Ross Douthat’s Preferential Option for Climate Catastrophe

Stream: Ross Douthat’s Preferential Option for Climate Catastrophe.

This article is in answer to Ross Douthat’s, a.k.a. Lt Keefer’s, column “Neither Hot Nor Cold on Climate” in which he impugned as “anti-intellectual” those are who reflexively against the journalist-politician-activist-bien pensant (but unfortunately not scientist) Consensus that the world is doomed because of global warming.

First, Douthat, a “lukewarmer” who confesses an increasing fear about global warming, mistakenly calls global warming “climate change”, a curious error to make while lecturing on the subject. (The climate is and has and will always change.)

Second, he says this:

…in actual right-wing politics no serious assessment of the science and the risks is taking place to begin with. Instead there’s just a mix of business-class and blue-collar self-interest and a trollish, “If liberals are for it, we’re against it” anti-intellectualism. So while lukewarmers may fancy ourselves serious interlocutors for liberals, we’re actually just running interference on behalf of know-nothing and do-nothingism, attacking flawed policies on behalf of a Republican Party that will never, ever advance any policies of its own.

Here are two misapprehensions. It is false that there are no serious assessments of climate science from non-progressives. And far from being anti-intellectual, doing nothing is a rational and reasonable response when the threat is small.

To prove both of these contentions, let me tell you a story. Couple years back in a well-regarded, peer-reviewed journal1 some colleagues and I wrote that a doubling of pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide would result in about one degree Celsius of temperature increase (about 2 degrees F).

We also estimated that “combustion of all recoverable fossil fuels” would cause less than 2.2 degrees Celsius warming (about 4 degrees F).

The first estimate is about half of what the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change guessed, and our second estimate is well under their worst-cast predictions.

It should be, but was not and probably still is not, obvious that our statements are premised on admitting that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will cause measurable warming. This is, or was, the “lukewarmer” position.


And yet it’s puzzling. Here we were offering to the world what was potentially great news. The world would not warm dangerously! Temperature increases would max out. That’s something to celebrate!

Isn’t it?

Only our message wasn’t taken that way. It was as if we were betrayers, traitors, scalawags. Used car salesmen—lawyers, even!—were held in higher esteem.


Get on over to the Stream—before it’s too late!


1The paper is January 2015’s “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model” by Christopher Monckton, Willie W. H. Soon, David R. Legates, and William M. Briggs in Science Bulletin. This was followed in August of 2015 by “Keeping it simple: the value of an irreducibly simple climate model” by the same authors and journal. On the so-called Consensus, see the peer-reviewed paper “Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change” by the same authors in Science & Education.


  1. “Couple years back in a well-regarded, peer-reviewed journal some colleagues and I wrote […]”

    Science Bulletin is not what one would call “well regarded”. It’s SJR is in the basement, and, when it failed in 2015 it had an average of <2 citations per article.

  2. Ken

    Why do you keep addressing the Global Warming/Climate Change/whatever-the-buzz-word-du-jour is today as if its about credible science, with objective analyses, findings, uncertainties, and so on and so forth?

    Climate alarmism is just another tactic in a long line of environmental fear mongering* for which the real objective is to womp up support for socialism.

    * also included in this fear mongering were: fears about global overpopulation straining natural resources & food to mass starvation; fears that we would run out of oil! (now we’ve got too much going up in smoke); that HIV would mutate to an aerosol form and kill everyone; nuclear power would fail & irradiate us via “China Syndromes” & so forth; that nuclear proliferation has us on path to inevitable doomsday; and on & on & on….all problems requiring massive interventions by government to save us from ourselves.

    Never mind the actual likelihood of nuclear Armageddon, it is kind of inescapable that the one real tangible threat out there that could actually wipe out civilization globally is directly attributable to the same governments to whom the alarmists want to cede social control to save us from ourselves. Ironic that, unless that’s the excuse of some for a global world order subservient to the U.N. or similar. (see

  3. Ray

    Environmentalism long ago turned into an apocalyptic doomsday cult. I was an undergraduate in the 1960s when Rachael Carson published her book Silent Spring. Pesticides were going to kill all the birds and give us cancer. In the 1970s we were doomed by global cooling according to Paul Ehrlich. Don’t forget the hole in the ozone was going to give all of us skin cancer. Then there was acid rain which was going to kill all the trees and strip the paint off our cars. Then came global warming and now climate change. Since we are doomed anyway I have just given up hope and now I feel so much better.

  4. Jim Fedako

    Lee —

    You just provided another example of where YOU make claims that are unsubstantiated — in violation of your supposed number one rule.

    Hypocrisy and lack of credibility.

    Have you no shame?

  5. I come here for the benefit of all the penetrating, expert criticism.

    You know, to improve myself.

  6. Dr K.A. Rodgers

    “The climate is and has and will always change.”

    Any planet on which the climate is not changing, be it fast or be it slow, is a dead or dying planet.

    This is a special case of the Rodgers Dictum taught to long-suffering generations of students concerning the energy flows within and around Sol III.

  7. James, James, James.

    I bet Briggs could have squirmed out of this within minutes.

    Learn from the master.

  8. Joy

    Trump, however, is doing quite well on Citations per Tweet!
    If it’s written on the sand or set in stone, it’s truth is not affected.

    Citations per Tweet, Citations Per Article, like miles per hour.

    Jerry Brown in China from CNN ten minutes ago:
    This climate change is not about building your base, it’s not about appealing to your party,”
    It’s about dealing with the changes that humanity is facing!”
    and those changes can be very bad or they can be very good.” !

    What fully normal human being, animal or plant! or political group doesn’t intend to deal with changes that it faces?

  9. Jim Fedako

    Lee —

    You won this round … likely to make an “exception makes the rule” argument later. I will be watching 🙂

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