Ed Driscoll

Freak Out In A SuperFreakonomic Moon-Age Daydream!

Back in May, after a nonplussed Associated Press calmly reported the wacky ideas to fight global warming/cooling/climate change/whatever it’s called this week from John Holdren, President Obama’s resident mad scientist, I did a Silicon Graffiti highlighting some of his loonier visions.

But as Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal notes in his profile of Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, co-authors of SuperFreakonomics, global warming alarmists invariably love to propose Manhattan Project-sized initiatives*, to match their scope of their enviro-paranoia:

Suppose for a minute—which is about 59 seconds too long, but that’s for another column—that global warming poses an imminent threat to the survival of our species. Suppose, too, that the best solution involves a helium balloon, several miles of garden hose and a harmless stream of sulfur dioxide being pumped into the upper atmosphere, all at a cost of a single F-22 fighter jet.

Good news, right? Maybe, but not if you’re Al Gore or one of his little helpers.

The hose-in-the-sky approach to global warming is the brainchild of Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. The basic idea is to engineer effects similar to those of the 1991 mega-eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which spewed so much sulfuric ash into the stratosphere that it cooled the earth by about one degree Fahrenheit for a couple of years.

Could it work? Mr. Myhrvold and his associates think it might, and they’re a smart bunch. Also smart are University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, whose delightful “SuperFreakonomics”—the sequel to their runaway 2005 bestseller “Freakonomics”—gives Myhrvold and Co. pride of place in their lengthy chapter on global warming. Not surprisingly, global warming fanatics are experiencing a Pinatubo-like eruption of their own.

Mr. Gore, for instance, tells Messrs. Levitt and Dubner that the stratospheric sulfur solution is “nuts.” Former Clinton administration official Joe Romm, who edits the Climate Progress blog, accuses the authors of “[pushing] global cooling myths” and “sheer illogic.” The Union of Concerned Scientists faults the book for its “faulty statistics.” Never to be outdone, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman scores “SuperFreakonomics” for “grossly [misrepresenting] other peoples’ research, in both climate science and economics.”

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Hence, too, it may well be that global warming is best tackled with a variety of cheap fixes, if not by pumping SO2 into the stratosphere then perhaps by seeding more clouds over the ocean. Alternatively, as “SuperFreakonomics” suggests, we might be better off doing nothing until the state of technology can catch up to the scope of the problem.

All these suggestions are, of course, horrifying to global warmists, who’d much prefer to spend in excess of a trillion dollars annually for the sake of reconceiving civilization as we know it, including not just what we drive or eat but how many children we have. And little wonder: As Newsweek’s Stefan Theil points out, “climate change is the greatest new public-spending project in decades.” Who, being a professional climatologist or EPA regulator, wouldn’t want a piece of that action?

Part of the genius of Marxism, and a reason for its enduring appeal, is that it fed man’s neurotic fear of social catastrophe while providing an avenue for moral transcendence. It’s just the same with global warming, which is what makes the clear-eyed analysis in “SuperFreakonomics” so timely and important. (Now my sincere apologies to the authors for an endorsement that will surely give their critics another cartridge of ammunition.)

As Ann Althouse adds, “For some people, it needs to be a religion, and to the extent that it is a religion, we need the blasphemers.”

And of course, this isn’t the first heresy against establishment leftwing thinking the two authors have committed.

* Yet another “moral equivalent of war”, to coin a phrase.