Murray Capitulates, Lambert Misses the Point

If I may, then, in my next breath criticize my good friend Tim Lambert whom I’ve never met, I think his post this morning on CEI bloviator Ian Murray’s remarkable global climate change conversation rather misses he point.

Murray used to be a serial denier of the consensus science on climate change. Now, in a breathtaking recantation, he’s turned the corner. Now he argues that the costs of greenhouse gas reductions outweigh the benefits of halting climate change. Lambert dismisses the argument with a quip, but really, that’s what the argument needs to be about. What are the costs and what are the benefits of various courses of action? We’ve all been off palavering about hockey sticks and MSU satellite data, studiously ignoring the elephant in the room. Until we get off the proxy arguments (pardon the pun) and get on with actually discussing the costs and benefits of various policy responses, we’re all just spinning our wheels.


  1. John – Tim overestimates Murrays conversion anyway: Murray is still pushing “Contrary to the alarmists’ protestations, we really do know very little about man’s interactions with climate.”; “the economic guesswork contains several basic, glaring errors that call into question the whole edifice”. Murrays position is still junk. He starts “When I began working on global warming issues several years ago I was firmly of the belief that it was stuff and nonsense.” – where did he get that from. A few years ago – 2001; the TAR – the science was clear enough. You needed to be an ideologue to ignore it.

    All that has happened is that the bleedin’ obvious has now become so bleedin’ obvious that even Murray can’t ignore it. But he’ll continue to distort things anyway.

    So… yes, I agree we should be talking about what to do, but we shouldn’d be including people like Murray in the discussion, while he still writes junk.

  2. I agree entirely with William. John, I think you err in assuming that Murray’s stuff is anything other than pure goal-oriented propaganda, meaning that his objective remains to make the most effective argument against action and that he will simply adapt his arguments (and stated “beliefs”) as needed. And of course there’s nothing original in his new line; it’s just warmed-over “Copenhagen Consensus.” Recall that Ronald Bailey (AEI?) underwent the same conversion a few months back. One of the problems of journalism (as it’s practiced in the U.S. at least) is that it takes a very long time for journalists to conclude that someone like Murray is simply a paid liar and that their views should be wholly discounted, and that even when that happens we just get a new replacement liar and have to go through the process again. OTOH, I suppose the good news about the fake conversions of Murray and others is that we can spend less time arguing with pure deniers.

    Given the networking that goes on between these think tanks, their corporate sponsors and the associated politicians, I do find it kind of interesting that we are seeing these conversions in the same period of time that the rhetoric of the Bush regime has changed, Chevron started their “will you join us” (snork) campaign, the “Greening Earth Society” site was shut down, and probably some other stuff I’ve missed. It makes me wonder if there hasn’t been an update of the infamous Luntz memo.

  3. Ian Gould (at Deltoid, see link above) repeats his observation that the first three steps in anthropic climate change denial are

    1. AGW isn’t happening.
    2. AGW IS happening but the results will be benign.
    3. AGW is happening and the result will not be benign but it will cost too much to fix.

    We know that Fred Singer, and Sallie Baliunas lead the charge on 1 and 2, now we have Ian Murray, and Roger Pielke playing chief scientist on 3. It remains FUD.

  4. John,

    The point you seem to be missing is that someone who has a track record of blatantly lying about the physics, until he belatedly realised that his lies were completely unsupportable, can hardly to be trusted to have an honest debate about the social and economic options. OTOH I, and I suspect many others working in climte science, will be grateful as the focus of the debate increasingly moves to these areas. Economists can lie at each other all they like, while we get on with our jobs.

  5. All –

    I’m willing to grant that Murray is a complete wanker. But his argument is another thing. The Ian Gould bit cited by Eli suggests a way by which anyone who raises the cost/benefit argument can be dismissed as such a wanker. As long as that keeps happening (as it seems to), we’ll never have the discussion that we need to be having.

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