Willful Blindness

I am on the road today (off to London).  This is reprinted from Climate Skeptic:

Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn't help thinking that I was watching a form of treason "” treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research"¦.

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking "” if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided "” they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.

But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn't see people who've thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don't like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they've decided not to believe in it "” and they'll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial"¦.

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn't it politics as usual?

Yes, it is "” and that's why it's unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an "existential threat" to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole "” but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, 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. If that's not betrayal, I don't know what is.

So is it fair to call it willful blindness when Krugman ignores principled arguments against catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory in favor of painting all skeptics as unthinking robots driven by political goals? Yes it is.

I am not entirely sure how Krugman manages to get into the head of all 212 "no" voters, as well as all the rest of us skeptics he tars with the same brush, to know so much about our motivations.  He gives one example of excessive rhetoric on the floor of Congress by a skeptic "” and certainly we would never catch a global warming alarmist using excessive rhetoric, would we?

Mr. Krugman, that paragon of thinking all of us stupid brutes should look up to, buys in to a warming forecast as high as 9 degrees (Celsius I think, but the scientist Mr. Krugman cannot be bothered to actually specify units).  In other words, he believes there will be about 1 degree per decade warming, where we saw exactly zero over the last decade.  Even in the panicky warming times of the eighties and nineties we never saw more than about 0.2C per decade.  Mr. Krugman by implication believes the the Earth's climate is driven by strong positive feedback (a must to accept such a high forecast) "” quite an odd assumption to make about a long-term stable stystem without any good study showing such feedback and many showing the opposite.

But, more interestingly, Mr. Krugman also used to be a very good, Nobel-prize winning economist before he entered his current career as political hack.  (By the way, this makes for extreme irony - Mr. Krugman is accusing others of ignoring science in favor of political motivations.  But he is enormously guilty of doing the same in his own scientific field).   It is odd that Mr. Krugman would write

But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill's economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Taking this statement at face value, a good economist would know that if the costs of a cap-and-trade system are low, then the benefits will be low as well.  Cap-and-trade systems or more direct carbon taxes only work if they are economically painful for energy consumers.  It is this pain that changes behaviors and reduces emissions.  A pain-free emissions reduction plan is also a useless one.  And in fact, the same studies that show the bill would have little economic impact also show it will have little emissions impact.  And thus it is particularly amazing Krugman can play the "traitor" card on 212 people who voted against a bill nearly everyone on the planet (including the ones who voted for the bill) know will not be effective.

I remember the good old days when Democrats thought it was bad when Republicans called folks who did not agree with them on Iraq "traitors."  After agreeing with Democrats at the time, I am disapointed that they have adopted the same tactic now that they are in power.


  1. David Y:

    Where does one begin with this? My head is about to explode--and Krugman's stuffing more C-4 into my ear--with his articles as potential detonators.

    I would point the "deniers are evil people; of COURSE it's warming disastrously, and it's ALL our fault" camp to the recent findings on the missing limbs and extra limbs in frogs. My, what a surprise that after being 'certainly due to mankind's abuse of the environment', it turns out to be Mother Nature--in the form of dragonfly nymphs feeding on hind legs of tadpoles, and another natural pathogen causing extra limb growth.

    What will it take to get these religious, guilt-toting zealots to say "Oh, wait; never mind"? Collapse of society? An ice age? A CME/solar flare squarely aimed at us to kick us back a century (or just fry the bejesus out of us)? An asteroid hit? This whole disastrous AGW obsession is nothing less than a mass psychosis.

  2. David Y:

    This is off-topic, but I wanted to say that your description of Transformers 2 was a fun read. I went to Dartmouth and we too called them 'visitors'. ;-)

  3. DKH:

    I had to laugh at the "immorality of climate-change denial." According to whom? Paul Krugman, economist and moralist?

    Also, apparently admitting that the climate changes comes with a whole host of other conclusions: climate change is, in a significant way, caused by humans; climate change is a problem; climate change can be "solved" through legislation; and probably several others.

    There seem to be many holes just in this excerpt. It only bothers me, though, if other people read it and believe it. I don't know to what extent that happens.

    Also, I would ask that we keep Transformers 2 discussion off this thread (and on the original thread), as I haven't seen it yet, but would like to read this thread.

  4. Rob:

    >>I remember the good old days when Democrats thought it was bad when Republicans called folks who did not agree with them on Iraq “traitors.” After agreeing with Democrats at the time, I am disapointed that they have adopted the same tactic now that they are in power.<<

    Unfortunately, you were silly to think that they'd behave any differently. They're just the opposite side of the same coin (or should I say slug, since "coin" might imply that there was something of value involved?)

  5. RJP:

    Which Republicans exactly explicitly called folks that disagreed with them on Iraq 'traitors'? I remember a lot of whining by the Democrats claiming they were being called traitors, when in actuality they were just being called 'wrong'.

  6. David Y:

    DKH--Fully agree w/your comments. And my apologies re: any TF2 ref's; I haven't seen it yet either.

  7. Allen:

    I've been following Krugman's blog for awhile, maybe 4 or 5 months now. Krugman's rational is frequently mind bogglingly but many commenters on his blog make some of the crap his tosses around look well thought out. Sometimes I'm amazed we've gotten as far as we have as a society running across those folks.

  8. Mesa Econoguy:

    Krugman long ago forfeited any credibility he may have had in the economics community, so it is almost completely unsurprising that he would now turn to climate science (such as it is) to contaminate that discussion.

    I find it beyond amusing when anyone cites him as an authority on anything. He still can’t get over the fact that he was fired by Reagan because his forecasting sucked ass. On the other hand, maybe he would make a good climate modeler for this reason.

    And we have Princeton to thank for this charlatan, Warren….

  9. EricP:

    As a software developer with some experience with computer models, I personally think that global warming is a crock unless there we develop a LOT more physical data. The current data is a joke.

    However I have to disagree with those that think that it is impossible to domestically (internationally it is a nightmare) impose a cost on carbon dioxide emissions at low cost in spending power for individuals. The current legislation doesn't do that but it doesn't mean that it is impossible. If you doubled the cost of fuel but gave all the new taxes back as equal tax cuts or direct reimbursements (yeah right), people would then spend the money. Some would go to defray the new additional costs of energy but people would have an incentive to maximize the return and cut fuel usage. This shift in spending would encourage shifts in production (my cousin tells me that year-old Hummers are now selling for $15,000 at auction).

    It is simple economics. If you double the cost of gas but hand someone $2000 cash. Most people won't spend that $2000 to make up the gas increase. They will try to maximize the value of the money and cut the amount of gas they use.

    The problem of course is that politicians CAN'T not spend the new taxes and even if we had saintly politicians there is a cost to collecting the taxes so you end up with a net loss. If kept low-enough, it is possible to reduce usage without actually reducing people's spending money too much. The political class just aren't up to doing it.

    Personally I assume that the Dems are looking to pay for universal health care with the carbon tax but are afraid to admit it since health care is supposed to be cost neutral because of all the cost cutting they can provide and a carbon tax is supposed to neutral because they are magical.