One of the principle arguments put forth by greens against global-warming “denialists” is that they are not qualified to dispute the subject-matter specific conclusions of scientific experts.

I submit that the science underlying the global-warming discussion is easier to understand than the economics underlying the policies we are urged to adopt so as to avert the climate catastrophe. Let’s table for now the question what constitutes an expert in a field both new and impacted by vexed phenomena (e.g., hydrodynamics, turbulent flows).

The global-warming equation goes along these lines: Carbon in the atmosphere creates a greenhouse effect that traps heat. (True.) However, the amount of heat trapped through this mechanism is insufficient to cause the amount of warming predicted. (True, and scientists agree.) But, other atmospheric phenomena amplify the greenhouse effect and may create a feedback loop leading to “runaway” warming. (Is this true? It depends on what “model” you follow.

This last part of the equation, on which the soundness of global-warming predictions depends, is sometimes referred to as the “multiplier,” which is a kind of MacGuffin used to explain liberal theories instead of movie plots. Liberals believe that a different “multiplier” increases the economic activity produced by every dollar of government spending. (This latter is, or at least should be, true, because it’s why investing can be profitable.) But, it’s also always the part of the equation that’s least certain and most subject to manipulation — set the multiplier at e.g. 15 instead of 7 and quantitative easing is suddenly much more difficult to argue with.

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