SuperFreakonomics

GLENN: I don’t know if you’ve read the book Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, but I have to tell you the authors of SuperFreakonomics, they are just, can I tell you something? Controversial people, they don’t believe in science at all.

Stephen Dubner is on with us now. Hello, Stephen.

DUBNER: Hey, Glenn, how are you?

GLENN: Very good. You wrote in SuperFreakonomics, let’s just say global warming is real. I don’t even know where you stand on the global warming issue. And you can tell me now. If not, we can just move on.

DUBNER: I’ll tell you. First I want to just ask, are you going to end my career here today?

GLENN: I have a feeling it might be the other way around.

DUBNER: I just want a little advance warning, you know, let my wife and kids know.

GLENN: I’m going to take this one right out of do you believe Barack Obama was has a birth certificate and he was born in the United States?

DUBNER: I do actually. So global warming right then, I’ll give you the

GLENN: Why did Glenn Beck’s people obviously give him the answers in advance!


DUBNER: (Laughing).

GLENN: Okay. So Stephen, well, let me ask you this: Do you believe the United States government blew up the World Trade Center?

DUBNER: I’m afraid I do not.

GLENN: He was prepared.

STU: How did he answer so fast and accurately?

GLENN: All right. So Stephen, tell me about global warming.

DUBNER: I’ll tell you one thing I firmly don’t believe well, anyway, we could get into that. We write about it in some detail for SuperFreak. But one thing we looked at is the money flow for the 19 guys, and the data on that is interesting. And you know, in SuperFreakonimcs and also we use data to answer questions. Here’s the problem with global warming as you and everybody with even half a brain knows, it is a complex problem, right? If it were a question of turning a thermostat in a room up or down and that was it and measuring the temperature, we wouldn’t be having these debates. The problem is it’s much more complicated than that. What I believe is that there is pretty good evidence that there’s been a little bit of warming over the past hundred years and then what I believe is that there are a lot of scientists who do believe that the greenhouse effect will produce catastrophic warming over the next 20 to 100 years. I believe that there are a lot of scientists who believe that. What I don’t believe is that there’s a certainty to that at all. And that the minute you begin to discuss the uncertainty, you get shouted down and that’s a problem. That’s a problem.

GLENN: That’s what you know, that’s where I want to go with you, Stephen, is you know, here’s Bill Nye the Science Guy. I mean, Stephen, you should think about this. Maybe you should be the Book Guy. But here’s Bill Nye the Science Guy saying that you’re un American or unpatriotic if you, you know, if you are not doing it. Then you have Howard Dean saying that they’re just not engaged in science at all. I mean, what kind of scare tactics are these?

DUBNER: They are scare tactics. You know, I kind of look at all this and laugh. I laugh with some pain because it’s a drag frankly but what we’re seeing in the global warming argument is exactly the same as we’re seeing in all the partisan arguments that emanate from Washington. And the reason that we’ve seen it in the global warming argument is because it has become a political issue by now. Almost purely. Which means that all the scientific arguments, all the economic arguments get subsumed by politics. That’s just the way it is. And I, personally I hate it. And personally that’s why I write books that try to just say, look, we’re going to try to figure this out best we can. And what we figured out is that there seems to pre there seems to be a pretty darn low risk that we’re going to have catastrophic global warming. But, but if you do, what do you do about it? And what we say is the current plan of carbon mitigation is so incredibly unworkable and expensive that if you really are worried about the problem, then you should really be spending time to come up with other solutions and geoengineering solutions and so on that we write about. I also just think that people who talk on either side of the aisle about one big snowstorm or two big snowstorms being an indication of anything, when you hear people talk like that, you know what you should do? You should turn off your radio or turn they are not to be listened to. I firmly believe. If they are on your side, I don’t know, maybe we’ll give you a dispensation.

GLENN: No, they are not on my show. They are not on my show. I say this all the time and mainly for the right. But it happens for the left, too. Look, one snowstorm doesn’t make any difference at all. It is a trend. It is the patterns that you’re looking for, not a snowstorm here or there.

DUBNER: I’ll tell you, from academia I’ll tell you a phrase that your listeners should really put in their pocket and hang onto. There are something that psychologists and economists call confirmation bias. You are biased toward things in your brain that confirm what you believe to be true. Let’s say when you buy a new car, you buy a Volkswagen. You’ve never had a Volkswagen before. You now own a Volkswagen. Suddenly you see oh, my God, look at how many people are driving Volkswagens, it’s unbelievable. I have the best, most popular, most fantastic car. The only reason you are noticing those Volkswagens is now because you have one. If you believe that snowstorms, whether snowstorms, hurricanes, whatever are going prominent because of global warming, then when there is one, that gets factored into how you interpret it. But I’ll tell you what, you remember Katrina. Katrina was the hurricane that made an awful lot of people very concerned that global warming was already producing storms that were both more powerful and more frequent. Let’s look at killer hurricanes in the years since Katrina. Hard to find many, right? So does that mean that global warming is not happening? You know what? It means that there’s a lot to figure out and that we shouldn’t listen to the shouters.