William Nordhaus is a professor at Yale University and one of the pioneers in the economics of climate change. Earlier this year Nordhaus wrote a piece in the New York Review of Books entitled, “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong.”
Because of Nordhaus’ stature in the profession, and because of his supposedly definitive claims, the article was an instant hit in certain circles, even being assigned by economics professors as an excellent introduction to the case for policy activism to fight climate change. Yet as I’ll demonstrate in this post, Nordhaus’ position isn’t nearly as airtight as he leads the reader to believe. There really are good reasons for being skeptical of massive government intervention to fight climate change.
Nordhaus Takes on Sixteen Opponents
To frame his debate with the global warming skeptics, Nordhaus picks a specific target: the January 26 Wall Street Journal op ed titled, “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” The op-ed was signed by sixteen scientists from various fields, including Princeton physics professor William Happer, MIT professor of atmospheric sciences Richard Lindzen, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology William Kininmonth, and former director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Service Henk Tennekes.
Nordhaus identified six allegedly misleading claims made by the skeptics in their WSJ article, and proceeded (in his mind) to dismantle their bogus views. In the interest of brevity, I will in this post focus on just four of the claims. As we’ll see, it is Nordhaus who is playing fast and loose with the readers. Many of the objections raised by the skeptics are indeed legitimate.