David Friedman on global warming

The son of the venerated Milton and Rose Friedman makes an extremely cogent point.

Friedman writes:

… A while back I read an article attacking Bjorn Lomborg, an articulate critic of much of the current environmental orthodoxy. It included a respectful reference to the late Julian Simon. Simon, criticizing the population orthodoxy, was making reasonable arguments, some of which turned out to be right. Lomborg, on the other hand … .

I remember that fight too—I contributed a chapter on the concept of optimal population to one of Julian Simon’s books. Back when he was the front line of opposition to the then current orthodoxy, he got the same treatment Lomborg got a decade or two later.

I am not competent to judge the climate science behind global warming, but I am suspicious of orthodoxies pushed relentlessly in the popular media, orthodoxies that claim that everyone competent agrees on an urgent problem which requires drastic action immediately if not sooner. I remember when we were being assured that it was simply a scientific fact that overpopulation was the cause of poverty and a near term threat to our own well being, if not survival. Also when we were assured that the only way to get the poor countries of the world up to our level was central planning, if possible supported by generous foreign aid.

When I see news headlines about global warming having shrunk horses to the size of cats, along with a picture comparing a cat sized dog to a modern Morgan—you have to read down a bit to discover that the ancestral horses shrank to the size of cats from the size of dogs, from 12 pounds to 8 1/2 pounds, and spent tens of thousands of years doing it—I suspect that what I am seeing is driven at least as much by what people want other people to believe as by the evidence for believing it… [Emphasis added]

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