Hot Air, Cool Hands

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The Cato Institute, fresh from its excellent ad telling President Obama that he was, with all due respect, not telling the truth about the uniformity of opinion among professional economists regarding the solution to our economic crisis, now has a second full-page ad that does the same thing regarding climate change.

The ad begins: “‘Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear.’ President-Elect Barack Obama, November 19, 2008. With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true.”

The ad is an open letter, signed by 116 scientists. The signatories are of interest. Ninety-three Ph.Ds are listed, with 27 labeled as retired or emeritus. At least 39 of the signatories are from outside the United States (not all have affiliations that easily allow determination).

I think the last two bits of data are of particular interest. The final one suggests that domestic politics (grant applications, for example) may be playing a significant role in limiting American scientists’ comfort in speaking freely. The former suggests that people feel more comfortable speaking freely once they have retired (though in the alternative it could be said that acceptance of climate change represents a Kuhnian paradigm shift).

By the way, among the 116 signatories the amazing intellectual savant Freeman Dyson is unfortunately not listed, despite the recent, widely publicized article in The New York Times that stressed his opposition to Gore’s view of climate change. That review came out just days before the Cato ad, so I doubt that his absence from the list indicates his disagreement with the ad.

In any case, congratulations to Cato. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes that full-page ads with bold headlines saying “With all due respect, Mr. President, that is not true” are part of a continuing campaign.

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