A potentially informative and constructive debate about the costs and benefits of global warming has been lost to "political dramatization," argue the authors of a new Cato Institute book.
In The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming, climatologists Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling, Jr., trace the development of global warming, writing that politicians blame the latest thunderstorm, flood, or change in the weather on global warming. They also assert that global treaties, protocols, and other policies are being signed and negotiated despite shoddy science.
Michaels, senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, and Balling, director of the Laboratory of Climatology at Arizona State University, analyze the politics of global warming and provide a primer on the science. Acknowledging that industrial emissions of greenhouse gases have warmed the planet and will continue to do so over the next several decades, Michaels and Balling argue that future warming will be moderate, not catastrophic, and will have benign economic and ecological effects. They point out that the effects of climate change are already positively affecting mortality and agriculture, citing data that show the "greening" of the earth may be enhancing plant growth. The year 1998, during which temperatures warmed as a result of El Niño, produced record agricultural output. The authors expect that the earth's average surface temperature will warm 0.65 to 0.75 °C (1.17 to 1.35 °F) by 2050, resulting in a decline in temperature-related mortality and a rise in crop yields that alone would feed one-quarter of today's world population
The authors find that government funding of research has corrupted the scientific process as scientists compete for funding in a politically charged environment. Total federal spending on global climate change research has ballooned from a few million dollars to $2.1 billion annually in the last 15 years.
The book has already received much praise. Frederick W. Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, says it "should be read by every scientist and layman who has an interest in the topic."
The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming can be purchased through the Cato Institute's online bookstore.
Mises, Hayek Examined in Cato Journal
The latest issue of the Cato Journal (vol. 19, no. 2) commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of Human Action by Ludwig von Mises (Yale University Press, 1949) and the 100th anniversary of F. A. Hayek's birth. Editor James A. Dorn writes, "These two giants of market-liberal thought exposed the fallacies of central planning, pointed to the importance of private property rights and limited government in promoting a spontaneous market order, and explained the role of institutions in shaping incentives and behavior."
Papers by Vernon Smith, Israel Kirzner, Kenneth Elzinga, and George Selgin (along with comments by Lawrence H. White, Gordon Tullock, Frank Machovec, and Richard Timberlake) were first presented at the 1999 meeting of the Western Economics Association in a session titled "Mises' Human Action: A Critical Appraisal after 50 Years." Smith discusses how the experimental economics in which he is a pioneer has confirmed Mises' analysis of cooperation. Selgin and Timberlake examine Mises' views on the role of gold in the monetary system. Elzinga and Kirzner both note Mises' understanding that the market is a constantly evolving process, not a path to a particular endpoint.
Stephen Macedo of Princeton University discusses three themes in Hayek's work: his critique of political utopianism, his emphasis on the interdependence of law and liberty, and his faith in the power of ideas and institutions. Ronald Hamowy, a student of Hayek's at the University of Chicago, offers some personal reminiscences and an examination of Hayek's history of liberalism. Those papers were delivered at the Cato Institute on May 8, 1999, the centenary of Hayek's birth.
Other papers in the Cato Journal discuss the regulation of addictive substances, politics and the IRS, and women's sports. Cato Journal is published three times a year. Most articles are available at www.cato.org; subscriptions and single copies are also available.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2000 edition of Cato Policy Report.