I took a few shots a Steven Hayward’s recent piece in the Weekly Standard here. As is his wont, he replied quite courteously by email, portions of which I’ve pasted below the fold:

Hi Dave:

I didn’t think I made "partisan" comments (in the two-party sense), but if you mean "ideologically partisan," then fair enough. Though I think I did rather less of this than is typical from conservatives.

Just a couple of comments on your justly spirited comments:

I stand by "Team B." If you average together their overestimate with the CIA’s 10-year record of consistently underestimating what the Soviet Union was doing, you got just about the right answer. But that’s a peripheral argument. The point is: competition in any kind of assessment is a good thing, but hard to do because group-think is a typical phenomenon of bureaucratic organization. (The Bush people ignored it in the case of Iraq, it would seem.) It doesn’t mean the IPPC people (or CIA people, etc) are bad people, or that none of their work has value. (And please note my praise–not very fulsome perhaps–of the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, about which I’ll have a long and mostly positive review out soon. So I think it is too strong to say I’m transferring right-wing UN-bashing to the IPCC.) I have had a few IPCC scientists I know here in Washington say that it would be better if some of the qualified skeptics like Lindzen remained part of the process.

I did the Laffer Curve analogy with malice aforethought, knowing it would drive some people crazy. (But I also wanted to see if I could get right wingers thinking a bit.) I see it worked. See the more serious version of the argument in a piece I wrote recently about China’s environmental prospects:


Oh, I stand by the Laffer Curve, too–even though Laffer’s more popular account of it is wrong. The more serious version from Robert Mundell was always better, but it doesn’t have the ring of Laffer. (And there was never any napkin, either–a journalistic urban legend. I wrote about this in one of my earlier books about the rise of Reagan. But this is way off topic.)

The $37 trillion figure comes from "Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction" by Paul Maslin (one in the series of Oxford University Press "Very Short Introduction" series). Maslin is a British climate scientist, and he says that is the IPCC figure for the cost, in 2000 dollars, to stabilize ambient CO2 at current levels. (I think Maslin’s book is very good, but his discussion of economics is opaque.) Costs for CO2 stabilization at various levels above where we are now run around $8 trillion, but no one really knows.

I didn’t pick the article title and was dismayed when I saw it: I don’t like using the word "uncertainty" because it has been overused and cheapened, though it has its legitimate uses. But the editors didn’t ask me.

I am glad you noted that I was not engaging in climate denial, but I think you missed my point about whether we have learned something from the earlier mistakes of what I called "neo-Malthusian" methodology. This is something I have been having some very good arguments about with Paul Ehrlich, the grand-daddy of modern Malthusians (a title he eagerly embraces–I praised him in our last forum together for "embracing his inner Malthus" –I’m also forever telling right wingers that they have Ehrlich wrong–he’s a delightful person eager to argue honestly and without rancor about all of this, and open to changing his mind.) I do think the IPCC reports have some of the same weaknesses as the Limits to Growth report of 1972, Global 2000, etc., and it not clear to me that we have learned the lessons of why those previous forecasts were often wrong by an order of magnitude.

And later:

One other item:

Here’s Hans von Storch (director of Germany’s Institute for Coastal Research, frequent contributor to Science and Nature magazines, and I think a member of the IPCC), writing in Der Spiegel:

"That’s because a significant number of climatologists are by no means convinced that the underlying issues have been adequately addressed. Last year, for example, a survey of climate researchers from all over the world revealed that a quarter of respondents still question whether human activity is responsible for the most recent climatic changes."

I know I have seen a more detailed account of the survey he is referring to, but don’t have it at my fingertips (which means it’s not lurking in my 80MB of laptop memory). Two other such resolutions/statements come to mind from the mid-1990s–the Heidelberg Appeal, and the Leipzig Declaration.