David Friedman on Climate Change

by Don Boudreaux on August 21, 2009

in Complexity & Emergence, Environment

David Friedman asks about climate change: so what?

(HT Michael Strong)

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Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I would suggest Mr Freidman read about climate tipping points. Likewise he should understand we are NOT talking about small changes and that the major extinctions of the past have been climate related. Mr Freidman should also read more on population dynamics and trends in water availability worldwide. Desertification is another good subject he might wish to pursue as well as the nature and causes of epidemics. There is at least some chance that Florida will be mostly underwater in less time then has passed since this country was founded.

If the potential impact of climate on his childrens future doesn’t pass the giggle test it’s because he’ s acting like an ignorant silly little girl. Human civilization sits on a razors edge. Potential for water shortage, global epidemics, mass migrations, war and starvation could be closer than we think and its the unknowns that should worry us for change dramatic for all of the Earth history and extreme for the history of human civilization is certain to come. It’s easy to assume we are invincible but in the end a mass die off or even extinction is something we as with any other species could certainly undergo.

So giggle Mr. Friedman and pass that post to your children and they to theirs …. I truly hope they find it funny. But if it ends up not being so funny maybe in it humanities redemption can be found 500 years hence and something of value can be saved from your foolish uninformed pigheadedness.

Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm

muirgeo, please accept the fact that you are an idiot, and stop posting here. Dr. Friedmen is well acquainted with climate tipping points. If you read the IPCC’s report, even *they* discount idiots like you. Realistic worst-case scenario: 2-4 degrees increase over 100 years. That’s the WORST reasonable thing we should expect. The BEST reasonable thing is that we’ve already experienced 1/2 a degree of warming and we should expect another 1/2 degree. This is, of course, eliminating nut-cases on the right, and eliminating nut-cases like you on the left.

Dallas Weaver August 21, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Russ Nelson,

The odds are that history will show you to be the idiot on this subject. I am afraid that Dr. Friedmen doesn’t understand tipping points or the physics behind the models. If he did fully understand instabilities and positive feedbacks, he should have made a billion on our latest financial instability (a field that he understands). I haven’t heard that he has, therefore he, along with many others, didn’t understand our financial tipping point.

Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I think you don’t argue much … otherwise you would have come up with a much better argument … one backed by data.

Dallas Weaver August 22, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I have learned that trying to use facts like the impact of 2-4ºC on evaporation rates, maximum temperatures, permafrost melting rates and annaerobic biological decompositions of permafrost organic material into methane and CO2 in a argument with a true believer is about as productive as discussing geology with a young earth creationist.

sandre August 22, 2009 at 1:03 am

Al Gore has made millions talking about tipping point, while smartly placing bets through his carbon trading firm.

Ike Pigott August 22, 2009 at 5:49 am

Not so fast.

We are well aware of tipping points and positive feedbacks — and there’s no evidence they are at play in climate.

The models favored by the IPCC assume the largest positive feedback imaginable, but those models have radically missed the predictions for the past decade’s measurements.

It’s highly improbable that the effect of CO2 can be that volatile and the system that fragile and prone to one-way runaway effects — not when we’ve had events like Pinatubo and Krakatoa and dinosaur-killing comets in our most recent geological eras.

Sam Grove August 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Both positive and negative feedback factors are always at play in the climate. The question is which is larger at any given time and location. As the system is dynamic, these feedback factors vary depending on a plethora of factors, known and unknown.

It is known that life altered the atmosphere and the climate such that we can now live.

Sam Grove August 22, 2009 at 3:37 pm

People who want to make money in the stock market have to devote a lot of attention to the markets.

People who teach have to devote a lot of time to their field and their job performance.

It seems that you don’t comprehend the possibility of negative feedback.

Ike Pigott August 22, 2009 at 5:51 am

Russ’ brusque dismissal aside, I would wager there is a greater chance that your children and theirs — in a lineage proceeding 500 years from now — will be looking back on how much technological advancement and disease eradication we missed out on because we spent global fortunes trying to solve a non-existent problem.

It will make the Dutch tulip craze look like a solid investment in botany.

Dallas Weaver August 22, 2009 at 5:12 pm

That depends upon how you approach solving the problem. If we used a revenue neutral carbon tax approach such as a Carbon Added Tax (CAT) with operated like a VAT (with rebates and additions to exports and imports to eliminate local distortions) and used payroll tax reductions to keep it revenue neutral, we would end up with a net gain. The economic damage of payroll taxes is obvious and these taxes don’t have any potential technological, environmental or other benefits — just higher unemployment.

If we utilized a CAT, I would wager that it would be a stimulus and we would come out way ahead. Coal mines may loose, but that is life.

Anonymous August 22, 2009 at 5:37 pm

There is no such thing as a revenue neutral tax, because as long as people have faith in big government, government will get bigger. For example, the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire.

And if it’s pointless to reduce carbon emissions, it doesn’t matter *how* you do the pointless. You haven’t established that reducing carbon emissions has any value at all.

Dallas Weaver August 22, 2009 at 6:20 pm


I consider protecting the coral reefs on this planet something worth doing (CO2 does impact coral growth — this is a real effect and is well known chemistry). Considering the low elevation of my house, sea level rise is a long term concern.

The possibility of a positive feedback with warming, CO2, cloud cover and greenhouse effects from high atmospheric moisture levels is a major concern. See the article within the last month in Science (AAAS publication) on cloud cover and which models seemed to fit the observations — not good news.

The expected decrease in the carbon content of the permafrost areas is also real and a positive feedback.

There is no feasible way to reduce the concentration in the atmosphere if we do make a mistake and there is a major problem (the concentration is still too low for economical removal) even if we took the emissions to zero. Again, it is an inventory issue.

Can you find any benefits to payroll taxes?

Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm


That meteor slapping Earth upside the head some 60 million years ago was definitely a climate change, and if man had been around it would have been worse in muirudkc’s opinion, no doubt. Somehow man would have found a way to make the disaster worse.

All life contributes some sort of gas to the atmosphere as it lives and dies, man is no different. That each man, through his technology, contributes more than an animal of the same approximate size, a Mule deer, is obvious. However, the science connecting that difference to climate change is weak to non-existent. Sure, lots of claims, but no proofs, especially since the hockey stick CO2 effect follows periods of warming by some 800 years.

Yep, the climate changes and our science has known that those changes go back to the beginning of Earth, and has known it for a very long time. Our science has known of mass extinctions as well, but there are very few extintions that can be placed directly in the lap of mankind, the DoDo bird being the more well known, and of course the lesser known extinction of intelligent socialists is a little harder to prove because no one knows or can show that an intelligent socialist has ever walked the Earth.

Humanity has always sat on a razor’s edge and there is a sizable majority that still do, and a big factor is climate, but not the only factor. Another major factor is poor or non-existent technology which places them at the mercy of the whims and whimsies of climate change, both annual and long term.

If we know nothing else about the written history of mankind it is that nature does what it is going to do and it wasn’t until a man invented irrigation that places could escape the cycles of devastating drought and flood.

Yes, mankind with his inventiveness and technology has brought a plethora of ways to deal with and escape the effects of climate change.

As for the matter of fresh water, when the demand becomes high enough the technology already exists to tap glacier melt rivers and pipe that water to areas in need. The petroleum industry has been tapping liquid resources for many decades now in extreme places and piping it hundreds of miles in pipes laid in much more difficult places that across tundra or shallow bays. Is anyone going to be so bold as to tell me that it is impossible to do it with fresh water?

muirduck, you, like most socialists, are just so limited in your ability to reason and in total lack of imagination. Get back on the porch my little teacup Chihuahua. Don’t try to run with big dogs.

Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 7:42 pm

This is unfortunately a clear case of where a distrust of governments and a longing for status quo leads to a delusional denial of science.

I’m a small government conservative in a lot of ways, but why do so many of us try and bend science to fit our economic views?

The climate is changing suddenly and destructively. To give you a small example i have spent the last two months working with villagers in my country India, who’s livelihoods and lives have been destroyed by cyclones.

The increase in what is described as “most intense cyclones”. The 1995-2007 periods has seen five times the number of these cyclones than in the previous 25 years from 1970 to 1995 Ref : http://www.citeulike.org/article/4970211

do you think is a coincidence? science shows a clear connection between GHG’s and the changing climate.

When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?

Sam Grove August 21, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Still waiting to hear about the upper tropospheric warming that is supposed to prove the validity of AGWC theory.

As yet, still no smoking gun.

Ike Pigott August 22, 2009 at 5:54 am

I’m waiting for the first prediction that comes true, that does not involve the distortion of evidence or misrepresentation of events.

For instance, when an ice shelf cleaves, it is from *growth* not melting.

What we instead see is a concerted effort to reshuffle the theory to take counter-evidence into account, but very little in intellectual honesty to challenge the merit of the initial assumption.

Dallas Weaver August 22, 2009 at 4:57 pm

David Freidman doesn’t seem to fully understand the significance of a few ºC. Some things like evaporation rates (how fast things dry out) depend exponentially on temperature, not linearly. If he truly understood positive feed backs, non-linear responses, etc. he would be far more concerned. A difference of only a few ºC in the maximum temperature can be the difference between life and death.

I agree that we won’t see the major impacts in the next decade, while we have the China/India air pollution helping to cool the planet, but China is being forced to clean up the particulate and sulfate pollution (for health reasons, just like we did).

Remember, CO2 greenhouse warming is an CO2 inventory issue not an emissions issue. The emission rate is just determining how fast we are digging the hole we are in. The first thing to do when you are in a hole is quit digging.

A revenue neutral carbon tax in the form of a Carbon Added Tax (much like a VAT which can be added and refunded to imports and exports) is the way to get the desired.

Sam Grove August 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm

You don’t know very much about David Friedman.
I assure you, he is sharp enough to understand feedback, both positive and negative, the latter of which you seem to take no account.

Where is the UT warming which would support AGW theory?

We are not arguing about whether there has been warming, so please don’t suggest otherwise.

Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 7:32 pm

It is truly sad when a distrust of governments and a longing for status quo leads to a delusional denial of science.

I’m a small government conservative in a lot of ways, but why do so many of us try and bend science to fit our economic views?

Anonymous August 25, 2009 at 4:59 am

Policy directives are not science.
Value judgments are not science.
Skepticism about conclusions you do not understand is not delusion.

Whatever is happening with the climate truly is a matter best left to science to figure out. Science is best used as a way to help people understand, not as a political bludgeon. It is best used as a tool to remedy ignorance, not steam roll over it. The latter not only turns righteous people against science, but corrupts science from within.

Anonymous August 22, 2009 at 5:33 pm

You are 100% correct. True believers in global warming simply don’t want to hear that the IPCC puts no stock in these tipping point theories. Little value in arguing with them.

Sam Grove August 22, 2009 at 10:25 pm

It’s somewhat presumptuous of you to come on here and make assumptions about what we do or do not understand.

Having worked in electronics for over thirty years, I can assure you that I am completely familiar with the concept of feedback. Likewise I am conversant with tipping points, cascade events, hysteresis, etc.

Unfortunately, I am also familiar with logic and proof.

AGW theory makes a certain prediction, which, if shown to be the case, offers evidence that AGW theory may be valid.

I’m still waiting for this prediction to be borne out in measurements.

This is not to say that human activity has no effect on climate, but the lack of predicted evidence casts uncertainty upon AGW theory as proffered by climate doomsayers.

If there is a climate tipping point, we have to wonder why the geological record shows no sign of such events in the past despite periods of much higher atmospheric CO2 content than that observed in the historical record.

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