This edition departs from our usual routine because of the very vitriolic fight that has broken as the result of publication of a January 27 op‐ed titled “No Need to Panic about Global Warming” in The Wall Street Journal. Authored by 16 high‐profile scientists, it made common‐sense climate arguments that readers of this Wisdom and other Cato publications on climate science and policy are certainly familiar with.
The January 27 piece can be summarized as follows:
• There has been no net warming for “well over ten years;”
• Global warming forecasts confidently made by the UN in 1990 were clearly exaggerations;
• Carbon dioxide, the main “greenhouse” emission, stimulates plant growth;
• Climate scientists on the federal dole have a track record of punishing those who do not express alarmist views;
• Climate alarmism, public funding, and the growth of government and taxation create self‐feeding mutual incentives; and
• Doing “nothing” about climate change in the next 50 years has little effect on climate mitigation compared to initiating taxation now.
None of the above are earthshaking propositions to any serious student of climate change. Monthly temperature departures from average show no significant trend going back to 1996. If one is concerned about biasing from the warm El Nino year of 1998, beginning post‐2000 yields the same result. The UN was forecasting that global temperatures would be rising around twice the mean rate actually observed in surface temperatures. Greenhouse owners jack up the carbon dioxide concentration of their air several fold to stimulate plant growth. Alarmism breeds funding and new agencies that require more tax dollars, and funding begets tenure. The futility of politically feasible emissions reductions policies has been demonstrated for decades.
By January 30, the New York Times, whose editorial stance on global warming is (to put it mildly) different than that of the Journal, brought in their high‐profile environmental blogger, Andrew Revkin, to carp principally about the last bullet item.
His post, “Scientists Challenging Climate Science Appear to Flunk Climate Economics,” claimed that the Journal scientists had misrepresented the work of Yale economist William Nordhaus, quoting the latter’s “wise policy” (no bias there) of slowly introducing a carbon tax.
Nordhaus responded that the Journal piece “completely misrepresented my work.”
At that point, Revkin opened up the controversy to commentary. Readers can decide for themselves.
Here is Nordhaus’s complete comment on the Journal op‐ed:
The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science, PNAS, among others). I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue. I can only assume they either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings.
And here is the response of the Journal article authors: