Texas Climate Alarmism: A Ten-year Anniversary (Dessler overshoots again)

“… as we suffer through the hellish summer of 2011 … one lesson from the book is clear: Get used to it.” (Andrew Dessler, 2011 below)

A decade ago, the Texas A&M climate alarmist Andrew Dessler, long followed at MasterResource for his exaggerations and bad temperment, wrote an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle: “Texas is Vulnerable to Warming Climate” (July 10, 2011; updated August 17, 2011).

How does Professor Dessler’s op-ed read today? The short answer: not very well. The mad scientist should chill with some A/C (72o, not 78o) and focus on the real here-and-now problem: the state’s overbuilt wind and solar capacity that has wounded the Texas electrical grid (as in greenouts).

Here is Dessler’s opinion-page editorial with my comments.

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As you sit by the pool and sweat this summer, one book you should be reading is The Impact of Global Warming on Texas (University of Texas Press, June 2011, second edition). This book, written by a group of Texas academics, is a sober analysis of our state’s vulnerability to climate change — and the things we can do about it.

Comment: Oh please, there are better reading recommendations than this. How about Dave Campbell’s 2021 Texas Football? Aggie Nation is a lot more interested in the upcoming season than global warming, which speaks volumes about how repeated exaggerations have diminished the issue and brought climate science into disrepute.

If the reading has to be alarmist, why not Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb? (1968) to understand the pre-history and mentality of climate alarmism? Or more contemporarily, Steve Koonin’s Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters to unmask why the false certainty and policy misdirection.

It is a particularly appropriate read as we suffer through the hellish summer of 2011. While it is unknown exactly how much human activities are contributing to this summer’s unpleasant weather, one lesson from the book is clear: Get used to it. The weather of the 21st century will be very much like the hot and dry weather of 2011. Giving extra credibility to this forecast is the fact that the weather extremes that we are presently experiencing were predicted in the first edition in 1995.

Comment: The hellish summer” in Texas in 2011, in retrospect, was an outlier. This is the alarmist/Dessler fare: what is extraordinary results from climate change, and what is normal is in spite of climate change. For he is a member of the Church of Climate, a deep ecologist who fears change and has no theory of entrepreneurship to understand how adaptation to weather/climate makes business-as-usual unremarkable. But free markets and societal wealth are required–exactly what Dessler’s severe climate policy would prevent.

The changes in temperature and precipitation, along with rising sea levels, will leave no part of Texas unchanged. This includes both the natural landscape and the cities, the wildlife and important economic sectors, like agriculture. While climate change may be good for some parts of the globe (e.g., Siberia, northern Canada), Texas is most definitely not one of them. Rather, the vulnerability of Texas is more akin to that of the low-lying island states of the Pacific that are going to be inundated by sea-level rise over the coming century.

Comment: It’s been a decade, and the state seems pretty normal and unchanged to me–and maybe most Texans. Except for that unexpected February freeze that climate models/NOAA did not predict.

This makes the refusal of our leaders in Austin to take action on climate change that much more unfortunate.

Comment: Austin politicians, particular Republicans, should beware of the lawyer-scientist Andrew Dessler. Be sure and have a balanced discussion.

There are few qualified atmospheric scientists who would argue with the assessment in the book. And there are none in Texas. Attempts over the last few years to stage a debate in Texas about the science of climate change have required flying a skeptic in from out of state. In one case, they had to import one from Canada.

Comment: Maybe the assessments of the book are exaggerated–and even the ‘unqualified’ can judge it as such. Climate exaggeration is getting very old, sir.

It is a low blow about having to fly in a ‘skeptic.’ Your department does not hire “skeptics” given its announced climate statement. Maybe the would-be skeptic is not even in the field because of the politics of climate science. Who wants to get attacked by a Michael Mann or you, after all, for deviating from the narrative with their research interests?

Regarding a debate, let’s debate! Your policy is not to debate, right? Why not? Afraid you will lose the audience? As it is, Dessler, like Michael Mann, want to censor their critics.

Buyer beware of the ‘argument from authority’. The Malthusians for generations have used this argument since they have the ‘consensus.” And the false alarms keep piling up….

Yet despite the overwhelming agreement by scientific experts on these points, rancorous debate over policy remains. People are worried that policies to address climate change will hurt their standards of living.

Comment: Yes, climate policy is the real risk. As in electricity spikes and blackouts from a grid overloaded with wind and solar. As in global government. As in climate planners running the economy.

But unchecked climate change will also cost them money. This summer, for example, Texans with air conditioning are paying quite a bit more for electricity to cool their houses than they have in the past. And while it has not hit yet, the impact of the summer weather will eventually lead to higher agricultural commodity prices.

Comment: Check those agricultural prices. Maybe ‘eventually’ means whenever the prices go up–and before they go back down.

Thus, there is no free lunch: Either we pay to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or we pay for the impacts of a changing climate.

Comment: Here is the climate deal. You pay double for lunch and don’t know what you are getting. Or China and India or Africa or the Middle East eat your lunch and leave you with the tab.

Economists have looked at this problem repeatedly over the last two decades and virtually every mainstream economist has concluded that the costs of reducing emissions are less than the costs of unchecked climate change – the only disagreement is on the optimal level of emissions reductions.

Comment: This is the garbage-in, garbage-out problem. Or Malthus-in, Malthus-out problem. Realistic climate scenarios point toward adaptation, not mitigation. After all, your ‘benefits’ are hypothetical and long-term–mitigation costs are present and known.

Given the uniformity of expert opinion that reductions of emissions make sense, why is the debate so polarized? Psychologists and other cognitive experts have found that disagreements over climate change are rooted not in disagreements over science or economics, but are instead rooted in views of the merits of government action.

Comment: How strange and arrogant to assume that the commoners are uninformed or stupid or maybe even mentally ill.

Climate skeptics are almost uniformly distrustful of government action in society and are frightened that climate change will be used as a pretext to take away our individual liberties or interfere with the free market. This explains why every staunch climate skeptic I’ve ever met is also rabidly opposed to Obama’s health care reform (a conclusion also backed by polling data).

Comment: How strange and arrogant to assume that the commoners are uninformed or

The good news is that this points to a way to break the deadlock in the climate debate. First, we need to stop arguing about science.

Comment: You wish!

The primary conclusions of mainstream climate science – that the Earth is presently warming, humans are very likely the cause of it, and future warmings may be significant – are all well established.

Comment: How many non sequiturs can be put into one sentence? “May” also means “may not” as in FALSE ALARM.

Rather, we need to focus on negotiating policies that both sides can agree with – policies that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but without unacceptable government intervention in the markets or control over our lives.

Comment: A middle way that just sets the stage for more drastic intervention? Andrew Dessler has authoritarian tendencies that belie his opening moves.

One idea recently floated by a former Republican congressman is that of a revenue-neutral carbon tax swap. The idea would be to put a tax on carbon, while at the same time reducing income taxes so that total revenue raised by taxes does not change.

Comment: The government rebate check will be in the mail. The Republican alternative assumes that a federal carbon tax will replace the suite of existing regulations related to climate. “No deal,” say environmentalists…. And “no deal” say the large majority of Republicans (and libertarians) as a new government tax driving up the cost of energy is unacceptable. (The Biden Administration dare not push this either.)

Such a policy would cost the average family zero: Prices of carbon-intensive goods and services (i.e., electricity) would go up, but decreases in income taxes would offset that. At the same time, it provides a clear signal in the economy for people and companies to take actions to reduce their emissions.

Comment: See above. Carbon dioxide should not be priced because it is not a pollutant. A case can be made for climate/CO2 optimism at sensitivity levels below that of Dessler.

Obviously, the devil is in the wonky details, and care must be exercised to ensure that any such policy is fair – e.g., accommodating those at the bottom of the economic ladder who pay no income tax.

Comment: See above. Also, Dessler’s “the devil is in the wonky details” suggests a messy new government program that suggests a ‘cure’ worse than the disease. “Government failure’ must be assessed along side the alleged ‘market failure.’

Whatever policy we adopt, it should be soon. As this book points out, the longer we wait to begin reducing emissions, the more climate change Texas will experience. In this way, climate policy is like steering a supertanker – if we wait to start turning until we see the rocks, then we cannot avoid them. Rather, we need to realize that the rocks are out there – and start turning the ship now.

Comment: Another decade has passed …. We are in a tripartite fossil fuel boom. Humility in the face of great unknowns appears in order for a humbled professor.

The climate is changing for natural and unknown reasons, and it does not appear to be in one direction or bad. Maybe a 3rd edition of The Impact of Global Warming on Texas will be released with quite different conclusions–or, once again, sound the hollow alarm bell.

Update

After the February 2021 great Texas freeze, Andrew Dessler was asked by the San Antonio Report about whether climate change was responsible. Dessler did not pronounce that global cooling was upon us. Nor did he try to interject ‘global weirding‘ as climate-change causality as did climate expert John Kerry.

What did Dessler say?

Sometimes it’s just that the weather gods roll the dice, and that’s what you end up with… that’s the way it worked out.”

The ‘weather Gods’ are another source of natural variability that Dessler demotes to make CO2 “the big control knob” of climate. Maybe in another decade or two or five we will understand. That’s the state of highly uncertain and in-debate physical climate processes and climate models themselves.

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July 19, 2021 at 01:10AM

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