Libertarians on Climate Change

This post is part of the preliminary results of the NoL Foreign Policy Survey 2017 Pilot. I will be posting results throughout the week as I play around with the data. As always, I strongly emphasize that this is a pilot survey and these are just preliminary results

Are libertarians climate change deniers? No. The majority agree that it is occurring, caused by human activity, and that it is harmful. They do not however support unilateral action by the United States government. At least not the average libertarian respondent.


Note that the last question, asking about supporting unilateral action, is on a different scale from the other three.


When you drill down by type of libertarian though you start to see stark differences. Left-libertarians agree much more strongly that climate change is occurring, caused by human activity, and harmful. They are also much more in support of unilateral action to prevent climate change.



What is driving the differences between type of libertarian? Part of the story seems to be that those who think climate change is harmful are more willing to act to address it, but I suspect a large part of the story is also that some libertarians, particularly market anarchists, simply do not trust the government. Market anarchists are less likely to believe climate change is harmful or caused by humans compared to libertarians at large, but the big difference in opinion is whether the government should act on it.

Thoughts? Tomorrow I will be posting the demographics of those who took the survey.


Update: Updated graphs; minor coding error.

9 thoughts on “Libertarians on Climate Change

  1. Interesting, thanks!

    It’s crazy to me that so many people think climate change is harmful, or at least could be harmful. There’s costs and benefits to everything, including climate change, and I wish more people would read Rick’s thoughts on climate change…

    • Rick isn’t very informed, or smart. Deferring to authority (experts) is what we have all done, all of our lives whether we realize this or not. In the case of climate change, the experts have the experience and the credentials that qualify them as experts. It is not “blind deference” as claimed. I wrote this as part of a blog post several years ago:

      Here are the methods shown by Carrier, in order of high to low ranking (accuracy, evidence and plausibility):

      1) The method of reason (logic / mathematics).
      2) The method of science.
      3) The method of experience.
      4) The method of history.
      5) The method of expert testimony.
      6) The method of plausible inference.

      A full explanation of methods can be found on pages 49-61, “Sense and Goodness without God”, by Richard Carrier (linguist and historian). It would be important to read all the proceeding pages for a complete understanding of words, meaning, descriptions, and the proposition of words (experience) and how we can actually understand words themselves.

      I’ll do my best to summarize these here:

      The method of reason (logic and mathematics) produces the broadest, most complete and most consistent success, and excels over all other methods due to rigorous rules.

      The method of science uses empirical evidence, all of which can be tested, repeated and documented. The scientific method has shown itself to be far superior to our own casual observations.

      The method of experience is what we have actually observed and is more reliable then any of the methods that follow, but falls short of both science and reason, precisely because it is far less rigorous.

      The method of history lacks the ability of direct observation, but still offers critical historical analysis of what is more believable than what is not.

      The method of expert testimony ranks fifth. It is reasonable to trust experts more than non-experts who we have good evidential reasons to believe have applied one of the more accurate methods to a problem and reached well-founded conclusions from them if these experts meet certain test of reliability (pertinent qualifications, corroboration by many other experts, and demonstrative proof of non-bias).

      The method of plausible inference is the least reliable method, using inductive logic without direct evidence, yet offering compelling arguments.

      We have very valid reasons to “trust” the experts. Climate change experts fall into Category 1, logic and mathematics, Category 2, science, Category 3, experience, Category 4, history, Category 5, expert testimony, and Category 6, plausible inference.

      In other words, ALL six categories. All of these disciplines have been thoroughly applied. Measurements, experiments, repeated experiments, observations, historical records, expert testimony and eye-witness and plausible inference on what it all means – by highly qualified, highly educated and highly experienced experts.

      Therefore, we can be very confident in regards to what they have shared. There is no higher qualification then achieving ALL six of these from the same sources. They are not the reason why there is seeds of doubt – YOU are because you do not understand the methods, the accuracy, the evidence and the plausibility.

      Rick goes further in his article, interjecting straw arguments and conjecture in the article you linked. Burma? Solar panels? Using this article did not bolster your position.

    • JR if I didn’t know any better I’d say you didn’t even read Rick’s article…

    • Interesting list… I might move #3 down a couple places (anecdotes don’t sum to evidence), but maybe the original author addresses that. I’d appreciate if you’d write up a blog post version of it because I’ve got too much other stuff to read (which is a hard problem to deal with when you aren’t very smart!).

      Part of my original point was that there’s only so much any one of us can know and so we have to defer to experts frequently. So someone with a PhD in climatology might be able to say that some set of statements about climate change fall into all those categories, but until I go and get a new PhD in climatology I’m left with dealing with second-hand knowledge in the best case scenario. Even if I was a climate scientist, I’d have to deal with a lot of second-hand knowledge (i.e. it’s impossible to do any advanced science without standing on the shoulders of giants).

  2. Hm. I might remake the graphs as boxplots or add confidence intervals. There are many who think climate change may be good or neutral. It’s more that the median respondent is gloomy on climate change.

  3. From an objective perspective I think that argument has some weight, but from a subjective perspective, I have a good hang on geography, and I’d prefer not to have to relearn it because of sea level changes… even if it might make my kayak trips easier.

Please keep it civil

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s