How to Argue from Cost-Benefit

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John Stossel, after interviewing Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress, treats us to an evisceration of many of the anthropogenic global warming-based arguments used to justify the state crippling our economy:

Let's agree for the sake of argument that this recent warming was partly caused by humanity. Let's also agree that there are some negative effects, including more frequent coastal flooding or longer droughts.

If we agree that those are costs, shouldn't we also look at the benefits? Much of modern civilization owes its existence to our use of the fossil fuels that produce the greenhouse gasses.

I don't see that civilization as misfortune. I wish climate alarmists would weigh its accomplishments against the relatively small downsides of climate change. One of industry's biggest accomplishments is creating a world where far fewer of us are likely to die because of weather.

Alex Epstein's book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels documents the rapidly shrinking number of human beings killed by storms, floods and other climate events thanks largely to ever-growing industry, fueled mainly by oil, natural gas and coal. [minor format edits, bold and link added]
I have noted before that cost-benefit analyses of improper governmental actions almost always fail to account for the cost of lost freedom, but what an example!

Epstein has not just called the AGW alarmists on this omission, but has shown us how big an error this really is, in the form of what free men have succeeded in doing.

As the title of Epstein's book indicates, cost-benefit analysis is not enough to fight global warming hysteria. That said, it is clear that what these scare-mongers have been misusing is, in fact, an important part of making the case against them.

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Gus, cost-benefit analysis may not always be compelling, but it is a necessity for informed decisions on significant policies.

The U.S. plans to spend huge sums to dredge deeper ports in Charleston SC, Jacksonville, and the Kings Bay Submarine Base in GA. Cost-benefit studies were done or in process. But if rising seas are credibly, why waste $$?

Opinions from some highly placed or influential supporters of AGW (sourced from the NYT or Forbes) shed startling honesty on truer purposes behind the AGW scare:

IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer admitted in November 2010, “…one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Instead, climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth…”

Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment, told editors and reporters of the Calgary Herald in 1998, “No matter if the science of global warming is all phony…climate change [provides] the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

Former Senator Timothy Wirth, then representing the Clinton-Gore administration as Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs ...
“We have got to ride the global warming issue." In an interview with PBS Frontline Wirth recounted: “We called the Weather
Bureau and found out what was historically the hottest day of the summer…so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it…we went in the night before and opened all the windows so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room.” Wirth later headed the U.N. Foundation which lobbies for hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to help underdeveloped countries fight climate change.

November 24, 2009, Thomas Friedman in the NYT ....
"The energy, climate, water and pollution implications of adding another 2.5 billion mouths to feed, clothe, house and transport will be staggering. And this is coming, unless, as the deniers apparently believe, a global pandemic or a mass outbreak of abstinence will freeze world population — forever."

Gus Van Horn said...


Yes. And those "true purposes" are why AGW alarmists are oblivious to (or deliberately obfuscate) how inimical their plans are to freedom and, therefore, human life.