Friday, December 16, 2016

Better way

Recent LA Times coverage of California's "climate fight" has caused a stir because the writer actually mentioned a downside. There will be economic costs. But the legislature was apparently reluctant to even address possible trade-offs involved. ("California's climate fight could be painful -- especially on job and income growth").

But, on the other side, there is similar disdain for serious discussion of costs and benefits. Michael Greenstone and Cass Sunstein, in this NY Times op-ed write about the incoming administration's seeming efforts to dismiss attempts to place a social cost on carbon. 

For some time, skeptics have been tarred as "deniers".  On the other side there are plenty of proud know-nothings.

In all this mess, what do we know?  First, climate models are not gospel. Here is just one credible critique by Charles Hooper and David Henderson. Should not allegations of "settled science" raise alarms?

Second, the climate discussion involves a global commons and, therefore (presumably), the need for policies and, therefore, politics. But politics sends people to the barricades where they take uncompromising positions that deflect trust.

What to do? Marginal Revolution points us to an economic assessment of fracking. The biggest steps towards cheaper and cleaner energy (natural gas) came about via the market and not (actually in spite of) the politics we have. Entrepreneurial risk taking and trial-and-error learning are all we have. Nothing else come close.

We should have far less reason to worry about temperatures 50-100 years from now if we lower our expectations of what the politicians can do and give the entrepreneurs some space to do what they do.

That is the real way to avoid "doomsday". How have we avoided all of the past "doomsdays"?  Not via politics but via the efforts of private investors who discovered better and cheaper ways to house, feed and clothe us -- and much more.

Johan Norberg has an up-to-date summary of views articulated by Julian Simon about 20 years ago,