Lubos Motl on Steve McIntyre

“Steve McIntyre turned out to be a key example of a “climate pacifist”. Many people in the audience [of the fourth Heartland climate conference in Chicago] were disappointed to hear that Steve McIntyre doesn’t want the hockey stick graph to be described as “fraud” and the players in the ClimateGate should only be treated as people who are wrong about something, not as evil people who did something bad.

Needless to say, a vast majority of participants disagreed with this statement much like I did (although they were almost certainly more surprised than I was because they don’t follow every detail of these events in the same detail as your humble correspondent: Steve has been consistent about these attitudes at least for a few years, although arguably not from the beginning). But McIntyre has also offered the political explanation of his attitudes:

As a Canadian, he said, he was brought up to believe that governments should govern on behalf of the people – so if CO2 were reckoned to be dangerous, it would be the duty of politicians to make laws to cut emissions.

I completely disagree with this “straightforward” conclusion, too. Even if CO2 were found to be dangerous for the global mean temperature, a rational comparison of costs and benefits would still have to take place, and a competition between possible ways how to attack the problem would have to follow.

In my opinion, it is extremely unlikely that the result of this analysis would be that there should exist laws to cut the production of CO2. Even if one CO2 doubling led to 5 °C of warming, as the insane upper ends of the IPCC intervals suggest, it would still be counterproductive for the industry to be regulated away in the coming decades. The problems caused by this warming would still be smaller than the costs of the elimination of the appropriate portion of the industries.

Moreover, there would almost certainly exist geoengineering methods to compensate for the impact of CO2 that would be vastly cheaper than the CO2 regulation. And a task for sane governments would be to help these methods to materialize – and to fight against anti-civilization tendencies that want to undermine the economy and the sources of income for the government itself.

In this sense the debate is not a “left vs right” debate. The suppression of the industry would be a bad decision for the capitalist economies much like the socialist economies – and all the grey hybrids in between. This is about a careful evaluation of costs and benefits and an impartial comparison of the alternatives – and Steve McIntyre is simply not doing that.

Because of all these reasons, Steve may be viewed as a part of the irrational and pro-government problem who just happened to discover that something is seriously wrong with the basic pillars of the system but who failed to deduce the appropriate conclusions. His not-so-right-wing politics is arguably the main cause behind this failure.”  “BBC:  Roger Harrabin about types of AGW skeptics

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