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Category — Krugman, Paul

The Climate Torquemada – Joe Romm at the Climate Inquisition

Two years ago, in Scenes from the Climate Inquisition, my colleague Steve Hayward and I observed that climate alarmists were growing ever more incendiary in their criticism of people who disagree with them. And these disagreements were not simply about the science, but about the favored policy choices of leftist environmentalists, many of whom had no training in public policy or economics.  As we wrote:

Anyone who does not sign up 100 percent behind the catastrophic scenario is deemed a “climate change denier.” Distinguished climatologist Ellen Goodman spelled out the implication in her widely syndicated newspaper column last week: “Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.” One environmental writer suggested last fall that there should someday be Nuremberg Trials–or at the very least a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission–for climate skeptics who have blocked the planet’s salvation.

Former Vice President Al Gore has proposed that the media stop covering climate skeptics, and Britain’s environment minister said that, just as the media should give no platform to terrorists, so they should exclude climate change skeptics from the airwaves and the news pages. Heidi Cullen, star of the Weather Channel, made headlines with a recent call for weather-broadcasters with impure climate opinions to be “decertified” by the American Meteorological Society. Just this week politicians in Oregon and Delaware stepped up calls for the dismissal of their state’s official climatologists, George Taylor and David Legates, solely on the grounds of their public dissent from climate orthodoxy. And as we were completing this article, a letter arrived from senators Bernard Sanders, Pat Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, and John Kerry expressing “very serious concerns” about our alleged “attempt to undermine science.” Show-trial hearing to follow? Stay tuned.

Desperation is the chief cause for this campaign of intimidation. The Kyoto accords are failing to curtail greenhouse gas emissions in a serious way, and although it is convenient to blame Bush, anyone who follows the Kyoto evasions of the Europeans knows better. The Chinese will soon eclipse the United States as world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, depriving the gas-rationers of one of their favorite sticks for beating up Americans.”

At the time, we naively hoped that there would be a moderation of such language, as some saner voices were beginning to push back against the whole slander-denier complex.

Alas, the venom-spitting of the the climatistas is increasing in direct proportion to the probability of failure in enacting their world-girdling eco-theocracy. And the leader of the pack, Joseph Romm of Climate Progress (Center for American Progress), turns out to be one of the least civil human beings to tread the planet. [Read more →]

November 9, 2009   11 Comments

Dear Superfreakonomics Critics: Time Is Money in the Climate Debate Too

One of the ugliest battles in the blogosphere climate wars has involved the newly released Superfreakonomics, sequel to the best-selling Freakonomics. In the new book’s final chapter (available here in pdf), economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner set out to challenge the view that massively restricting carbon emissions is the only hope for averting planetwide catastrophe.

In this post I will link to some of the major commentary on the book so far, and then focus on U.C. Berkeley economist Brad DeLong’s specific claims that Levitt and Dubner’s arguments in support of geoengineering are somehow “bad economics.” As we’ll see, Levitt and Dubner might be wrong, but if so they are wrong because of the numbers. DeLong is painting their views as self-evidently absurd, but that’s only because he himself is overlooking a basic economic point.

The Background

Not surprisingly, the climate scientists and economists who are most vocal about the need for drastic emissions cutbacks were furious when the book’s contents began circulating. Joe Romm got the ball rolling with this fiery post; his ally in such matters, Paul Krugman, soon followed suit. Dubner defended himself and co-author Levitt against Romm’s accusations of intentional distortion in this post, and one of the primary sources for the chapter, physicist (and all-around guru) Nathan Myhrvold, defended himself from Romm’s accusations of ignorance here.

In the present post, [Read more →]

October 29, 2009   1 Comment

Krugman on Waxman-Markey’s Cost: We Hope His Readers Can’t Multiply

Paul Krugman has been on the warpath lately regarding climate change economics. He has devoted his last two NYT columns (here and here) to the subject, as well as back-to-back blog posts (here and here). True to form, Krugman accuses those who disagree with him of abject stupidity and evil intent; for Krugman it is impossible that any decent economist who cares about human beings could actually think the costs of cap-and-trade legislation will be high. But as we’ll see, Krugman’s own figures don’t jibe with the narrative he’s pushing.

In his September 27 blog post, Krugman takes up his familiar theme of denouncing those who dare to say that Waxman-Markey carries a large price tag. After using a diagram to explain the textbook distinction between the compliance costs of a new tax (or mandate), versus the “deadweight loss,” Krugman excoriates economist Martin Feldstein for allegedly spreading lies:

[Feldstein] took the CBO’s estimate of “compliance costs”, which was $1600 per household in an early report (it’s now down to $900, but who’s counting?), and implied that this was the economic cost of the legislation. But “compliance costs” are basically the sum of the blue rectangle and the red triangle; the true economic costs are just the triangle, and are much smaller.

OK now, this is quite simply hilarious, if you can follow me through the argument. I really don’t think Krugman realizes just how much his pants are down on this one.

First off, Krugman is correct that there really is a distinction between the impact of a new tax in terms of paying extra revenues, versus the overall loss to the economy because of distorted incentives. But when the public wants to know “how much will cap-and-trade cost?”, it is quite reasonable for them to wonder, “How much will my electricity bill, or gasoline prices, go up because of this?” Most people do not realize that Krugman & Co. are netting out the gains to the recipients of free allowances and government expenditures when computing the “net burden on U.S. households.”

For an analogy, consider the debate over health care reform. [Read more →]

October 2, 2009   8 Comments