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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

Watch or listen here or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

EPISODE # 186

William Nordhaus on the Economics of Global Warming, Pandemics, and Corporate Malfeasance

The Spirit of Green: The Economics of Collisions and Contagions in a Crowded World (book cover)

In this conversation, based on his book The Spirit of Green: The Economics of Collisions and Contagions in a Crowded World, Nobel Prize-winning pioneer in environmental economics Dr. Nordhaus explains how and why “green thinking” could cure many of the world’s most serious problems — from global warming to pandemics. Solving the world’s biggest problems requires, more than anything else, coming up with new ways to manage the powerful interactions that surround us. For carbon emissions and other environmental damage, this means ensuring that those responsible pay their full costs rather than continuing to pass them along to others, including future generations. Nordhaus describes a new way of green thinking that would help us overcome our biggest challenges without sacrificing economic prosperity, in large part by accounting for the spillover costs of economic collisions.

In a discussion that ranges from the history of the environmental movement to the Green New Deal, Nordhaus explains how the spirit of green thinking provides a compelling and hopeful new perspective on modern life. At the heart of green thinking is a recognition that the globalized world is shaped not by isolated individuals but rather by innumerable interactions inside and outside the economy. He shows how rethinking economic efficiency, sustainability, politics, profits, taxes, individual ethics, corporate social responsibility, finance, and more would improve the effectiveness and equity of our society. And he offers specific solutions — on how to price carbon, how to pursue low-carbon technologies, how to design an efficient tax system, and how to foster international cooperation through climate clubs.

William Nordhaus is the winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics and is the Sterling Professor of Economics and Professor in the School of the Environment at Yale University. His previous books include The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World and A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. Shermer’s five questions:

  1. Is global warming real?
  2. Is it primarily human caused?
  3. How much warmer is it going to get?
  4. Is it an existential threat?
  5. What should we do about it?

Shermer and Nordhaus discuss:

  • the history of the environmental movement,
  • how and why the environment/global warming got bundled with politics & economics,
  • why all environmental decisions are economic in nature. Thomas Sowell: “Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.” Therefore, “there are no perfect solutions, just trade-offs.”
  • the tragedy of the commons/collective action problems/game theory solutions,
  • discounting the future,
  • How confident is he in climate models?
  • How do you calculate the “cost” of global warming over time?
  • positive and negative externalities,
  • rights of future generations to have a sustainably livable planet,
  • exo-civilizations: what kind of government and economy should we set up on Mars?
  • Kuznets Environmental Curve: “the environment gets worse before it gets better”
  • the Green New Deal,
  • Modern Monetary Theory and why he’s skeptical of it,
  • profiting in green technology,
  • carbon credits, green taxes, sin taxes, and
  • Milton Friedman and free-market environmentalism.

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Retrospective

Skeptic cover art by Pat Linse

Art of the Skeptic

In celebration of Skeptic magazine’s 100th issue, we present sage graphic art advice for skeptical groups and a gallery of art reflecting more than 47 years of skeptical activism from Skeptic’s long time Art Director, Pat Linse

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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