By 2150? The other important variable is how the heat is distributed. If land went up by 1.2C by 2135 and the oceans went up 0.15 degrees, that is much different than land going up by 5C while the oceans only went up 0.02 degrees. Even more reason to get a handle on natural variability and ocean currents and heat flows.

      • The actual measure of 2 W/ 22 PPM would indicate that the entire 20th century effect is less than 0.24°C.

        Given that the future CO2 related warming is going to be less than 0.2°C, asking that the guess be within 0.1°C is not unreasonable.

        The CO2 level isn’t going to exceed 500 PPM and won’t be above 460 PPM for long. Most of the long term questions are an absurd joke. Only the TSR is needed for computing CO2 influence – the CO2 level won’t be high enough, long enough for ECS to be a consideration.

        Environmental absorption is in the 5.1-5.6 GT/Y range and in 19 years or less will be in the same 9.8 range as the current emissions. Unless the emissions drastically increase the annual rise in CO2 in 20 years will be zero (0.0 PPM/Y)..

        We are talking just the CO2 effect – and I should be able to measure 2/3rd s of that effect by wandering outside to measure downdwelling IR with a wattmeter. This isn’t rocket science – it’s climate.

  7. Convince me of what? That anthropogenic change is “real?” Or that it is going to be catastrophic to civilization? It’s odd to me how often those positions are conflated.

    No convincing necessary on the “real” part.

    For the “catastrophic” part, I would require GCMs that can successfully predict specific effects more than 7 or 8 years out, backed by experimental measurements that were defined at the time of the predictions, In other words, science.

    A good example would have been the polar ice caps — had a model successfully predicted that they would completely melt by a certain date, then I would consider it convincing proof.

    But a model that predicted increasing global temperatures (as measured by land instruments) over the last 18 years or so, not so much. And the whole “but the heat went into the ocean so the model is still right” argument fails because it was not specified at the time of the prediction.

    Before Mosher jumps all over me with his arguments about “observational science,” note that all successful observational sciences can meet the above test. Astronomy, evolution, archaeology — they can all point to successful predictions made years before the corresponding observations.

    • Mike Jonas

      “it was not specified at the time of the prediction”.


      • Hindcasting the narrative or post hoc rationalisation seems to be what has been happening around the climate science traps but colour me unconvinced.

        If Tomas Milanovic (not his real name) and Judith Curry were to jointly declare that dangerous global warming was occurring and if their data and code had been published, reviewed and accepted by Christopher Monckton and Freeman Dyson, I would believe it.

      • And Clint Eastwood, mebbe.

    • Steven Mosher

      Your problem is this:

      ‘For the “catastrophic” part, I would require GCMs that can successfully predict specific effects more than 7 or 8 years out, backed by experimental measurements that were defined at the time of the predictions, In other words, science.”

      You have not defined “success” in any sort of meaningful way.

      Let me give you an example or two.

      My distance to empty model that my truck runs.

      based on a seriesof assumptions it models or estimates the distance I can drive before I am empty. In fact its a horrible model. None of the assumptions are valid and the answer is always wrong by large amounts. But the model isnt designed to give the EXACT answer or even a close answer. The model is designed to keep me from running out of gas.

      The weather based sales forecast model I developed. man it sucks. Its sucks primarily because weather forecasts suck. BUT it works to achive a specific end. It works to prevent stock outs while controlling inventory levels.

      Asteroid impact. We can predict that an asteroid wil hit the planet, but we cant predict the exact damage.

      Dropping a simple bomb. again, we dont need to know exactly how the damage will occur ( see the flysplat model ) its enough to know the damn bridge will come down with minimal collateral damage.

      What’s the point. The point is you cant start by asserting A precision required. You start with a Use or a purpose. You start with a goal.

      Take sea level. what do you need to know

      1. The exact sea level at a 100 meter resolution good to 1mm of accuracy?
      2. The average global level good to 50 cm?
      3. Simply whether it will go up or down?
      4. The probablity that we will see 1M rise?

      When you take an observational science and try to apply it to policy you are doing operations research. It’s messy, uncertain, filled with assumptions.
      It works best with the following question. What is my purpose?

      • You have not defined “success” in any sort of meaningful way.

        Yes, I have. As a competent scientist would define it. Success means a non-trivial prediction with error bounds, and a measurement that agrees with the prediction. It’s really not that hard.

        My distance to empty model that my truck runs. based on a seriesof assumptions it models or estimates the distance I can drive before I am empty. In fact its a horrible model.

        You take it to have wide error bounds, as is appropriate. Given the error bounds, it is a fine model. It does not, however, give you any insight into how the world works, and is therefore not a scientific model.

        Your problem is that you see the scientific questions as driven by the policy concerns. But science is not based on policy implications. It’s based on understanding the world. We measure our understanding of the world by making predictions and then testing them.

        Unless climate science figures out how to decouple the science part from the policy part, it’s never going to successfully understand the world, which means that the policy advice it gives will always be biased and less than optimal.

    • +1 thanks for the link.

    • Much like big government is bad government, all tax is evil and more tax is more evil.

      The Republicans should pass a law that permanently removes any executive branch authority to regulate CO2 in any way and declares that, by law, CO2 is a harmless beneficial gas.

      This is the only way to end the insanity on climate in DC.

      • “…all tax is evil and more tax is more evil.”
        New laws are evil too.
        I say if they turn things around at the Postal Service and Obamacare really starts to promote competition and efficiency then we let them take over more sectors of power. But if they keep breaking every promise why should we reward them with more trust?

      • If we took fusion research out of the hands of the DOE and set published benchmark rewards for private sector innovation we would have fusion power plants up and running now. Look what Elon Musk did with Tesla. His organization, funded by stock holders, advanced battery technology further in three years than any government ever did in any forty years.

      • Obamacare if you read the fine print was a 50% increase in healthcare costs in exchange for more government control of healthcare.

        The fact that government programs that reduce the cost effectiveness of the energy and healthcare sectors, are being forcefeed to the voters with the assistance of a compliant and complicit press is a little dismaying.

      • Ron Graf | May 13, 2015 at 11:26 pm |
        If we took fusion research out of the hands of the DOE and set published benchmark rewards for private sector innovation we would have fusion power plants up and running now. Look what Elon Musk did with Tesla. His organization, funded by stock holders, advanced battery technology further in three years than any government ever did in any forty years.

        Well…. The $ 20 billion plus flushed annually on “Climate Change” should be defunded by the Republican congress. The lunatic environmental left should not be given one more thin taxpayer dime. The global warmers are rich – they can waste their own money.

        With that $20 billion/year we could fund a Mars Mission, an efficient LFTR reactor design, all of the niche fusion theories – only one of which needs to be a winner, and some exotic technologies like EMDrive and Eugene Podkletnov’s superconductor force experiments.

        The niche stuff only costs a couple of million a year per project to keep the research going and anything that hits paydirt gets big funding. None of the niche fusion systems have 1/100th the prototype cost of ITER.

        It is unbelievably stupid that we are flushing money on climate change when there are many more deserving projects. Funding a cheap compact nuclear reactor means we are guaranteed a winner regardless of how the niche stuff turns out.

      • “Look what Elon Musk did with Tesla. His organization, funded by stock holders”
        And by large government backed loans.

    • Murphy makes a very strong comment: “More generally, it is perverse that Jerry Taylor is pointing to the utter senselessness of existing U.S. energy policy as an argument to go along with another, brand new intervention in the energy sector. Instead, the perversity of existing regulations is a good reason to turn around, rather than give more concessions to the interventionists in hopes that they will be reasonable going forward.” I have long argued, on the basis of experience as an economic policy adviser to high levels of government, that government failure is a far bigger problem than market failure; the answer to bad regulation is never more regulation.

  8. ulriclyons

    “What would it take to convince you about global warming?”

    Increasingly positive Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillation states, accompanied by the associated cooling of the Arctic.

    • “What would it take to convince you about global warming?”

      Any one of the following would convince me of warming but not necessarily cost benefits of any particular policy or world government control:

      1) A multiply-validated matrix of proxies that explain the relationship between ocean heat dynamics to GMST for the past 10,000 years and that reveals a growing radiative imbalance since 1950 demonstrating equilibrium climate sensitivity to be 3.0 or greater.

      2) A jump of .8C or more in GMST (verified by UAH or RSS) within a year if a strong El Nino or .4C rise without a downward rebound for 5 years.

      3) Al Gore starts flying as a commercial airline passenger.


  9. “If the objective is to change public opinion, then changing elite opinion is a necessary prerequisite. In fact, I would say necessary and sufficient. I don’t think you need to win a war on talk radio to have your impact on right-of-center opinion.”


    “I think this is exactly right.”

    Fortunately for the world, this is exactly wrong.

    “Elite opinion” (or more properly elitist opinion), has long been virtually uniformly in favor of global decarbonization. Just as elitist opinion in the US has long almost uniformly favored immigration amnesty, ‘universal healthcare’, ‘gay marriage’, abortion, etc.

    So why haven’t the elitists been able to enact their agenda through the democratic process? Why do they constantly have to resort to undemocratic means of forcing their policies (temporarily at least) down the throats of the voters? Why do the elitists have to use executive/imperial edicts. judicial legislating, and bureaucratic assumption of legislative/judicial/executive power?

    For the simple reason that the US and Europe are, for now, still democracies. All the imperial edicts Obama has decreed are subject to evaporation upon the next election. The failure of Greece could be the beginning of the end for the autocracy that is struggling to make itself permanently immune from the democratic process.

    The more power progressives get, the more they reveal their true autocratic nature. And libertarians, for all their preaching about liberty, are int heir own way just as autocratic. (Which is why so many refugees from progressivism, who just can’t give up their elitism, find a home among liberaltarians.)

    Libertarians are the useful idiots of progressivism. Look at college campuses to see how the left uses liberaltarians to help destroy the moral fabric of a community,. for the sole purpose of then taking almost complete control in the resulting ‘crisis’.

    • GaryM,
      I’m not sure where you are getting that libertarians want to tear down anything. The simplest definition of a libertarian is a believer in the ideals of Jefferson, Madison and Franklin as embodied in the Constitution and more particularly in its Bill of Rights, the idea that liberty unleashes the creative power and unbounded energy of the free.
      As I heard Thomas Freedman once say, (not realizing its implication,) “You can stop people from doing bad but you can’t force them to do good.”

      • First, there is no real ‘libertarian’ philosophy. Modern libertarians adopt conservative economic theory, secular humanist social policy, and a dash of isolationism. There really is nothing original in the ‘libertarian’ fad currently in vogue in the US.

        Jefferson, Madison and Franklin were not libertarians, as that term is bastardized today. Do you actually think they would approve of the evisceration of the police power of the states? Abortion, gay marriage? They had never heard of heroine, methamphetamine or crack cocaine. How do you think they would feel about the Supreme Court finding that virtual child porn is protected by the First Amendment, but political speech against incumbent politicians 60 days before an election is not?

        What most liibertarians want to tear down is the social fabric this society adopted and adapted over centuries, with extensive trial and error. The same way their progressive brethren want to treat the economic system that evolved in concert with that moral fabric. They both share the identical contempt for the unintended consequences of their political policies.

        By the way, Madison helped draft the first Virginia Constitution. Which contained this provision:

        “That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

        The founders would laugh at modern liberaltarian ‘philosophy’ claiming them as their intellectual forebears.

      • Don Monfort

        Ron, Gary gets to define the pigeonholes and decide who goes in which:

        “First, there is no real ‘libertarian’ philosophy.”

        That’s Gary’s rules. If you ain’t a solid triple rock died in the wool purebred congenital true conservative, then you are a progressive, which is the same thing as a totalitarian socialist. There are a total of 9 real reliable true conservatives in the U.S. The gang of 9 are Gary M., Ted Cruz, Sara Palin and a half dozen others whose names Gary can’t remember off the top of his head. The rest of the folks in the country are progressives, no matter what they think they are. It’s simplistic and surreal, but it works for Gary in Gaaary’s world. Of course he has zero influence in the real political war, because he doesn’t understand what’s going on and his type is so easy for the progs to marginalize and demonize. Right, Gaaaary?

        He is using the turtle defense. Let’s see if he is smart enough to stay in his shell.

    • GaryM, …

      I’m not sure where you are getting you info on libertarians.

      The Federal government doesn’t have an constitution interest in a lot of the “elite issues”.

      Downsizing the Federal government and trimming its powers will force the elites to fight these issues on a state by state basis. They will win on the loopy left coast and lose elsewhere.

      The problem on college campuses is discrimination against conservatives. The solution is affirmative action and diversity – a requirement that the faculty mirror the 40% conservative balance of the community at large and taking job actions against faculty that discriminate against conservatives.

      • “Downsizing the Federal government and trimming its powers will force the elites to fight these issues on a state by state basis.”

        Who precisely do you see doing the “downsizing?” And how? Virtually the entire GOP congressional contingent is made up of ‘me too’ statists whose only disagreement with the Democrats is the rate of growth of Leviathan. Supposed conservative Paul Ryan consistently proposes budgets that have no real cuts for the next 8-10 years.

        Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and maybe Mike Lee are the only actual prominent conservatives on the national stage. If you look into the records of Christie, Pence, and even Scott Walker, you find they favor elitist progressive programs like common core and immigration amnesty just as much as the current GOP ‘leadership’.

      • tomdesabla


        I am surprised to read what you are saying about libertarians. I have always thought you knew better. I don’t think you have an accurate read on libertarianism at all. First off, a great many libertarians are strong constitutionalists, and 10th Amendment supporters who favor states rights. Second, there is a real libertarian philosophy, and I’m amazed that you don’t know this. Libertarians simply place the highest political value on individual liberty, and that is embodied in the non-aggression principle. The vast majority of libertarians support this principle.

        Libertarians absolutely DO NOT want to tear down any “fabric of society” and the suggestion is ludicrous. Any legitimate such fabric would have to have been knitted by free individuals, and libertarians understand this better than anybody.

        Are you confusing libertarians with liberals? By your use of the term “liberaltarian” it seems like you do. This is a mistake on your part Gary, Many, if not most libertarians are pro-life, and have a strong set of moral values. Just because the Founders didn’t know about this new problem in society, or that one, doesn’t mean they weren’t libertarians.

        The point of liberty, as they understood, and it has always been so, is that one cannot practice any form of prudence, virtue, temperance, or any other personal value until they are free politically to do so. Don’t confuse personal with political. You cannot be personally free to live in what way seems morally good to you, until you are politically free from bondage to any entity, and most particularly the state.

        There is no difference on this truth between the Founders and the vast majority of libertarians.

    • GaryM:

      Thank for you comments. The above diagram helped me to visualize extreme libertarianism, Anarchists. I think it’s what you get when you take our arguments to their logical conclusion. Dynastic is not a bad description. I have mine, so things will remain the same. Consider the anti-migration people. While our Constitution was good, it was dynastic. For me, head to head a democracy is better than a Constitution. As far as autocratic goes, we passionately want control, of the fruits of our labor. “…taking no account of other people’s wishes or opinions…” That could be me.

      • The above is something I put together, using the ideas from the hawaii edu diagram.

      • Ragnaar, I see what you are aiming at here.
        I would have had mitigation and adaptation in the positions of danger and benefits. I haven’t thought about the interior words much, however.

      • Jim D:
        I was going for opposing thoughts. Certainty is opposite Doubt. I could tweak my choice of words.

    • With the signing of our Constitution, slavery was allowed and women could not vote. As things evolved some moved in the socialist direction and some in the libertarian direction even though they identify with a major party. Some didn’t move too much or as fast. We have seen dynastic rules fall but totalitarian flavored ones rise. In that diagram I put up, the corners are difficult. When people argue, they can point to their opponents corner. Their reply might be, they are closer to the middle. The corner are also interesting. If a society approaches any of the 3, it will tip over and collapse. If we remove the libertarian section of triangle, what are we left with?

  10. Judith says:

    “We need to have a serious discussion about these issues, that acknowledges the the substantial uncertainties in the 21st century climate and discusses how to deal with a low probability high impact risk that is global and whose bounds are unknown and probably unknowable.”

    Nobody has a clue on how to deal with the potential of CAGW. The UNFCCC solution is a non-starter. What is there to discuss?

    For my money with an incredibly small likelihood of a devastating outcome, I say do nothing. To me it’s like the risk of Earth being hit by a huge meteorite in the future. The risk is there and it’s small (we hope). Whatta we gonna go about it? Bupkas!

    • We spend a few million a year to look for loose rocks, we should only be spending a few million a year to look for loose carbons.

    • Judith,

      The meteor is hard to stop. However, there is a lot of cold ocean water that we can use to cool the planet on an industrial scale (if we had to). So the warming problem is not very threatening when viewed against our engineering ability. Here I assume that we do nothing to mitigate CO2. Yet still not an unsurmountable problem. (There are other methods too, but they are less attractive to me).

      As we remove cool water from the deep ocean we will reduce the risk of a wicked ice age which is surely lurking down there.

      I don’t like calling a problem wicked, because it throws up an unnecessary barrier to thought. For the climate, we do know the ingredients. We are lacking in precision on some of those ingredients. This is due to the small signal to noise ratio and the short timespan for which we have high quality data. In the future, we will probably intervene in the climate, either to increase or decrease the temperature. We will do this when we are sure about the direction to go. Not wicked nor a problem!


      • 90% of the ocean is a desert, the 10% of mostly coastal areas that are productive are being threatened by overfishing. The ocean surface is warming.

        We can kill two stones with one bird. Put wave/wind/solar driven pumps (on very long pipes) in the middle of the open ocean and pump the cold nutrient rich waters from the bottom to the surface. This will create oases of life in mid ocean.

        We could double or perhaps quadruple ocean productivity. And eliminate warming sea surface temperatures at the same time.

  11. David Wojick

    The rational response to low probability, high impact risks is to ignore them, because there are thousands or millions of them. Should I not walk, lest I fall? Of course not. What is being ignored here is that there is a rational threshold to active response. Fat tails be damned.

  12. The framing is inadequate for Taylor’s recommended public policy response to climate change. That is, it’s not suitable for analysis of a shockwave — a high-impact, low probability scenario.

    How much funding (including regulation) should we devote to shockwaves as a group? Given the number of them, especially including the ones further out in the “tails”, we cannot fully prepare or even “hedge” against them all (also imo “hedge” is not a useful concept here).

    Each shockwave has its single issue activists, who see only “their” danger. Peak oil, damage to oceans, climate change, solar storms, key pollutants (eg. Xenoestrogens), species loss (multiple causes), tectonic events (earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis), big cyclone hit on a major city, etc.

    There are so many risks. Also, how to allocate funds between shockwaves and smaller but still serious high-probability events (e.g, increase food stores for major crop damage)?

    We need a framework to combine these into a risk budget, and allocate funds to the overall project. Otherwise we fund the risk that seems the most vivid — or the risks most aggressively (ie, inaccurately) marketed.

    Climate science provides us with a near-perfect example of how not to manage risks.

  13. Mike Flynn

    A couple of points.

    Global warming segues into climate change without blinking. Not so subtle propaganda, but very effective. Of course, climate has always changed, but so far attempts to stop it changing, or even bend it to our will, have met with little or no success.

    Nobody can rigorously define what the result of ameliorating climate change would be, let alone stopping it altogether.

    So back to the title, which refers to global warming, which of course is a totally different thing. What would convince me that global warming even exists?

    Firstly, experiments showing that the experimental results of Professor John Tyndall and Professor R W Wood, for starters, are wrong. Follow this with replicable verifiable evidence that the surface of the Earth, or at least what overlays it, is increasing in temperature in a predictable fashion related to the measured increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.

    That will do for a start.

    The discussion around supposed global warming has changed to one around the evils of carbon, which seems slightly absurd on the face of it. One might as well rail against the evils of hydrogen,

    As far as I know, even the U.S. EPA has not been silly enough to claim any adverse health effects to levels of CO2 in the atmosphere up to 1000 ppm. Instead, increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are supposed to cause adverse health effects remotely, by a mechanism not clearly understood, but with certainly fatal results if we don’t obey the experts, our betters, or both.

    Have I got this right? I would appreciate factual correction if I’m wrong. Assertions don’t cause me to change my mind. Facts certainly do.

    • > Follow this with replicable verifiable evidence that the surface of the Earth, or at least what overlays it, is increasing in temperature in a predictable fashion related to the measured increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.

      I thought you said we can’t predict the future, Mike

  14. catweazle666

    Some clear evidence that it was actually warming would be a start.

    As would some evidence of the vitally important water vapour feedback, not to mention the tropospheric hot spot.

    Oh, and some climate models that actually WORKED.

  15. Please give us testable falsifiable predictions: so not droughts AND floods, or heatwaves AND blizzards

    • Exactly. That’s the problem with the concept of global warming. The data doesn’t move everywhere at the same pace or even in the same direction – we need to be looking at regional impacts and at regional policies.

    • And no hockey-sticks please.
      It was the hockey-stick that convinced me most of all that this climate hysteria is nonsense.

      • I will take the alarmist scientists (like Hansen or Gavin) more seriously once they denounce the hockey-stick for the nonsense it is.
        As long as they adhere religiously to it, I have my proof that they are biased.

    • I agree Hans. If I knew what would falsify the theory (and it seemed like credible stuff that would happen if the theory were not right) then I would have a lot more confidence.

      • Relatedly it would help me if I could read essays from those who are very concerned about climate disaster telling me what it would take to convince them that they were on the wrong track. It seems to me natural variation and cycles are the default case until a falsifiable theory informs us, in advance, of unfolding events.

    • The falsifiable prediction is that the ~2 C per doubling effective transient rate seen in the last 60 years will continue on into the future. This is only a lower limit for the actual warming at equilibrium.

      • The falsifiable prediction is that the ~2 C per doubling effective transient rate seen in the last 60 years will continue on into the future.

        Close, I guess…

        This is only a lower limit for the actual warming at equilibrium.
        Subject to falsification.

      • Try GISTEMP/HADCRUT4 and 60 years. A robust 2+ C per doubling.

  16. I don’t mean just to self-promote here, but I have written a lot of stuff providing an economist’s perspective on the libertarian case for action lean against the winds of climate change. Here are three pieces that might interest participants in this discussion:
    (1) Science, public policy,and global warming (CATO Journal) http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/2006/11/cj26n3-3.pdf
    (2) Why Conservatives Should Support a Carbon Tax (first of 3-part series conservatives/progressives/libertarians) http://www.economonitor.com/dolanecon/2013/07/01/why-conservatives-should-love-a-carbon-tax-and-why-some-of-them-do/
    (3) Austrian environmental economics (first of 2 parts) http://www.economonitor.com/dolanecon/2014/03/31/austrian-environmental-economics-air-pollution-as-a-coordination-problem/

    Comments invited either here on on original publication site

    • Hi Ed, thanks much for these links

    • There is something un-conservative about reconciling conservatism with a certain opinion-set. Framing something as “Austrian” or “libertarian” or “hard-headed” to get me to accept it is the kind of stunt I associate with tribalists (aka leftist intellectuals). What next? Why Ayn Rand and Edmund Burke would be Prius People if they were alive now? (Don’t laugh. Someone wrote a hit article about how Burke – who actually ate any bloody thing – was Patron Saint of Organic Food because, well, you know…)

      Either we’re buggering the climate or we’re not. Please don’t tell me what side my tribe should be on. I don’t have a tribe and don’t want one. I’m conservative, duh. I’m so conservative I feel free to have liberal opinions. There’s no tribe, so I just think what I think.

    • The “why conservatives should love a carbon tax” was reproduced on this site, and has got plenty of critical comments…

  17. The hypocrisy of the believers is blinding and it will take a lot less of it dry up my skepticism.

  18. To begin to convince me you would have to eschew outrageous slob terms like “global warming” and “climate change”.

    I recently saw one of those survey (groan) thingies where questioners were using an expression like “significant/substantial anthropogenic climate disruption”. I guess clear terms like that would help. On the whole, I find those of the warmist persuasion don’t like that sort of clarity or firm definition.

    But show me that sea level rise isn’t a sluggish affair which started (this time) over two hundred years ago. Show me that the Holocene is a line sharply disrupted at this end, rather than a whole lot of bumps called Optimum, Minoan, Roman, Medieval…you know the drill.

    Above all, introduce me to that era or even short period when climate was “stable” and “normal”. Promise I’ll do my bit to get us back there, but you have to find it first. Silly to fritter the trillions before you know where you want to go.

    On the subject of frittered trillions, I think it was Clint Eastwood who said “You are what you drive”. If someone has been fiercely advocating for white elephants, it’s always going to be hard to listen to their opinions on climate. You are your white elephant.

  19. Epstein is great mostly in podcast; his writing by contrast is very plodding.

    The felt need for a moral at the end, perhaps from the WSJ, makes writingdoubly awful. Epstein’s strength is the journey, not the end. He shows how to think from principles.

    As for climate science, it doesn’t have an adult peer review mechanism, so it is toy science.

    As for long tails, it’s a political move. Invent a “public problem” and take ownership of it. That’s sociologically the modern route to power.

  20. Danny Thomas

    Why this:”Climate change is definitely a non-diversifiable risk. However, the climate risk is different from risks in financial markets, since financial risks are bounded, and there is no question of paying more to avoid the financial risk than the amount of assets that are actually at risk. “?

    In other discussions I’ve seen some state the best approach to a “wicked problem” is to not try to break it down, but to go in full bore. Disagree.

    There are addressable known knowns which lead to multiple benefits. We know eventually we’ll run out of fossil fuels (even if we don’t know when). We know that alternative energy sources have place in the markets. We know that literally billions are being spent worldwide chasing this climate issue. We know land use has impacts. It does not specifically require “changing our minds” as most all agree warming is occurring. The issues are will it be net negative and how much if so.

    So addressing it as an issue in a conservative approach while gathering additional research lessens the complexity. We just need to “dollar cost average” our way through the early part of the learning curve (addressing the knowns) and being prepared to invest more heavily (if necessary) based on greater “market” information. Buy low/sell high. Easy peasy!

  21. This part is confusing to me:
    “Libertarians tend to compare the cost side of climate change [mitigation] to the benefits. They say, when [person or company] A harms [person or company] B, if the gains to A are greater than the harms to B, then fare thee well.” – Taylor, more context in the above article.
    Here’s Adler:
    “It is a well recognized principle of common law that if company A is flooding the land of person B, it is irrelevant whether company A generates lots of economic prosperity for the local community (including B).  A’s action would still violate B’s property rights, and B would be entitled to relief of some sort.  By the same token, if the land of a farmer in Bangladesh is flooded, due in measurable and provable part to human-induced climate change, why would he be any less entitled to redress than a farmer who has his land flooded by his neighbor’s land-use changes? Property rights should not be sacrificed as part of some utilitarian calculus.” – Adler
    I’d agree with Adler but the difficult parts are addressing measurable and provable. Taylor’s portrayal of libertarian tendencies, I don’t recognize the first part of it, but I am glad he seems to have found a core principal that most agree on. Taylor should’ve known libertarians believe one should not harm another except for in self defense. It’s a rule that applies to a lot of things and is an overriding one. Few if any other rules take priority over it. Harm includes taxation. While I agree with the theory, I still pay my taxes, compromising.

  22. rogerknights

    If the developing world isn’t going to reduce its emissions, and it isn’t (China won’t even allow its emissions to be monitored), then our adopting a carbon tax will only delay 2100 by five years (max). So why bother?

    • We don’t need a carbon tax. The IPCC reports alone were enough to stop global warming. [A sort of high-level Gore effect].

    • Well, the developing world will reduce emissions once they are developed.
      This is the contradiction – economic development, which takes energy, develops economies which then use energy more efficiently and have lower population growth. Instead of limiting developing world energy use, we should be fostering it. Evidently the new Chinese bank will do just that.
      I haven’t seen a 2015 report like the one that this came from, but it looks like China is now among the developing nations with declining CO2 emissions:

      • Failing to recognize this ( economic development is good for the ‘environment’, not to mention the course of free minds and free markets ) is a big fail for libertarians.

      • http://www.lp.org

        A simple visit to the Libertarian site indicates that whatever this Taylor character is pushing isn’t libertarianism

        Mr. Taylor’s political philosophy appears to be liberaltarianism.

  23. A lot of people call themselves libertarians, but Jerry Taylor sure doesn’t sound like one. The fact that he thinks that libertarian thought is right-of-center, indicates he doesn’t understand the difference between conservatives and libertarians.
    The difference is found in which of them are advocates of government force to solve social and economical problems. Conservatives often are, libertarians inherently are not.
    A carbon tax is a forceful taking of private property, for a perceived public purpose. In this case, Taylor is willing to use such force to solve what he sees as a public policy problem – i.e., a problem which he thinks requires a political solution.
    Libertarians don’t think it is their responsibility to use the coercive power of the state to makes things better, or that there are superior people who should be in charge of directing technology, economic activity, or human activity in general. They typically respect the intelligence and resourcefulness of free people to solve problems.
    Taylor doesn’t get that picture. He is apparently frustrated with his inability to see how “we” will cope with climate change, without government action, so he joins the crowd and lends his voice to calling for coercive state action.
    Libertarians do have an understanding of the sources of creative solutions – they understand that freedom is the prerequisite to intelligent human action, and that coercive short-cuts are inevitably going to fail.

    • +10
      You explained the libertarian ideal better than I have seen.

      • ” If Libertarians are not right of center, were are they?”

        There is no right and left, only up and down. -Ronald Reagan

        Hint: Socialism and Fascism are down.

        “That government which governs best governs least.” -the Jeffersonian Maxim

    • I recently registered Libertarian and read ‘Reason’ regularly.
      I vote Libertarian ( meaning for Gary Johnson ) but I realize the contradiction. If Libertarians ever came to power, I wonder how long it would be before the corruption of nearly all the ideals.

    • the problem with your analysis is that he wants it revenue neutral- he wants to replace an existing tax with this one. Libertarians accept some level of taxation and expect it to be by “force.” Libertarians are also cool with regressive taxes- everyone should pay after all. Carbon is used by everyone
      Progressives won’t accept a revenue neutral carbon tax. They will say they will to get it passed, then they’ll spend the money. Hey, it’s sorta revenue neutral if you assume we were going to borrow the money instead.
      He also makes the mistake of assuming the new revenue neutral carbon tax would be avoidable. It won’t be because progressives block functional alternatives to fossil fuels. So there is no benefit to the tax either in switching to a regressive tax or in addressing global warming. Which is fine with progressives but shouldn’t be for Libertarians.

      • Writes jeffnsails850:

        Libertarians accept some level of taxation and expect it to be by “force.” Libertarians are also cool with regressive taxes- everyone should pay after all. Carbon is used by everyone.

        I dunno where in hell these guys are getting their appreciation of “Libertarians” (perhaps from the LP weasels?)m but there’s no such goddam thing about our easy and happy receipt of taxation – imposed “by ‘force'” as such extortion has always been – as a necessity.

        Like hell.

        Make no mistake: all taxes are evil. When you take somebody else’s property and they don’t want to give it to you, there’s only one word for it, no matter how many others voted to do it or what kind of funny hat or silly uniform you wear.

        That word is theft.

        Until recently, historically, hardly anybody paid taxes. What little taxation there was was in the form of tariffs, or an income tax that only applied to the top 5% (which isn’t right, either, I’m simply discussing history here). Taxes were virtually invisible. But they are not invisible any longer, and our culture is much the worse for it. What example does it give children — has it given children for the last 75 years — to run a civilization on theft?

        — L. Neil Smith, “My Three Tax Programs” (15 April 2000)

    • “The fact that he thinks that libertarian thought is right-of-center, indicates he doesn’t understand the difference between conservatives and libertarians.”
      I’m not sure I understand your statement. If Libertarians are not right of center, were are they?
      Heck, even anarchists are right of center!
      Thanks, in advance, in case you answer:]

      • Adding to the prevailing misperceptions of libertarianism on this thread, we have Glenn Ledford posting:

        “The fact that he thinks that libertarian thought is right-of-center, indicates he doesn’t understand the difference between conservatives and libertarians.”
        I’m not sure I understand your statement. If Libertarians are not right of center, were are they?

        For the sake of parsimony, I’m going to quote libertarian writer L. Neil Smith yet again. He’s been wrangling this business for decades:

        It’s harder and harder these days to tell a liberal from a conservative — given the former category’s increasingly blatant hostility toward the First Amendment, and the latter’s prissy new disdain for the Second Amendment — but it’s still easy to tell a liberal from a libertarian.

        Just ask about either Amendment.

        If what you get back is a spirited defense of the ideas of this country’s Founding Fathers, what you’ve got is a libertarian. By shameful default, libertarians have become America’s last and only reliable stewards of the Bill of Rights.

        But if — and this usually seems a bit more difficult to most people — you’d like to know whether an individual is a libertarian or a conservative, ask about Abraham Lincoln.
        If libertarians ran things, they’d melt all the Lincoln pennies, shred all the Lincoln fives, take a wrecking ball to the Lincoln Memorial, and consider erecting monuments to John Wilkes Booth. Libertarians know Lincoln as the worst President America has ever had to suffer, with Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson running a distant second, third, and fourth.

        Conservatives, on the other hand, adore Lincoln, publicly admire his methods, and revere him as the best President America ever had. One wonders: is this because they’d like to do, all over again, all of the things Lincoln did to the American people? Judging from their taste for executions as a substitute for individual self-defense, their penchant for putting people behind bars — more than any other country in the world, per capita, no matter how poorly it works to reduce crime — and the bitter distaste they display for Constitutional “technicalities” like the exclusionary rule, which are all that keep America from becoming the world’s largest banana republic, one is well-justified in wondering.

        “The American Lenin”

        There’s a quick and simple – and very reliable – litmus test for you.

        There’s also the zero aggression principle, which defines the libertarian.

        Ideology doesn’t determine the views of global warming realists; honesty and real data do. Conservatives and libertarians are more likely than liberals to “look under the hood” at the science driving the global warming movement because they don’t like the direction that vehicle is taking the world. When they do, they discover great uncertainty over the causes and consequences of climate change. If liberals paused for a moment and actually looked at the science, they too would quickly become “skeptics.” Alas, most don’t and never will. It’s called “confirmation bias.”

        — Joseph L. Bast (1 May 2015)

    • michaelspj

      Read between the lines he is also for a single-payer health care system. Libertarian? Nah!

  24. David L. Hagen

    McKitrick shrank Weitzman’s fat tail
    Ross McKitrick discovered that much of Weitzman’s fat tail was due to a log approximation that is strongly reduced with McKitrick’s accurate correct evaluation.

    The Weitzman Dismal Theorem (DT) states that peoples’ willingness to pay to insure against possible future global warming damages is, effectively, infinitely large, as long as they have constant relative risk aversion and an uninformed prior view about the risks of climate change. . . . I show that the degeneracy is not a general result. It relies on the use of a log approximation to the rate of consumption growth and an extreme prohibition on intergenerational wealth transfers. Use of an exact growth measure simplifies the pricing model such that insurance prices can only be unbounded in a trivial case. In general the model implies unexceptional willingness to pay to avoid future costs, even when climate risks are large and uniformly distributed.

    Ross McKitrick, Cheering Up the Dismal Theorem, Dept. Economics & Finance, Discussion Paper, March 16, 2012, College of Management and Economics, Guelph Ontario (corrected 2013)

  25. “Nobody would manage risk based on the most likely outcome in a world of great uncertainty”

    Ahhh Let’s see. If you have been paying attention to recent news regarding financial planners recommendations to people about to or are currently retired, the 4% withdrawal rule is being modified and the investment holdings: i.e., low exposure to stocks and higher bond holdings have netted a general loss to the people who followed the advice by financial planners just a short 5 years ago. There are no widows and orphans investment strategies. Financially, we are in unknown territories with advice all over the place, and here’s the kicker, we have been in the unknown unknown scenarios all along although not acknowledged by the “consensus” of financial advisors. Nobody foresaw a 60% fall in oil prices for instance.

    Onto the climate change stage have climbed actors, spewing lines of woe and sorrow, preaching the precautionary principle as Jerry Taylor and Bob Litterman expouse. Since we can’t be really really sure of the future, then the better course of action is: either wait and see or…double down some fraction of our economic well-being for the chance at staving off an un-imaginably bleak future.

    This devil or the deep blue sea kind of thinking brings me to the individual personality characteristic of: how risk adverse person are you? How self-assured are you that you can manage going through whatever life throws in your path. Better yet, how courageous are you? How self-confident are you? Are you prone to all the maladies of anxiety? Are you reckless with your own welfare as well as the welfare of others? I am not in a titanic confrontation with the world about me constantly projecting either or, binary outcomes, rather, I feel comfortable navigating rivers of events through their tangled estuaries looking for an open sea.

    So I would say for myself, I would manage risk based upon the most likely outcome in a world which I already know has great uncertainty. Uncertainty is a given in life. When canoeing, don’t be afraid to dip your paddle into the water and complete your stroke. Keep your eyes focused ahead, sit amid thwarts for balance, and be alert for changes.

    • Mike Flynn

      Damn. Common sense. How dare you? Have you lost the feeling of impending doom which the Warmist have spent so much effort installing in you?

      • Mike Flynn

        Sorry. Fat finger syndrome.

        I meant instilling, of course.

        It looks like you are just bad, bad, bad, and recalcitrant to boot!

        More power to you.

      • Mike Flynn

        “It looks like you are just bad, bad, bad, and recalcitrant to boot!”

        I am duly chastised. Please forgive me. I know not the harm of my ways.

        Standing at the rim of Meteor Crater, near Winslow Arizona, peering into it’s 570 foot depths, I realize that 50,000 years ago a great calamity befell earth and the wooly mammoths and sloths that roamed the regions’s grasslands. Peace interrupted. And yet, here we are today, paying a small fee to stand and marvel at this impact crater. We, and much else has survived: trees, grass, birds and bees, deer and antelope, rabbits and prairie dogs thrive. The table was set for people who had crossed the Bering Straits, to populate an area devastated by the blast of 10 megatons. Only by acknowledging the past and the marvel of earth’s recovery, does one begin to realize, even if I don’t, life will live long after me. I am yet a pawn in nature’s game of chess, competing with a sun that will die, just as all life on earth will die. The winner’s of course are those who live the life they have to the fullest, appreciate it’s brevity, and wish God’s speed to the future.

  26. David L. Hagen

    T3 Tax NOT Carbon Tax
    The problem with a carbon tax is that it presumes a problem caused by majority anthropogenic global warming (aka by equivocation as “climate change”). Others expect benefits from increasing the concentration of plant food in the air. Ross McKitrick solved this with his T3 Tax:

    came up with a policy proposal that reconciles my doubts about the seriousness of the global warming problem with the worries of those who don’t share my doubts: calibrate a carbon tax to the average temperature of the region of the atmosphere predicted by climatologists to be most sensitive to CO2. I call it the ‘T3’ tax (for Temperatures in the Tropical Troposphere) and I think the proposal could, in principle, make everyone happy, except the most extreme alarmists or those whose stance on global warming is merely a pretext for some other agenda.

    An Evidence-Based Approach to Pricing CO2 Emissions.

    I propose instead that the best way to proceed would be to put a small tax on CO2 emissions, and tie its subsequent evolution to a suitable measure of atmospheric temperatures. If temperatures go up, so does the tax. If they do not, the tax does not change. In this way everybody will expect to get the policy they think best, and whoever turns out to be right deserves to be so. Sceptics who do not believe in global warming will not expect the tax to go up, and might even expect it to go down. Those convinced we are in for rapid warming will expect the tax to rise quickly in the years ahead. Companies managing factories and power plants will have to figure out who is more likely to be right, because billions of dollars of potential tax liabilities will depend on what is going to happen. Nobody will benefit from using false or exaggerated science: instead the market will identify those who can prove they understand the climate well enough to make accurate forecasts. And policy-makers will be guaranteed that, whatever the tax does in the future, the policy will turn out to have been the right one.

    Noble Laureates with the Copenhagen Consensus evaluating energy show that any such tax should be applied to long term development of sustainable fuels and energy. That would both support the necessary transition from fossil fuels, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions as sought by those insisting on mitigation.

    • David:
      I am glad you brought up Ross McKitrick’s excellent approach. It seems to me that it is an approach that at least ties the tax to the events that the tax is supposed to pay for.

    • I suspect McKitrick would not support it if it was linked to the global surface temperature rather than the tropical tropospheric temperature. I think it would be fair to use decadal temperatures tied to a global surface index that includes the polar areas (importantly for sea-level impacts). For example $10 per tonne for each 0.1 C rise in decadal temperature starting with 2000-2010 as a baseline is simple to calculate and about right for effect. This is something I think would be fair, but many “skeptics” would not because they don’t deeply believe that they are right that the warming has now stopped for good. It is a way for them to back up their said belief with a policy, as I would in this way.

      • David L. Hagen

        Jim D
        McKitrick picked the Tropical Troposphere as having the greatest sensitivity to global warming in the models and thus the best method of sizing the tax to the anthroprogenic global warming concern.
        How would you distinguish when the warming has “stopped for good” vs natural multidecadal oscillations – or the descent into the next glaciation?

      • This is where the imbalance comes in. The ocean heat content rises in response to the imbalance, so its decadal variation can be considered indicative of the imbalance persisting.

      • So, tax cuts if temperatures fall?

        And let’s think about this – if the answer is solar,
        people in the North pay all the tax and people in the South pay none?

        One can’t do anything about taxes and not have distortion and economic inefficiency.

        Besides the fact that global warming is probably a net benefit for a century, CO2 emissions per capita have been falling in the US for forty years.
        And emissions for the developed nations have been falling for decades.
        Taxing energy in the US will probably just send more captial, investment, and production to India.
        Maybe that’s a good thing – certainly if you’re in India but it is not part of ‘Reason’.

    • Speaking of the Copenhagen Consensus, here’s a piece by Lomborg on Australian politics: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-honor-of-being-mugged-by-climate-censors-1431558936

  27. I’m miffed. The piece in question here was headlined, “‘What Evidence Would Persuade You That Man-Made Climate Change Is Real?”

    Then, Judy poses the question to the audience, ” 52 responses to “What would it take to convince you about global warming?”

    Well, certainly one can consider GW to be an aspect of CC, or at least a contributing factor to CC. . . or is it CC that is causing GW? Head spins.

    All that without any reference to the ever present “A.”

    But, are we talking about GW and CC, or or we talking about whether or not there is an “A” in the GW, which might lead to CC, which is different from CC which one would expect to see within natural variability of the climate.

    Following a finding that, in recent decades that the GW is out of what is expected in nature, and that CC (or – extreme weather events) is found to exhibit a worsening trend, then and only then can one begin to seek to discover if it might have been the “A” in GW, which caused the ‘A” in ACC – or CACC?

    Of course, the other possibility (excepting probable additional sea level rise) is that AGW (or perhaps simply GW all on it’s own) could result in less catastrophic weather events.

  28. I might be coming around to a revenue neutral Carbon tax. But call it a Carbon consumption tax. Consumption taxes aren’t the worst thing. It doesn’t penalize income directly, only if you spend it. What tax to lower? The corporate income tax. Maybe we can agree on that.

    • Why not social security taxes?

      • Corporate income taxes are top of my list my. With S-Corps, Partnerships and Sole Proprietors net income is taxed once but remember, that’s a mostly true generalization. C-Corps pay a relatively high tax on net income, and its shareholders can pay a tax on dividends received. However the rate on dividends is favorable, which can offset some (for lower income people sometimes all) of the double taxation. The corporate income tax can be framed as a rich versus poor situation. But consider where a lot of public retirement funds are invested. These funds do not get the favorable rate on dividends as all retirement distribution are considered ordinary income. So reduced corporate income taxes could be suggested to raise retirees account balances that will eventually be distributed and subject to income tax. After tax investments in corporations (100 shares of General Mills) are also subject to income taxes upon a sale. So there are potentially more income taxes there. All of this works in the opposite direction too. There’s less personal income taxes collected when corporations are hindered by high tax rates. So I say do it for the retired teachers.

    • How about lowering the corporate tax to the lowest quartile of industrialized nations and replace the revenue with a carbon tax.

  29. And how about this?


    What a carbon tax achieves:

    “· puts a greater burden on consumption than on work and risk-taking, thereby stimulating economic growth;

    · reduces the burden of taxation on lower-income and middle-income tax payers by generating revenues that can reduce regressive payroll taxes without adding to our deficit or raising gasoline prices more than perhaps 18 cents per gallon, a figure well within the range of past fluctuations;

    · makes it possible to dial back some of the subsidies and what have come to be called “loopholes” built into the current structure by leveling the playing field on which renewables and conservation compete with fossil fuels, making continued subsidies both uneconomic and unfair; and

    · enables us to reduce the burden of regulation, especially on the energy sector, by internalizing externalities, making consumers of fossil fuels bear the full costs of their consumption, and allowing tax-inclusive prices to guide consumers’ decisions rather than tax-eating regulators. “

  30. Richard Linn

    Might I suggest you send real evidence of the Climate Cycles and lack of CO2 impact to the Pope, before he issues his paper on the subject!

  31. From the title of the post, I was hoping this would be a science discussion, but sadly, no, the thing that convinces these people is policy. They, deep down inside, admit to the risk of widespread costs, and maybe even the asymmetric narrowness of benefits, and just need a way to handle it rather than ignore it.

    • . They, deep down inside, admit to the risk of widespread costs, and maybe even the asymmetric narrowness of benefits, and just need a way to handle it rather than ignore it.

      That’s a problem.
      It seems warming enthusiasts can’t actually identify harm from the low end warming so they have to resort to ‘scary stories’ which others sniff out as a scam.

  32. Another analogy.
    Some of us climb. Climbing is a high risk, high consequence endeavor. You don’t just go broke, you die.
    The risk is “non diversifiable”. All you, baby.
    The risk is managed by judgment and skill as climate risk must be.

    My answer is to be convinced of “global warming” would require evidence of judgment and skill from the purveyors. Neither is evident.

    The tax will be used for yet another suffocating layer of regulation whether or not so specified, and that layer will be eternal, even if we enter the next glacial stage.

    • Nice.
      My best climbing analogy betwixt climate and climate would be the numskulls who get so scared when the thunderstorm hits that they descend too fast and dangerously and end up killing themselves when a calm exit would have sufficed perfectly and safely.

      • ‘climate and climbing’.
        Should amend the analogy to those people who see a cloud and panic.
        Once the lightning starts you have way more information than we have on climate risks.

  33. Nightly cooling, logging temps while doing astrophotography got me to apply what I do for a living (constructing databases) to surface data, and it shows on average it will cool more tonight, than it warmed today.
    It also shows that there is no trend in temps, but swings in localized areas minimum temp.
    What ever is happening to surface temps, it’s mostly not from Co2.

  34. A revenue neutral national-scale carbon tax could stay within the energy bills, and actually bring down fuel costs for those using less carbon than average, which would be most of the poorer householders. This also allows for renewable energy costs to be mitigated more for those whose energy providers are moving towards them more quickly because the rebate would be flat regardless of how much carbon was used. Or the rebate could be calculated to favor those areas with a higher carbon efficiency as an added incentive. Set at the right level it could alleviate fears of the poor not being able to afford it, or of renewables increasing prices by actually bringing their bills down.

    • Another not neutral way to use carbon tax would be for adaptation, which includes repair of damage, mitigating the effects of droughts, flooding etc. There are surely costs for all these things, and adaptationists should be looking for a revenue stream that is in some sense proportionate, which is what I would call a carbon premium.
      A more capitalist way of using a carbon tax revenue is for bonds for adaptation and repair. This is not just giving the money away, but lending it for a long-term payback with a low interest rate. This way the tax can build in a long-term growth of capital while paying for near-term costs.
      An even more capitalist alternative to a tax is what I would call buying carbon bonds or climate bonds. This would be where people just voluntarily invest in climate adaptation/mitigation by buying bonds specifically aimed at lending for climate/energy related projects and getting back interest. This may be like the idea of war bonds.

      • Europe provides a good example of the failure of tax – not CO2 specifically, but petrol. How many alternative vehicles did sky high European taxes stimulate? Not very many. It’s just a government power grab, the kind the Libertarians were supposed to oppose.

    • The argument I see most frequently against a revenue neutral carbon tax is that they don’t trust that it will remain revenue neutral. There’s a bit of a point there–taxes have been introduced with promises they would be low level, temporary or both and they are high and still with us.

      I guess the only responses are that a) that is an insufficient reason to avoid action that would be beneficial and b) write better laws! Put a Sunshine provision in or something…

      • Sunset… well, I’m in Asia… it looks different…

      • The annual revenue in the US would be fifty to a hundred billion dollars or so. It certainly would be tempting to not just give it back to the people, but that is why I think it needs to stay within the energy bills somehow, both in receipt and rebate.

      • The annual revenue in the US would be fifty to a hundred billion dollars or so.

        Unless it actually worked, in which case revenue would be zero, right?

        Then there must be some new boogie man to justify taxing something else.

      • Anybody have a real world example of politicians actually devising and implementing a revenue neutral tax?

        Haven’t there been similar discussions about the U.S. adopting a value added tax in a revenue neutral manner?

        If you believe that our government will actually add any new tax in a “revenue neutral” way, then I have a bridge I want to sell you.

    • Jim,
      Like a lot of regulation it looks better on paper. Right now our tax code is so complex due to ever continued tinkering that we lose billions in revenue is diverted to tax lawyers, tax planners and preparers. Not considered are the hours of wasted accounting for mileage journals, tax relevant receipts. Amazon and Apple shelter billions overseas to avoid taxes. And these are the good guys who simply don’t pack up and move headquarters overseas.

      Consumers make responsible choices when they are used to being financially and socially self-responsible. A healthy economy providing healthy choices and income to make healthy choices is preferable to stifling government force and weighty regulation. The solar marketplace is starting to catch on. Battery technology will be a big boost to renewables, making them part of local power backup systems and grid storage. You can pat government on the back for helping via tax regulation. Or, you might consider good things can happen notwithstanding government meddling. JFK got a heck of a lot accomplished by good leadership while lowering taxes. Reagan was a JFK liberal until as he famously said, “the party left me.”

      Jim D, I know you said you hoped it would be a scientific discussion. The truth is that you and I and most here agree on the knowable science. I get very uneasy though when I see scientist who know better distort the science and politicians distort that even more to scare the public, create a crisis (wag the dog.) The government climate community telling the leaders what they want to hear is not that different from the 1995-2001 intelligence community was doing on Iraqi WMD question. Policies change. Human behavior, not so much.

      NASA has a whole interactive website now for teachers to overwhelm 4th graders with doom <a href="http://climate.nasa.gov/resources/graphics_and_multimedia/?scope=featured&topic=45"<here.
      It’s expanded greatly in the last few months. They used to have an Arctic sea ice and land ice graphic that showed the shrinkage from 1980-2012. I can’t find it now. I challenge you to find any recent imagery of Antarctica on this comprehensive site.

  35. I have no idea why a climatologist would be looking at law professor Richard Epstein, but I’m certainly eager to see what you’ve made of his work, Dr. Curry.

    As for the libertarian perspective on the great catastrophic anthropogenic global warming/ climate change/ “climate fragility” fraud, I look back to a column uttered online by SF writer L. Neil Smith more than half a year before the first Climategate tranche hit the ‘Net:

    My initial doubts about manmade global warming weren’t scientific, but … I guess you might say social. I am a novelist, and — when I’m not conversant on a particular subject — I’m inclined to depend on my judgement of the character of the actors involved. To some, I know, that may seem like a terrible confession, but others who write for a living will understand. The real question, after all, is “Am I being conned?”

    That’s a social question, not a scientific one.

    So,lacking other data, I looked at the character of those pushing the idea of Global Warming. They included leftist politicos I knew to be opportunistic liars in other contexts — particularly gun ownership — along with movie stars and other brain-dead celebrities that flock to any cause that attacks private industrial capitalism and individual liberty. Some may criticize me for ad hominem thinking, but when you don’t have reliable scientific information (which I didn’t back then), what else can you rely on but your understanding of the personalities involved?

    “This One’s for Holly” (3 May 2009)

    Being myself a physician with a little experience in clinical investigation, and by no means a “pure” research guy, I’ve spent my entire professional life having to rely – at one remove or another – on my best “understanding of the personalities involved” in the diagnosis and treatment of my patients, and Mr. Smith’s pre-Climategate appreciation of the situation resonated with me.

    Then and especially now.

    The 2008-2009 winter handed one public humiliation after another to Algore and his warming wonks, as their lectures, meetings, and rallys had to be postponed or cancelled due to record cold and heavy snowfalls. It was their attribution of these lower temperatures to Global Warming that confirmed my suspicion we are dealing with a new religion.

    Sometime shortly after that, the warmoids felt a need to change the name of the supposed phenomenon from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change’, the same way they’d stopped calling themselves “liberals” and begun calling themselves “progressives”. In both cases, with one lie after another, one outrageous assault on life, liberty, property, and reason after another, they’d dirtied their original brand name, left it reeking on some fencepost somewhere, and found themselves a new one.

    — Smith, op cit

  36. Judith,

    In your post you say:

    “…we don’t have a hedging strategy that will actually protect us from the most adverse possible outcomes.”

    I think you are wrong. The appropriate hedging strategy is to ensure the global economy is robust and globally distributed. By elevating everyone’s standard of living, human society becomes sustainable with enough excess to ensure the environment is sustainable.

    Not only would this provide a hedge against the most adverse possible outcomes of climate change caused by humans, it would provide a hedge against the most adverse possible outcomes of climate change not caused by humans or any other change that threatens the security of the planet.

    Carbon taxes or any other restrictive government directives that directly or indirectly restricts economic development in the developing world devalues this hedge.

  37. I didn’t follow the Weitzman argument into the details but seems to be down to the fact that income and wealth aren’t well defined concepts as already has been observed in passing by our Lord Keynes in the General Theory (by referring to von Hayek as the originator).
    And for any community that wants to be there for ever the discount rate has to be zero (and aggregate wealth and income are zero, very helpful).

    With revenue neutral carbon tax producers can pass the tax along to consumers who can pay for it by the redistributed carbon taxes. No effect.
    Actually it depends on the distribution of tax increases and reductions. May go either way.

  38. Okay…..Please disregard for a minute that what I am proposing, if possible, would eventually result in extinguishing all life on the planet.
    What if we had a magic wand type device which could be waved and cause atmospheric CO2 molecules to be reduced to 0 ppmv? I have two questions:

    By how much would the average global temperature be changed?

    How much reduction would there be of atmospheric molecular H2O?

    And, by the way, a third question if you don’t mind: What percentage of atmospheric gases is H2O? There is a tremendous amount of literature that deals with the make-up of “dry” air. The problem is that in the driest places on the planet, (Interior Antarctica?, Atacama Desert?) there is still naturally a considerably greater concentration of H2O molecules than there are CO2 molecules. There is no “dry” air on planet Earth and each molecule of H2O that is present contributes to the planet’s greenhouse effect.

  39. Does a carbon(sic) tax work?

    Finland introduced the world’s first carbon(sic) tax in 1990.


    25 years of taxation – so far.

    How long does it take for a carbon(sic) tax to stop the climate from changing?

    Of course a carbon(sic) tax won’t stop the climate from changing.

    But, if the objective is the re-distribution of wealth by un-elected, un-accountable UN bureaucrats under the cover of a climate trojan horse…


    It was never about the environment.

    aka Mark M

  40. And all this time, I had thought that the “fat tail argument” was a reference to Al Gore.

  41. If President Obama was trying to deal with ozone depletion for the first time internationally, how do you think this debate would be currently going (especially here at CE)? What if there was no Montreal Protocol, and Obama had proposed EPA regs to reduce CFCs in the U.S.? (unilateral actions)

    Here is a pretty recent quote by Dr. Fred Singer on ozone depletion and CFCs:

    • For those “skeptics” who think that we should judge the work of current day climate scientists on the basis of 50 years ago, a minority of scientists thinking the cooling was possible.

      A May 1980 editorial questioned the link between increased coal burning and acid rain, concluding that existing “data are not conclusive and more studies are needed.” [Wall Street Journal, Acid Rain, 5/30/80, via Factiva]

      A September 1982 editorial stated: “Scientific study, as opposed to political rhetoric, points more and more toward the theory that nature, not industry, is the primary source of acid rain.” [Wall Street Journal, Gitche Gummee’s pH, 9/7/82, via Factiva]

      A January 1984 editorial called for “a few more years of research” before implementing regulations to address acid rain. [Wall Street Journal, Patience and Precipitation, 1/11/84, via Factiva]

      A September 1985 editorial declared that “the scientific case for acid rain is dying.” [Wall Street Journal, Out of the Blue, 9/24/85, via Factiva]

      A January 1986 editorial declared: “Man-made acid rain pales by comparison with natural sources.” [Wall Street Journal, All Wet on Acid Rain, 1/10/86, via Factiva]

      A June 1989 editorial argued that we should “wait for science to understand, for example, to what extent acid rain is man-made” before enacting regulations. [Wall Street Journal, All Apocalyptics Now?, 6/16/89, via Factiva]

      WSJ Claimed Politics — Not Science — Was Behind Efforts To Address Acid Rain. To obscure the science, the Journal editorial board claimed efforts to take action were simply driven by “politics, not science”:

      An October 1983 editorial claimed that “politics, not science, clearly is driving the acid-rain campaign. In true Madison Avenue fashion, acid rain sells…” [Wall Street Journal, Gold (Plated) Fish, 10/12/83, via Factiva]

      A July 1987 editorial stated: “As the acid-rain story continues to develop, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that politics, not nature, is the primary force driving the theory’s biggest boosters.” [Wall Street Journal, “No Remedies, Please”, 7/27/87, via Factiva]

      A June 1982 editorial warned of the “immense cost of controlling sulfur emissions.” [Wall Street Journal, Rained Out, 6/29/82, via Factiva]

      A January 1984 editorial claimed a regulatory program for acid rain would cost “upwards of $100 billion.” [Wall Street Journal, Patience and Precipitation, 1/11/84]

      A September 1987 editorial claimed that legislation to address acid rain would cost “as much as $94 billion over a decade.” [Wall Street Journal, The $94 Billion Report, 9/23/87, via Factiva]

      A January 1990 editorial predicted that the acid rain provisions in the Clean Air Act amendments would lead to “staggering” utility costs. [Wall Street Journal, No Pap From NAPAP, 1/26/90, via Factiva]


      • Interesting that you cherry pick dates in the 1980s. Well, no, really it isn’t surprising.
        Here’s the NYTimes in 1990 noting that a $500 million scientific assessment of the issue “controversially” sided with Reagan that there wasn’t much danger to acid rain but applauding the (Republican- Bush I) president for taking prudent (i.e. less than the greens wanted) action on the issue because there was at least a little something something to the issue.

      • The acid rain thing was indeed wildly overhyped. The actual federal research program–NAPAP–found that the impacts were indeed largely natural and not caused by coal burning. Poor Ed Krug had his career destroyed because the science didn’t fit the narrative.

    • In this World there are (1) “Good Faith” Skeptics; but also (2) “Bad Faith” Contrarians. For Contrarians, no scientific argument will ever be good enough; no economic analysis (cost/benefit) will ever be justified for mitigation efforts.

      You just might be a Contrarian if you have a clear track record in opposing environmental initiatives on: Lead & MTBE (in gasoline), mercury, smog, air particulates, acid rain, ozone depletion, fluoridation (drinking water), methane release, and coal ash.

      • Whether Contrarians run away from their track record on environmental issues, or wear it as a badge of honor — they have one thing in common. When they criticize AGW Advocates for their catastrophic messaging (CAGW), Contrarians have no problem in their own brand of catastrophic messaging that environmental compliance will destroy economies (where this type of messaging has been shown time and again to be incorrect).

  42. Douglas Levene

    Dear Prof. Curry,

    Last week the Becker Friedman Institute at University of Chicago had a two-day conference on Federal Agency Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty. I’ll send you the link when I get back to Chicago later today. One of the very controversial papers presented was from a government economist on how the social cost of carbon was calculated to be $33/ton, a number that is used in dozens of regulations. Eric Posner, who generally thinks bureaucrats should be forced to guesstimate costs and benefits, apparently thought the carbon calculation was so wildly variable as to be unusable. Others strenuously disagreed. Alas, Richard Epstein (visiting at U C this quarter ) was not in attendance.


    Doug Levene Visiting Professor University of Chicago Law School

    Sent from my iPhone


  43. To be convinced of AGW I would need to see both a model that correctly recounts the past 2000 years of climate records, and verified predictions from such a model (ie 20 years forward). Further, I would require the entire process to be above-board with open peer review and substantiation of the data sets.

    The proposal of a CO2 tax on CO2 producers may have gotten it wrong. There are measurable benefits from CO2 added to the atmosphere to farmers, ranchers, fishermen, boaters, and even oil companies (re-stocking the oil supplies in 20 million years). Perhaps those who benefit from the added CO2 should be paying for the free feedstock supplied by the CO2 producers! I am certain a model of wheat, corn, and soybean harvests from 1950 – 2015 would show huge increases that are at least in part attributable to higher CO2 levels, no? (this paragraph is to be taken with a crystal of sodium chloride)

    Until the benefits and harms of CO2 can be unambiguously quantified, how can we determine if there is a need to hold the producers or users accountable?

  44. I checked out your link to “Clive Best”. He convinced me that water vapor provides a strrong NEGATIVE feedback over the long run.


    I’d have to be convinced that th fundamentalists were right, and life has existed for only a short time on earth before I’d believe in the seriouness of global wartming.

  45. At this point, on the Global Warming issue, the world is simply waiting for the left to care enough to accept nuclear power.
    A carbon tax, revenue neutral or not, is meaningless without a functional alternative to fossil fuels unless the plan is to de-industrialize. People expect to see solutions from actions. A carbon tax isn’t a solution, it’s a means to prodding everyone toward taking action. For an analogy, It might be really important to get from New York to LA by noon tomorrow, I might even cough up some money to do it, but the climate campaigners’ plan is for me to pay the money and start walking west and that isn’t going to happen.
    There is no reason to believe in “revenue neutral” taxation. It’s guaranteed not to be simply due to massive existing debt and government employee pension shortfalls (Illinois alone is over $100 Billion – with a B – behind in employee pension funding)

    • “A carbon tax, revenue neutral or not, is meaningless without a functional alternative to fossil fuels unless the plan is to de-industrialize.”


    • I don’t agree with this general point. It is not correct to favor the more-prescriptive over the less-prescriptive policy, i.e. it’s better to create aligned incentives and let private actors figure out the best way to cope with them. So, for example, SO2 emissions markets were a lot better than imposed technology standards in getting emissions down at low cost per ton. So a carbon tax is a lot better than a “go nuclear” mandate, because it allows all margins of adjustment to come into play–shifts in the products people buy, shifts in the inputs (including energy) used to make those products, shifts in the methods by which energy is produced, etc.

      That said, simply slapping on a carbon tax without getting rid of and untangling the panoply of distortions and policies we already have, from the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and ethanol subsidies to our irrational methods of regulating nuclear power, would make matters worse.

  46. If solar activity remains low going forward and the temperature trend does not decline I might start to believe in AGW.

    In addition if the global temperature trend were to follow CO2 concentrations and if evidence of a positive feedback between CO2 and water vapor became apparent I would believe in global warming.

      • Umm. I’m not sure what your point is BD. The atmosphere doesn’t appear to be getting wetter. Humidity is down from 1998.

        Lower humidity would be negative feedback, SDP seemed to be looking for the other kind of feedback.

      • PA, do you know the difference between relative and absolute humidity?

      • Having looked at the humidity data in the NCDC gsod data set, it’s worse off than temps, but ignoring that, I don’t think a slight increase in absolute humidity is any more than just more making something out of nothing.
        Remember, rel humidity limits maximum moisture the air will carry, when it cools at night, excess water is removed.
        More likely what’s happened is sampling artifacts show up as the oceans shifts where it keeps it’s warm water, and the difference in the number of stations between the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere and the amount of infilling that’s required.
        Call me unimpressed.

      • Relative humidity is determined by temperature.

        So you think an increase in absolute water vapor of 100 ppm/decade is unimpressive, but remember that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas.

      • “Relative humidity is determined by temperature.

        So you think an increase in absolute water vapor of 100 ppm/decade is unimpressive, but remember that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas.”

        Yes, and every night when it cools it reduces the amount carried.
        It also the working capital of the negative feedback system, clouds.

  47. Steven Mosher

    Judith you might also check out R-Street.

  48. I don’t see expected ineffectiveness of EPA CO2 regulations as being on-point as a critique of Jerry Taylors arguments (“JC critique IV”). I assume he’s arguing EPA regs would be painful and clumsy and believes “the market” would work it out more efficiently if CO2 costs were made higher. Adding ineffectiveness to the EPA critique just strengthens his point, I’d say. (I suspect both a tax and regs would be needed: a poorly designed consumption tax might miss sources perhaps best addressed by regs, such as, say, gas venting/flaring/leaking in oil and gas production fields.)

  49. All the arguments that we should hedge against the upcoming climate conundrum apply equally well to me observation that the tooth fairy has become increasingly dangerous, bordering on homicidal over the last decade. It has become increasingly apparent that children should not be leaving their tooth under their pillow anymore as the risk is increasingly dire.

    • There is some hope, however, that the tooth fairy will be powerful enough to ward of the aliens when they arrive, so we can probably delay work on our intergalactic army.

      • To be serious, however… Conclusions about the future based on models that exhibit 100% error provides NO information about the future. So getting riled up about potential effects of climate based on NO information is absolutely no different than getting riled up about imaginary threats. One and the same.

    How do you change their minds? It’s come down to force (see below) and, the exercise of power through the 47%’rs — who are obliged to give government whatever power is necessary to extort revenues from the productive — is what liberal fascism is all about, not science –e.g.,

    During this era, they’ve gone from gentle nudging to stern warnings, to fearmongering, to conflating the predictive abilities of scientists with science itself, to launching ugly campaigns to shame and shut down anyone who deviates from liberal orthodoxy.

    If you haven’t been able to win over the public over in 25 years of intense political and cultural pressure, you are … down to two options: … revisit your strategy, open debate to a wide range of ideas … Or, you can try to force people to do what you want. ~David Harsanyi, The Federalist

    • Indeed, wags. Warmers yelling about unicorns for 15 years hasn’t helped move things along much.


    • How do you change their minds?

      The Republicans are in a strong position to take the White House in 2016. If they do they may most certainly will control both houses of congress as well. There is no chance of congress ratifying a climate treaty or carbon tax before. So the new president will set the policy. Among the Republican candidates to date none support severe restrictions of fossil fuel. Rand Paul is the only one who could be called a luke-warmer, supporting efforts for alternative energy and acknowledging some AGW. Paul counts on younger conservatives as part of his base, who were likely highly exposed to global warming dogma through school. But Paul supports Keystone XL pipeline and is from Kentucky a coal mining state. So he needs to thread a needle.

      The chances that conservatives are going to

      • michaelspj

        Nor are the democrats going to pass one if they are in power. They lost the house in the 2010 election over cap-and-trade. Almost all close races were lost by demos who had voted for it, while the demos won all the close races in the Senate–it didn’t vote on cap and trade. They both voted for health care.

        In 2014 the Senate changed hands because of results in energy producing states like WVa, LA and AK as voters protested EPA’s heavy handed tatics. So global warming lost the demos both houses of Congress. They know what a carbon tax would do to any majority they could have after the 2016 election–and so they will never vote for it either.

        Jerry Taylor is wasting his time.

  51. Assumption of conclusion is rarely convincing.

  52. “…if this sort of risk were to arise in any other context in the private markets, people would pay real money to hedge against it.”

    But aren’t we hedging against it today? Many corporations are getting in front of the potential for large legislative punitive effects on their industry by curtailing their carbon footprint in front of whatever legislation may ensue in order to protect themselves.

    Alternatively; while good stewards are self mitigating their own footprint, technology continues to march forward at a rapid pace (although it may not seem like it on a 10s of years scale). While we still don’t have adequate alternative solutions that are both cost effective, and that scale up; is there any question that we won’t get there, and relatively soon? What sort of window are we looking at to “get there”. Look at how far we’ve come in flight since the Wright brothers. My instincts are that in the next 50 years humanity will have 1) evolved to alternative energy solutions that are truly cost effect and that scale up 2) will have through good stewardship reduced or eliminated a great deal of excess CO2 through a consequence of natural industrial evolution done by cost effective means; through natural replacement of equipment and processes; unless politics gets more heavy handed. We’ll do these things without political punitive measures on our economy, or through lavish wealth redistribution schemes that are fraught with corrupt mismanagement possibilities.

    These are the reasons why I believe the alarmism isn’t warranted; and certainly the proposed politics and wealth redistribution schemes aren’t warranted. This notwithstanding that I’ve read some pretty convincing work on why we’re on the cusp of a cooling phase.

  53. in the MoB link, he says:

    Typical gasoline-powered auto engines are approximately 27% efficient. Typical fossil-fueled generating stations are 50% efficient, transmission to end user is 67% efficient, battery charging is 90% efficient and the auto’s electric motor is 90% efficient, so that the fuel efficiency of an electric car is also 27%. However, the electric car requires 30% more power per mile traveled to move the mass of its batteries.

    I question if transmission losses of electricity are as large as MoB claims –i.e., “transmission to end user is 67% efficient.” Maybe 7-15% and not just ~7% on average as is often claimied but, 33% losses in transmission? Can MoB support that statistic? Or, is MoB adding something else to the equation that is not obvious here but nonetheless, relevant?

    For example, is MoB talking about the cost of stringing wire across the country as opposed to simply putting fuel in the tank of a car? If so, that logic is as bad as the EPA’s simple-minded MPGe estimates that are based on the amount of energy in a gallon of gas and not how much energy it actually takes to generate and transmit electricity to the garages of owners of electric cars.

    • The Huff Post (in particular the green section) is not the paragon of objective science and sanity.

      • Steven Mosher

        what convinced Koch?

      • I’m like my hero Charles Koch. I believe climate changes, one type of change being warming. Ah duh.

        I believe CO2 is part of the atmosphere so it’s plausible that it has role, response or effect in changes of climate, like just about every other bloody thing in the atmosphere. Ah duh.

        Me and Koch! Caught by a HuffPo gotcha!

        In our defense, HuffPo does gotcha for a living, full time. Ah duh.

    • “Hold your applause. Clearly, Mr. Koch still denies that there’s a problem – which means he’s missing the entire point of discussing climate change.”

      Which would be…???

      That’s the gist – climate change is a child’s monster under the bed.
      But when you ask what the monster looks like, no one can seem to identify it.

      • TE,

        Someone needs to make a monster under-the-bed shaped graph.


      • Steven Mosher

        what convinced Koch?

      • “what convinced Koch?”

        Since we are asking questions, Who Cares?


      • It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that CO2 will cause warming. Koch just acknowledged the obvious.

        It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the warming effect is trivial (less than 1/2 natural variability) and net beneficial.

        Smart people don’t confuse solutions and problems, and try to fix solutions by mistake. More CO2 is a solution.

    • Who convinced Koch?

    • “This is the same guy who has poured $80 million into organizations that have misrepresented climate change science to the public and advocated against any viable solutions to the problem.”

      Sounds like a perfect description of whoever it is who funded Joe Romm’s Climate Progress all those years (until Obama won and Romm’s boss went to the White House to sing the praises of fracking for natural gas).

    • What convinced Koch?


      Mosh is lookin’ for a BEST hat tip, the plot of which shows up in the TLDR portion of the post.

  54. What would it take to convince you about global warming?

    Well, no more twelve year cooling trends would be a start:

  55. One of the things Ronald Bailey said he was looking for was:
    “+0.25 per decade by 2020”
    on the basis of this article and this article.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to just wait 4 and a half years and see?

    To put that measure in some perspective:
    MODEL: 4.2C/century, (through 2100), IPCC5 (RCP8.5)
    MODEL: 4.0C/century, (through 2100), IPCC4 ‘High Scenario’
    MODEL: 3.2C/century ( since 1979 ), Hansen A
    MODEL: 2.8C/century ( since 1979 ), Hansen B
    *******: 2.5C/century ( by 2020 ), Ronald Bailey
    MODEL: 2.0C/century, (‘next few decades’), IPCC4
    MODEL: 1.9C/century ( since 1979 ), Hansen C
    MODEL: 1.8C/century, (through 2100), IPCC4 ‘Low Scenario’
    Observed: 1.6C/century (since 1979), NASA GISS
    Observed: 1.5C/century (since 1979), NCDC
    Observed: 1.4C/century (since 1979), UAH MSU LT
    Observed: 1.3C/century (since 1979), RSS MSU LT
    Observed: 1.3C/century (since 1979), RATPAC-B 850 millibars
    Observed: 1.2C/century (since 1979), RATPAC-B 500 millibars
    Observed: 1.0C/century, (since 1979), RATPAC-B 300 millibars
    Observed: 0.8C/century (since 1979 ), RSS MSU MT
    Observed: 0.5C/century (since 1979 ), UAH MSU MT
    Deny Change: 0.0C/century

    • michaelspj

      Like I said, Bailey has become, as has Taylor, a creature of Washington. He never acknowledged that I lost my ten year bet with Hansen (I said a significant cooling trend) by three months as it was significant at ten years and three months. Instead he kept on prattling that I lost I lost. If a person does that, you pretty much know what he is thinking.

  56. Concerning Point I. Taylor thinks that if Person or Company A impacts B then it doesn’t matter if there is no harm, so it is irrelevant whether the result of climate change is net beneficial, only that Person B is entitled to damages because his rights are being impacted.

    Count me unconvinced!

    Human rights are constantly being redefined (for example same-sex marriage – was it even a consideration 40 years ago?) If rights are constantly being redefined by definition that doesn’t make them fundamental. In short human rights change with the whims of the public. Right now it is popular to complain that a slob driving an SUV in Des Moines is responsible for flooding of someone in Bangladesh, therefore carbon tax them for their climate impact and compensate the aggrieved, even if the climate is in actuality increasing rice yields on Bangladeshi farms and even if there is no way to prove that flooding is caused by increased CO2. It’s all about impacted Rights you see.

    But two can play that game. Perhaps that slob in Des Moines is outraged at the 160 million people breeding uncontrollably in Bangladesh, filling the world with poor, uneducated masses. Producing religious zealots who murder blogging secularists or boatloads of migrants. Does he have cause for redress?

    Whose Rights are right?

    One would think a real Libertarian would pause before claiming that person A’s rights require redress over person’s B. Methinks a big can o’ worms will be opened going down that path.

  57. “‘What Evidence Would Persuade You That Man-Made Climate Change Is Real”
    Somehow the statements are allways mixed up in some way.
    And in the above statement there is nothing about if it would be good, bad or indifferent. Is man-made climate change worse or better than normal climate change?
    In my believe no one knows how man changes climate and certainly not if it is good or bad.

    • Well the real question is:

      “‘What Evidence Would Persuade You That Catastrophic Man-Made Climate Change Is likely?”

      Given the draconian solutions, if climate change isn’t: Man-made.AND Catastrophic AND Likely, there isn’t any reason to anything but adapt and take sensible measures that are self-justifying..

  58. What would it take to convince you about global warming?

    Perhaps there’s a framing issue of the question leading the witnesses.

    What would it take to convince you that global warming has been exaggerated in certainty, extent, and impacts?

  59. What would it take to convince you about global warming?

    Michael Crichton essentially had the same question, when he advanced the hypothesis that, aliens cause global warming. That was about 12 years ago.

    Aside from the fact that, as Dr. Roy Spencer points out, the correlation between increases in the upper ocean temperatures and UFO sightings over the last half of the 20th century is better than 95%, I think Crichton was getting at the more subtle point that people can believe anything. Proving it is another matter.

    Government scientists of global warming alarmism like Kevin Trenberth want to turn the scientific method on its head. They demand that the unconvinced prove humanity’s CO2 has not caused the globe to heat up. If that makes sense then Trenberth, maybe he should first prove to us skeptics that aliens are not the cause of global warming.

    • Ha.

      Someone has established an objective standard for the global warming debate: the global warmers have to show that CO2 has a greater correlation with upper ocean temperatures than UFOs.

      Otherwise we will believe global warming is due to UFOs.

      When the CO2 correlation is equal to UFOs we can discuss splitting attribution.

      • Anything that avoids the tyranny of the null hypothesis — even if it enables charlatans and flimflammers to fleece the public in the name of government-science — is preferable to allowing the people free reign to ignore the consensus of the bureaucracy and do as they wish.

      • The real argument comes from physics (GHGs keep the surface 33 C warmer than it would be without them and it is known why), but skeptics only believe in or understand correlations, so this is why they are reduced to this form of reasoning. It’s the junior varsity league of thinking.

      • GHGs keep the surface 33 C warmer than it would be without them

        GHGs actually keep the surface some 85C warmer than it would be without them:

        Convection accounts for the difference.

        How will convection change with more CO2? Go ask your pop.

      • If the gases in the atmosphere had no IR interaction, the surface would be 255 K. With it, the surface is 288 K. You don’t get above 255 K if the atmosphere is transparent to IR. So the whole 33 C depends on IR interaction, not convection. Convection doesn’t help the surface temperature by itself if there is no GHG effect. We can therefore attribute 33 C to the greenhouse effect, not convection.

      • If the gases in the atmosphere had no IR interaction, the surface would be 255 K. With it, the surface is 288 K. You don’t get above 255 K if the atmosphere is transparent to IR. So the whole 33 C depends on IR interaction, not convection.


        If one calculates the radiative effect of preindustrial levels GHGs, but does not include the effects of convection, one arrives, as Manabe did in the chart, with the trace labeld ‘Pure Radiative Equilibrium’ with a surface temperature of about 340K. Applying his simple convection scheme yields the trace labeled
        6.5C/km approximately the moist adiabatic average. This case was mid latitude springtime, IIRC, so maybe not a global average but the point is that GHGs actually force even more than the difference between observed surface average temperature and effective temperature.

        Convection doesn’t help the surface temperature by itself if there is no GHG effect. We can therefore attribute 33 C to the greenhouse effect, not convection.

        Correct – the GHG effect is much larger than 33C and convection reduces the effect of GHGs on surface temperature ( in the global mean ).

      • It is hard to just turn off convection in a physical atmosphere, but you can certainly remove the GHG effect and see what that does by itself, which is 33 C.

      • If the gases in the atmosphere had no IR interaction, the surface would be 255 K. With it, the surface is 288 K. You don’t get above 255 K if the atmosphere is transparent to IR. So the whole 33 C depends on IR interaction, not convection. Convection doesn’t help the surface temperature by itself if there is no GHG effect. We can therefore attribute 33 C to the greenhouse effect, not convection.



        1. The total GHG effect is 150 W/m2
        2. The total GHG effect due to CO2 is 30 W/m2
        3. Total absorbed solar is 161 W/m2
        4. Sensible heat loss is 20 W/m2
        5. Latent heat loss is 84 W/m2
        6. Stupid heat loss is 56 W/m2
        7. 0.6 W/m2 is future warming that we will catch up with sooner or later. If it doesn’t become latent or sensible it will cause surface warming.
        8. As stated elsewhere 0.49W/m2 is the likely future 2100 CO2 warming. If we assume this heat doesn’t become latent or sensible this would cause a 0.13°C increase in surface temperature.
        9. The total future warming is likely to be 1.1 W/m2 or about 0.30°C.

        There are several obvious conclusions:
        1. The future warming doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans.
        2. The only heat that radiates off the surface is heat that is too dumb to take a short cut.
        3. Reducing radiative loss is just going to increase other loss modes.
        4. The majority of future warming is already “in the can” and there isn’t anything we can do about it.

      • “4. The majority of future warming is already “in the can” and there isn’t anything we can do about it.”
        Since 30 of the last 34 years show more night time cooling than previous day’s warming, the can is empty.

      • Your 150 W/m2 translates to 33 C, so maybe you didn’t convert to a temperature at the right stage of the argument. Yes, the total greenhouse effect is 150 W/m2 or 33 C at the surface. And this is understood. No correlations needed. If you want to answer the stuff about aliens and correlations to the people mentioning that, maybe you can try an argument like mine to them. Do you think they have a good argument, or are they missing the physics that is known?

      • micro6500 | May 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm |
        “4. The majority of future warming is already “in the can” and there isn’t anything we can do about it.”
        Since 30 of the last 34 years show more night time cooling than previous day’s warming, the can is empty.

        Well… some people (re: the URL) think there is a 0.6 W/m2 or some other minor energy imbalance.

        Until the temperature adjusters get fired (something I write to my congressman about) I do the courtesy of assuming that there is some small upward forcing on temperatures.

        There is going to be a slightly smaller additional forcing due to CO2 increases.

        If I lived to 2100 I would have moved 20 miles further south (0.30°C) without leaving my house.

      • I don’t see how there can be an imbalance (at least at the surface ) if it’s cooling more at night than it warmed during the day . And since that .6W was based on models (as the accuracy is 5-10W) it’s all hand waving.

      • micro6500, I don’t know what to tell you. There is far to much hand waving in climate science.

        There seem to be to many theoretical physicists and not enough actual physicists involved in climate science. Perhaps debarring theoretical physicists from climate science grant programs for 5 years would help.

      • Jim D | May 15, 2015 at 6:14 pm |
        Your 150 W/m2 translates to 33 C, so maybe you didn’t convert to a temperature at the right stage of the argument. Yes, the total greenhouse effect is 150 W/m2 or 33 C at the surface. And this is understood. No correlations needed. If you want to answer the stuff about aliens and correlations to the people mentioning that, maybe you can try an argument like mine to them. Do you think they have a good argument, or are they missing the physics that is known?

        Well, the ocean temperature anomaly in degrees celsius, is equal to the number of UFO reports multiplied by a 1/3500th (0.000286) °C/report conversion factor.

        UFOs create turbulence, ionization, heating, compression, and may induce possible time/space distortions. Atmospheric science hasn’t researched the effect on global warming.

        But we do have a conversion factor so the UFO theory is at least equal to global warming science. After all global warming science is riding on a 37 year old back-of-the-napkin forcing estimate at a Hansen lead conference.

  60. What would it take to convince you about global warming?

    My opinions and policy preferences are generally center-right, and I am convinced already that global mean temperature has increased since 1880 and that human activities such as deforestation and urbanization have played a role. I am convinced that CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs and radiates lwir in the bands emitted from the Earth surface; I even calculated an evidence-based estimate of the Earth surface “climate sensitivity” based on the assumption (since updated — more later.)

    So I would say: think more carefully about what it is you wish to convince me of next and whether you have any evidence for it. All sorts of things are jumbled together in these debates.

    1. Has the warming since 1880 produced any harm? What we have are an increase in the net primary productivity of forests and savannahs, and slight changes in the geographic distributions of some species. Sea level rise since 1880 has closely matched sea level rise preceding 1880, at least withing the errors of measuring the rate of change.

    2. Can we rule out the possibility of cooling in the future?

    3. Which would be worse, on present evidence, future warming or future cooling?

    4. Has CO2 itself produced any negative consequences directly, comparable to the likely increase in net primary productivity?

    5. Considering the advantages of all kinds of future infrastructure investments, such as flood control and irrigation systems, does CO2 abatement have demonstrable value over the next 50 – 200 years?

    These questions can be rephrased, and others added, but good answers to them are what are required to persuade me beyond what I wrote in the opening paragraph.

    If you use the phrase “climate denier” when addressing me or referring to me then you probably can’t convince me of anything.

    • Yes, good questions. The non-snarky side of me is probably at a similar place.

    • “does CO2 abatement have demonstrable value over the next 50 – 200 years?”
      What “abatement”? How is this “abatement” to be achieved? By snake oil?
      Assuming that “abatement” is an alternative, that it is possible, is unjustified.

      • jacobress: Assuming that “abatement” is an alternative, that it is possible, is unjustified.

        I do not make that assumption: it is part of what has to be demonstrated.

      • There are two questions:
        1. Assuming abatement is possible – will it have any demonstrable value? i.e. suppose CO2 emissions are reduced 80% will that have any positive impact on climate?

        The second question is: HOW do you achieve abatement (or mitigation)? The spending of hundreds of billions of $ on windmills and solar panels in the last 15 years has not reduced emissions one yota. So, how do you do it ? More of the same doesn’t work.

      • Mother Nature appears to be doing a bang-up job of abatement all by herself:

      • jacobress: There are two questions:

        I agree. And the combined answer has to demonstrate that the investments have more total utility than other investments requiring the same resources over the same length of time.

  61. One argument which would not persuade me is Litterman’s. For a start, people cannot “pay real money to hedge” nondiversifiable risk. By definition, it is risk not traded on markets. Since weather risk is clearly diversifiable (insurance), presumably the argument involves some kind of long run government insurance against climate change. In the spirit of pensions and healthcare? But carbon tax does not seem intended for this purpose. What is the argument?

    As for the most likely outcome(s), of course risk management does not involve only these possibilities. But they dominate market pricing and any risk strategy which hopes to make a return. All in all, hard to see much of a connection between hedging risk on financial markets and carbon tax.

  62. What would it take to convince you about global warming? – about another 8 climate cycles of good quality data – about 240 years.

  63. “What would it take to convince you about global warming?”

    The question is NOT what would convince me about global warming.

    The real question is what would convince me that erecting windmills and solar panels, mandated and financed by government, to the tune of hundreds of Billions of $ each year has any beneficial impact. The answer is: nothing will convince me, no matter what the climate does.

    The alarmists don’t care what I (or the public) really think about the science of global warming. All they want is to convince Joe public to finance windmills (and fork over more money through a carbon tax).
    Some more extremist advocates, want to convince us to revert to a pre-industrial “way of life”.
    That is the question they ask, masking in in “climate” words.
    Well, who votes for a pre-industrial life style?

  64. What would it take to convince me of the alarmist position?
    1) Climate models which show at least a minimal level of skill: 75% minimum performance vs. reality (i.e. doesn’t have to be the right number, but at least the right behavior).
    2) Clear and valid demonstration that a given CO2 level is, in fact, more harmful than the mitigation equivalent to other spending projects like economic growth/poverty abatement
    3) Validation of the net feedbacks being anywhere near the value necessary to achieve the relative greater harm in 2)

    Right now:
    I see zero skill in the climate models.
    I see poor to no demonstration of net CO2 harm defined as mitigation spend for CO2 vs. the same spend for other harm mitigation.
    I see no validation for the net feedbacks being highly positive. I see little to no progress having been made in 3 decades in scientifically narrowing the range of possibilities for net feedbacks from the wild eyed imaginings of the ’80s.

    • The prevailing theory at work here is that if you throw enough money at something like… models (and when it comes to climate models the bill is in the billions), then surely these models must be worth something and even if they don’t work and maybe never will, we’ve spent too much to walk away. There is, however, this unfortunate predilection of human nature of throwing good money after bad because it’s the easy thing to do, especially when it’s someone else’s money. The problem is, nothing good will ever come of it. Global warming is not the problem. Fear of global warming is the problem. No matter how much money has been spent on models it does not change the fact that the models will not solve the problem.

  65. About the carbon tax:
    “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.”
    Calvin Coolidge

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/calvin_coolidge.html#e2jLgM4WcCxP730T.99

  66. What would be great would be a network of microsatellites in LEO that could accurately pin down the IR radiation balance at the top of the atmosphere. The ones we have don’t cover enough different directions or locations and they don’t have sufficient accuracy to tell what is going on for sure. High-enough quality direct measurement would enable a true “net forcing” to be estimated and that could then be fed back into the CO2 data to see the size and direction of feedbacks.

  67. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #180 | Watts Up With That?

  68. Pingback: Overreach at the EPA | Climate Etc.

  69. Pingback: Overreach at the EPA | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  70. Peter Lang

    Does Jerry Taylor’s argument for a carbon tax hold up?

    No argument for a carbon tax or any form of carbon pricing stands up because it cannot succeed in the real world. Part 1 and Part 2 here explain why:

    Why carbon pricing will not succeed Part I: http://catallaxyfiles.com/2014/10/26/cross-post-peter-lang-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed-part-i/

    Why The World Will Not Agree to Pricing Carbon II: http://catallaxyfiles.com/2014/10/27/cross-post-peter-lang-why-the-world-will-not-agree-to-pricing-carbon-ii/

    • Mike Flynn


      Governments need money.

      Let’s have an oxygen tax. You can’t make CO2 without O2. Nobody escapes. Wow. Can I get a job as an expert?


  71. Peter Lang

    We are fooling ourselves if we think a carbon tax is up to the task of protecting us from the possibility of truly adverse climate outcomes.<blockquote.

    I agree wholeheartedly. This is the key reason why carbon pricing cannot succeed.

  72. Pooh, Dixie

    Beware the nose of the camel.

    • Pooh, Dixie

      This camel wants to control (“regulate”) everything and every one. Except itself, of course.