09 Dec 2009

"Global Warming Is the Left’s ‘War on Terror’"

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So said Jeff Tucker when I told him about my decision to take a job where I would focus on the economics of climate change. What Jeff meant, of course, was that global warming (aka climate change) provided a justification not just for specific tax and spending measures, but could be applied for virtually any new government intervention one wanted. Just as the threat of terrorists allowed the government to take over airport security, impose tighter regulations on cash deposits at banks, and gain greater discretion in spying on Americans (and oh yeah, invade two countries), so too does the threat of climate change allow the government to impose tariffs in violation of standard treaties, tell you what light bulbs you’re allowed to use, and (as some academics have suggested) restrict how many children you can have.

Tom Friedman has written an op ed making the rounds titled, “Going Cheney on Climate.” Friedman proves just how prescient Jeff’s comment was:

In 2006, Ron Suskind published “The One Percent Doctrine,” a book about the U.S. war on terrorists after 9/11. The title was drawn from an assessment by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who, in the face of concerns that a Pakistani scientist was offering nuclear-weapons expertise to Al Qaeda, reportedly declared: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” Cheney contended that the U.S. had to confront a very new type of threat: a “low-probability, high-impact event.”

Soon after Suskind’s book came out, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who then was at the University of Chicago, pointed out that Mr. Cheney seemed to be endorsing the same “precautionary principle” that also animated environmentalists. Sunstein wrote in his blog: “According to the Precautionary Principle, it is appropriate to respond aggressively to low-probability, high-impact events — such as climate change. Indeed, another vice president — Al Gore — can be understood to be arguing for a precautionary principle for climate change (though he believes that the chance of disaster is well over 1 percent).”

Friedman is at least consistent–he was almost a caricature of a hawk on terrorism (serving as Glenn Greenwald’s whipping boy), and he is also one of the leading media voices for action to restrict emissions.

But what of the standard liberal and conservative? Doesn’t the liberal recognize that the same non-falsifiable rhetoric* is being used in the War on Carbon as the Bush Team used for their wars? And how can the standard (neo)conservative object to the claimed necessity for urgent action? After all, the conservatives are defending the Iraq invasion even after the alleged threat was shown to be false! At least it’s still possible that the climate alarmists are correct.

* Note that I said the rhetoric is non-falsifiable, not the science.

09 Dec 2009

I Love Internet Comments

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Even if someone’s blog post or a news story drives you crazy, you can always skim the comments to see other people’s zingers. For example, take this WSJ story about all the experts and Nobel (Memorial) laureates who are defending the Fed’s “independnece” against Ron Paul’s pitchforked legions. (HT2 Bob Roddis who got it from LRC.) Most of the comments are pretty funny, especially this one:

Marcello wrote:

I cannot believe the attitude of these “Populists” who want to audit the Fed. It doesn’t matter that 70% of the American people want an audit of the Federal Reserve. The American people are ignorant and can’t be trusted to look after their own interests. These 270 economists and academics are way more qualified to decide that the secret central bank needs no oversight whatsoever. After all, it is hard for the average boobus American to understand how the Fed can create money out of thin air and buy up any asset they want. I’m sure that these “academics” are totally unbiased and would never let their relationships or benefits from the current system influence their decision. After all, we’ve seen how honest and unbiased the climate research scientists are in their pursuit of the truth.

08 Dec 2009


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* I have been saying for years that pennies are stupid. I don’t pick up pennies (unless I dropped them and it would look like litter). If you disagree, what about a proposal to introduce a new coin that had the value of 1/1000th of a dollar bill? You can agree that would be dumb, right? Anyway my wife sent me this NPR story on the issue.

* Someone wanted me to dissect Andrew Gause’s claim that we should nationalize the Fed, not end it. I disagree strongly, but Gause’s arguments deserve more time than I can give. Discuss.

* Austrian economist Alex Padilla is clearly in the pay of Big Porn (HT2MR). BTW I don’t want you to get your hopes up–the only photo at the link is of Padilla.

08 Dec 2009

"Fear Your Government, Not Your Neighbor"

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That’s not an actual quote, but I think it sums up this short video by Sean Malone:

08 Dec 2009

Citizens Sign Petition for Five Years of 100% Inflation

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I only watched the first 2 minutes, but this was pretty funny. (HT2 Danaver for sending me the Mish link.) Insert Scott Sumner joke here.

08 Dec 2009

The Benefits of Procrastination: The Economics of Geo-Engineering

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I don’t think this EconLib article will get me on Joe Romm’s Christmas card list. An excerpt:

Many critics of geo-engineering overlook an important fact: there is a gain from procrastination. In some of their expositions, they argue, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, that because humans will eventually have to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions anyway, we might as well do the adult thing and start the painful adjustment today. But this ignores the principle that a “quick fix” can allow the deferment of solving a particular problem, lowering the total cost of the long-run solution.

Although procrastination is often a sign of immaturity, in the context of climate change it may not be. In the typical debate over geo-engineering, proponents argue that it is “the” solution to global warming, while the critics worry about all the things that could go wrong. Yet this “geo-engineering: yes or no?” debate overlooks the important possibility that the most economically efficient outcome involves the postponement of carbon-abatement strategies, along with the simultaneous research and development of varied geo-engineering techniques to be deployed if they should become necessary. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that this strategy could leave our descendants many trillions of dollars richer than the alternative of implementing immediate and large cuts in emissions.

07 Dec 2009

Why Are We So Sure CRU Was Hacked?

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the main reason we are “sure” that the CRU emails and code were hacked that…the CRU people told us that’s what happened? (Well that, and the fact that everyone for two weeks has been referring to them as “hacked” and/or “stolen” emails?)

Check out this news story in the UK Telegraph (HT2 a Crook):

[IPCC head] Mr Pachauri said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) received contributions from scientists worldwide and had a rigorous peer review system which ensured a balanced view.

“The processes in the IPCC are so robust, so inclusive, that even if an author or two has a particular bias it is completely unlikely that bias will find its way into the IPCC report,” he told The Guardian.

His comments came after the apparent suggestion in the leaked emails that work on climate change which the scientists did not agree with was not included in the IPCC’s fourth assessment report, published in 2007.

Mr Pachauri said: “Every single comment that an expert reviewer provides has to be answered either by acceptance of the comment, or if it is not accepted, the reasons have to be clearly specified.

“So I think it is a very transparent, a very comprehensive process which insures that even if someone wants to leave out a piece of peer reviewed literature there is virtually no possibility of that happening.”

*Yawn* OK nothing to see there, right? But wait, your diligent blogger kept reading the article and discovered this:

Last week, Paul Hudson, a BBC weather presenter and climate change expert, admitted he was sent the controversial emails more than a month before they were made public.

It raised questions about why the BBC did not report on the matter sooner, and reignited the debate over whether the Corporation is “biased” on the issue of climate change.

In his BBC blog, Mr Hudson said: “I was forwarded the chain of emails on the 12th October, which are comments from some of the world’s leading climate scientists written as a direct result of my article “Whatever Happened To Global Warming”.

“The emails released on the Internet as a result of CRU being hacked into are identical to the ones I was forwarded and read at the time and so, as far as I can see, they are authentic,” he added.

The BBC has previously accused of failing to cover the climate change debate objectively. Earlier this year, Peter Sisson, the veteran newsreader, claimed it is now “effectively BBC policy” to stifle critics of the consensus view on global warming.

Doesn’t that strike you as odd? Apparently whoever had this bundle of fun in his or her possession, first tried to get the BBC to pick up the story when it ran a skeptic-friendly story. After a month went by and it was clear the BBC wasn’t going to run with it, the bundle of fun was uploaded to a Russian server and quickly sent to skeptic-friendly websites.

I admit that both the outside-hacker and inside-job hypotheses can handle this new twist, but this sounds more and more like an inside job to me. Perhaps the person wasn’t a true whistleblower who was agonizing at night over the ethics; it could have been a spy planted by the Russian government (say).

But if I had to guess, I’d say someone working at CRU was involved with this. This doesn’t seem at all like some random Glenn Beck computer hacker got past CRU’s firewall.*

* You’re right, I don’t even know if this sentence makes sense. I truly used to be “good with computers,” but that was back when I had a Tandy 1000 running DOS. Remember this prompt?


Ahhh, those were the days. If you wanted to send an electronic message to someone in California, you uploaded it to the BBS hub that was a local call and you were ecstatic if it got there 2 days later.

07 Dec 2009

Climategate Potpourri

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* Lew Rockwell on how the Left was diverted from its noble mission of opposing wars and protecting civil liberties. (Rockwell also passes on this story: US creationists defend the Climategate scientists!)

* Clive Crook has a similar take to mine.

* Because of Crook, Megan McArdle also starts to thinking that maybe there is something there after all.