To mark this blog’s first anniversary today – and highlight the above – I am re-posting the item I posted exactly one year ago (and will return to the subject next week). Apart from the opening reference to my MA dissertation as being a work in progress, this could have been written yesterday:
Sceptical economists are intellectually bankrupt (10 August 2011)
As made clear in About, I am in the process of completing an MA in Environmental Politics at Keele University in Staffordshire (i.e. in the UK). As part of the requirements for my MA, I chose to undertake, as my dissertation topic, “A Discourse Analysis of Climate Change Scepticism in the UK”, looking at organisations, economists, scientists, journalists, politicians, and others, which was prompted by my reading the following: — Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway; — Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change, by Clive Hamilton; and — Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life, by Peter Jacques. This, then, provides the relevant background to the following summary of my findings regarding economists: I looked at 9 such economists (Roger Bate, Ian Byatt, David Henderson, Lord Lawson, Russell Lewis, Alister McFarquhar, Julian Morris, Alan Peacock, and Colin Robinson); and found that, 5 out of the 9 of them equate concern over AGW with a new religion; whereas 4 out of 9 suggest that pressure to take action to mitigate AGW is a politically-motivated conspiracy; and/or that AGW is a problem that is not worth fixing. Lord Lawson is probably the most famous of these people, who, despite acknowledging his own scientific illiteracy, cites the “three greatest lies” of AGW as being (1) that the science is certain and settled; (2) that global warming is actually happening; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a pollutant (see Lawson 2009: p.107). Therefore, although many sceptical economists (and scientists) may wish to draw analogies between concern for the environment and religious belief; and be very dismissive of “an uncritical acceptance of this new conventional wisdom” (Peacock), this does not negate the reality of the Limits to Growth argument; nor change the strong probability that, in addition to being the “greatest market failure in history” (Stern) and “a failure of modern politics” (Hamilton), AGW is the clearest evidence yet that the Earth has a limited capacity to cope with the waste products of human activity (cf. Meadows et al. 2005: p.223). Notwithstanding all of the above, Greg Craven’s argument still holds, i.e. we need to decide how much risk we want to take hoping unpleasant things won’t happen.——————— The reason I want to return to this subject (i.e. the prejudice that drives economists to deny scientific facts) is that it has just come to my attention that the very aptly-named Global Warming Policy Foundation (i.e. promoting policies that will maximise global warming) has – in addition to a serving Bishop in the Church of England on its Board of Trustees – a list people (mostly economists) on its Academic Advisory Council that reads like a global who’s who of climate change denial… It would therefore seem that, when it comes to the ideologically-prejudicial and economically-driven disputation of the basic laws of physics, the World is very small (and may well be flat)!