Worried About Climate Change

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Worried About Climate Change

By: John A. Baden, Ph.D.
Posted on May 18, 2017 FREE Insights Topics:

It's snowing hard at our Gallatin Valley ranch at noon on May 17, 2017. I'm writing to correct today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article listing FREE as skeptical about climate change.

No, we aren't. The data is clearAverage temperatures in Montana have warmed up by 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit since the early 1900's. Here is the back-story.

An organization calling itself Anonymous Poland hacked hundreds of thousands of pages of Bradley Foundation records and gave them to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. On May 17, 2017 the paper published an article by Lee Bergquist listing FREE as an organizations that has received Bradley Foundation funds.

That's correct, FREE received several $20,000 grants from Bradley for our work on environmental policy. We focus on the "romance" sector, the stuff featured on calendars. They include photos of agriculture, forests, parks, range, wild lands, wildlife, and water. We avoid noxious sludge in all dimensions. Climate change surely affects our romantic lands--but often in a positive manner.

One of my favorite bloggers, Gregory Curtis, recently observed: "The questions before the house are how fast climate is changing, in what direction, and whether it is changing primarily for organic reasons or because of human activity."

Those are important questions but there is more at issue. For over 20 years I produced some 50 seminars for Article III federal judges. Several were on climate change and my speakers included climate scientist and several Nobel Prize economists who published on energy and climate, Tom Schelling and Vernon Smith among them. I've heard most of the climate change arguments.

Gregory Curtis correctly observed that climate change has become a fiercely held religion. Question: Why is this true? Answer: It gives license for the enlightened to impose their vision of how (other) people should behave when organizing their daily lives. Despite the huge costs of mandated policy changes, many hitting most severely on the poor, few would make a significant difference in this century.  

There is a second question, one rarely asked: Is climate change positive or negative on net? Answer: It depends on where one lives and what he does. Here it is no hotter during summer days but is warmer at night. Also, our growing season is several weeks longer. 

On our ranch an hour north of Yellowstone National Park, climate change is overwhelmingly beneficial. Let me mention a few of the ways--but after stating the one serious cost: Winter snows melt earlier. (There are a few minor costs, i.e., fewer bugs are killed and others discouraged.)

In general, as long as aridity doesn't increase*, and it hasn't here, warmer is better. Examples follow:


Fewer domestic and wild animals experience winter kill

Food consumption is much lower when winters warmer

Spring turn out to graze is nearly a month earlier

New crops can be grown, e.g., corn

Three, or even four, cutting of alfalfa hay rather than two

Heating bills lower

Fewer people die during winter storms

Far easier and safer to feed at +15º F than -15º

(30 years ago we had livestock die with full feed at -40)

Warmer is easier on machinery.

Living is easier when winter is warmer!


People vote with their feet. When people from the Midwest retire do they go to Alberta or Arizona, Nevada or NorthWest Territories? This is a climate application of the Tiebout sorting model. But incentives to move south are smaller when it's warmer here. Of course improved technology is a great insulator against the cold. The combination makes Montana an ever-easier place to live--especially in winter.

My point is simply that climate change is real and has genuine affects. The rarely asked question about climate change involves its implications: Are they positive or negative? 

The answer is place specific. Individuals in some places have reason to be worried and to take responsible actions in anticipation of change. Here they are clearly positive on net while ice climbers and skiers may lose opportunities to play.

In sum, counter to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, FREE is not an organization skeptical about the existence about climate change. We don't however accept the legitimacy of its license for the enlightened to impose their vision of how (other) people should live. As a civil libertarian I consider the censorship of those doubting the alleged scientific consensus an assault far more serious than climate change.


*Period of Record General Climate Summary – Precipitation

Station (241044) Bozeman Montana


From Year 1892 to Year 2012

No clear change in precipitation

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