Model Hypocrites

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Model Hypocrites


Byline: Richard W. Rahn, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

You can bet that almost anytime a politician attempts to raise your taxes or pushes for a big, new government spending program, the justification is at least partially based on the results of some mathematical model. Al Gore, and many others endorsing the global warming rage, tell us the climate models show government must do something about global warming before we are all cooked (or at least lightly tanned).

Having spent three decades around model builders and reading their studies, I have concluded it is infinitely easier to obtain government funding to build a mathematical model likely to show the need for more government activity and spending rather than less.

Both physical and social scientists use mathematical models to make predictions about the future. The model is supposed to capture the relationships of variables and their magnitudes to enable scientists to forecast such things as hurricanes, crime rates, unemployment rates, and how many people who will get bird flu. Some model builders do truly impressive work, such as those who manage to figure out how to get a little robot on the surface of Mars but other model builders have much to be modest about.

At the moment, many politicos and media elites are telling us the world's nations must spend quite literally trillions of dollars to stop global warming. But the scientists who study such things cannot get their models to agree on whether the present warming is temporary, and part of the normal climatic variability, or something fundamentally different. There has been very little serious research to see if benefits of global warming, such as more rainfall, longer growing seasons, healthier climates and extended outdoor sports, will outweigh the costs. Could this possibly be because if global warming were found to be beneficial, there would be no need for political action and a transfer of wealth and liberty to the governing class?

The data show, from 1940 until 1975, the world was getting cooler, and there were many articles about the coming ice age, including one on the cover of Newsweek. This cooling period is now explained as caused by air pollution.

But after the Clean Air Act was passed, the skies cleared up and the temperature rapidly increased (but what about China and India, whose skies are getting dirtier? Oh, well). For the moment, assume the Clean Air Act explanation is correct. …

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