10 September 2009

Inviting Marc Morano to Debate

Marc Morano is upset that Andrew Freedman, a blogger with the Washington Post, won't debate him about climate change. Not wanting to see Marc left without a debating partner, I'd be happy to debate Marc Morano on climate policy. Were we to do an Oxford-style debate I'd propose the following resolution:
Resolved: Governments around the world should adopt a low carbon tax to finance technological innovation and other policies focused on decarbonizng the global economy. At the same time enhanced investments are needed around the world on policies focused on improving resilience and adaptive capacity.
How about it Marc?


  1. Roger,
    Absolutely, I would be happy to debate you. Although, I think we have many areas of agreement. you could not be more wrong in advocating a carbon tax. It would quickly become a slush fund for politicians. You should know better than to push for such a poor idea. But, I will acknowledge a carbon tax is a more "honest" and effective approach to addressing emission concerns than cap-and-trade.
    At any rate, I am willing to debate you at an agreed time and place.
    Marc Morano
    Climate Depot

  2. Great!

    I'll be in touch to set it up.

  3. You also wrote: "At the same time enhanced investments are needed around the world on policies focused on improving resilience and adaptive capacity."

    I think we will mostly agree on this. I was an early advocate for the Asia-Pacific Partnership which stressed technology sharing to improve energy efficiency. Also, adapting to climate is a no-brainer as well.

    Looking forward to debate. Thanks

  4. I'd like to see you debate Lomborg on this. His group places carbon taxes at the bottom of the policy list.

  5. -3-Marc

    Just to be clear, you agree with this?

    "At the same time enhanced investments are needed around the world on policies focused on improving resilience and adaptive capacity."

  6. Whatever you guys do, please make the debate available online, live or recorded, video or text, it doesn't matter...just a good honest debate.

  7. Roger,

    It sounds like you'll be debating climate change policy options with Marc.

    Shouldn't you include a climate scientist as part of the debate, since Marc doesn't think global warming is for real. (Unless I got that wrong; please correct me Marc, if so.) This way Marc can also be engaged on the science, as well as policy matters.

  8. Roger,
    I don't disagree. At the climate skeptic conference in March in NYC, Aussie Geologist Dr. Robert Carter said we need to prepare for climate change, be it natural or man-made. I agree with that.
    I read your statement to mean that nations need better infrastructure to deal with climate changes. If I understand you correctly, I agree with that. Obviously, living in a hut made of dung is not as good as living in a modern structure when it comes to battling the forces of Mother Nature.

  9. -6-Sean

    Will do


    If Marc wants to argue that his preferred policy actions make the most sense because global warming is not for real, then he will be free to do so. Nothing in the format will preclude invoking scientific arguments as the basis for preferred courses of action.

    What you will not see however, is a debate about science that hides a debate about politics.

  10. -9-Marc

    Great, glad to hear this. But let me draw you out a bit ...

    How much should be spent (worldwide) on adaptation?

    And who should pay?

  11. Roger,
    Now we get to the crux of the argument. How much spent by whom? On what? For what purpose?

    The short answer is economic growth and modernization should "pay" for adaptation. Anything that discourages growth or energy development is not good for "adaptation." With an estimated 1.6 billion people without access to electricity in the world, a political carbon “slush fund” is not the answer.

    Economic growth is the best adaptation policy to any potential man-made or natural climate changes. The more infrastructure the better. Nations already spend huge sums on multiple areas that could be viewed as "adaptation." Putting in paved roads is a form of adaptation. (easier to flee during intense storms)

    I would argue that setting up a special tax to "fund" climate adaptation will lead to less economic growth and more government corruption and make the people poorer and more vulnerable. We have both seen how political leaders love using climate claims to further political goals. (today's example: Sen. Kerry touts 'the day before' -- Uses 9/11 Anniversary to Push for Climate Legislation! - http://washingtonindependent.com/58467/kerry-marks-eve-of-911-anniversary-with-push-for-climate-legislation)


  12. Roger, I like the views below from a S. African development activist.

    Flashback 2003: S. African Activist: Poor countries should just say: 'Go to hell' to Wealthy Western Nations: 'If you don't want us to fill in our wetlands, then you bomb your big cities like Washington, a third of Holland and Rotterdam and so on, and restore them to being swamps'

    Flashback 2002: UN Earth Summit's Failure Called 'Good Thing' For Poor Nations: Excerpt: The first world became rich without the IMFs and World Banks, and the less of them that are around, the more likely the Third World is to do the same."


  13. Roger-Who should pay and how should do the spending?

    I for one think that it's worth "investing" in adaptation, but I don't believe the government needs to step in to make it happen, at least not always.

  14. Roger,
    I would be happy to come to your Boulder CO campus and have the debate there with full student participation.

    Let me know.

  15. Roger, as a skeptic who often reads your stuff because you're fairly well respected from all sides, I'm a little shocked that you behave as if the crux of the debate concerns policy, economics etc. Marc is sporting to agree to tackle the subject on these terms, and of course both of you have things to say on such matters, but why would two science bloggers bother debating a proposition that begins "Governments should..."? Shouldn't that be left to the pundits?

    Are you merely a pundit who uses his science credentials for traction, or are you a scientist with an interest in political consequences? I would expect that your answer to this would dictate the kind of debate you would pursue with one who challenges the scientific basis of the so-called climate consensus.

    I agree with you and Marc on the statement you've discussed with him here so far, and I've heard a number of other skeptics espouse similar thoughts. Your surprise at his position does not speak well for your understanding of what dissenters like Marc represent -- perhaps you are assuming that skeptics like him are just political antagonists for whom science is merely a convenient mantle for political belligerence. If so, you do Marc and many others an injustice and only show that you have not heeded Sun Tzu's dictum "Know thine enemy". (Indeed one reason to know your enemy is that you may find out they aren't as much of an enemy as you may have believed initially!)

    I would expect this of Mr. Tobis. Of you I expected better.

    Why not cut to the chase and debate the science? Put up a question about the evidence for AGW, or about the validity of current GCMs, or about the historical proxies for CO2 and temperature and what they mean in terms of interpreting 20th/21st century climate data? Why not debate what constitutes "normal" versus "abnormal" climate change, or the evidence in support of cataclysmic projections of current climate trends? Why not hammer out the costs versus benefits of increased atmospheric CO2?

    If you debate the questions you've put up, I'm afraid I'm likely to yawn and go somewhere else. The proposed policies are simply a massive boondoggle and a crapshoot if the science can't be settled. Who's to say whether massive intervention of this or that sort is worth anything, or perhaps even does harm, if the scientific issues are not resolved a priori.

    If you're going to fall back on the "the science is settled" line, without open converse on points disputed by Marc, how can you two reasonably discuss "enhanced investments" or what constitutes "resilience and adaptive capacity"? Is he supposed to enter that discussion by granting numerous points of "science" that he does not accept? That would be neither a fair "debate" nor of any interest to most readers of any stripe. It sounds as if some of your more sympathetic readers concur.

  16. One of the biggest shortcomings of debate formats is that the debaters end up talking past each other because they define terms differently or want to stress completely different aspects of the issue (or fail to critique each other's "evidence"). I think the debate would likely be more interesting if the two of you both agreed to narrow the issue to one genuinely in dispute and published "briefs".

    I guess the model for appellate courts works very well. The issues on appeal are specific, appellant files a brief, appellee responds, appellant replies to the response. Then each gets to make a presentation to the court in oral argument (often mostly responding to questions from the panel) in the same order. No surprises, both sides are fully apprised and fully prepared to respond.

    For a debate, you should correspond to discuss precisely where you disagree and structure the debate to focus on those issues. Then you should make your initial case in writing (or cite previous work/studies relied on).

    There is no point of having a debate where someone cites X and the other isn't familiar with X. It may score debating points, but a thoughtful audience really wants to know if X is really worthy or not and cannot find that out.

  17. If you all want to have this debate in public, I would be interested in discussing hosting it at AEI. kgreen@aei.org - contact me.

  18. I've got one. Resolved: Marc Morano knowingly lies about scientists' opinions and scientific research on climate change.


  19. -16-leonardeuler

    Perhaps you have me confused with someone else, but my PhD is in political science and this is a policy blog. I spend most of my professional life thinking about questions that begin "Governments should . . ." (sad, but true;-)

    Of course climate policy is about political questions!

  20. Quoting from my own http://cosy.com/Liberty/LogicOfLiberty.htm"

    ... a collective society is effectively dumber than a free society.Being dumber, its standard of living always lags.

    A free society moves forward at the speed of its best. There is powerful incentive for any innovation to be made available to all potential consumers of that advance. In statist countries like the old USSR, China, and India for example, individuals could not just go ahead and gather the capital from any willing investors to actualize the innovation, or to offer it thru any outlet willing to promote it. Every new thought had to be channeled thru the state monopoly's bureaucrats whose power rested in the ability to say "no". (The "state" in a strong sense is a fiction; in any transaction you must deal with individuals.)

    Thus Sony and Nissan and Mitsubishi in free market Japan did as much to take down the Soviet Union as anything the west did. The US itself has had a tough time competing with them; a controlled economy didn't have a prayer.

  21. You need a moderator?

  22. On the face if it this seems counter-sensible. I don't see any good that will come of it. A Pielke Jr-Morano debate would have the same value as Tamino debating Gavin Schmidt.

    As skeptics, would we not look at such a debate between those two and say "what's the point"?

    What is the point?

  23. -23-Anthony

    I'm far from a skeptic as you use the term and, obviously from the exchange, my policy views are quite distinct from those held by Marc. So yes I see much value in such a debate.

  24. Let's take this to email, gentlemen. We'll see if we can set something up. Andy - I don't have your email address at hand, so I've asked Roger to loop you in on the email round-robin.

  25. The obvious positive outcome for Roger is to establish that he is not in the same camp as Marc, when it comes to climate and policy issues.

    I think this should be obvious to all, but certain unnamed MIT alum seem to have difficulty noticing the very obvious differences between the various individuals who disagree with them.

  26. I'm new here (obviously), but I'm baffled at your response to leonardeuler. Yes, you're a policy person, but you seemed to imply that the policy should proceed independently of the science. Is that what you're actually advocating? Doing anything is always better than doing nothing? That kind of thinking gets virgins tossed into volcanoes.

  27. It's a sensible idea for the policy realists on both sides to debate on the basis of win-win energy proposals. To invite zealots is pointless because nothing is ever good enough for them. There are many simple conservation measures that save money medium to long-term but have a short term cost. But that initial cost argument is somewhat bogus if money can be easily created out of thin air to bail out fatcat bankers or to support multiple wars. That is, governments always find money from somewhere when they want to and everyone has their preferred high spending untouchables; from social security to military security. It would be smart if money spent on a forward-looking energy policy was regarded the same way. Unlike most of the others, at least it has a payback.

  28. Leonardeuler,

    "skeptics like him are just political antagonists for whom science is merely a convenient mantle for political belligerence"

    Exactly. How could you possibly argue otherwise?


  29. Roger,

    I have to agree with some of the commenters who question the terms of the debate if Marc doesn't believe that the "science is settled."

    Yet I'm also confused by Marc's comments about favoring adaptation (8), so long as it's paid for by "modernization" and "economic growth" (11). Could he define that a bit more specifically?

    But I'm mostly confused because this debate is based on the premise (presumably)that man-made climate change is for real, with possibly catastrophic consequences later in this century. That's the master narrative in the public discourse. If Marc doesn't believe this, then how can you have a serious, substantive discussion over policy options?

    I predict you'll be minutes into the debate when Marc will fall back on "the science is not settled" line, and then you'll be debating climate science with him, not policy.

  30. Roger, yes I have had the wrong impression -- from the times I've visited here I've had the impression that you represent yourself as a man of science who happens to have a passion concerning policy matters. I had not bothered to scan your qualifications; Thank you for clarifying.

    Marc is also out of the political world, and is also educated in Political Science. Yet you both concern yourself with a subject in which any firm conclusion to be reached must be a response to established science. So I stand by my earlier statements; I am not interested in pundits whacking each other about speculative and dubious interventions to solve a problem that may or may not exist or may exist but have quite a different nature than is taken as the basis for the discussion about policy.

    You and Marc are political scientists, but both are well-versed in the relevant science, and, at my reading, neither is a political tribalist despite your evident partisanship (these are two different things!). How about a debate that focusses on the actual science that forms the foundation for policy rather than about the policies themselves?

    Bart #29 appears to believe that this is an exercise in tribalism, and is apparently savouring what he regards as an upcoming exercise in political blood sport, hoping his own dog wins. Sorry, I'm out. Call me when they start discussing the science; most everything else likely to be discussed is, as I said earlier, a political crap-shoot. Any intervention, on the scale that is being discussed, that is not clearly justified by solid science is liable to cause more harm than good, and I really have no interest in conversations that put the cart before the horse.

  31. -30-31-leonardeuler, keith

    Yeah, I don't think so. Maybe have a look at this for a sense of why it a bad idea to be arguing politics through science:


  32. Keith wrote: Yet I'm also confused by Marc's comments about favoring adaptation (8), so long as it's paid for by "modernization" and "economic growth" (11). Could he define that a bit more specifically?

    Keith, The most effective tool for poor nations to "adapt" to any potential natural or man-made global warming (allegedly causing warming) is fossil fuels! The more infrastructure and modernization, the better the undeveloped nations fare under natural or man-made global warming.

    See: http://townhall.com/columnists/PaulDriessen/2009/09/05/leader_of_none?page=full&comments=true

    Fossil fuels 'gradually eliminating poverty in 3rd world' -- 'Any call to curb carbon emissions would 'condemn billions to continued poverty'

    Also see: Morano: 'Carbon based fuels have been one of the greatest liberators of mankind in the history of our planet'

    What is so surprising about this whole debate idea is that Roger and I have been in virtual lock step agreement on cap-and-trade and the reasons an international treaty is not realistic (because China, India will not limit their growth). I have cited and quoted Roger numerous times at Climate Depot and when I was in the U.S. Senate.
    It is surprising that a man (Roger) with so much political sense can have such a lapse in judgment to believe that a "carbon tax" is any kind of "solution."
    France is grappling with the fruit of Roger's advocacy. See:
    France: 'Doubt and anger over carbon tax' -- 'dismissed as a money-making scheme'

    Roger needs to see the light that a carbon tax would end up having many of the same problems that he so correctly criticizes cap-and-trade for. The simple way forward is technology, modernization, economic growth and to accomplish all of that we need to wipe climate fears off the table, because unfounded climate fears (and the "solutions) are the greatest threat to the well being of developing nations.


  33. it seems this is boiling down to a debate about is policy required or is ot not.

    For that type of normative point of view you need to identify the policy need. The need to mitigate against climate impact is not in itself a justification for policy. Humans have been doing that effectively for millenia. ou really need to identify the market failures.

    Why wouldn't people act to choose the "right" amount mitigation of climate impact on their own. Why do we need to tax poeple to pay policy wonks like you to come up with great schemes to tax people more money to pay for stuff that people don't want to buy based on their own preferences?

    I have asked this question before, Roger, and not received an answer. As a political scientist employed to provide research on policy, how do you ensure you remain an "honest broker"?

    How often have you concluded "no policy is required"?

  34. Also, germaine to the cap and trade issue. There should be no difference between carbon tax and cap and trade, if the latter is implemented properly.

    One uses price as an instrument, the other uses quantity. Those are exactly the same thing to economists.

  35. -34-Geckko

    I disagree. It is not a debate about whether action is required or not, Marc and I have already agreed on this thread that actions are needed. The question is, what action?

    And on that we have clear disagreements (see -33- above). So a debate would be valuable.

    I hadn't thought about using carbon tax proceeds to fund my work, but I'll give it some thought;-)

    As I wrote in The Honest Broker, don't look to individuals to serve as honest brokers, we are all mostly issue advocates, which is the role I'll be playing in this debate.


  36. Geckko-As a Masonimist I don't see how identifying "market failures" helps the case for interventionism. Market failure is how markets work.

  37. Roger, Marc,

    I look forward to the debate. Hell, now that I'm back on the east coast, I might just hop on the federally-funded Amtrak to D.C. and see it live.

  38. Apparently Morano chooses not to defend his many statements that human induced climate change is a fiction.

    Absent prior agreement about the nature and likely size of the changes any discussion of costs and methods to meet the undefined challenge is science fiction, which is why Stan's comment is so astute.

    Pass the popcorn

  39. Perhaps an interesting debate topic is whether science should be done by scientists or by bloggers. According to Marc it’s the latter apparently, since bloggers “are natural skeptics, disbelieving the mainstream and accepting the possibility of any alternative idea.”

    Hmm. "any" indeed; no evidence required.

    So the ‘best available science’ would then tell us that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, that evolution is a conspiracy against god and that GHG don’t cause climate change?

    If he would hold the same contempt for medical doctors as he does for scientists, his health would probably suffer. But at least the consequences for his contempt would fall solely on his own shoulders. With global climate change it’s different.


  40. "I have to agree with some of the commenters who question the terms of the debate if Marc doesn't believe that the 'science is settled.'"

    To anyone who thinks "the science is settled," please give your most likely value (i.e. 50 percent probability) and 90 percent confidence values (i.e. less than a 5 percent chance of warming greater than the highest value, less than 5 pecent chance of warming less than the lowest value) for global surface temperature anomaly relative to 2000, for 2030, 2060, and 2100.

    And if you do, please cite your source(s).

  41. "France: 'Doubt and anger over carbon tax' -- 'dismissed as a money-making scheme'"

    Governments need money. Which is better...raising X amount of money by taxing income, or raising the same amount of money by taxing carbon emissions?

  42. Roger-9 said:
    “What you will not see however, is a debate about science that hides a debate about politics.”

    If I restate that thought as: “What you will not see however, is a debate about vacation destination that hides a debate about what clothes to pack.” it would be a non sequitur.
    Without at least basic agreement on the science, any policy debate will be just be two people talking past each other.

    Roger-20 said:
    “I spend most of my professional life thinking about questions that begin "Governments should . . ." (sad, but true;-)”

    Hmmmm; after retiring from my professional life I spend time each day thinking about questions that begin “Why should Government…?” (Futile but true;-)

  43. Bart-
    The question at issue is what policies are best to put in place, determining the best policy is not "science" by any definition. Policies are determined by politicians with information derived from science weighed along with other considerations.

    Perhaps I am not clear on your comment.

  44. Sharon,

    You're right, the way I framed it wasn't very clear.

    I coud imagine an interesting debate topic being the question

    To what extent should (climate) policy be based on (climate) science?

    And a subquestion: How to define "science"? Is science best done by active scientists, who use scientific meetings and publications as their primary discussion fora, or could anyone who wants contribute (as per Marc's suggestionn)? In the latter case, how could one distinguish bad from good science? It seems that scientific principles are the best upheld in the way science is conducted, and not by blogs (in general).

    Perhaps clearer, perhaps not...

  45. Bart, I answered under Sept. 11 Debate with Marc Morano.

  46. Yourchangingclimate-My my, that's quite a vindictive comment. Per your suggestion about blogs, are you familiar with the Hwang debacle? Fraudulent Stem Cell paper, debunked by young Korean bloggers? No? Of course not, because those guys were just creationist nut jobs who don't believe in science.

    Roger-you better not clip this, after letting that juvenile whiner say such hateful crap.

  47. Roger,

    I think Marc is more alligned to my thinking than yours on policy. I agree with his position that what matters is:

    "what is spent and by whom".

    and that:

    "a tax funded slush fund for adpaptation policies"

    would be anything but detrimental to welfare globally.

    The best public policy is to stand out of the way and let people adapt. That is what they have always done.

    Likewise, public policy should behave more like those private individuals and execute in a manner sympathetic with needs vis-a-vis climate.

    But that just means doing sensible things that have always been done, e.g.

    Build infratructure that is suitable for the climatic demands that will be place d on it.
    Don't allow building in flood plains.
    Make sure building codes are suitablly robust (but not too robust) to address EXTERNAL climatic risks (i.e. make sure my house won';t kill someone else if a hurricane hits, but allow me to build a shack if I like in the middle of nowhere).

  48. The reaction in France is telling indeed. A carbon tax is more honest than cap-and-trade - a tax where bankers take a percentage. So France is honest and sensible and goes for a carbon tax and we see the reaction:

    As I noted above, for the zealots nothing is ever enough except perhaps the total collapse of modern civilization or a mass die-off. For the opposition whatever Sarko does is automatically wrong anyway. And for the public we finally get to see just how green they are: it stops precisely when they have to start paying for it. Pretty soon they'll be skeptical of the science too. And there's plenty to be skeptical about.

    The only acceptable way forward is cheaper alternative energies. The dilemma there is that only by using them will they actually become cheaper.

  49. Although I've lost hope of any value from this "debate" I thought I'd leave off with a couple of pertinent quotes from the late Michael Crighton:

    "Our approach to global warming exemplifies everything that is wrong with our approach to the environment. We are basing our decisions on speculation, not evidence. Proponents are pressing their views with more PR than scientific data. Indeed, we have allowed the whole issue to be politicized-red vs blue, Republican vs Democrat. This is absurd."

    Let us hope both Roger and Marc can come to the table with something better than opinions, platitudes, polls and PR.

    The second quote also speaks for itself; it is an urgent plea to all who consider themselves friends of the environment and neatly encapsulates what is wrong with these politicized discussions. Read the whole essay here:

    "...we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It's not a good record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is to miss the cold truth---that there is very little difference between the parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the Democrats will save us and the Republicans won't. Political history is more complicated than that. Never forget which president started the EPA: Richard Nixon. And never forget which president sold federal oil leases, allowing oil drilling in Santa Barbara: Lyndon Johnson. So get politics out of your thinking about the environment."

  50. Roger's suggestion:

    " Maybe have a look at this for a sense of why it a bad idea to be arguing politics through science:"

    Point taken, and I couldn't agree more. It is just as important not to argue science through politics. But "arguing politics through science" and coming to agreement about science before beginning to argue about derivative political points are two very different things, Roger. Merely to confine the discussion to the political realm does not solve your problem unless and until the sides of the debate share a consensus on the science.