L.A. Liberty

A Libertarian in Leftywood

The World's Biggest Environmental Killer: Indoor Air Pollution →

Unless government has a technique for solving the demand revelation problem that private entrepreneurs cannot adopt, [Paul] Samuelson and [William] Nordhaus’s statement that “because private provision of public goods will generally be insufficient, government must step in” is a non sequitur. Lacking a way to elicit the necessary information about willingness to pay, we lack assurance that government stepping in will move us closer to economic efficiency….

Whenever private provision of a good is presumed inefficient because of a demand revelation problem, government provision should also be presumed inefficient. We should expect the same goods that exhibit market failure ipso facto to exhibit government failure to achieve Pareto efficiency.

— Larry White, The Clash of Economic Ideas [2012]

The Bogus “97% of Climate Scientists Agree” Claim →

If you have the temerity to challenge calls for the government to take aggressive action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, you will probably have someone call you a “climate science denier.” You will further be lectured that “97% of climate scientists agree” on this consensus.

But there’s a bait-and-switch going on here, as Joseph Bast and Dr. Roy Spencer explain in the WSJ. Or, you can read David Friedman’s take-down here, which I think spells out the matter very simply.

What’s the source of this bogus stat? Cook et al. (2013) is a paper which claims to do the following:

We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11,944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming…Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research. [Bold added.]

To repeat, there’s a bait-and-switch occurring here. As Friedman spells out in a very straightforward way, all you need to do is actually look at Cook et al.’s own tables in their paper to see that others (including Cook himself in a subsequent paper!) are misrepresenting their findings. Only 1.6% of the surveyed abstracts clearly say that humans are the main cause of global warming. The 97.1% figure includes papers that merely claim that some amount of warming can be attributed to human activities.

Many of the prominent scientists associated with the “denier” label–such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, Pat Michaels, and Chip Knappenberger (whom I feature here a lot)–would fit into this “consensus.” You could quite consistently hold the following beliefs:

(A) Human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have made the earth warmer than it otherwise would be. (Thus this person would be in the “97.1% consensus.”)

(B) Human activity has had a relatively minor role in the changing temperature/climate since 1750; other factors are far more significant.

(C) Climate change is not a problem worth worrying about. Malnutrition, war, and sanitary drinking water are far more urgent issues for the globe.

(D) Even if climate change poses a potentially serious threat to humans in a few decades, having governments enact certain tax policies today is not at all a suitable solution to this genuine problem.

To repeat, there is nothing contradictory about the above beliefs, and yet anyone holding (B) through (D) would be denounced as denying the “consensus.” (A)

Fancy that.

The real issue is not whether one cares about nature, but whether one cares about people. Environmental sympathies are not in dispute; because one puts the interests of one’s children before the interests of the people down the street does not imply that one hates the neighbors, or even is uninterested in them. The central matters in dispute here are truth and liberty, versus the desire to impose one’s aesthetic and moral tastes on others.

— Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2

Politics vs. Science at IPCC →

Those pushing for aggressive government intervention in the name of fighting climate change often claim that “the science is settled” and dismiss any dissenters as “deniers.” The so-called “consensus” is codified in the periodic reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The alarmist camp’s repeated references to “peer-review” and the number of organizations behind the IPCC are rhetorically very effective; they have done a great PR job in making it look as if their political solutions really do flow naturally from what the scientists in white lab coats are reporting. But allegations from IPCC authors show that politics and not science drive the process at the IPCC.

As we have documented countless times on these pages (here’s the latest example), the alarmists greatly exaggerate when they claim that aggressive and immediate government action is needed to prevent catastrophe. When you readthe actual scientific literature, as opposed to the pithy summaries given by a few outspoken activists, then we see no cause for alarm. As we shall see, the latest findings stress a growing role for adaptation to a changing climate.

ohstarstuff:

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot 
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) is an atmospheric storm that has been raging in Jupiter’s southern Hemisphere for at least 400 years.
About 100 years ago, the storm covered over 40,000 km of the surface. It is currently about one half of that size and seems to be shrinking. 
At the present rate that it is shrinking it could become circular by 2040. The GRS rotates counter-clockwise(anti-cyclonic) and makes a full rotation every six Earth days. 
It is not known exactly what causes the Great Red Spot’s reddish color. The most popular theory, which is supported by laboratory experiments, holds that the color may be caused by complex organic molecules, red phosphorus, or other sulfur compounds. 
The GRS is about two to three times larger than Earth. Winds at its oval edges can reach up to 425 mph (680 km/h) 
Infrared data has indicated that the Great Red Spot is colder (and thus, higher in altitude) than most of the other clouds on the planet
Sources: http://www.universetoday.com/15163/jupiters-great-red-spot/ http://www.space.com/23708-jupiter-great-red-spot-longevity.html

Must be all the SUVs and cow farts. 

ohstarstuff:

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

  • Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) is an atmospheric storm that has been raging in Jupiter’s southern Hemisphere for at least 400 years.
  • About 100 years ago, the storm covered over 40,000 km of the surface. It is currently about one half of that size and seems to be shrinking. 
  • At the present rate that it is shrinking it could become circular by 2040. The GRS rotates counter-clockwise(anti-cyclonic) and makes a full rotation every six Earth days. 
  • It is not known exactly what causes the Great Red Spot’s reddish color. The most popular theory, which is supported by laboratory experiments, holds that the color may be caused by complex organic molecules, red phosphorus, or other sulfur compounds. 
  • The GRS is about two to three times larger than Earth. Winds at its oval edges can reach up to 425 mph (680 km/h) 
  • Infrared data has indicated that the Great Red Spot is colder (and thus, higher in altitude) than most of the other clouds on the planet

Sources:
http://www.universetoday.com/15163/jupiters-great-red-spot/ http://www.space.com/23708-jupiter-great-red-spot-longevity.html

Must be all the SUVs and cow farts. 

(via biognosis)

Most environmentalists think that resources are “natural.” But they’re not. No substance on earth - not iron ore, not petroleum, not even land - is a resource unless and until human beings creatively figure out how to use that substance to produce outputs cost-effectively. And innovative, free markets are by far the most powerful engine ever stumbled upon to power such human creativity. As the economic historians Gavin Wright and Jesse Czelusta put it, “the abundance of … mineral resources should not be seen as merely a fortunate natural endowment. It is more appropriately understood as a form of collective learning, a return on large-scale investments in exploration, transportation, geological knowledge, and the technologies of mineral extraction, refining, and utilization.”*

So the great irony is that the chief source of “natural resources” is the very economic institution - entrepreneurial capitalism - that environmentalists accuse of destroying natural resources.

— Don Boudreaux

But here’s the mystery. Suppose that Facebook released a report that, after listing a slew of possible dangers of people’s failure to connect even more fully to social media, demands policies that compel greater use of Facebook. Such a report would rightly be greeted with extreme and widespread skepticism. It would be seen as Facebook’s self-interested plea for policies that enhance its power, reach, and profits. So why does so little skepticism greet a government report that demands policies that compel greater use of government?

Why, in other words, does the same healthy distrust of a private company’s alleged demonstration of all the good that will come from forcing people to use more of its services not carry over to government’s alleged demonstration of all the good that will come from forcing people to use more of its services?

— 

Don Boudreaux, responding to Chip Knappenberger statement that “[t]he National Climate Assessment is a political call to action document meant for the president’s left-leaning constituency. What pretense of scientific support that decorates it quickly falls away under a close and critical inspection.”

I’d take Boudreaux’s point one step further: I think history has proven that the public can be convinced to shed their “healthy distrust of a private company’s alleged demonstration of all the good that will come from forcing people to use more of its services” when the state serves as facilitator of those services, such as with health care.

Everyone, including environmentalists, has needs more basic than a pristine environment. We don’t worry about the earth until our survival is secure. This is a natural ordering of needs. Yet environmentalists, after meeting their own basic needs, want to force the poor to reverse their preferences and put the earth before their own survival. I don’t think most environmentalists intend this, but it is the inevitable result of using the force of government to enact protection measures. This is neither desirable nor effective in the long run.

You may be able to do great harm to many of the world’s poor in exchange for some government attempt at environmental improvement (more likely to result in special-interest enrichment), but in the long run it is impossible to convince people to subjugate their survival to the perceived needs of their ecosystem. The real promise for environmental improvement is economic growth. Until people are wealthy enough to consider [voluntarily] paying the cost of a cleaner environment, the fight to force their choices is inhumane and ultimately ineffective.

— Isaac M. Morehouse, “Environmental Protection Is a Consumption Good”

One of the most disquieting features of the environmentalist movement is its evident abhorrence of modern technology and its Romanticist back-to-nature philosophy. Technology and civilization are responsible, they say, for crowding, pollution, despoliation of resources, so let us therefore return to unspoiled nature, to Walden Pond, to contemplation in a far-off glade. None of these critics of modern culture and civilization seem to realize that the back-to-nature path would not only mean shuffling off the benefits of civilization, but would also mean starvation and death for the vast bulk of mankind, who are dependent on the capital and the division of labor of the modern industrial market economy. Or are our modern Romantics operating on a death, as opposed to a life, premise? It very much looks that way.

— Murray N. Rothbard, Conservation and the Free Market (via eltigrechico)

If we pay heed to the state-financed scientists who have been found to twist their science to support the political ambitions of their Malthusian pay masters, then we must agree that mankind is doomed in so many ways that the only way out is to reduce our population, our energy consumption, and our standards of living. However, the history of the past two hundred years has proven Malthus and his followers to be dead wrong. Man’s ingenuity combined with a free market consisting of competition, price signals and the motivation of profit will ensure that the peakers remain on the wrong side of history.

— Roger Toutant

Climate Change Policies as a Form of Insurance →

Suppose someone from an insurance company came to you in the year 2050 and said, “We’ve run computer models many thousands of times using all kinds of different assumptions. In the worst-case scenario, a very small fraction of the computer runs—about 1 in 500—has you losing 20% of your income in the year 2100. In order to insure you against this extremely unlikely outcome that will occur in half a century, we want to charge you 3.4% of your income this year.”

Would you want to take that deal? Of course not. The premium is way too high in light of the very low probability and the relative modesty of the “catastrophe.” When someone’s house burns down, that’s a much bigger hit than 20% of annual income. And yet, the premiums for fire insurance are quite reasonable; they’re nowhere near 3.4% of income for most households. Moreover, the threat of your house burning down is immediate: It could happen tomorrow, not just fifty years from now. That’s why people have no problem buying fire insurance for their homes. Yet the situation and numbers aren’t anywhere close to analogous when it comes to climate change policies.

Recognizing that they can no longer make their case on the basis of down-the-middle projections, those favoring massive government intervention in the name of fighting climate change have resorted to focusing on very unlikely but devastating scenarios. In this context, they have likened their preferred government policies as a form of insurance.

However, this analogy fails for several reasons. First, insurance in the marketplace is voluntary; when the government forces people to buy it—as with ObamaCare—then there is indeed a public outcry. Second, actual insurance in the marketplace is based on extensive actuarial data; we have no such understanding with climate change, but instead the outcomes against which we are “insuring” live inside computer projections.

Finally, even taking the insurance analogy head-on, the numbers don’t work. Nobody would take out an insurance policy on the terms of likely payouts and expense of premium that climate change policy offers.

The former drives up costs of producing carbon. This incentivizes firms to reduce their carbon dioxide output, including spurring innovation in making carbon-dioxide become more productive (doing more with less, making that fuel work harder) as well as seeking technological alternatives to carbon production altogether. 

The latter drives up costs of human labor. This incentivizes firms to reduce their salary expenditure, including spurring innovation in making labor become more productive (doing more with less, making that labor work harder) as well as seeking technological alternatives to human labor altogether. 

Generally, the people who support the former tend to support the latter - yet their expectations of each contradict one another.

[T]he “social cost of carbon” is not an objective fact of the world, analogous to the charge on an electron or the boiling point of water. Many analysts and policymakers refer to the “science being settled” and so forth, giving the impression that the SCC is a number that is “out there” in Nature, waiting to be measured by guys in white lab coats.

On the contrary, by its very nature the SCC is an arbitrary number, which is completely malleable in the hands of an analyst who can make it very high, very low, or even negative, simply by adjusting parameters. Precisely because the SCC even at a conceptual level is so vulnerable to manipulation in this fashion, the analysts giving wildly different estimates are not “lying.” …

Generating estimates of the SCC involves using computer models with (arbitrary) simulated damages that go out centuries in the future, and then the analyst must arbitrarily select a discount rate to convert those future damages into present-dollar terms. Because of these ingredients in the estimation process, an analyst can generate just about any “estimate” of the SCC he wants, including a negative one—which would mean carbon dioxide emissions confer third-party benefits on humanity, and (using the Administration’s logic) ought to receive subsidies from the taxpayer.

— Robert Murphy, “On the Dubious Social Cost of Carbon, Part I”

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