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Nobel laureate Paul Krugman wrote a lengthy article, “Building a Green Economy,” in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Krugman is an able writer. He laid out the textbook arguments on climate change from the problem-and-act perspective, and his fact-of-the-matter tone and apparent expertise no doubt misled many readers.
Although he technically said nothing demonstrably false, Krugman gives the impression that there is widespread consensus that drastic action is needed to avert catastrophic climate change. This is simply not true, and all we have to do is actually read the consensus reports to see that Krugman is misleading his readers.
Krugman’s Summary of the Climate Science
After giving a good summary of the standard issues in the economics of climate change, Krugman pauses to comment on what the natural scientists (as opposed to the economists) have to say on the subject:
This is an article on climate economics, not climate science. But before we get to the economics, it’s worth establishing three things about the state of the scientific debate.
The first is that the planet is indeed warming. [I]f you look at the evidence the right way — taking averages over periods long enough to smooth out the fluctuations — the upward trend is unmistakable: each successive decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the one before.
Second, climate models predicted this well in advance, even getting the magnitude of the temperature rise roughly right. While it’s relatively easy to cook up an analysis that matches known data, it is much harder to create a model that accurately forecasts the future. So the fact that climate modelers more than 20 years ago successfully predicted the subsequent global warming gives them enormous credibility. [Krugman page 3, emphasis added.]
Now Krugman’s summary above is either accurate or not, depending on how much error we will tolerate in the predictions. But fair enough, we’ll agree with Krugman that climate models 20 years ago predicted higher average global temperatures, and that’s indeed what we’ve experienced. [Read more →]
April 16, 2010 5 Comments
Last week in the Huffington Post, climatologist Dr. James Hansen made an impassioned plea to President Obama to ditch cap-and-trade and instead advocate a plan to tax carbon-based fuels with 100% of the revenues returned to households. This was not the first time. Hansen made the same pitch back in December 2008 in a letter to President-elect Obama. President Obama did not heed Hansen’s advice, keeping his wagon hitched to cap-and-trade, the policy darling of Big Green, U.S. CAP, and congressional leaders. But with cap-and-trade bogged down on Capitol Hill, Hansen argues, his plan gives Obama ”a second chance on the predominant moral issue of this century.”
Hansen made the case for “tax-and-dividend” in testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee on February 25, 2009. I commented on Hansen’s testimony a week later on MasterResource. Substantively, there’s nothing new in Hansen’s Huff Post column, but rhetorically there is one modification. He now calls his proposal a “fee” rather than a tax. Despite Hansen’s earlier criticism of cap-and-trade as a hidden and thus dishonest tax, and his call for a “transparent” approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he now avoids the “T” word as assiduously as any shifty cap-and-trader.
Today’s column offers a running commentary on Hansen’s Huff Post piece. [Read more →]
April 15, 2010 11 Comments