An article recently published in Scientific American, entitled “How to Set a Price on Carbon Pollution”, discussed and praised the economic work and theories of distinguished Yale Professor William Nordhaus regarding the “social cost of carbon”.

I was initially hopeful when I read the reference by Professor Nordhaus to the social cost of carbon. I thought it might be referring to actual “carbon” – that is, soot or ash – particulate matter – which is clearly an air pollutant, and harmful to human beings.

I was disappointed. The Professor’s reference was not to ”carbon”, but to carbon dioxide – an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas found in tiny, trace amounts in the atmosphere. The amounts are so small they only constitute about four molecules out of every ten thousand found in the air. (Nitrogen and oxygen comprise the remaining 99%). And of those four molecules, only one – one – can be attributed to the human combustion of fossil fuels.

The article then goes on to discuss the theory of man-made climate change and praises the Professor’s work in measuring the social cost of its supposed causative culprit, man-made carbon dioxide.

The problem with any argument based on an assumption a priori is that the relevance and veracity of everything that comes after it depends on the truth of the initial assumption, which, in this case is that carbon dioxide – not carbon – is a pollutant.

It is very clear that from logic, reason, science and common sense, that carbon is an air pollutant and potentially harmful to human health.

For all those same reasons, carbon dioxide definitely is not.

Oh, I know. Many famous, important, and learned people and institutions have opined that if this one CO2 molecule in ten thousand should be increased through human activity by even one more molecule by the year 2200, the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere will spiral out of control, and humans will be cooked into oblivion. As noted in the Scientific American article, these luminaries include the EPA, the United Nations, the US Council of Economic Advisors, 3,589 economists, 3 living, former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 27 Nobel Laureates, and many esteemed academics – including Professor Nordhaus. It also includes virtually every Yale institution, department, administration, and affiliated organization, as well as the faculty lounge.

The theory of man-made global warming, however, ignores a number of troublesome and indisputable facts established by many years of scientific research.

First, in the Earth’s geologic past, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been over ten times what it is now, and because, not in spite, of these CO2 levels, plant and animal life thrived and prospered. Second, hundreds of studies of geologic history – the Vostok ice cores, ocean sediment samples, thousands of Earth cores – all demonstrate that increases in atmospheric CO2 follow, do not precede, increases in temperature of the atmosphere. The effect cannot precede the cause.

Third, the temperature of the Earth’s climate – and the content of CO2 in the atmosphere – changes naturally. Yalies – me included – should be grateful for this fact, because as little as 14,000 years ago, New Haven and the entire Eastern seaboard down to New York City lay under a thick sheet of ice. Then for some reason – but having nothing to do with human activity – the Earth warmed very rapidly. The ice sheet retreated, leaving New Haven high and dry, and Long Island in its wake as a glacial moraine.

Most importantly, the theory of man-made global warming does not pass the sniff test – the test of common sense. It simply does not follow common sense to believe that an increase of one human-caused atmospheric CO2 molecule out of ten thousand over eighty years should result in the ruination of the planet.

Once again – I know. By questioning this climate orthodoxy, by committing heresy against the church of man-made global warming, people like me are called “deniers” – as in “Holocaust deniers”.

Let’s be clear. We are not denying anything. We are affirming what we believe to be the denial of the truth by others.

Nevertheless, for expressing these views, we are shunned and ex-communicated. The political, academic, and global bureaucratic elites have spoken. Man-made CO2 is evil. Drastic measures must be taken to banish this malevolent CO2 from reaching the atmosphere. Most notably, this means eliminating the human combustion of fossil fuels. Electricity produced by the consumption of oil, coal, and, natural gas is an anathema. This electricity – which more than anything else is responsible and essential for our modern way of life and for modern communication, transportation, and medicine – is all verboten.

I feel that my generation – the Baby Boomers – is uniquely qualified to observe and opine on this phenomena of conventional wisdom, of establishment authority, of supreme omniscience which requires adherence to an approved way of thinking. We are qualified to criticize a manner of thought which the political, academic, and globalist elites, in their supreme conviction, financial and reputational self-interest, and noble self-righteousness, believe to be the unquestionably appropriate point of view.

My generation knows, all too well, that this way of thinking produced the war in Viet Nam. And it was wrong.

Only when the abundant costs in lives, and freedom, and national honor became apparent. Only when prior unchallengeable assumptions became challenged. Only when the costs so clearly outweighed the benefits. Only when it started to feel wrong to many Americans – morally, intellectually, and spiritually. Only when it just didn’t seem to make common sense anymore. Only then did the tide of public opinion turn, and what was once seen as an endeavor unquestionably in the national interest, turned out to be the product of faulty – even disingenuous – assumptions.

The tide of public opinion on CO2 is now at its height. It will take some time for reason to return. It will take some time, perhaps even decades, before this conventional wisdom – championed by the best and the brightest, by the Ivy League-educated ruling class – is appreciated as being wrong and, more importantly, the cause of calamitous consequences.

Yes, as far as the man-made global warming debate is concerned, a glacier of climate groupthink has descended on New Haven. It will take some time before “Lux et Veritas” – Yale’s motto for over three centuries – prevails.

Who knows how many of the Baby Boomer generation will still be around to see it?


  • CFACT Ed

    CFACT -- We're freedom people.

  • Collister Johnson

    Johnson has spent the last four decades working in the public and private sectors in Virginia, primarily in the fields of project finance and maritime transportation. He began his career in public service as Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Port Authority. He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the Senate, as a member of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and most recently, as Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. In that capacity, he became knowledgeable in the field of climate and its impact on the Great Lakes. He currently serves on CFACT's Board of Advisors. Johnson holds a B.A. degree from Yale University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.