Ben Shapiro on Climate Change

Ben Shapiro’s opinion on Climate Change has been a consistent source of interest to fans and non fans alike as it seems to show the conflict in the two cornerstones of his brand: a commitment to facts and his loyalty to the conservative movement (as well as the republican party). That’s not an attempt to be tongue-in-cheek: polls routinely show republican’s are generally distrustful of the outcomes of Global Warming. Meanwhile a vast majority of climate scientists believe that the climate is changing (to potential disastrous consequences) primarily due to human caused actions. As always we’ll start with Ben’s position in his own words and then go about the business of placing them into context.

Short Story:

  • Ben agrees that humans are adding carbon dioxide to the environment and that there is a greenhouse gas effect taking place.
  • Mr. Shapiro also acknowledges that the coastline’s may be in jeopardy.
  • Ben believes that the lack of accuracy of climate models indicate a lack of certitude on the issue, a pre-requisite for government involvement.
  • As he has on other issues, Ben takes a libertarian approach to the issue citing that human’s should move and adapt to the changes in the climate rather than sweeping government interference.

Expanding Ben’s Views On Climate

Appearing on the Joe Rogan Podcast #993(time stamped for your convenience), Ben had a prolong engagement about global warming and government involvement. To add coherence and context, we’ll place the comments in chronological order as they occurred in the interview. For opinions about climate models and mitigation efforts, feel free to scroll to the bottom. :

“I think that if you’re going to worry about the emissions problem, worry about the the the sea absorption of emissions…the toxification of the oceans. That seems to me to be a bigger problem than the climate changing over time.”

Here Ben is referencing the link between ocean acidification and global warming which was believed to be causal but only confirmed in a 2017 paper from Stony Brook University which dealt with the tie between the Ocean’s consistent warming and harmful algae blooms. In the paper, the author’s say that the study “demonstrates that one ocean consequence of climate change that has already occurred is the spread and intensification of toxic algae.” We’ll stay out of the weeds on this sub-issue (interested readers are urged to investigate the topic more closely), but note that this is a sub-issue of a complex problem.

Shapiro went on in the following sentences to address the real applied question of what to do now that one can be confident that global warming is happening and humans are contributing to the problem. To this, Shapiro took essentially a libertarian approach: “We (humans) are pretty adaptable. There’s a lot of land, so we move. We have historically, right? I mean Venice the sea-level rise in Venice every year people are going to move. I mean that’s just that’s the way it works. There’s this weird idea and it’s it’s true in economics, it’s true with global warming, that where you were born is where you must die…it’s like well this is the most mobile society in human history we were on a plane and be on the other coast in six hours it’s it’s easier to move than ever before.”

Now we’re starting to get to he meat of it. Ben argues that, if we’re at risk of compromising our shoreline, so be it. People will move and the economy will adapt. He seems to be taking the same stance he took in his debate against Tucker Carlson, where Tucker argued that government’s should intervene to stop the destruction of entire cities (such as oil towns in the Midwest). To this Shapiro responded with the same solution: if cities close then people can and should move.

For this we do praise Shapiro’s consistency in holding to libertarian (American libertarian) values. However since he voluntarily brought up the economic situation of flooded coast lines, we’ll address that first. Ben is happy to appeal to the argument that it’s the wealthy that live near the coast and they will be the one’s at risk. As he says “am I going to lose a lot of sleep if Hollywood stars lose five feet off their coastline because we didn’t kill the industry of the United States and lose four trillion dollars a year? No.”

Indeed, a disproportionate amount of the wealth in the United States is concentrated on the coast. However that doesn’t mean that the wealthy are the only one’s that would lose, even if losing some beach line was the worst result of climate change. One thing the wealthy are generally very good at, is protecting their assets via insurance policies. As the 2008 financial crisis showed us, events can happen that cause an overwhelming liability to insurance companies (if all of the beachfront properties were washed away, for example) such that they threaten to collapse the entire financial infrastructure.

Alright, last point where Ben launches the more mainstream concerns:

“So (climate) modeling has been so wrong…(that) there’s no level of certitude and then there’s no level of solution that I know for sure is going to do this. So you’re talking about human beings suffering in the now for the later and let’s be real about this…yes there are a lot of emissions from the United States but the leading emitter on the planet right now is China and India and they’re not gonna stop this.”

Finally we arrive at the main thrust of the issue and perhaps the most interesting in terms of science and policy. If you weren’t aware, climate change modeling is very difficult to do the amount of variables involved, and the nature of those variables. For example, a man takes his dog for a walk and the dog urinates in the forest and then there’s more water runoff than predicted.

However because of the amount and nature of these variables, the uncertainties multiply over time resulting in long term predictions being further off than short term predictions. That’s why, for example, the meteorologist on the local news is more accurate about the weather tomorrow then at the end of the week (we’re intentionally conflating weather and climate for purposes of this example, don’t @ us). Perhaps the interesting aspect of this argument, as far as we’re concerned, is the sociological question: what should society do if the best the scientific community can produce (as far as predictions) is accurate but not precise? Now factor in the potentially disastrous consequences predicted by such a model and the question becomes even more necessary.

As always, should we become aware that Ben has changed his opinion or should new evidence be submitted that we have either misconstrued his opinion or failed to include important statements from him, we will 1) make the correction, 2) note the correction here, 3) issue a mea culpa that attempts to explain and improve on how we missed this. 

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