National Review on How to Handle Global Warming

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National Review has published an article by Jim Manzi that acknowledges that man-made global warming is a fact and makes some sensible suggestions on what should be done about it (article currently available only to subscribers). The article correctly points out that nearly all economic analyses suggest that a near-term expensive crash program to abate greenhouse gases is not the best way to address the problem. I noted that one such recent study by Yale economist Robert Mendelsohn found

"the aggregate net impacts [of climate change] for the globe are surprisingly small for the next century across all scenarios." They note that regional impacts of climate change would differ but they calculate that climate change overall would reduce global GDP by between 0.08 percent and 0.24 percent by the year 2100. "These estimates are considerably smaller than the earlier estimates in the literature that predict impacts of 1-2 percent of GDP," notes the Mendelsohn study.

Nevertheless, global warming poses some risk of catastrophe. So what to do? Manzi suggests:

In the face of massive uncertainty on multiple fronts, the best strategy is almost always to hedge your bets and keep your options open. Wealth and technology are raw materials for options. The loss of economic and technological development that would be required to eliminate literally all theorized climate-change risk would cripple our ability to deal with virtually every other foreseeable and unforeseeable risk, not to mention our ability to lead productive and interesting lives in the meantime. The Precautionary Principle is a bottomless well of anxieties, but our resources are finite. It's possible to buy so much flood insurance that you can't afford fire insurance.

In fact, a much more sensible strategy to deal with climate risk would emphasize technology rather than taxes. A science-based approach would hedge by providing support for prediction, mitigation, and adaptation technologies.

Although Manzi opposes carbon taxes (which I have recently discussed here), he and I agree that more research on the likely course of future warming and encouraging technological progress, not massive changes in lifestyles, are the keys to solving the problems posed by climate change.

Manzi notes:

Global warming is a manageable risk, not an existential crisis, and we should get on with the job of managing it. Conservatives should propose policies that are appropriately optimistic, science-based, and low-cost. This should be an attractive political program: It is an often-caricatured, but very healthy, reality that Americans usually respond well to the conversion of political issues into technical problems. After all, we're very good at solving the latter.

Although former Vice-President Al Gore says that climate change "is not a political issue so much as a moral issue." He's wrong and Manzi is right. It's a technical issue and it's good news that conservatives are now joining the debate over how to solve it.

Addendum: It is worth noting that a recent computer model study by NASA Goddard climatologist Jim Hansen suggests that catastrophic global warming may be closer than most other studies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change find.

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  1. This is what conservatives do: they resist something until it becomes perverse to do so, and then they scream “sensible moderation” on the issue (heck they even brag about standing athwart history shouting stop). For self interested and blindly ideological reasons it took them longer than most to see what was evident, and now THEY claim to be the voices of reason and sensible moderation on the issue. Riight.

  2. I would love to have a discussion about the climate change issue without psychologizing it.

    In the face of massive uncertainty on multiple fronts, the best strategy is almost always to hedge your bets and keep your options open.

    Great advice.

  3. Just to get the list rolling on things conservatives used to fight the fight on but now reluctantly claim to be the voice of sensible moderation on think race relations and reproductive freedom (you can still find NRO’ers who lament Griswold v. CT). The views of National Review on both decades ago was in pace with Medevial Times. Currently you can see them on the brink of throwing up their hands on evolution, stem cells, sex-ed and yes, now global warming. Welcome to science guys, but since you were so late we only have seats in the back for you…

  4. I don’t mind the far right being fashionably late to the party when they’re waiting for certain evidence or argument. But showing up after the party is over and thrusting your pelvis everywhere is sad.

  5. Yeah Ken, because everyone on the left is sensible and moderate on this issue. The problem is that for many people on the left, global warming is an emotional quasi religous issue. Any sollution that doesn’t involve some kind of hairshirt suffereing for the West and America’s in particular consumptive sins is of no interest. That is why they never say anything about India and China, whose CO2 footprint is huge and rising, and why they rarely back nuclear power.

  6. The fact that Bailey’s and National Review’s conversions happened exactly according to the timeline and follow the precise political steps recommended in the infamous “window is closing” memo means nothing. Nothing at all.

  7. How is the party over Lamar? The science on the extent or even existance of anthropromorphic warming is hardly certain, despite claims to the contrary and even if it were certain, no one seems to have a sollution that doesn’t involve massive cost for little return.

  8. Are we talking science or jihad? It’s hard to tell.

  9. You mean the same bunch that STILL believe prohibition 1.0 was a success and spend their lives worshiping and invisible super hero in the sky are always last to realize things?

    Wow! I’m shocked!

  10. Just to get the list rolling on things conservatives used to fight the fight on but now reluctantly claim to be the voice of sensible moderation on think race relations and reproductive freedom (you can still find NRO’ers who lament Griswold v. CT).

    Your point is well taken, however, I would like to point out that it was the Republican party that freed the slaves and that there were a whole lot of Democrats (particularly the “Dixiecrats”) that had trouble with racial relations thereafter. Are you trying to imply, like all Democrats seem to do, that Republicans/Conservatives are “closet racists” because they oppose affirmative action and support welfare reform?

  11. Something else to consider. No one is going to stop China and India from growing. I really can’t see anyway that the over CO2 output for the world goes down very much without putting series breaks on China and India’s growth, something that will not happen. If you really buy the bad global warming predictions, the world is screwed. Somehow though, I doubt we are. Twenty years from now when there is more CO2 in the atmosphere than there is now and the world is warmer and civilization hasn’t ended and we are still going merrily on as before, the chicken little’s are going to look pretty stupid. If of course the chicken littles are right, it is not as if there was anything that could have been done to prevent it. My bet is on technology and human adaptability.

  12. The fact that Bailey’s and National Review’s conversions happened exactly according to the timeline and follow the precise political steps recommended in the infamous “window is closing” memo means nothing. Nothing at all.

    joe, to be fair, it could be that both responded to the publication of the same data. IIRC, this was around the time that some discrepancies between satellite and ground data were remedied.

    Now, I’ve certainly said quite a bit about my issues with global warming skeptics (check the archives at Unqualified Offerings, for instance) but there is an obvious counter-argument to the point you make about timing.

  13. John John John,

    [shakes head] ((((~_~))))

    “no one seems to have a sollution that doesn’t involve massive cost for little return.”

    Read this book
    http://www.natcap.org/sitepages/pid5.php
    and get back to us.

    Most of what needs to be done is economically beneficial…

  14. Neu Mejican,

    If most of what “needs to be done” didn’t involve massive government intervention in the economy, I might believe you. U.S. coal plants produce 15% of all the world’s CO2. If the U.S. really wanted to it could replace those with nuclear plants. Furhter, if global warming is a threat to our existence, why the hell are we tearing down hydo dams in the NW? Nothing personal against the Salmon but if he comes down to saving civilization or saving the salmon, I am taking civilization. But the sad fact is that you can rarely have a realistic conversation about realistic options and choices with most global warming believers. When it comes to global warming it is first and formost about the hairshirt.

  15. “The science on the extent or even existance of anthropromorphic warming is hardly certain, despite claims to the contrary and even if it were certain, no one seems to have a sollution that doesn’t involve massive cost for little return.”

    “Twenty years from now when there is more CO2 in the atmosphere than there is now and the world is warmer and civilization hasn’t ended and we are still going merrily on as before, the chicken little’s are going to look pretty stupid. If of course the chicken littles are right, it is not as if there was anything that could have been done to prevent it. My bet is on technology and human adaptability.”

    I didn’t do nuffin. And if I did, it was self defense.

  16. “it was the Republican party that freed the slaves and that there were a whole lot of Democrats (particularly the “Dixiecrats”) that had trouble with racial relations thereafter.”

    The poles reversed as a result of the southern strategy. Harkening back to the days when Republicans were the rational man’s party is a slight of hand.

  17. Global warming is a problem that will solve itself.

  18. I’m sure it will, Warren.

    The question is how many millions of human lives it’s going to solve in the process.

  19. If people who claim that global warming is a threat to human existance honestly believed that, they would be building nuke plants and wind plants and hydro-electric dams with a real sense of desparation. Of course they don’t do that and in many cases the same people who claim global warming is such a threat actually fight the building of nuclear plants and wind farms and hydroelectric dams. They are either suicidal or don’t believe a word of what they are saying and view global warming as an excuse to push a political agenda.

  20. If you don’t do exactly as the people who don’t believe in global warming tell you, it just shows you don’t really believe in global warming.

    Or something.

    Let’s see that third talking point.

  21. John,

    They don’t want fixes and solutions. They want suffering as penenace. Those solutions could help solve the problem but might hurt some birds or fish! The ‘proper’ solution is the one that hurts people of course!

    This country truly is doomed. Locked in a power struggle between invisible superhero in the sky worshipping idiots and those who value human life less than animals or even plants.

  22. Wow! That’s really useful, because once you JUST KNOW that it’s a conspiracy, man, you don’t have to go through all the trouble of thinking.

  23. joe,

    The only one who brought up a conspiracy on this thread is you.

    There is a difference between a conspiracy and a tendency.

  24. joe: At the risk of further proving my cluelessness to you (and the rest of the world), can you provide a link to the “window is closing” memo that you reference?

  25. http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_5580343,00.html

    From Drudge today. Look at what Denver is trying to do. Those ideas would be an economic disaster. Retro-fitting older homes to be more efficient? Wonderful, my home is worth 150K but I can’t sell it until I put 30K worth of renovation. Yeah, that is a good idea and that won’t disproportionately affect the poor or anything. Taxing people who drive long distances? Wonderful, if you have the money to fly. Note, they are not taxing people who take private jets, which is a lot worse than driving. The bottom-line is people are using global warming as an excuse to take away our standard of living and our freedoms and you dumb asses are buying into it. Let me ask you this, if George Bush wanted to do any of the things that the city of Denver wanted to do or anything half as intrusive in order to stop terrorism, who here wouldn’t be up in arms about it? Why will give away your freedom in the name of an unproven theory promoted by people with an obvious political interest in its validity so easily?

  26. Since I am one of the people that John and Ktc2 seem to think wants them to live in the stone age… let me address some of their talking points.

    Chicken little: technology is the solution, but developing new technologies requires that there be a goal/problem/task for that technology to meet…if we recognize now that those technologies will take some time to develop, we can start working on them now, before the sky falls.

    Nuclear: build more nuclear, but it is not a panacea, being based on a uranium, which is a limited resource. If we tried to power the whole world on fission, we run into extraction limits within a few centuries. Also, the bang for the buck reductions in co2 are fairly small for nuclear. There are cleaner cheaper energy sources. For the cost of a nuclear plant you can build a lot of wave/wind/solar generation capacity.

    Wind: ?? who you talking to. Arguing about how to do wind does not equal opposition to wind.

    Taxes(aka “suffering”): green tax proposals typically involve no increase, and often a decrease, in tax burden on the economy. Shifting the structure of the economic activities of the government does not equal increasing the tax burden.

    Hydro-electric dams: not a good use of time or energy. Lots of environmental negatives considering you can harness the water’s energy in ways that are environmentally friendly.

    regulations: greens are not asking for more regulations, they are asking for different ones. Many of the regulations currently on the books are anti-green. These need to be gotten rid of… these include building and transportation regulations both federal and local…and zoning, of course.

    Subsidies: either shift them to greener projects or eliminate them for co2 inefficient projects. At the least eliminate the ones to fossil fuel and other co2 inefficient industries/practices.

    Coal plants: the main action needs to be to help China/india to find better options than coal…

  27. “the same people who claim global warming is such a threat actually fight the building of nuclear plants”

    There havn’t been any new nuclear plants built in the US since the ’70’s. If there is a problem with anthropogenic global warming, it is largely due to the same Chicken Littles that are now so concerned about anthropogenic global warming. Sixty percent of man’s contribution of CO2 could be reduced if all electricity in the world were generated by nuclear power.

  28. John,

    The Denver regulation on retrofitting older homes does not prevent you from selling your home. It requires the buyer to upgrade after purchase, iirc…

    $30,000 in energy efficiency upgrades would pay for themselves before you payed off the mortgage.

  29. One thing about wind power, it’s such an eyesore. The same people who criticise pumping units blocking the scenery are all for wind mills.

  30. “The Denver regulation on retrofitting older homes does not prevent you from selling your home. It requires the buyer to upgrade after purchase, iirc…”

    Exactly the same effect, discounts the price of older homes and prices people out of the market.

    “$30,000 in energy efficiency upgrades would pay for themselves before you payed off the mortgage.”

    If that is the case, why do we need the government to require people to do it? If is not like people don’t want to save money. One of two things is true, either the improvements don’t pay for themselves or people do not have the upfront money to make them. It is not like everyone has 1000s of dollars laying around. Either way, the rule makes older, less expensive housing difficult or impossible to sell.

  31. Neu Mejican
    You have got to be kidding.
    Each and every “Green” regulation and tax includes pain and suffering as a necessary requirement to teach us the error of our ways.

  32. On Nuclear:
    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=3906

    “Nuclear power relies on an exhaustible energy source. High-grade, low-cost uranium ores are limited and will be exhausted in about 50 years at the current rate of consumption. The estimated total of all conventional uranium reserves is thought to be sufficient for about 200 years at the current rate of consumption. But in a scenario of nuclear expansion, these reserves will be depleted more rapidly. Most of the Earth’s uranium is found in very poor grade ores, and recovery of uranium from these ores is likely to be considerably more greenhouse intensive.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/22/business/22nukes.html?ex=1313899200&en=4eb46785dd79718d&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt
    “more than 100 senior utility executives who responded also said they do not expect “a future where nuclear generation represents a larger share of generation” than today.” http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/fuel-supply.html

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/10/tech/main1881980.shtml

  33. Neu Mejican: Regardless of who pays for the upgrades, it has to be considered in the purchase price, whether by the buyer or seller. Since we are in a housing slump, it’ll hit people pretty hard. Still, for all the naysaying, I’ve yet to see a decent plan from the right. I said the right was late to the party, and by that I meant that the scientific inquiry into climate change was the party, which has come to a baseline conclusion that humans have exacerbated warming. Conservatives rejected that conclusion until the party was over.

  34. Art,

    You are currently subjected to pain and suffering to teach you the error of your ways… greens just want to change the nature of the lessons.

  35. “$30,000 in energy efficiency upgrades would pay for themselves before you payed off the mortgage.”

    This would result in very expensive monthly payments. It would result in a decrease in home ownership as the poor would have a hard time making those payments. This would bring about a depression in housing which would spread to the whole economy. A better solution would be to give better tax breaks for for energy efficient improvements in housing and better tax breaks for hybrids.

  36. hier is reference to window closing on climate change Ten-year warming window closing
    David Adam in London
    May 12, 2007

    hier is another reference:

    But probably the major reason why we have seen little overt activism — demonstrations in the streets, sit-ins, mass lobbying campaigns and the like-on global warming is because it has only been in the last few years that the scientists who have been studying this issue are realizing and reporting that there is an alarming increase in the rate at which global warming is taking place and that the window is closing during which time human action has a chance of averting a massive world catastrophe.

    (emphasis mine)

    What I understood joe to be saying, and joe, please correct if I’m off base!, is that there has been discussions of hitting the “tipping point”, and the time for action is running out.

    The Austrian paper, “der Standard” reported within the past few months, that their experts reckon that there’s maybe 7 years (enough time to fix things) before disaster.

    That could be his reference.

    And what Grotius 10:21am said.

  37. Lamar,

    I know. I just wanted to clarify John’s factual error. But really, a well designed retrofit will pay for itself… you are just shifting the cost burden away from power bills. In the long run the new owner comes out ahead (unless the turn the house over quickly).

  38. Rattlesnake Jake,

    I agree that incentives are a better mechanism, but it is hard to predict what the outcomes of the Denver approach will be. I doubt the slump, and the monthly increase in mortgage bills can be offset by savings in monthly energy bills if all the details are managed.

  39. I can’t help but notice the extremely emotional responses by those accusing the global warming activists of responding emotionally.

    You don’t have to embrace the crazy-regulation culture in order to admit there’s a problem, guys. This is the whole problem with politics. It seems you can’t admit that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work without somehow being labeled an advocate of teen pregnancy or something…

  40. The thing I don’t understand is how John et al. can defend so vigorously the status quo…why not try doing things differently?

  41. Catastrophic global warming will always be close enough to assure the flow of funds to whoever is doing the finding.

    The market-based solution is stop paying attention to global warming. The flow of funds dries up, and the crisis ends.

  42. “why not try doing things differently?”

    Because doing things differently, can do enormous damage to the economy.

    Look, if you buy the tipping point theory, which hardly scientific gospel, then you are screwed anyway. There is no way in the world that CO2 emmissions will be significantly lowered in 7 years. Not happenening unless you want to nuke the entire developing world back to the stone age. If the tipping point is actually true, then people need to be honest and realistic and look at ways to adapting to a warmer climate. Since they are not doing that, they are either suicidal or don’t really beleive there is a tipping point.

  43. Nevertheless, global warming poses some risk of catastrophe.

    So, of course, do alien invaders. Can we quantify that “some” a bit better?

  44. John,

    You are the chicken little here.
    You see an economic disaster under every rock.
    Doing things differently can also provide for economic benefit, can open up markets, provide for whole new industries.

    Remember, as young as climate science is, it is a more exact and reliable science than economics at this point in history.

  45. I am so looking forward to being able to throw “the sky is falling” global warming alarmism back in the faces of its proponents in 4 or 5 years.

    They have so oversold the science and timelines that their credibility is soon to have its beating heart torn out by the “denialists”. And, unlike with past climate panic attacks, the great god Google will leave them no place to hide.

  46. From the linked Hansen article…

    “With another decade of ‘business-as-usual’ it becomes impractical to achieve the ‘alternative scenario’ because of the energy infrastructure that would be in place” says Hansen.

    So what he is saying is not that in a decade disaster strikes. Rather, in a decade it will be even more expensive to stop disaster because you’ll need to replace undepreciated infrastructure.

    Hmmph.

  47. I’ve been critical of the global warming skeptics (see the archives at Unqualified Offerings), but I have to take issue with this:
    Remember, as young as climate science is, it is a more exact and reliable science than economics at this point in history.

    Yes and no. It depends on what sort of prediction you want to make and what you want to do with it. Economics has some remarkably robust and reliable guidelines that, if applied with a willingness to keep in mind the specifics of a situation, can lead to very good decision-making. Economists cannot, however, make very precise quantitative predictions for a lot of phenomena. (Unless the computers in the Goldman Sachs basement are a lot better than we realize…a distinct possibility.)

    Climate science is getting to be pretty good at general trends (when averaged over fluctuations), but cannot tell you specifics of whether it will rain in my city on July 17 (randomly chosen day more than a month from now).

    Both sciences have their strong and weak suits.

  48. And John,

    “There is no way in the world that CO2 emmissions will be significantly lowered in 7 years.”

    that is not what the Australians are saying…they are saying that when have “enough time” to fix things, but only if we start now. If we wait 7 yrs to start taking action, it may be too late.

    There is a lag in developing new technologies and policies. But, luckily, humans as a species have the ability to think about the future and make plans to avert consequences that are predictable.

  49. D.A.R.,

    Dude, the invaders are already here. They’ve already converted 3/4 of the human population. 😉

  50. Neu Mexican,

    We know with 100% certainty that the more taxes and regulations you have, the lower your standard of living. That is a lot better certainty than we know the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    RC Dean,

    In five years when none of the disasters strike, the global warming alamist will all of the sudden discover the sun and start listening to the astrophysicists who say that the sun is about to go into a different cycle and cool the earth. The story will then be “we got lucky by hitting the solar cycle just right, in just a few years the sun will return to normal and we will be screwed unless we do something about CO2 emmissions”. You watch,nohting will them.

  51. Dr. T,

    I don’t disagree.

    Climate science, however, would not even be interested in making weather predictions. It is not the study of weather, it is the study of climate. It is important to keep the two levels of analysis distinct.

  52. “Hydro-electric dams: not a good use of time or energy. Lots of environmental negatives considering you can harness the water’s energy in ways that are environmentally friendly.”

    Neu Mejican – can you expand on this or provide links please? and are you referring to all hydro, or just large hydro? I’m not arguing, this is an area of interest for me and I’m genuinely curious. thanks.

  53. “there were a whole lot of Democrats (particularly the “Dixiecrats”) that had trouble with racial relations thereafter. Are you trying to imply, like all Democrats seem to do, that Republicans/Conservatives are “closet racists” because they oppose affirmative action and support welfare reform?” I’ll take the latter q first: absolutely not, since I oppose affirmative action vehemntly and I’m no racist (I mean, I have not been so officially declared by Al Sharpton or anything, but I don’t think I am). But as to the first point, remember most of those Dixiecrats eventually switched parties to one that was more, ahem, amenable to their views…
    You’re seeing on this thread a common and interesting thing, it used to happen in Stalinist circles quite a bit. The opinion makers at the top would push some nonsense for vested interest reasons until it became simply untenable to keep pushing it, and then they would retreat back to the ‘sane moderation all along’ tack I’ve mentioned. Unfortunately, they had done their previous misinformation work all too well, so many of their more true blue ideological-fanatical followers now turned on their creators and denounced them as bougeoise turncoats. Now you see it some here where Bailey and NRO are being lumped in with the wacky environmentalists for being “duped” by the “big consipiracy” over global warming. You see this at National Review all the time, like when they fed the Birchers until it was politically untenable (ever read the NR editorial calling for slow desegregation due to the ‘retarded’ nature of the Southern ‘Negro’) and then had to kick them out. Priceless the irony is, priceless.

  54. “We know with 100% certainty that the more taxes and regulations you have, the lower your standard of living.”

    I wonder if you have done the careful analysis where you compare country by country standard of living and taxation and regulation…

    I would be willing to bet that the US and other high standard of living countries are on the upper end of the regulation scale.

    Not that I don’t see your point.
    In fact, that is why I have been saying, yea even on this thread, that removing counter-productive regulations, shifting tax burdens (not increasing, potentially lowering tax burden) is the approach.

    Don’t confuse increase in a specific tax with an increase in the overall tax burden. Don’t confuse changes in regulations to increase regulation.

  55. John,
    If I had the time, I would go back and count the number of times on this thread that you’ve commented that people don’t do much about global warming because they don’t really believe it’s a threat etc. etc.

    You have to take into consideration that people don’t do much of anything anymore because we’ve been trained that the government will take care of it. The Government doesn’t take care of things because policies for the good of the long-term are unpopular in the short-term, and politicians have extremely high discount rates for benefits because they only have 4-6 year terms. “People” also have discount rates, but not nearly as high of ones as their representatives.

  56. Good point Reinmoose. I was speaking more to individuals. If the real alarmists about global warming really believed what they were saying, they would be acting differently individually and be much more receptive to technological sollutions than they are. As far as large groups of people, yes they can be short sighted. That said, people can act in the long term. For example, once people realized that the lack of pollution control laws was doing real harm, they supported doing something and we go the EPA, CWA, CAA etc.. If people only thought in the short term, we wouldn’t have any pollution laws.

  57. ~A

    I was referring to large scale hydro-electric dams…

    here is a good place to start
    http://www.hydro.org/HotTopics/hot_topics.php

  58. “If the real alarmists about global warming really believed what they were saying, they would be acting differently individually and be much more receptive to technological sollutions than they are.”

    Ah, the hypocrisy argument again. Listen, global warming isn’t going to be stopped by one granola muncher or even a group of granola munchers. To say that they would be acting differently if they “really believed” what they are saying is not accurate. We all believe in economies of scale, and many technologies will be in your average granola muncher’s price range when the tech is adopted on a mass scale. Until that time, you can’t expect a greenie to put a vague environmental ideal over food on his kid’s plate. They’ll talk about it, advocate for it, but until there is a critical mass, any move (such as installing solar panels) will be pissing in the wind. Hell, there’s nothing to suggest that if the enviros succeeded in significantly reducing their admissions, those admissions wouldn’t be offset by increased consumption by the NASCAR set.

  59. Hi,

    I’m the guy who wrote the article under consideration. It’s a bit humbling to see all of this thought kicked off by it.

    Ron, I’m a fairly regular reader of your posts, so thanks for the thoughtful and generally kind comments.

    Ken, I can only tell you that the very first thing I ever published on global warming (which was only a few months ago) asserted that it is a real phenomenon of uncertain magnitude, and went into some detail on the process of climate modeling to defend this proposition. This is the same position that I take on the science in this article.

    Joe, I’ll reiterate Ron’s comment that at the risk of sounding totally out of the loop, I have no idea what the “window is closing” memo is. The speculation that it refers to an article asserting that we are running out of time to fix the problem sounds plausible. Certainly, any such memo had no impact on anything that I wrote.

    D A Ridgley, you ask for a better quantification of “some risk”. Just so. One of the points that I made in the article was that any prediction of climate catastrophe in the next century is only informed speculation, and no models currently make any such quantifiable prediction. It can only said to be (very crudely speaking) extremely unlikely. It is very much like an event that is so extreme that in a normal probability distribution it has never been observed – you can’t absolutely rule out the idea that it might happen, but the probability is so low that there are literally zero examples in the sample distribution.

  60. Ron,

    “more research on the likely course of future warming and encouraging technological progress, not massive changes in lifestyles, are the keys to solving the problems posed by climate change.”

    Not sure what you call “massive” but I would say that technology is the key to the extent that it leads to changes in lifestyle for the masses. Not saying we give up quality of life or anything, but I believe that many of the most effective means of reducing co2 involve simple changes in lifestyle (I got rid of my car and walk to work. Saves me loads of money, reduces my carbon footprint, and has improved my quality of life through better health and less time wasted in traffic).

  61. Jim,

    “you can’t absolutely rule out the idea that it might happen, but the probability is so low that there are literally zero examples in the sample distribution.”

    With the appropriate data on hand the probability of a new, never before seen event can be said to be quite high.

  62. “With the appropriate data on hand the probability of a new, never before seen event can be said to be quite high.”

    The key words here are “with the appropriate data on hand”. The models are all over the place. How do we know which one is true?

  63. Neu Mejican, why do you insist on sentencing thousands of innocents to death of cold every year when we have the ability to save them? Anyway, once we run out of CO2 generating fuels, Earth will settle back into it’s all-time-perfect-never-been-better climate.

  64. “This is what conservatives do: they resist something until it becomes perverse to do so, and then they scream “sensible moderation” on the issue (heck they even brag about standing athwart history shouting stop). For self interested and blindly ideological reasons it took them longer than most to see what was evident, and now THEY claim to be the voices of reason and sensible moderation on the issue. Riight.”

    I think that extremist anti-capitalistic positions of the extreme leftist environmentalists have led many people on the right to be skeptical of anything said by the extremists. I believe they are still extreme in probably overstating the danger.

  65. Driving into work this morning, I was listening to Glenn Beck’s radio show. He was doing a pitch for General Motors that had a lot of copy about how GM’s product line is the most global warming friendly of any automobile company. As far as I know, Beck is still a big time skeptic of global warming being anthropogenic, but, apparently, his advertisers are going liberal on him.

  66. it was the Republican party that freed the slaves

    Isn’t it just a tad disingenous to talk about the 19th-Century Republican Party as if it has anything to do with the 21st-Century Republican Party?

  67. They don’t want fixes and solutions. They want suffering as penenace.

    Yes, there are liberals who are like that. Not all liberals are like that.

  68. For the cost of a nuclear plant you can build a lot of wave/wind/solar generation capacity.

    My understanding is that there is that our power grid has a large, minumum base load that must be supplied day and night. The only power generation technologies we have that can service that load are hydroelectric, burning fossil fuels, and nuclear. We’re trying to get away from burning fossil fuels and hydroelectric is fully built out. That leaves nuclear.

  69. “For the cost of a nuclear plant you can build a lot of wave/wind/solar generation capacity.”

    And ruin a lot of scenery with unsightly wind mills.

  70. Neu Mejican:

    I was referring not to an event that has never before been seen in nature, but one that has never before been seen as the output of a climate model (many outputs of which have never before been observed in nature).

    There is an excellent analysis of this topic by Martin Weitzman, an economics professor at Harvard who has published a ton on this subject, here:

    http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/Weitzman/papers/JELSternReport.pdf

    This is an analysis of the Stern Report. Start at about page 17 for the relevant section.

    Best,
    Jim

  71. http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,906979,00.html&sa=X&oi=archive&ct=result&cd=1&usg=AFQjCNGBF9RKilfF5qoQUercIru9k-VqvQ

    It’s interesting that Ron Bailey claims never to have heard of the Frank Luntz “window is closing” memo, since the last time I brought it up, he claimed to remember exactly when he first heard of it.

  72. Ron Bailey | July 6, 2006, 7:08pm | #

    joe: I think we’d better agree to ignore one another from now on–it is evident that there is nothing I could say or do that will convince you of my integrity so I’m not going to bother trying with you any more.

    As for your insinuations–I heard about the Luntz memo when I read about it in the New York Times.

  73. “R C Dean | June 11, 2007, 12:16pm | #

    I am so looking forward to being able to throw “the sky is falling” global warming alarmism back in the faces of its proponents in 4 or 5 years.”

    You mean like you were looking forward to throwing our “invading Iraq is going to turn out badly” rhetoric back in our faces?

    I’ve noticed a certain amount of rhetorical-face-throwing going on in that area, and it certainly isn’t you linking, for example, to the threads about how the January 2005 elections were going to turn the Middle East into a democratic utopia.

  74. joe: Sigh. There you go again! I should know better than to stir up trolls, but please be less coy about your smears in the future, then I won’t be confused about the various conspiratorial memos to which you obliquely refer.

  75. And ruin a lot of scenery with unsightly wind mills.

    It’s subjective, of course, but I’ve never seen a windmill that I thought was anything but graceful and kinda beautiful.

  76. Well, dear, have you been reading a large number of memos about global warming that include the phrase “the window is closing?”

  77. joe: Like I said about trolls….

  78. Mr. Manzi,

    Thanks for the response. At the risk of having joe think I’m not on Frank Luntz’s listserv, it’s hard for me to take seriously any sorts of claims of impending doom, let alone be willing to pay for putative salvation from that doom, based on “some.”

    joe,

    I recognize my writing this has only “some” chance (see above) of changing your mind here, but you can’t begin to imagine how funny the prospect of Bailey getting directions from the likes of Frank Luntz is.

  79. “Driving into work this morning, I was listening to Glenn Beck’s radio show. ”
    That was your first mistake. That man is the dumbest man on the face of God’s green and rapidly warming earth. As CNN says “Glenn Beck talks and talks.” Period. They don’t say it’s good or anything, just that he talks. Must have been an FTC thing, truth in advertising…

  80. D.A. Ridgely:

    Your POV on this is quite close to what I put forward in the article. Basically, I say that what we want to do is buy an insurance policy. One key element of such a policy is that it be economical.

  81. I don’t think Joe is trolling, he posts on H&R all the time and his philosophy is well known here and his comments are in line with it. He’s not just throwing stuff out to shock and get responses, he actually is making an argument.
    Now Lord knows I’m critical on Bailey’s stance on GW (though I heap praise on him often for much of his other stuff, especially his great stuff on neuroscience and its implications). But I think you’re wrong here joe. I don’t doubt that most people who work for ideological think tanks and magazines often have a party line to work with. I don’t necessarily think they (an administration or interest group) come in some conference room and get the talking points handed out to the pundits every week, but its apparent to folks who read a lot of conservative media (which I do for some of the academic work I do) that some points get bandied about with amazing regularity, then suddenly the meme changes all around. There are lots of subtle ways this can happen: a few paid informational junkets here, coordinated leaks and interviews there, and funding sprinkled around (don’t forget many writers actually beleive the ideology they espouse, which often blinds them to empirical reality) and you can get ideological press to bite like a large mouth bass. However, according to the link you provide, Bailey and NR should be keeping up the “we’re just not certain about global warming” line. However they are not, they are now saying “oh yes there is GW.” Don’t get me wrong, they are now following the typical “yes, but” line I described at the outset of this thread, and this actually makes more sense as a strategy, since the consensus on GW is getting so strong a science writer would start to lose all credibility, even among conservatives who are, well, a little impaired when it comes to science: http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27847
    I don’t want to be a snob, especially since he had the class to enter the fray here, and I acknowledge a BS in statistics from MIT is quite impressive, but according to the link provided Manzi has only the BS? If that’s true then that hardly makes him an expert on this subject, as there are folks who have PhD’s and have studying this stuff for decades out there…

  82. I was listening to Glenn Beck’s radio show.

    Yeah, I know. What I didn’t say is that I can only put in a limited amount of listening time before I have to switch to something more intelligent.

    Even though I’m a libertarian, I try to check in on what those with other political views once in a while. I don’t know if it’s being open minded or “studying the works of the enemy” or just that there are no libertarian talk show hosts to listen to.

  83. All: I suspect this thread is dead, but I want to second Mr. Manzi’s point about insurance policies. I referenced the Weitzman article in my column “Fixing Climate Change is Cheap” (to which I linked in this blog post for all the good it did.)

    Relevant para is below:

    But what if climate change is not predictably gradual? As the SPM3 notes, “if the damage cost curve increases steeply, or contains non-linearities (e.g. vulnerability thresholds or even small probabilities of catastrophic events), earlier and more stringent mitigation is economically justified.” Doesn’t the remote chance of climatic catastrophe suggest that humanity might want to purchase some extra insurance against that possibility? Harvard economist Martin Weitzman accepts that we should pursue a “gradualist climate-policy ramp up of ever tighter GHG reductions” such as that proposed by Nordhaus and most other economists. But Weitzman also argues the uncertainties about the probability of a future climate catastrophe means that governments should put “serious research dollars into early detection of rare disasters” and begin “a major public dialogue about contingency planning for worst-case scenarios.” For example, since the possibility of rapid sea level rise as a result of melting ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland is one of the chief climate change worries, perhaps governments should spend more on research that aims to narrow the probabilities that such rapid melting might occur.

  84. Oh, c’mon, Joe. I’ve piled onto Bailey plenty of times myself, but the fact that he says he currently doesn’t remember some news article he DID claim to remember a year ago hardly qualifies as a smoking gun.

    My one problem about the comment about the “small reduction of global GDP” might easily be a nice way of saying “The big rich countries will hardly notice it at all, while the poor ones get screwed.” But then I have the same problem with doing nothing about global warming: with a few exceptions, the countries that have done the most to cause the problem will (ironically) be the ones to suffer the least from it. Those Pacific island nations that are likely to be flooded out of existence in a century, for example: what happens to them? Will first-world countries take responsibility for allowing the refugees into their borders?

    Global warming wouldn’t be a problem at all if humans were still nomadic. But it’ll be a huge problem now, when people trying to leave their homes run against political barriers they’re not allowed to cross.

  85. Jennifer,

    “”The big rich countries will hardly notice it at all, while the poor ones get screwed.”

    Most of the analysis I’ve seen shows that poorer countries will shoulder the burden of not doing anything to address GW far more than the rich countries. I am not sure the reverse is true…but I am also pretty convinced that the economic downside to addressing GW is a chimera.

  86. There’s another Jim Manzi??

  87. Neu Mejican-true dat. From what I understand the 3rd world, given the location of much of their populations, will be hardest hit by far. And common sense will tell you that poor people will take it worse (think of a shanty vs. a condo in the event of flooding or hurricane).
    Of course opposition to GW is not motivated by concern for the effects on the poor of policy combating it, its motivated by the vested interests of those who will have to 1. either give up huge gobs of their profit or 2. actually change their lifestyles in some way. So some powerful folks give millions to the think tanks, the think tanks spin out ‘reasoned’ arguments to prevent 1 and 2 from happening but dressing them up in different clothes (concern for the poor, ‘liberty’ etc), the pundits arguments (the best that money that money can buy) are disseminated widely and many folks who either have not the time or capacity to think for themselves on these issues will soak them in and then spit them back at anyone who does not buy the line…

  88. Ron:

    I think that Weitzman’s point that continued work on trying to “predict” any specific potential catastrophe through physical detection of early warning signs is very compelling, and I advocated this (although I think he uses an excessively complicated argument to get there).

  89. The Denver regulation on retrofitting older homes does not prevent you from selling your home. It requires the buyer to upgrade after purchase, iirc…

    And such is the extent of Mexicano Nuevo’s knowledge of economics. Any IMPOSED cost upon a purchase WILL decrease demand (by that lill’ pesky law: supply and demand), affecting the SELLER invariably. Just because you find the idea of retrofitting a home with solar (or other Age-Of-Aquarius technological dead-end) so adorable and cute does not mean it is ethical to IMPOSE it upon other people.

    Do not believe me? The price of a thing cannot be determined by fiat, i.e. imposed by the Goons-with-Guns (helped by the guys with the woolly thoughts such as yourself). It is determined by the market, and if by an imposed mandate the price of a house has to go up 30,000 or more for retrofitting, it would mean either one of two things: ONE, the buyer will look for something NEWER, leaving the seller with an unsellable home, or: TWO, the SELLER will have to ABSORB the cost of the retrofitting in order to sell his or her home, maybe AT A LOSS. This would mean in either case a SLUMP in the house market, all thanks to the woolly thinkers…

  90. Lamar:

    Ah, the hypocrisy argument again. Listen, global warming isn’t going to be stopped by one granola muncher or even a group of granola munchers…

    Indeed. People SHOULD fear their governments, since only the Goons-with-Guns can save us from G.W… not the granola munchers… right?

  91. What if global warming will actually be a good thing for the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and the rest of the developed world?

    Opening up northern Russia and the Canadian shield to crops could be a huge economic boon all by itself.

  92. Ron Bailey said:
    “Although former Vice-President Al Gore says that climate change “is not a political issue so much as a moral issue.” He’s wrong and Manzi is right. It’s a technical issue and it’s good news that conservatives are now joining the debate over how to solve it.”

    Ron could you show us where Al Gore said that climate change wasn’t a ‘technical issue’? or rather ‘less a technical issue than a moral one’?

    It just seems like your engaging in twisting Gore’s words to make him say something he didn’t touch on in the given quote.

    For that matter did Manzi ever say that Climate change wasn’t politcal or moral?

  93. A.B.:

    I think it’s wise to take econometric models built atop global climate models that make predictions for the next century with a gigantic pile of salt. But, with that caveat, here’s some analysis of your question.

    The current UN IPCC consensus forecast is that, under fairly reasonable assumptions for world population and economic growth, global temperatures will rise by 2.8C by the year 2100. According to a decades-long modeling project by the Yale School of Forestry and Department of Economics, this amount of warming should result in zero to very mild net average global economic costs through 2100.

    Importantly, these models predict large negative impacts in poorer areas closer to the equator. Russia, Canada and much of Europe are projected to benefit. The US and China are projected to experience roughly break-even net impacts.

    Only if temperatures continued to grow well beyond this level would truly costly net negative US and global impacts begin to be felt in the 22nd and 23rd centuries. According to the most recent UN Summary for Policymakers, a 4C increase in temperatures would cause total economic losses of 1 – 5% of global GDP. That’s a lot of money, but it’s hardly Armageddon.

  94. Sam-Hec:

    For what it’s worth, I think that Ron’s characterization of my position is correct.

    Obviously, this issue has political and moral dimensions, but it is fair to say that I argue explicitly that it should be treated more technically, and that it would be healthier for everybody if the debate descended form a more rhetorical plane and high level of abstraction to a more engineering and economics-oriented discussion.

  95. Frank Towers,

    “And such is the extent of Mexicano Nuevo’s knowledge of economics. Any IMPOSED cost upon a purchase WILL decrease demand (by that lill’ pesky law: supply and demand), affecting the SELLER invariably. Just because you find the idea of retrofitting a home with solar (or other Age-Of-Aquarius technological dead-end) so adorable and cute does not mean it is ethical to IMPOSE it upon other people.”

    Given that I already state, yea on this thread, that I thought this was not the best way to go, I am not sure how you are schooling me here (I support incentive, not imposition).

    But if something is imposed, the difference btw having the buyer and the seller mandated to do the retrofit is who is in control of the nature of the upgrade. $30,000 was just a figure that John pulled out of his ass…a smart buyer can determine the best upgrade to meet their needs/means, which will be more likely to match their particular lifestyle, than the seller’s prediction. The reality of the economic situation is MORE complicated than your cartoon characterization, making it seem like you have a naive understanding of economics at best. That may not be true, but stop trying to be a superior ass and try playing nice like a big boy.

  96. “People SHOULD fear their governments, since only the Goons-with-Guns can save us from G.W… not the granola munchers… right?”

    I bow down before your dual ability to take something out of context, then make no sense with it. Honestly, I’m not sure what you’re saying here.

  97. Bangladesh currently contributes about 0.1% of world GDP. As a silly little thought exercise, let’s imagine that global warming wipes out Bangladesh, drowning all 150 million of them. Would it be worth spending much more than 0.1% of world GDP to save them? Does this sort of economic analysis have any consideration for the welfare of the very poor.

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