Let's Have Less Hot Air About Global Warming

by Don Boudreaux on February 9, 2007

in Environment, The Future

I am not so much a skeptic of global warming as I am of politicized efforts to deal with it.  I am most assuredly a skeptic of pronouncements, predictions, and assumptions made by natural scientists — and by politicians and pundits — about global-warming’s likely consequences on human economy and society.  Many (most?) of these scientists have no earthly idea of the fundamental logic of market exchange.  (This charge is no criticism; it merely points to an inevitable result of a deep division of labor.  After all, most of us who are not environmental scientists are poorly equipped to grasp the important details and nuances of environmental science.  Likewise, specializing in natural science (or in politics, or Hollywood acting) reduces the time and effort you put forward to study and understand the economy.)  And someone with no firm grasp of economic principles can be as right as right can be about global warming and its causes while simultaneously being utterly benighted about what to do about it and even whether or not something should be done about it.

Here’s a letter of mine that appears in today’s edition of the Washington Times:

Let’s grant (if just for the sake of argument) that environmental
scientists have proved that Earth’s ideal average temperature was
reached about a century ago and that the temperature is rising because
of human activity ("Just the facts," Op-Ed, yesterday).

The truth remains that these scientists have no expertise to
judge whether government can be trusted with the power and resources to
"combat" global warming. Nor can these scientists tell us how a free
market likely would deal with global warming’s consequences.

Contrary to widespread belief, environmental scientists can
legitimately say nothing about whether, or how, to respond to global


Department of Economics

George Mason University



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