Close this search box.

Open Letter to Warmist Prof. Nordhaus lays out the case for climate skepticism

Special to Climate Depot


Open Letter to 

Professor William Nordhaus

Sterling Professor of Economics and Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Yale University

28 Hillhouse Ave.

New Haven, CT 06511


June 1, 2020

Dear Professor Nordhaus-

I read the article recently published in Scientific American, and referenced in Yale Today, by Gilbert E. Metcalf, professor at Tufts University, entitled “How to Set a Price on Carbon Pollution”. The article discussed and praised your economic work and theories regarding the “Social Cost of Carbon”.

I was initially hopeful when I read your reference to “social cost of carbon”. I thought it might be referring to “carbon” – that is, soot or ash – particulate matter, which is clearly an air pollutant, and harmful to human beings.

I was disappointed. Your reference was not  to ”carbon”. It was to carbon dioxide – an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas found in tiny, trace amounts in the atmosphere. The amounts are so small they only constitute about four molecules out of every ten thousand found in the air. (Nitrogen and oxygen comprise the remaining 99%). And of those four molecules, only one – one – can be attributed to the human combustion of fossil fuels.

Professor Metcalf’s article then goes on to discuss the theory of man-made climate change, and praises your work in measuring the social cost of its supposed causative culprit, man-made carbon dioxide.

The problem with any argument based on an assumption a priori is that the relevance and veracity of everything that comes after it depends on the truth of the assumption, which, in this case is that carbon dioxide – not carbon –  is a pollutant. 

 It is very clear that from logic, reason, and common sense, that carbon is an air pollutant and potentially harmful to human health. 

For all those same reasons, carbon dioxide definitely is not.

Oh, I know. Many famous, important, and learned people and institutions have opined that if this one CO2 molecule in ten thousand should be increased through human activity by even one more molecule by the year 2200, the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere will spiral out of control, and humans will be cooked into oblivion. As noted in Professor Metcalf’s article, these luminaries include the EPA, the United Nations, the US Council of Economic Advisors, 3,589 economists, 3 living, former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 27 Nobel Laureates, and many esteemed academics – including you, Professor Nordhaus.

The theory of man-made global warming, however, ignores a number of troublesome and indisputable facts established by many years of scientific research.

First, in the Earth’s geologic past, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has been over ten times what it is now, and because, not in spite, of these CO2 levels, plant and animal life thrived and prospered. Second, hundreds of studies of geologic history – the Vostok ice cores, ocean sediment samples, thousands of Earth cores – all demonstrate that increases in atmospheric CO2 follow, do not precede, increases in temperature of the atmosphere. The effect cannot precede the cause.

Third, the temperature of the Earth’s climate – and the content of CO2 in the atmosphere – change naturally. Yalies should be grateful for this fact, because as little as 14,000 years ago, New Haven and the entire Eastern seaboard down to New York City lay under a thick sheet of ice. Then for some reason – but having nothing to do with human activity – the Earth warmed very rapidly. The ice sheet retreated, leaving New Haven high and dry, and Long Island in its wake as a glacial moraine.

Most importantly, the theory of man-made global warming does not pass the sniff test – the test of common sense. It simply does not follow common sense to believe that an increase of one human-caused atmospheric CO2 molecule out of ten thousand over eighty years should result in ruination of the planet.

Once again – I know. By questioning this climate orthodoxy, by committing heresy against the church of man-made global warming, people like me are called “deniers” – as in “Holacaust deniers”. Let’s be clear. We are not denying anything. We are affirming what we believe to be the denial of the truth by others. Nevertheless, for expressing these views,  we are shunned and ex-communicated. The political, academic, and global bureaucratic elites have spoken. Man-made CO2 is evil. Drastic measures must be take to banish this malevolent CO2 from reaching the atmosphere. Most notably, this means eliminating the human combustion of fossil fuels. Electricity produced by the consumption of oil, coal, and, natural gas is an anathema. This electricity – which more than anything else is responsible and essential for our modern way of life and for modern communication, transportation, and medecine – is all verboten.

I feel that my generation – the Baby Boomers –  is uniquely qualified to observe and opine on this phenomena of conventional wisdom, of establishment authority, of supreme omniscience which requires adherence to an approved way of thinking. We are qualified to criticize a manner of thought which the political, academic, and globalist elites, in their supreme conviction, financial and reputational self interest, and noble self righteousness, believe to be the unquestionably appropriate point of view.

My generation knows, all too well, that that way of thinking produced the war in Viet Nam. And it was wrong.

Only when the abundant costs in lives, and freedom, and national honor became apparent. Only when prior unchallengeable assumptions became challenged. Only when the costs so clearly outweighed the benefits. Only when it  started to feel wrong to many Americans – morally, intellectually, and spiritually. Only when it just didn’t seem to make  common sense anymore. Only then did the tide of public opinion turn, and what was once seen as an endeavor unquestionably in the national interest, turned out to be the product of faulty – even disengenuos – assumptions.

The tide of public opinion on CO2 is now at its height. It will take some time for reason to return. It will take some time, perhaps even decades, before this conventional wisdom – championed by the best and the brightest, by the Ivy League-educated ruling class –  is appreciated as being wrong and, more importantly, the cause of calamitous consequences.

Yes, as far as the man-made global warming debate is concerned, it will take some time before Lux et Veritas prevails.

Who knows how many of the Baby Boomer generation will still be around to see it?


Collister Johnson, Jr.  Davenport, B.A. ‘68

About Collister Johnson

Collister Johnson

Johnson has spent the last four decades working in the public and private sectors in Virginia, primarily in the fields of project finance and maritime transportation. He began his career in public service as Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Port Authority. He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the Senate, as a member of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and most recently, as Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. In that capacity, he became knowledgeable in the field of climate and its impact on the Great Lakes. He currently serves on CFACT’s Board of Advisors. Johnson holds a B.A. degree from Yale University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.



We Are All Catastrophists Now – Nobel Laureate, William Nordhaus, also invokes the COVID crisis to provide some mojo for a climate plan he laid out in his 2018 Nobel address. He says, “The quick spread of COVID-19 is a grim reminder of how global forces respect no boundaries and of the perils of ignoring global problems until they threaten to overwhelm countries that refuse to prepare and cooperate.”

Climate Statistics Prof rips climate model claims: Certain Trade War over Uncertain Models — a response to Professor William Nordhaus, – American U. Climate Statistics Professor Dr. Caleb Rossiter: ‘As someone who has helped students in math modeling and statistics classes sort through these sorts of hypotheses over the past decade, I cannot share Professor Nordhaus’ certainty on either the causes or the effects of the warming to date and the predicted warming to come.  The models do not, in fact, attribute the recorded 1.2 degree Fahrenheit (or .7 degree Celsius) rise in temperature since around 1880 entirely to human-based emissions of warming gasses.  (And remember, this is a very rough estimate of the rise, since methods of producing a “global mean temperature” have varied widely in global coverage and accuracy over this period.)’Related: Politically Left Scientist Dissents – Calls President Obama ‘delusional’ on global warming – Rossiter on his conversion to a climate skeptic: ‘You are very isolated on the Democratic Party on the left — one is, I am — for having this conclusion of analysis…I would say since 2004, I’ve been very lonely. I’ve been lonely working on the Hill for the Democratic Party.’

What economist William Nordhaus gets wrong about climate change: ‘His attempt to rebut the “global warming skeptics” is itself filled with misleading arguments’ – ‘The actual situation is that the physical climate models have indeed predicted more warming than has actually occurred, while the economics literature casts serious doubts on the case for immediate government mitigation efforts’

Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus demonstrates that pursuing climate mitigation will make a nation worse off – “Using Nordhaus’s model assumptions, if the World as a whole fulfilled the Paris Climate Agreement collectively with optimal policies, then the world would be worse off than if it did nothing. That is due to most countries pursuing little or no actual climate mitigation policies. Within this context, pursuing any costly climate mitigation policies will make a country worse off than doing nothing. Assuming political leaders have the best interests of their country at heart, and regardless of whether they regard climate change a problem, the optimal policy strategy is to impose as little costly policy as possible for maximum appearance of being virtuous, whilst doing the upmost to get other countries to pursue costly mitigation policies.”

What the ‘Skeptics’ of Climate Catastrophe are Skeptical Of: Nordhaus Reconsidered: Warmist Nordhaus is attacking a straw man’ – Skeptics ‘refuse to label CO2 a ‘pollutant’ because it is essential to life and because we do not believe it has the claimed catastrophic impact’

‘Why William D. Nordhaus Is Wrong About Global Warming Skeptics Being Wrong…’ — ‘Earth’s climate continues to not cooperate with their models’ – ‘As the Earth’s climate continues to not cooperate with their models, the so-called consensus will eventually recognize and acknowledge their fundamental error. Hopefully we won’t have allowed decarbonization zealotry to bankrupt us beforehand’

Prof. Nordhaus claims to refute the climate skeptics — but he quotes the corrupt and politicized IPCC as Gospel – ‘Is Nordhaus credulous, ignorant or simply dishonest?’

‘Apocalypse Fatigue’: Nordhaus & Shellenberger: Public is ‘not going to be muscled into accepting apocalyptic visions…expert consensus has tended to have a less sterling track record’