My hilarious global warming exchange with Ruffin and Gregory

In November 2000 I received a complimentary copy of a new microeconomics textbook by two professors at the University of Houston. The book’s treatment of global warming was so amazing that I picked up some HTML (thanks Barb!!!) and brought their text onto the web, along with an email exchange with the authors, emails from the publisher, and a postscript. Read on and enjoy!

For an update (but much less hilarious) see also my 2010 report: “Grading economics textbooks on climate change”.

Ruffin and Gregory’s text on global warming

From Ruffin, Roy J. and Paul R. Gregory, Principles of Microeconomics, 7th Edition (Boston: Addison Wesley, 2001), p. 380.

Example 5: Global Warming—The Great Debate

The debate over global warming shows that no matter how much contrary evidence is presented, it does not matter. The popular sentiment by politicians, the press, and educators makes three disputable claims: (1) global warming is occurring, (2) global warming is caused by our consumption of fossil fuels, and (3) global warming is bad for our future. But every single one of these claims is disputed by reputable scientists. For example, the earth has gotten warmer over the past 300 years, but it is still on a cooling trend over the past several thousand years. A warm 1999-2000 winter is hardly conclusive scientific proof. Indeed, when a “scientific consensus” for global warming is presented in the press, that consensus is based on a group consisting largely of social scientists and educators who have no direct knowledge of climate science. There are in fact very few climatologists in the United States, and the majority of them are skeptical of global warming.

Most of the evidence for global warming is really based not so much on measurements but on models of global warming that predict it will occur. These predictions, however, have been systematically biased upward; each year the models have to be revised downward. When a model makes a false prediction, it should be rejected rather than used as a basis for policy. Actual measurements of atmospheric temperatures show no alarming trend.

It has been argued by some economists that even if global warming takes place, it may prove to be beneficial to society. Agricultural production may be stimulated, it will cost less to heat our homes, and we may spend more time fishing, swimming, and golfing.

But the biggest risk of doing something about global warming is that the costs of cutting carbon emissions will fall on the poorest members of our planet—the developing countries. Since economic development is energy intensive, raising the cost of using carbon resources will cut the economic growth rates of countries such as India and Mexico more than that of more advanced countries.

Source: http://www.cato.org/speeches/sp-jt011698.html.


My email exchange with Ruffin and Gregory

From: Yoram Bauman
To: Ruffin and Gregory, with a cc: to Mr Shea (someone at their AWL, their publisher)

Subject: Textbook
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2000 16:13:11 -0800 (PST)

Professors, Mr. Shea: I have received a desk copy of the 7th edition of your Principles of Microeconomics textbook, and I must say that I am astounded by your coverage of global warming. To say that “the debate over global warming shows that no matter how much contrary evidence is presented, it does not matter” is completely unprofessional, bringing to mind conspiracy theories and black helicopters rather than reasoned analysis worthy of an academic text. It also happens to be wrong, at least according to voices you should find respectable (see for example the November 16th edition of The Economist).

I encourage you (and you, Mr. Shea) to recall this textbook as misleading and untrustworthy. For my part, I am going to spread the word about your textbook and Mr. Shea’s publishing house.

Sincerely,
yoram bauman
econ grad student
University of Washington, Seattle


From: Roy Ruffin
To: Yoram Bauman

Subject: Re: Textbook
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 08:38:50 -0600

Dear Mr. Bauman: Received your e-mail. I think you must misunderstand the nature of the example on global warming. When we say that the issues are “debatable,” this simply means that there are disagreements among scientists not that the notions are untrue. We’re sorry to have alarmed you so much. Global warming is a serious issue, but one that should be addressed by scientific evidence and methods rather than a pros and cons approach that we seem to see. Global warming is certainly occurring. But there are questions dealing with its solution because the models themselves still need to be worked out until their predictions fit all the facts at our disposal–this is a point we have not yet reached. As a scientist, I believe that we must use testable and fully tested models of scientific questions. There is still the problem of the difference between atmospheric temperatures and earth-based measurements, and the models have not yet addressed this difference. This does not in any way deny global warming. Perhaps we should have used the word “controversial” rather than “debatable,” but its a big book and wrong words are often used. In any case, this will give you a chance to show just how smart you are compared to the authors! Thanks for your comments; hopefully, in the next edition there will be more closure on this issue. Best regards, Roy Ruffin


From: Yoram Bauman
To: Roy Ruffin (with cc: to Gregory and Shea)

Subject: Re: Textbook
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 16:37:55 -0800 (PST)

Professor: Thanks for your reply. I am not at all troubled when you say that global warming is debatable; disclaimers such as “the balance of evidence suggests that…” appear everywhere. What troubles me is when you say that global warming is _not_ debatable, and that is clearly the message of your sidebar, beginning with the opening sentence: “The debate over global warming shows that no matter how much contrary evidence is presented, it does not matter.” I cannot interpret this sentence (or the sidebar as a whole) in any way that is even remotely consistent with what you say in your email (“Global warming is a serious issue…”; “Global warming is certainly occurring…”; “[We] simply mean that there are disagreements among scientists…”).

I hope that you and Professor Gregory (and Mr. Shea, your publishing representative) will recognize this inconsistency and act accordingly. Your suggestion that this “misunderstanding” could be cleared up by using the word “controversial” rather than “debatable” is quite odd, if for no other reason than that words like “debate” appear only twice in your sidebar: once in the title (“Global Warming–The Great Debate”) and once in the opening sentence (quoted above). Thereafter your sidebar features not equivocations but declarations (“There are in fact very few climatologists in the United States, and the majority of them are skeptical of global warming”). These declarations are based on a single suspect source (see my postscript below for details), appear to contain major factual inaccuracies, and are at odds with what you say in your own email.

I would suggest that your reputations as scholars (and Addison-Wesley’s reputation as a trustworthy publishing house) are at stake here in much the same way that Paul Ehrlich’s reputation was at stake in his ill-fated bet with Julian Simon. To his credit, Ehrlich at least had the honor and good sense to acknowledge his error and pay the cost. It will be to your credit if you do the same and recall your textbook.

Sincerely,
yoram bauman

PS. In your book you dismiss the “scientific consensus” on global warming as one “consisting largely of social scientists and educators who have no direct knowledge of climate science.” Yet your own sidebar is based entirely on a lecture by the director of the Cato Institute’s program on natural resources, a man who may himself have no direct knowledge of climate science. (He didn’t return my emails, so I don’t know for sure.) What I do know for sure is that some of his claims fail to stand up to scrutiny. For example, he says that “4,000+ scientists (70 of whom are Nobel Prize winners) have signed the so-called Heidelberg Appeal, which warns the industrialized world that no compelling evidence exists to justify controls of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.” I have located various copies of the Heidelberg Appeal on the web (for example, at www.heartland.org); all of them feature the identical text, and that text makes no mention of greenhouse gas emissions.


From: Paul Gregory
To: Yoram Bauman

Subject: Re: Textbook
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 22:50:43 -0500 (EST)

Dear Mr. Baum:

Your approach does not encourage discourse on the subject of global warming. I imagine that 99 out of 100 reports that reach the general public assert without doubt that global warming exists and will have dire consequences. When we cite an article that states that this may not be true, we are labelled as seeing “black helicopters” and declared “ignorant.” We may reach the point soon where anyone who raises such questions will be penalized and punished. It is rather extreme to ask the withdrawal of a book that consists of almost 800 pages of good economic analysis because of a sentence that you disagree with. The offending sentence simply says that contrary evidence has been and continues to be ignored.

I truly hope that this is not your position. If so, it does discredit to the position that you espouse and suggests a witchhunt.

Regards


From: Yoram Bauman
To: Paul Gregory (with cc: to Ruffin and Shea)

Subject: Re: Textbook
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 07:15:14 -0800 (PST)

Professor: Thank you for your email. At some point I hope that you and your coauthor can move beyond denial and anger and reach acceptance. What I hope you will accept is this:

1. It is not scholarly to say things like “I imagine that 99 out of 100 reports that reach the general public assert without doubt that global warming exists and will have dire consequences.” Academic discourse, and especially academic publications, should meet a higher standard than that found in the media, and a much higher standard than that found in our imaginations.
2. It is your approach, not mine, that “does not encourage discourse on the subject of global warming.” It is your writings, not mine, that claim that “the debate over global warming shows that no matter how much contrary evidence is presented, it does not matter.” It is your text, not mine, that dismisses contrary viewpoints. And, though it was my email that raised concerns about seeing black helicopters, it is your text and your email that highlight those concerns by asserting a scientific conspiracy, by imagining a media conspiracy, and by seeing a witchhunt when in truth there are only tough questions and solid criticisms.
3. I am asking for the withdrawal of your textbook because I see no better option. An errata sheet would be fine, but I don’t think that you or your publisher would support something that focuses attention on your sidebar, and in any case I doubt that a suitable message exists for such an errata sheet: a “clarification of intent” would be duplicitous, and a substantive clarification would be too uncomfortable. The only other alternative that I see is to sweep it under the rug and make changes in your next edition, but I hope that you and your publisher will find this dishonorable and distasteful.

Finally, I must point out that I have never declared you to be “ignorant”, and I do not intend to. I think you have made a mistake, and I hope you take appropriate steps to acknowledge and correct that mistake.

Sincerely,
yoram bauman


From: Paul Gregory
To: Yoram Bauman

Subject: Re: Textbook
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2000 10:31:34 -0500 (EST)

Your colleague declared us ignorant, not you. We don’t seem to be progessing with these exchanges; therefore, this is my last one.


Emails from the economics editor at Addison-Wesley

From: Victoria Warneck
To: Yoram Bauman

Subject: Ruffin-Gregory
Date: 11 Dec 2000 11:38:58 -0500

Dear Mr. Bauman:

Thank you for your recent query to our web site. David Shea has forwarded me your messages regarding Ruffin-Gregory and the example on global warming. I am sorry that the authors’ treatment of this subject has offended you, and thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

We are in the midst of reviewing the material in question. If you have further thoughts on this topic, please feel free to write to me at this email address. Written correspondence may be sent to the address listed below.

Again, many thanks for your valuable thoughts on this topic.

Sincerely,
Victoria Warneck
Economics Editor
Addison-Wesley


(My side of this email exchange is not at all interesting, so I’m skipping it…)


From: Victoria Warneck
To: Yoram Bauman

Subject: RE: Ruffin-Gregory
Date: 18 Dec 2000 09:21:42 -0500

Dear Mr. Bauman:

Thank you for your message and for your concern about our coverage of this issue. I will let you know the outcome of our discussions. It would be helpful if you could send to me (in a single email, if possible) the comments that you have gathered from climate scientists. I do not doubt the validity of your point of view, but having informed opinions from scientists may come in handy. Is there a chance that you could forward these to me by Monday afternoon?

I appreciate your willingness to assist us. I will be in touch soon.

Sincerely,
Victoria Warneck


From: Victoria Warneck
To: Yoram Bauman

Subject: RE: Ruffin-Gregory
Date: 24 Dec 2000 13:33:29 -0500

Dear Yoram:

Thank you for forwarding these email messages. I appreciate all of your efforts! We will indeed modify the book’s coverage of global warming in the next (i.e., third) printing.

Very best wishes for the holiday season–

Sincerely,
Victoria


Postscript

Many thanks to all those who took the time to write to Ruffin and Gregory and/or to me about this issue–it seems like we’ve had some success!!! Someday I hope to come across the new printing of Ruffin and Gregory’s textbook; if and when I do I will post their updated treatment of global warming…

17 responses to “My hilarious global warming exchange with Ruffin and Gregory”

  1. Great work and love your standup.
    Any update on this dynamic duo’s textbook.

  2. I think the e-mails have established that Ruffin and Gregory are simply stating what the real scientific position is, and you are an ignoramus.

    Thanks for sharing

  3. Well, the tone of this part of the text is not what one could expect of a scholarly-oriented book, obviously.

    But when the authors write that “The debate over global warming shows that no matter how much contrary evidence is presented, it does not matter. The popular sentiment by politicians, the press, and educators makes three disputable claims: (1) global warming is occurring, (2) global warming is caused by our consumption of fossil fuels, and (3) global warming is bad for our future. But every single one of these claims is disputed by reputable scientists.” they are obviously right.

    The consensus rhetoric is everywhere though easily proven wrong. Those who insist on it can only refuse to acknowledge the existence of the dissenting literature. Therefore, as Ruffin and Gregory say, “no matter how much contrary evidence is presented, it does not matter” for the so-called consensus supporters. Let me remind you that by definition, the consensus rhetoric, does not consist in debating and refuting other scientists’ claims but in ignoring them or in claiming these people are not serious scientists. Then, Ruffin and Gregory are entirely right to suggest this campaign amounts to a religious fever as far as most politicians, the press and “educators” are concerned.

  4. Global warming??I call it global government gains.Scientists say the polar Regions are 1 deg cooler today than what they were 40 years ago..The general public are so gulable who believe we are doomed if we dont act now lolololololol..This is all a government political stunt to gain more money from us….Hello ???????????

  5. As a Houstonian who’s published in “reputable scientific journals”, I have to apologize for UH for giving tenure to professors who so profoundly fail to understand the nature of scientific reasoning, and who have obviously made no effort to approach the scientific literature on climate change. When they state that ” that consensus is based on a group consisting largely of social scientists and educators who have no direct knowledge of climate science”, they fail to recognize the Nobel Peace Prize winning work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IGPP is composed entirely of climate researchers, and has been instrumental in defining the consensus view. To state otherwise is clearly an error.

    Their assertion that there are few American climatologists involved in creating the consensus view implies that contributions from non-US scientists are unimportant, and is an inu

  6. Sorry, my laptop’s hypersensitive touchpad hit “submit” before I intended to. The last sentence of my comment should read:

    Their assertion that there are few American climatologists involved in creating the consensus view implies that contributions from non-US scientists are unimportant, and is an insult to the entire international scientific community, and to the global climate data itself.

  7. Okay, a third comment. Noticing the date of publication of their book and the emails, nearly 10 years ago, I hope they’ve changed their views since then. Unfortunately the other two commenters don’t seem to have recognized that the data have become only more clearer and more comprehensive since then.

  8. Global warming is a load of hog wash..!!!!!

  9. Until the Global Warmists explain what human activity has caused the warming and cooling of the earth for many thousands of years as seen in the geological record, antarctic ice cores and recorded history such as the warming circa 1200 A.D. and “mini ice age” beginning in the 1400′s A.D. , note I said HUMAN ACTIVITY, it will be difficult for me to put faith in the computer models. Until then I will consider it social engineering.

    Human activity did not cause previous climate changes—google, e.g., “Milankovich cycles”—but that doesn’t mean human activity is not causing climate change this time around. –Yoram

  10. I cant place my true ID here as i work for a government department involed in climate change.All i can say here is this global warming talk is all RUBBISH..There is NO evidence that global warming exists,infact its the opposite.The earth is 0.8 to 1.1 deg C, cooler today than it was 100 years ago.Soon as a floods, natural disasters etc,happen in any part of this glob its all blammed on global warming and put on every media possible eg,radio, television etc.This is called high impact brain washing.

  11. Global Warming and Climate Change is the biggest environmental issue that we face these days. the long term effects of these environmental changes to a nations economy is quite damaging. there would be a shortage in food supply as well as on water supply too.

  12. Most of us who weigh in on this issue are not climatologists. But this has become a huge issue of our age.
    I think we have become sidetracked by the way this debate has been framed, and I’m not placing the blame for that anywhere.
    Now we have a democratic president pushing for a new generation of nuclear power plants. Would that be possible without the threat of global warming ?
    We have pesticide companies, and genetically altered crop companies, poised to make a fortune off of “saving” world agriculture ?
    Does this mean that global warming is fake ? No. Absolutely not.
    But it has been co-opted.
    Whether something is real or fabricated may not matter anymore.
    Now, for us, it’s about paying attention to the way people in power are handling these situations.
    When our emotions begin to stir, it is our responsibility to stand back and ask why we are feeling this way.
    Are people using incendiary language ? Somehow trying to pull my heartstrings ?
    These are the moments we need to think the most clearly and become the most detached.
    Forget the message of global warming for a moment – take the emotion out of it –
    do the steps being taken by governments and large organizations work for the entire people of the world ?
    or might they benefit only a select few ?
    It is especially useful to follow the money when attempting to answer these questions.
    Global warming, real or not, is also another issue that can be used by anyone for their own means.
    Let’s stop arguing about whether it’s real or not, and start learning about how it might be being used.

  13. Short supply of food and water due to global warming ?RUBBISH,if there is going to be a shortage of these its because of OVER POPULATION OF THE GLOBE NOT GLOBAL WARMING..
    Our biggest threat is GLOBAL OVER POPULATION i repeat GLOBAL OVER POPULATION….

  14. The probelm is there are 2 billion too many people on this planet.Yet in some countries the governments give each new borns mothers $5,000 US…WORK THAT ONE OUT CAUSE I CANT.

  15. Government POWER……………Governments can make people believe anything !!!

  16. I agree with Bensso’s comment 100%.

  17. Why is this debate here, on a website dedicated to economic humor, and not somewhere like the Wikipedia talk page for Global Warming?

Join My Email List