Friday, December 22, 2006

US Policy and the Environment: "Liars and Charlatans"

An excellent post from Mark Thoma at Economist's View called "A Gathering of Liars and Charlatans" from the 17th Decemeber.

After linking to another good but rather depressing article, "On a swift boat to a warmer world" by Daniel Schrag (Professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard and director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment), Thoma goes on to talk about the continued concerted effort in the US to discredit the science behind climate change.
The assault on the science underlying global warming is ongoing. For example, this is from Friday's American Spectator:

The Gore Who Stole Christmas, by Rob Bradley, American Spectator: The good news -- and a reason for holiday cheer -- is that the science behind rapid, disruptive global warming scenarios is murky at best. Though the debate is highly politicized and emotionally charged, good science is beginning to drive out bad. ... A sampling of recent issues of Science ... shows that peer-reviewed studies dispute virtually all the tenets behind climate alarmism. ...

Exaggerated forecasts of disrupted ocean circulation, rapid sea-level rise, and more intense hurricanes make for splashy headlines, but sober science suggests that these scares du jour may go the way of yesterday's alarms over global cooling, the population bomb, and mineral-resource exhaustion.

Nonetheless, one part of these scare stories is genuinely frightening: the heavy-handed government intervention that advocates always look to as the source of salvation. Yesterday's foes of the free market were socialists, communists, and Keynesians. Today's are greens who want government engineering to "stabilize" the climate and ensure "sustainability."

Yes, Keynesians are those awful people who brought us things like Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, and macroeconomic stabilization policy. And all those government regulations about polluting the air and rivers those commies put into place are such an inconvenience for business. It was so much better when they didn't have to care.

I am not anti-market. When there is market failure and markets are broken, they need to be fixed. I want markets to work efficiently and that requires some mechanism to force economic agents to internalize the costs they impose on the environment.

People who deny this basic point, or refuse to acknowledge the science that would justify such actions, should not promote themselves as advocates for well-functioning, efficient markets.

This quote is worth writing out again - astonishing really. If more writers of such material were to take some graduate neoclasical environmental economics courses we might even make a little progress. As the first article shows, a lot of the sceptics (or even skeptics) are still from industry sponsored think-tanks. This remains a worrying trend. "Something is rotton in the state of America."
Yesterday's foes of the free market were socialists, communists, and Keynesians. Today's are greens who want government engineering to "stabilize" the climate and ensure "sustainability."

A quote to finish with:

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."
— Ansel Adams

I will also throw in a quote from Paul Samuelson as a pre-christmas bonus.

"Every good cause is worth some inefficiency."
— Paul Samuelson, economist

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