“In the climate-science debate, there is a lot of talk about motivated reasoning—your political positioning determining what you think about the science,” Majkut said in an interview about the project unveiled this week.
“The thing that I think is very interesting and I think is going to be fresh and new about our program is that we are a libertarian outfit with a libertarian policy view, but we are going to take science seriously, and that is a fresh voice,” he said.
He’s part of a still-young think tank led by Jerry Taylor, who was once a senior official at the prominent libertarian Cato Institute and has undergone a major shift in his thinking over the past half-dozen years about the reality and scope of the climate problem.
Changing the conversation about climate science on the Right is something that Majkut says the Niskanen Center and his new project under its umbrella is well-poised to take on.
The group is coming at the problem from a different place than environmentalists and Democrats who savage the GOP’s rejection of the overwhelming view among scientists that global warming is real and driven largely by human activities.
“We have a libertarian, center-right audience. That is the community that Niskanen Center is speaking to and engages with at a policy level,” he said.
Nor is he a voice of dogmatism—his opening post states that “scientists have more work to do to resolve the various uncertainties about why we observe as much climate change as we do and what that that may mean for future warming.”
Niskanen’s announcement of the science-focused initiative says it aims to “critically examine” doubters’ arguments, and Majkut will have help. A pair of other climate scientists—Thomas Cropper and Sarah E. Myhre—have signed on as adjunct fellows.
These days, Taylor is one of a number of conservative voices making the swim-upstream case for a carbon tax (and generally a “revenue-neutral” one like Taylor wants).
It’s a group that also includes supply-side-economics father Art Laffer, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former GOP Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, conservative Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, and a number of others.
As the Niskanen Center and some other libertarian and conservative outfits push a carbon tax, something that Taylor and some others want coupled with repeal of Environmental Protection Agency climate regulations, the new climate-science project recognizes that changing views among lawmakers, congressional staff, and other policymakers on the Right is a key piece of the puzzle.
“We want to better inform the climate debate on the Right, and that starts with science,” Majkut said in an interview. “I think what our center is first focused on doing is creating space for there to be a real climate debate right here within the Beltway,” he said.