Right wing economist Robert Murphy, who works for right wing think tanks that receive substantial donations from the likes of Exxon Mobile and the Koch Brothers (that is, groups that profit handsomely from fossil fuel consumption) has suggestions for mitigating global warming. Suggestions that we've heard before. Do nothing that impedes profits.
Murphy makes two major arguments. He argues that the mainstream scientific consensus is global warming will provide net benefits up until around the year 2050. Here Murphy is very trusting of the science (when it favors profits). Later in the article he becomes very distrusting of science. He is dubious of the accuracy of climate models. His conclusion is one that once again is in the best interest of his corporate backers. Trusting of science when it is profitable. Distrusting it when it is unprofitable. Big surprise.
As I've pointed out before corporations will pursue any rhetorical strategy to enhance profits, even when today's rhetoric contradicts yesterday's rhetoric. Global warming isn't happening. It is happening but man is not the cause. Actually the globe is cooling. No wait, it is warming, man is the cause, and there's no reason for concern.
How often has the right wing been wrong in these types of matters? The right wing think tanks told us there was no reason for concern with tobacco, but we beat them back and took steps to reduce smoking, saving many lives. They told us there was no reason for concern due to lead in gasoline, but we beat them back (at least in the US. Other parts of the world still suffer with lead for profit.). Don't worry about the ozone layer and don't require different kinds of refrigerant that are too expensive and harmful to business. We beat the profit interest back once again, for the good of the planet. The stakes are even higher with global warming. We must beat them back again.
And what's frustrating is that the purveyors of lies for profit in tobacco and lead will probably go unpunished, though their rhetoric lead directly to the death of many. We have to beat them back again and live with the fact that they will go on to peddle the next lie for profit.
Just a couple of points in reply. When Murphy says that global warming has "net benefits" what he's saying is a reference to this paper. Initial warming will increase GDP. So let's say we thaw some tundra in Canada and increase the amount of arable land. Let's say that this increases Canadian GDP 5%. Canadians, like Americans, are relatively rich already. Nobody is starving there. They get a bit richer. But at the same time in Africa some formerly arable land is now a dust bowl and 100,000 people die. If their deaths cause a reduction in GDP but that reduction is less than the increase in Canada, then what we have here is a "net benefit." Already rich people are a little richer. Poor people have died in droves. This is a good thing for Murphy. I don't agree.
Let's also note that there is a growing acceptance of the idea that 2°C of warming is not just bad. It's extremely bad. Much worse than the consensus position concedes. Granted, this is a minority view. But the idea that we should do nothing that impedes profits is predicated on the notion that we have high confidence that some global warming is actually good. We do not.
And I would suggest that the incentives push scientists towards drawing conclusions that are extra conservative. Meaning we have reason to think that the more alarmist positions should be taken seriously. Michael Mann was hauled before a Congressional inquiry as a result of global warming denial hostility for publishing charts that were later confirmed to be accurate by multiple independent studies. An error in the IPCC report claiming the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, which is a claim that is not based on published scientific literature, results in endless derision by the science denial community. Then the fake scandal called Climate Gate. All bogus as independent studies have confirmed. But scientists know they must be cautious and not go too far or they will get destroyed. The incentives cause them to err on the side of less alarmist claims. So claims are qualified, not too bold, and often the uncertainty is emphasized.
Murphy then seizes on this uncertainty in the later part of his article to pooh pooh the climate models. It's true that the models on average predicted a little bit more warming than what we actually experienced. It's also true that the sun, which has a fairly consistent periodic cycle of activity and inactivity, in fact had a bit of an extended period of inactivity over the past 15 years. So we had a bit less solar heating than the models would have predicted. That's not particularly surprising. And even with this inactivity the earth experienced the hottest decade ever. I believe 10 of the 11 hottest years ever recorded were recorded during the last decade. Now the sun is re-entering it's active phase. And it's getting hot.
One side of this debate always seems to get it wrong. They tell us to not worry about it. If they're wrong again, like they always are, and we listen to them, there will be hell to pay.