Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Former Cato institute vice president Jerry Taylor thinks that we should act on climate change because, even if the science is far from certain, the downside risk of ignoring climate change is too great to accept.
What Changed My Mind About Climate Change?
Risk management is not a binary choice.
by JERRY TAYLOR
MAY 21, 2019 5:56 AM
I spent the better part of my professional life (1991-2014) working at a libertarian think tank—the Cato Institute—arguing against climate action. As Cato’s director of Natural Resource Studies (and later, as a senior fellow and eventually vice president), I maintained that, while climate change was real, the impacts would likely prove rather modest and that the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions would greatly exceed the benefits.
I changed my mind about that, however, because (among other things) I changed my mind about risk management.
If we think about climate risks in the same fashion we think about risks in other contexts, we should most certainly hedge—and hedge aggressively—by removing fossil fuels from the economy as quickly as possible.
When asked why I changed my mind about federal climate policy, this is a large part of my answer. Building an argument against climate action upon a forceful claim about the most likely outcome of greenhouse gas emissions is to build an argument upon analytic sand.
You don’t have to believe with all your heart that the worst-case scenario is sure to happen. You just have to understand that it is one possible outcome. And that we should not be making policy based on an assumption that we are certain of this or that outcome.
When it comes to managing large-scale risks, straight-forward economics suggests that we ought to take climate change very seriously.
…Read more: https://thebulwark.com/what-changed-my-mind-about-climate-change/
The problem with Jerry’s argument is you could build a similar case for taking action against witches.
Consider the following false logic; Our understanding of the universe is imperfect, so we can’t categorically rule out the possibility of witchcraft. You don’t have to believe with all your heart that the worst case scenario – that witches exist and contribute mightily to human suffering – is sure to be the case. But it would be insane to ignore the risk that some of our fellow humans have sold their souls.
Why would you reject this argument for taking action against witchcraft? For the same reason you should reject taking worst case climate scenarios seriously.
There is no observational evidence that there is a real problem, nor is there any shred of paleo-climate evidence that moderately elevated CO2 levels are associated with major negative consequences.
Money spent “acting” on climate change cannot be spent on hospitals or schools or clean drinking water or food or helping poor people.
Given the vast cost of any meaningful CO2 reduction, it would be insane to commit such resources on the basis of the wild predictions of deeply flawed models, without the support of observational evidence which confirms that we do indeed have a problem.