Thursday, June 07, 2007

Understanding an Adler: Volokh Correction #21

I think the completely amoral climate denialists are easier to understand and deal with than the others. Steve Milloy, for example, can be understood as simply a person who gets off by serving the worst of all possible corporate interests, with no interest in telling the truth or doing something of benefit to anyone. It might be possible to go deeper in his psyche - maybe it's not really the money for him, it's the pathetic wisps of power that waft in his direction that gets him off - but it doesn't really matter. He's predictable.

I wouldn't quite put Richard Lindzen or Benny Peiser in that category, although both of them are clearly willing to deceive people and deserve little respect. The other shame for them is that unlike Milloy, they aren't complete disgraces in other aspects of their careers. It's too bad about what they've done to themselves, although they've done something worse to the rest of us.

Roger Pielke Jr. has his adaptation-is-more-important-and-everyone-except-me-is-screwing-up-the-science-with-politics viewpoint. I think he's guilty of cramming far too many square pegs into that round hole, but I expect the deception there is self-deception more than anything else.

And then there's my fellow lawyer, Jonathan Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy. He wrote an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to reject the states' request that EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions, using legal theories the court eventually dismissed. Adler follows that up with a presentation the US Senate claiming that a completely separate provision in the Clean Air Act allowing California to regulate air emissions in the state should, coincidentally, be interpreted not to apply to climate change, forbidding California from developing regulations that could also be used by other states under the typical federal concept of a "laboratory for democracy."

Warming Law takes apart his legal arguments handily, here. I'll add that his argument saying California imposes costs on other states by increasing the market share of energy efficient vehicles relative to gas guzzlers is ridiculous. First, changing the market share fits the classic definition of a pecuniary externality, recognized not to result in a misallocation of resources. Second, his attempt to make me feel guilty for buying a Prius because his friends will now have to spend more on the per-unit costs of spare parts for their Hummers somehow falls flat. I don't know, I just don't feel guilty. I suggest the real external damage is in the opposite direction from the Orwellian world that Adler lives in.

This despite the fact that Adler, as far as I know, acknowledges climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed. He's just doing everything he can to keep the federal system from trying out two solutions - something real at the California level, and his preferred dithering at the national level, and determining which works better. Fighting a competitive test of solutions is not a record to be proud of.

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