The Competitive Enterprise Institute attended the 7th International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by the Heartland Institute and held in downtown Chicago on May 21-23. We at CEI are deeply indebted to the Heartland staff for all the hard work that went into putting on this event. The conference ran smoothly and I thought it was well attended despite the recent public kerfuffle over the incident with Peter Gleick and Heartland’s billboard campaign. CEI’s Myron Ebell and Chris Horner participated in a panel on the social and economic impacts of climate change and climate change policies. A videos of Myron’s panel is embedded below, and Chris Horner’s can be watched at this link.
Professor Harris presented some research by the Cultural Cognition project sponsored by the Yale Law School. The research has been discussed in the climate blogosophere, but it was mostly framed as a yet another explanatory variable for leftist writer Chris Mooney’s thesis regarding why Republican brains don’t work quite as well as those enlightened liberal brains (where do the libertarians fit into Mooney’s thesis?). The paper he discussed attempts to explain how our individual values tend to shape our attitudes towards a number of complex political questions (i.e. the effectiveness of gun control, the risks of nanotechnology, geoengineering the climate, and the dangers of climate change itself). People of different political persuasions, perhaps unsurprisingly, usually (but not always!) side with those who share their political beliefs. Though I was familiar with the paper, Harris gave an excellent presentation and made me think differently about how one might take advantage of this research to influence those who share many of your own values but end up disagreeing with your policy stance.
Pat Michaels gave an excellent presentation on how public choice theory, a field within economics, can help identify and explain incentives that might influence the findings of scientific research (a video is now available). Dr. Michaels has previously written about public choice and climate change in his book Meltdown. Here is a link to a review that helps explain some of the public choice problems that might be influencing climate research.
The talk which I enjoyed the most by far was research presented by Dr. Sebastian Lüning (who already has a DeSmogBlog entry, congratulations sir, you’ve made it!), who gave a very convincing presentation on why he believes that the Sun plays an important yet not well understood role in affecting the Earth’s temperature. As a non-scientist, I cannot give his presentation justice, though I will try. He went through the strong correlations between past solar cycles and a number of widely varied temperature proxies that seemed to correlate well with rising and falling of solar cycles. He noted that he believes that carbon dioxide playes a role in rising temperatures as well, though in his opinion climatologists have underrated the Sun’s influence. He also admitted that a mechanism by which the Sun could affect temperature in a significant way has yet to be discovered, though he pointed to a number of potential mechanisms by which this might be possible (i.e., the Svensmark hypothesis). Finally, while he didn’t seem to be emotionally involved in the climate debate, he did note that his research and the research of his colleagues, had been ignored and weakly criticized by climatologists in Germany. He explained that (with the tone of, “oh well”) that someone “reviewed” his book, providing a very negative comment labeling the book as “rubbish” on the same day that it was published. One wonders whether the reviewer even bothered to read any part of the very long book, which is filled with references to back up the hypothesis. Ironically, his co-author is the CEO of a renewable energy company (wind) in Germany, which makes the accusations of “fossil fuel shill” more difficult to deliver with a straight face.