Thoughts on economics and liberty

Even in 1996 Julian Simon’s sharp mind pierced through the “global warming” fraud – Extract from Ultimate Resource 2

Julian Simon was perhaps the most significant practical economist of the 2nd half of the 20th century. He died too early but left behind significant material that throws light on the litany of scams and hoaxes mankind has gone through.

This portion from his 1996 book, The Ultimate Resource 2 is illuminating. I’ll also scan and OCR other bits as and when I find time.

I should have re-read this portion in 2008 when I started researching “climate change”. Fortunately, the overall teaching of Simon was always in my mind so I was able to take a very critical approach to this issue and arrived at precisely his conclusion – that this whole thing needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.


Global Warming

Along with acid rain and the ozone hole (addressed below), the supposed greenhouse effect and global warming must be mentioned in this book because it is so salient in public thinking. I am not an atmospheric scientist, and I cannot address the technical issues. I can, however, try to put these issues in reasonable perspective.

Given the history of such environmental scares—over all of human history—my guess is that global warming is likely to be simply another transient concern, barely worthy of consideration ten years from now should I then be writing again of these issues. After all, when I first addressed environmental matters in the late 1960s and 1970s, the climatological issue of major public concern was still global cooling. These quotations collected by Anna Bray illustrate the prevailing thinking about climate in the early 1970s, only a decade before the hooha about warming began in earnest.61

[Climatologist J. Murray Mitchell, then of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted in 1976: “The media are having a lot of fun with this situation.
Whenever there is a cold wave, they seek out a proponent of the ice-age-is-coming school and put his theories on page one. . . . Whenever there is a heat wave . . . they turn to his opposite number, [who predicts] a kind of heat death of the earth.”

The cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people in poor nations. It has already made food and fuel more precious, thus increasing the price of everything we buy. If it continues, and no strong measures are taken to deal with it, the cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war, and this could all come by the year 2000. (Lowell Ponte, The Cooling, 1976)

The facts have emerged, in recent years and months, from research into past ice ages. They imply that the threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind. (Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist and producer of scientific television documentaries, “In the Grip of a New Ice Age,” International Wildlife, July 1975)

At this point, the world’s climatologists are agreed. . . . Once the freeze starts, it will be too late. (Douglas Colligan, “Brace Yourself for Another Ice Age,” Science Digest, February 1973)

I believe that increasing global air pollution, through its effect on the reflectivity of the earth, is currently dominant and is responsible for the temperature decline of the past decade or two. (Reid Bryson, “Environmental Roulette,” Global Ecology: Readings Toward a Rational Strategy for Man, John P Holdren and Paul R. Ehrlich, eds., 1971)

Bryson went so far as to tell the New York Times that, compared to the then-recent “decade or two” of cooling, “there appears to be nothing like it in the past 1,000 years,” implying that cooling was inevitable.62

Indeed, many of the same persons who were then warning about global cooling are the same climatologists who are now warning of global warming—especially Stephen Schneider, one of the most prominent of the global-warming doomsters.*

It is interesting to reflect on the judgments that would be made in (say) 1996 of past decisions if the world had followed the advice of the climatologists only two decades years earlier who then urged the world to take immediate steps to head off the supposed cooling threat. Should we not be glad that

* When described as a former advocate of the cooling view by George Will (Washington Post, September 7, 1992, op-ed page) and Richard Lindzen (Regulation, vol. 15, no. 2), Schneider violently denied it. He referred to Will’s assertion as “false and possibly malicious” (Washington Post, September 26, 1991, A19) and objected to Lindzen’s statement in a strong “personal note” (Regulation, Summer 1992, p. 2), in both places asserting that his earlier book was “relatively neutral” on the subject. Therefore it behooves me to quote this summary from that earlier book in the section entitled “What Does It All Mean?” (1976, p. 90): “I have cited many examples of recent climatic variability and repeated the warnings of several well-known climatologists that a cooling trend has set in—perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age—and that climatic variability, which is the bane of reliable food production, can be expected to increase along witht he cooling.” There is no qualification or rebuttal in the following text.

governments did not listen to the anti-cooling advice they were given in the 1970s? And therefore, is it reasonable now to trust the forecasts of those very scientists who have been systematically wrong in every doomsaying prediction that they have made—as is true of the environmental spokespersons of the past two decades, who are up in arms about global warming?

Curiously, within days after I first wrote the above paragraph, there appeared a newspaper story entitled “Volcano Reverses Global Warming: Scientists Expect Mean Temperature to Drop 1 Degree over 2-4 Years.”63 The event in question was the eruption in June 1991, of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Then within a few days more there appeared a scholarly article finding that smoke particles may lead to cooling rather than warming, as had previously been assumed.’ Or do I have it backwards? No matter.

Whether the climate models will be right about Mount Pinatubo or not, and about the cooling effect of smoke particles, is in question, of course. The problem here, as with the global warming issue generally, is that our planet contains many forces about which we as yet know very little, and which we can predict little if at all—for example, volcano eruptions. It is an act of hubris and great imprudence to proceed as if we know much more than we do when a single article in a single journal can undermine our basic conclusions.

All that can be done within the scope of the available space and of my nonexpert’s knowledge is to give the following quick list of propositions about the issue.65 Before the “concerned” reader concludes that the following treatment is simply a whitewash, it would be fair to examine the state of one’s own knowledge on the subject—what you know about technical facts, and the sources of the supposed information. The basis of most people’s thoughts on the subject is simply general newspaper stories that assert that a problem exists. (In the following summary of the facts I rely heavily on Balling’s book.)

1. All climatologists agree that dire has been an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in recent decades. But there is great disagreement about the implications (if any) of the CO2 trend for global temperature. In the late 1980s the range of thinking ran from those who believed that there will be warming of up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the next mid-century to those who argued that the evidence is so mixed that one cannot predict any warming at all; by 1994, the range had come down somewhat at the top, but there is still great disagreement.

2. Even those who predict warming agree that any likely warming would not be great relative to year-to-year variability, and would be swamped by long-run natural variability over the millennia.

The high-end-estimate climatologists have also scaled back their estimates of a possible rise in sea level (due to glacial and polar ice melting) from several feet to at most a few inches.

3. Those who foresee warming rely heavily on computer simulation models. Many of those who foresee little or no warming rely on the temperature data for the
past century. And many of the skeptics of global warming believe that the simulation models lack solid theoretical basis and are built on shaky ad hoc assumptions. Skeptics also point to the absence of correlation between past carbon dioxide buildup and the temperature record.

4. Even if warming will occur, it is likely to be uneven in time and place. More of the effect would be at night than day, more in the low-sun season and less in the high-sun season, and more in the arctic regions than in the tropical parts of the world. It should be noted that these effects are less unwelcome than if the effects were in the opposite parts of the daily cycle and the planet’s geography

5. If there is warming, it will occur over many decades, during which period there will be much time for economic and technical adjustment.

6. Any necessary adjustments would be small relative to the adjustments that we make during the year to temperature differences where we reside and as we travel. A trip from New York to Philadelphia, or spring coming a day or two earlier than usual, is not very different than the temperature gradient for any likely warming within the next century

7. The necessary adjustments would be far, far smaller than the effects of the advent of air conditioning in any of the places in this world where that device commonly is found. The alterations that air conditioning—let alone central heating—make in the environment in which we spend our hours dwarf any alterations required by any conceivable global warming.

8. If there is warming, and if one is worried about it, the clear policy implication would be the substitution of nuclear fission for the burning of fossil fuels. This would have other benefits as well, of course, especially the lives saved from air pollution and coal mining. [Sanjeev: Of course, this is one thing the climate fascists don’t want]

Does this calm assessment differ from the impression you get from the news? One can gauge the effectiveness of the mass media in creating public opinion on global warming and other doomsday subjects by the increase in just a single year in the proportion of the public that were “aware of the global warming issue”—from 59 percent in 1988 to 79 percent in 1989.66 There is no way that individuals can measure for themselves the extent of global warming. Hence their thinking is labile and easily influenced by television and newspapers. Then the politicians and the environmental activists who give scare stories to the press cite public opinion as a reason to change public policy.

Assessing global warming seems more and more like assessing the likely availability of raw materials: every alarm about scarcity has been a case of speculative theory not fitted to the historical data. The alarm about greenhouse warming seems to come from those who pay attention only to various theoretical models—just as the alarm about global cooling came only from theoretical models in the 1970s (and from some of the same persons who were alarmed then)—whereas those who focus on the historical temperature record seem unconvinced that there have been unusual changes and are quite un-worried about the future. With respect to natural resources, the conclusion is inescapable that those who have believed the historical record have been correct, and those who have believed theories without checking them against the record have been in error. Is it not likely that this will be the case with global warming, too?’

Sanjeev Sabhlok

View more posts from this author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *