2/21/2010

Jeff Sachs believes: "Climate sceptics are recycled critics of controls on tobacco and acid rain"

Here is someone on the other side of the Climategate debate. One can judge for themselves whether this actually deals with the substance of the critiques. Personally, I think this involves a lot of name calling.

Merchants of Doubt, a new book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway set for release in mid-2010, will be an authoritative account of their misbehaviour. The authors show that the same group of mischief-makers, given a platform by the free-market ideologues of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, has consistently tried to confuse the public and discredit the scientists whose insights are helping to save the world from unintended environmental harm.

Today's campaigners against action on climate change are in many cases backed by the same lobbies, individuals, and organisations that sided with the tobacco industry to discredit the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Later, they fought the scientific evidence that sulphur oxides from coal-fired power plants were causing "acid rain." Then, when it was discovered that certain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere, the same groups launched a nasty campaign to discredit that science, too.

Later still, the group defended the tobacco giants against charges that second-hand smoke causes cancer and other diseases. And then, starting mainly in the 1980s, this same group took on the battle against climate change. . . .


Sachs pretty much loses all credibility here, because there are plenty of scientific studies that disagree with his claim here on secondhand smoke. Much of the debate here is over whether there is actually an externality since the store or restaurant owner has an incentive to give their customers what they want (see my book Freedomnomics).

whether it is companies that don't want to pay the extra costs of regulation, or free-market ideologues opposed to any government controls. . . .


We are now at 7 paragraphs, 410 words and we still don't have any specific responses to the objections.

The latest round of attacks involves two episodes. The first was the hacking of a climate-change research centre in England. The emails that were stolen suggested a lack of forthrightness in the presentation of some climate data. Whatever the details of this specific case, the studies in question represent a tiny fraction of the overwhelming scientific evidence that points to the reality and urgency of man-made climate change.


1) Not clear it was hacking versus a whistle blower.
2) As I have written in my own editorial pieces, there are problems with other data. Data not being made available to other scientists. Questions about whether there were biases in how it was collected.
3) Not much of a response.

The second issue was a blatant error concerning glaciers that appeared in a major IPCC report. Here it should be understood that the IPCC issues thousands of pages of text. There are, no doubt, errors in those pages. But errors in the midst of a vast and complex report by the IPCC point to the inevitability of human shortcomings, not to any fundamental flaws in climate science.


There were a lot of errors in the IPCC report.

The rest of Sachs' op-ed then goes back to personal attacks.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

makes sense, global warming advocates are recycled proponents of controls on tobacco and acid rain. funny how the solutions to the world's problems are always the same, tax more, give the money to the poor and suppress individual liberties.

2/21/2010 10:03 PM  
Blogger Al B. said...

Unfortunately, most people lack either the background or the inclination to do their own research and make up their own minds, even on issues that are important to them, so ad hominem attacks, appeal to authority arguments and appeal to consensus tend to be effective, despite being fallaceous. And the more people that write such articles as this one, the more the people who read them are swayed.

Last weekend, I mentioned the report that D'Aleo and Watts published in January to one of my left-wing friends. He told me that he knew it couldn't be true because nobody at NOAA would be that stupid. I pointed out to him that the data on which the report was based is in the public record and that other people would be checking it. I also pointed out to him the trillions of dollars in wealth transfers that would result from Cap-and-Trade. I pointed out to him that the Kyoto treaty had resulted in billions of dollars in wealth transfer from European countries to countries like Russia, but that in the 13 years that Kyoto has been in effect, it hasn't reduced carbon emmisions by even a single molecule.

It's not about stupidity, it's about economic incentive. Last week it was announced that a new department would be created within NOAA to study climate change. The announcement included a statement to the effect that the intent of this department was to find further evidence of global warming. So NOAA grows in size and importance, its funding levels increase substantially, and its leadershp benefits.

My friend replied that he wasn't interested in reading the D'Aleo and Watts report, although he is certainly capable of understanding it, and he didn't want to discuss global warming anymore.

His attitude seems to be, "I know what I know and I really wish people would stop trying to confuse me with the facts!" Jeff Sachs article would appeal to him.

2/22/2010 11:03 AM  
Blogger John A said...

Anthropogenic Global Warming advocates also recycled Malthusians - did not James Hansen (as a grad student) help Ehrlich with The Population Bomb text?

I wonder if Mr. Sachs read the BBC interview with rof. Jones, or bypassed it in favor of Jones' later "Oops, I didn't mean to say that" interview?

2/22/2010 4:31 PM  

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