Forget Paris

by Henry Oliner

Law professor and blogger Glenn Harland Reynolds posits an axiom of politics “that the more a government wants to run its citizens’ lives, the worse job it will do at the most basic tasks of government.”

I would suggest a corollary that the less specific and more general and the grander its objectives the more it distracts from real problems that are actionable, and easier to hold one accountable.

I will add my own Rebel Yid Law: that the more hyperbolic the reaction the less likely that the problem is understood. The more that dissent is demonized, the less credibility the argument has.

‘Virtue signaling’ is a relatively new term that describes an action that is meant more to make a moral statement than to solve an actual problem.

‘Scientism’ is another new term that attempts to imbue scientific credentials to an argument of values. It can also be defined as the replacement of skepticism with belief and acceptance. It is  used to extrapolate conclusions from scientific facts that are not supported by the facts themselves.

We need a scientific debate that is absent of the demonization and intellectual McCarthyism that demonizes legitimate questions. The pursuit of science is stilled when the word ’denier’ is unsheathed.

The United States has reduced its carbon footprint more than any industrialized country, not because of Obama’s policies but despite them. Regardless of your position on AGW, the Paris Accords did very little to change the course of climate and did much to transfer wealth from one source to another. When you rob Peter to pay Paul you can generally count on Paul’s approval.

Clean air, clean water, better food and medicine for the world’s poor are aims that are in need and well worth pursuing.  They require measurable and accountable action. Virtue signaling and scientism serves the elite moral supremacists, not the needy of the world.

A final lesson on the Paris Accord: process counts.  When you work with a pen and a phone and bypass debate and consent, it can be just as easily undone. If it is a treaty then go through the process.  When you refuse to respect the process, do not expect your decision to be respected.

Religion without God

from the Claremont Review of Books, The Church of Environmentalism

In contrast to Klein’s dogmatism, Robert Nelson’s The New Holy Wars takes a measured, philosophical approach to the environment and the economy. A professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Nelson devotes a significant portion of his book to “religious” aspects of economic thought. Religious thought masquerading as empirical inquiry, he notes, is far from the exclusive province of environmentalists.

Yet his discussion of environmentalism offers the deepest insights. In Nelson’s view, today’s environmentalist religion is rooted in “Calvinism minus God.” He discusses the founding environmentalists, from John Muir to Rachel Carson, who were brought up in the Calvinist tradition, and skewers today’s climate fundamentalists for rejecting technical solutions in favor of Manichean moral arguments. “In environmental religion, global warming is a sin against God, not an issue to be resolved by economic calculations of possible future benefits and costs to human beings.”

The conservative blogger Ace of Spades has written, “God, save us from those who have no god but who are bursting at the seams with religion.” It is long past time for conservatives to develop a serious, public critique of environmental theology, which perverts the science it claims to serve. If environmentalists wish to play a serious role in future policy debates, they will have to focus more on empirical findings and less on a holy war against real or imagined adversaries. As the continued popularity of Klein and her kindred shows, environmentalism’s crisis of faith is not yet at hand.


Is The Debate Really Over?


My biggest disappointment at the Freedom Fest was the great Global Warming Debate moderated by Michael Medved. While they brought up credentialed scientists to debate both sides, the format lacked seriousness and clarity.

How much that AGW is used for gaining political power is irrelevant.  Some skeptics invoke religious themes, though they did not do that in this format where so many libertarians are atheists.

The only germane topic is whether there is or there is not a dangerous level of AGW and if there is, what is the best solution.

Most of us do not understand the science and thus depend on the authority of others and toward that end there is this ‘consensus’ we hear about.  Specifically we hear about a 97% consensus, but now the subject leaves science and goes into the realm of statistics and the nature of knowledge.

The 97% number raises a lot of red flags. For such a field that is fraught with so many variables such a consensus causes skepticism. In the realm of social research it strongly suggests a self-confirming bias.

I have not received satisfactory answers to such questions as:

Who was included in the 97% number? How big a sample is that? What per cent of the scientists is that?

What determines the consensus? What questions were asked?

When these questions get asked this consensus falls apart pretty quickly. Is there any consensus that any of the proposed actions to remediate this problem will work?

When the consensus falls apart, then it becomes clear that the debate is not over.

The right falls apart when they make it all about politics, and the left falls apart when they discredit any serious questions as anti-science as if it is the equivalent of creationism, or when they discredit every voice as a tool of the oil industry.   They do not advance the realm of science by sounding like religious fanatics. The less tolerant of dissent,  the weaker the argument.

Biogenic Carbon

Old MacDonald Had a . . . Climate Offender, from Bruce Dale at The Wall Street Journal

A basic fact about agricultural products such as grains and oilseeds is that the carbon in them, called biogenic carbon, came from the atmosphere. Biogenic carbon will return to the atmosphere when these products are consumed, such as when human beings eat bread and then breathe out the carbon dioxide resulting from the breakdown of bread in the body. Biogenic carbon therefore cannot contribute to climate change.

Why is the Environmental Protection Agency denying this basic fact of climate science? The EPA is counting biogenic-carbon emissions as if they were the same as fossil-carbon emissions. They are not the same. Carbon atoms emitted by burning fossil fuels are, in effect, on a one-way trip from the ground to the atmosphere, where they will stay for hundreds of millions of years. In contrast, carbon atoms taken from the atmosphere to make agricultural products are on a round trip from the atmosphere to farms then back to the atmosphere.

The EPA intends to penalize American farmers and those who make modern energy and bioproducts such as plastics from agricultural feedstocks by treating biogenic carbon like fossil carbon. As part of its approach, the EPA is now attempting to regulate “sustainability” in the farm field.

The EPA is trying to put itself in charge of regulating farms—an outstanding example of “mission creep” and bureaucratic overreach. Regulating agriculture is not the EPA’s job—we already have an Agriculture Department. The EPA’s approach would demand proof of exactly which farm produced every pound of corn, wheat, soy or cottonseed used by customers of those farms—a practical impossibility in the U.S. agricultural system.


Should we be surprised that a bureaucracy who sees their mission to save the world have a problem with understanding any limit on their mission or power.

The 97% Climate Fallacy