Inconvenient Truth: Shultz and Baker's Disastrously Mistimed Carbon Tax

Two former secretaries of state -- George P. Shultz and James Baker -- published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday proposing a conservative response to climate change.  After a nod to President Reagan's role in restoring the ozone layer, they wrote:

Just as in the 1980s, there is mounting evidence of problems with the atmosphere that are growing too compelling to ignore. And, once again, there is uncertainty about what lies ahead. The extent to which climate change is due to man-made causes can be questioned. But the risks associated with future warming are so severe that they should be hedged.

The responsible and conservative response should be to take out an insurance policy. Doing so need not rely on heavy-handed, growth-inhibiting government regulations. Instead, a climate solution should be based on a sound economic analysis that embodies the conservative principles of free markets and limited government.

Actually the first person I saw arguing this approach -- that although the extent of man-made causes of climate change (neé global warming) can be questioned, we have to do something about it for reasons of "insurance" -- was none other than that distinctly non-conservative former secretary of state, John Kerry.  Perhaps this was at a moment Kerry realized his own scientific limitations, that everything he knew was based on  the advice of "experts" he didn't really completely understand. But no matter. Almost every politician in Washington was the same way.

Schulz and Baker have this in mind:

We suggest a solution that rests on four pillars. First, creating a gradually increasing carbon tax. Second, returning the tax proceeds to the American people in the form of dividends. Third, establishing border carbon adjustments that protect American competitiveness and encourage other countries to follow suit. And fourth, rolling back government regulations once such a system is in place.

Ah, a tax! Who would have thought of that? Actually Al Gore, who did something similar with the help of some particularly greedy hedge-fund types. They called it a "carbon exchange" and it is now extinct, although several of its founders, including Gore, made fortunes. (NOTE: What Gore did was fraudulent. I don't think Shultz and Baker are suggesting anything remotely like that, though their proposal has elements of income redistribution that don't seem especially conservative.)

But speaking of Al Gore, there is a much bigger "Inconvenient Truth" that appeared almost at the same time as the Shultz/Baker proposal -- it seems there may be no significant climate change at all. The whole ball of wax came crashing down only days before the former secretaries published their thoughts that were obviously many weeks or months in preparation.

From last Sunday's Daily Mail, under the headline "Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data":

The Mail on Sunday today reveals astonishing evidence that the organisation that is the world’s leading source of climate data rushed to publish a landmark paper that exaggerated global warming and was timed to influence the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

A high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.

The report claimed that the ‘pause’ or ‘slowdown’ in global warming in the period since 1998 – revealed by UN scientists in 2013 – never existed, and that world temperatures had been rising faster than scientists expected. Launched by NOAA with a public relations fanfare, it was splashed across the world’s media, and cited repeatedly by politicians and policy makers.

But the whistleblower, Dr John Bates, a top NOAA scientist with an impeccable reputation, has shown The Mail on Sunday irrefutable evidence that the paper was based on misleading, ‘unverified’ data.

It was never subjected to NOAA’s rigorous internal evaluation process – which Dr Bates devised.

Have we all seen this before?  Yes, we have, during "Climategate." For this new round of prevarication, you can go on to see the data and how it was manipulated in the Mail's lengthy article and on the immensely useful climate blog WattsUpWithThat, which has extensive coverage in several reports. For an opposing take, of course, there's The New York Times.

Whatever your view, the point is this. What's true of "climate" is what William Goldman famously said was true of Hollywood -- "Nobody knows anything."

Climate science is very new.  Whether the Earth is warming or cooling or for what reasons is not clear. Yet politicians, indeed just about everybody from Scarsdale to San Diego, from your hair dresser to your real estate broker, has an opinion about it of which they are absolutely convinced and unwavering.  Nothing could more unscientific than that!  Settled science is an oxymoron.  Ask Einstein.

We are far from knowing enough about climate to invest billions  in its "solution," certainly not in the absurd amounts agreed to in Paris and unfortunately not even on the more reasonable level recommended by Shultz and Baker.

And when someone tries to tell you that 97% of scientists say man-made global warming is a catastrophic danger to Earth, it's a lie that's been debunked many times over.  But worse than that, it's nothing but the argumentum ad verecundiam (the argument from authority) that John Locke first criticized way back in 1690 and is now one of the most well known and accepted logical fallacies. But that won't stop people from referring to it in the comments.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn't Already. You can find him on twitter @rogerlsimon