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Changing the climate of opinion about climate change

Climate Alarmism Reconsidered
Robert L. Bradley, Jr.
Institute of Economic Affairs, Hobart Paper 146, 2003

This is a rather cautious riposte to the noisy consensus that seems to get all the publicity. Bradley follows Lomborg in pointing out that programs like Kyoto will make so little difference that the money notionally saved might just as well be spent elsewhere – dealing with poverty will do more to clean up the environment that instituting measures that will bear down more on the poor than on anyone else. Since their effect on climate will be minimal anyway, further, even more difficult negotiations must follow.

The free market has done more to solve problems of resource shortages and pollution than the activities of governments; a broad hint that these, defined as statism by Bradley, will be incorrect when applied to climate control. Perhaps unfortunately, he also coins the term stasism, to define the radical environmental position, basically “a wish to return to an idealised stable past” (p. 109).

He sees the current consensus as discounting the benign effects of greater warmth, which occur more in winter than in summer, at night rather than by day and where it is cold rather than hot. Also not taken into account has been the beneficent effect on plant growth of higher levels of carbon dioxide, the optimum for which is 800-1200 ppm, about two to three times what it is now (375) and twice what is forecast for the end of the century (522). He also notes that increased melting of the Antarctic ice sheet at one edge is balanced by thickening at another and by more precipitation onto its land-mass.

His non-polemical language makes it difficult to grasp his most salient arguments, and to some extent I feel that he assumes that the current fuss will die down and that it will become another scare to look back on.

There are three appendices, the first quoting forecasts that, over the years, have been falsified by events, the Ehrlichs being prominent here; the second, positive features half-buried in the latest Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published by the CUP in 2001; the third, extracts from Jevons, the first doomsayer on the subject of resources, in 1865.

I note that Bradley has written a book entitled Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability (2000).

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3 comments to Changing the climate of opinion about climate change

  • Greg

    OT – Mark Steyn’s latest editorial has some very original thoughts on conservative deficit spending: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2004/03/09/do0902.xml

    Another example: the US budget deficit. Every time I go to hear a Democrat presidential candidate, they’re huffin’ an’ a-puffin’ about George W Bush and the “deficit”. Deficit this, deficit that. Whatever happened, they sneer, to the “fiscal conservatives”?

    Well, I’m a conservative, and I don’t need any qualifying adjectives. My objection isn’t to the deficit, it’s to the big wasteful government programmes that lead to the deficit. If the Dems wanted to balance the budget by cutting the spending, I’d be the first to dance up and down shaking my pom-poms. But they don’t. They want to balance the budget by raising taxes, which is no help either way. I think deficits are morally neutral. If I go to the bank and ask them for a loan to buy a house, they’ll look kindly on me. If I ask for a loan because I fancy a three-in-a-bed sex romp with two high-class hookers, they’ll suggest I wait till I get my Christmas bonus. The portion of the deficit caused by Iraqi reconstruction is analogous to the house loan. Most of the rest – Bush’s prescription drug plan for pampered seniors, the mohair subsidy, funding for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland – is analogous to the hooker blow-out. This spending has no plausible claim on the Federal Treasury: it would be objectionable even if Bill Gates personally wrote a cheque to cover the entire deficit. It’s the expansion of the state that’s wrong. The funding of it is secondary.

  • Leaving aside the blessed Steyn’s commentary. Back in the late seventies the left in the US turned into sun worshipers. The Carter administration even put a bunch of pro solar energy ads on TV.

    One occasionally hears echos of this when they claim to be for alternative energy but when when real live projects for improving the Energy supply are presented they find excuses to turn up their noses. Few people noted that Enron was for a while the world;s largest investor in both solar power and windpower.

    Meanwhile the global warming issue came along and the lefties discovered the threat of the ‘greenhouse effect’. They ignored their old friend the sun.

    It now seems obvious that long term changes in sunspot and other solar activity have been impacting the earth’s climate at least as much as the ‘satanic gasses’ . NASA’s living with a star program and ESA’s SOHO satellite show some evidence of this.

    The relationship between the earth’s climate and the sun is being intensively studied but the scientific establishment is reluctant to draw any hard conclusions other than that the question needs more work and more funding. (Surprise surprise.)

    One factor that has been established, is that soot from primitive wood and coal burning activities in the 3d world is a major factor in global warming but I don’t hear the Kyoto brigade trying to ban wood stoves and coal and dung burning in China and India. Its easier to go after little old ladies in their SUVs.

  • ed

    *shrug*

    Global warming was never about global warming. It was always about restricting the economic growth and strength of the evil West.

    Besides. If you look at the volcanic activity in the world you’ll find that the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted exceeds that generated by humans.