Massimo Pigliucci wonders why libertarians, on average, deny climate change at a higher rate than others. I’ve had my disagreements with Pigliucci in the past, in which I’ve been mostly irritated by his strong assertions about economics, despite his apparent ignorance of the economic calculation problem and the positive-sum nature of trade.
Despite our disagreements, I think Pigliucci is correct here. It is, frankly, embarrassing that libertarians have a higher propensity to deny the existence of anthropogenic global warming. Libertarianism is rightly a tool to assess policy, but the fact that the correlation coefficient isn’t 0 shows some kind of bias within the libertarian movement.
It’s easy to react against the bad policy proposals in which the marginal costs far exceed the marginal benefits, but to dismiss the scientific theory with a huge body of evidence is a dangerous and unfocused overreaction, and a clear indicator of bias.
Sure, most environmentalism has always been a leftist issue. Instead of rationally considering free-market environmentalism, leftists propose that we grant government ever more authority in planning. Libertarians reacting against that kind of religious faith in the power of government shouldn’t react by denying the scientific evidence of anthropogenic global warming. The scientific process is the rational alternative to both irrational faith in government, and irrational religious faith. To dismiss the scientific consensus in the name of rationally rejecting misinformation is nonsensical.
When considering what governments should do about global warming, we need to assess a few premises. I once heard in person Lee Doren spell out something similar to these.
- Global warming is occurring.
- It is caused by human activity.
- It is technologically possible to stop it.
- It is feasible to solve the international prisoner’s dilemma.
- It is worth stopping; the marginal benefits of any particular policy should equal the marginal costs.
The toolkit of economics is ill-equipped to assess 1, 2, or 3. Environmental scientists can inform us about those. Economics, and by extension, consequentialist libertarianism, should focus on making sure that 4 and 5 are true for any policy proposals. Any individualist deontologists denying the existence of global warming so as to avoid admitting of practical collective solutions of are just being irrational.