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.
“Yes, you read that correctly. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Laureate, writing in America’s paper of record, just accused nearly half of the House of Representatives, including both Republicans and Democrats, as guilty of treason against the very planet—along, presumably with the many thousands of scientists, policy analysts, economists, and environmentalists who have raised objections to the Waxman-Markey energy bill.”
– Ken Green, “Is Paul Krugman Inciting Violence?” The Enterprise Blog, June 29, 2009
New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman recently praised the passage of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill by the House of Representatives as a “remarkable achievement.” But rather than just congratulte House members voting aye, Krugman disparaged the nays as having undertaken “treason against the planet” for choosing “willfully, to ignore that threat [from climate change], placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about.”…
Chip Knappenberger was perhaps the first analyst to demonstrate the negligible impact on global temperatures that would result from unilateral U.S. adoption of the pending Waxman-Markey bill. Knappenberger showed that even if the U.S. cut its emissions by 83% (of the 2005 level) by the year 2050, and then capped them at that level indefinitely, the schedule of global temperature increases would only be postponed by about five years.
Naturally, supporters of strong government action argued that the whole point of Waxman-Markey was to give American negotiators credibility when they demanded reciprocal action from other countries; Paul Krugman says as much in a recent blog post. Yet this leads to the next major problem: If the whole world adopted the stringent emission cutbacks in Waxman-Markey, then the costs to the global economy would far outweigh any reasonable estimate of the benefits (measured in avoided climate damage).…