Blogs > Liberty and Power > Why the Conventional Wisdom May Be Wrong on Climate Change

Feb 14, 2007 12:59 am

Why the Conventional Wisdom May Be Wrong on Climate Change

Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, describes an experiment that questions the orthodoxy that man-made greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming.

Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder's The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change is published this month by Icon Books in the UK and is available through Amazon UK.

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Gus diZerega - 2/14/2007

A careful discussion of these issues can be found here:;traveler=0&blog=abrams&date=09-20-2006&month=9&day=1&year=2006

Gus diZerega - 2/14/2007

I have no personal expertise as to whether the warming that is going on is human caused or otherwise. Neither, I suspect, do most if not all the people on this list. We are all in the situation of confronting a problem with profound policy implications that we lack the expertise to really evaluate for ourselves.

So I am intrigued by the confidence on so many parts that the reports of human caused global arming are some dastardly plot by advocates of big government to bring us under more control.

When an issue is both important and contested, and involves complex issues we are unable to personally evaluate, it seems to me we have little choice but to look at the judgments of scientists. They are fallible, and certainly can form bandwagons that head off in the wrong direction (land bridges anyone?) But their fallibility is more deeply informed than our own. And science has a much better track record of admitting error and shifting its position than any alternative form of acquiring knowledge. Particularly ideologies. Further, many - probably most - become scientists to search for scientific truth, not sustain a sociopolitical agenda.

Over many years the trend within the scientific community has been towards increasing agreement that global warming has a human component. I blog on this on my own site at
(I have added an update because of calder's interesting article.)

Taking a position on an important scientific issue based on whether or not it is ideologically convenient seems to me foolish - as it was for the Pope in responding to Galileo or current "Christians" on evolution or the age of the earth.

Is this new theory in this forthcoming book the right one? Or perhaps an improvement on the growing consensus that there is an anthropogenic element in global warming. Beats Hell out of me. And I suspect it beats Hell out of you too. Calder himself is careful - saying of the new theory:

"Where does all that leave the impact of greenhouse gases? Their effects are likely to be a good deal less than advertised, BUT NOBODY CAN REALLY SAY until the implications of the new theory of climate change are more fully worked out." [my empohasis]

When a science fiction writer with no expertise in the field (or as much as he demonstrated in using complexity theory to structure Jurassic Park - i.e. none at all) becomes the chief critic of global warming, and bases it on conspiracy theory, that should give us pause I would think.

It seems to me that the truly wise position is to ask: if there is human caused global warming, and if the consequences are likely to be unpleasant, what approach to the matter is least invasive of freedom while still likely to help ameliorate the worst effects? If there is uncertainty, but the likelihood of making a wrong decision in one direction is very costly and one in the opposite direction far less so, should not prudence dictate the second over the first?

It also seems to me thoughtful environmentalists already have such an approach in mind - a carbon tax. It could easily be revenue neutral - for every dollar collected by a carbon tax a dollar in other taxes could be eliminated. That would reduce tax based distortions in productive activity. Basically all such a tax would do is better internalize an externality.

It is not anarcho capitalism - but anarcho capitalism has NO solution to this problem, which I suspect is why it is denied not on the basis of evidence but on the basis that even while more and more competent scientists are convinced, not all of them are. IF there is man caused global warming and if it is likely to be unpleasant on balance anarcho capitalists have a pretty insurmountable problem - better to deny it.

More traditional right wingers deny it I suspect because EXXON is generous to think tanks. And I know from earlier research on the Alaska oil spill that Exxon has no record of honesty.

There is an added rather cruel irony here. Oil is a major cause of our war in the Middle East. This war amounts to a massive subsidization of Exxon and similar oil companies as well as the defense industry. It is also enormously strengthening the American state.

The more a carbon tax pushes energy production into other realms, the less pressure there is to go to war or to steal oil. Also, the lower the income to Arab and other despots. And if it were revenue neutral, the less distortion of investment would be involved since even if there is NO human caused globval warming, it would be a cheap way of reducing defense costs while avoiding creating a vested interest in arms and war.

In short, an oil based economy

1. Keeps Arab and other dictators free from having to generate wealth from the productive energies of their own people.

2. Encourages the further militarization of the US because we are dependent on oil from unpleasant places abroad.

3. If the growing current consensus of science is correct, it may do serious damage to the quality of life for many people in the world.

Adn finally, even if the problem is presently over stated, as is possible, because CO2 build up is cumulative, there will come a time when it is a problem - and wise people will seek to encourage research into alternatives sooner rather than later because we do not know when there will be a tipping point on climatic issues.

Kenneth R Gregg - 2/14/2007

You might be interested in these two articles.

The first is rather funny. Apparently the reindeer weren't informed
about global warming:

Dr. Timothy Ball , Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project
<>;, is a Victoria-based environmental consultant and
former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg and author
of: "Global Warming: The Cold, Hard Facts?"

Best to you,
Just Ken