Academics "Prove" It's Okay To Lie About Climate Change

Kevin Glass
Posted: Feb 26, 2014 9:01 AM
Academics "Prove" It's Okay To Lie About Climate Change
From "hide the decline" to the "hockey stick" to Rush Limbaugh, the debate over climate change is fraught with accusations that the other side is willfully lying about the facts in order to win. Now there are two academics out with a paper justifying lying about climate change in order to convince global governments to "do something" about it.

Fuhai Hong and Xiojian Zhao, economists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology respectively, are publishing a paper in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics called "Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements," which argues that manipulation of information by the media will "enhance global welfare" by inducing countries to agree to environmental accords (IEAs).

We show that the exaggeration of climate change may alleviate the problem of insufficient IEA participation. When the mass media has private information on the damage caused by climate change, in equilibrium they may manipulate this information to increase pessimism regarding climate damage even though in actual fact the damage may not be that great. Consequently, more countries will be induced to participate in an IEA in this state, thereby leading to greater global welfare ex post.

The article purports to prove, with an economic model, that the urgency of climate change and the necessity of international agreement makes it okay to lie about the projected consequences of climate change.

Progressives have advocated lying in order to get their way before, but this model is actually different from fighting lies with more lies; these two economists advocate lying even when assuming that the entire debate to this point has been entirely honest on both sides due to the asymmetric information problems and game theory involved. Now, they don't advocate "lying" - they merely propose "information manipulation," "accentuation" and "exaggeration" on the part of the media in order to enhance global welfare.

This isn't to suggest that all progressives advocate lying to further their political ideology, or even that it's particularly widespread beyond these two professors. But it's out there: there are academics who so vehemently believe that the urgency of action on climate change is so great that it justifies mass deception and lying in order to win, and are prepared to go to complex theoretical proofs in order to "prove" it.

An ungated version of this paper is here. Hat tip to Jayson Lusk.

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