Krugman: Badly Misinformed About Climate

Paul Krugman has again asserted his right to be wrong about climate change today in The New York Times. Here is my response to Mr. Krugman which I have also posted on the Times site:

I wonder by what percentage Mr. Krugman has diminished his own carbon footprint in the last 5 years? In the last 10? In the last 30? Or, like most affluent people in the West, has his use of fossil-fuel derived energy increased with each passing decade as he has become more financially comfortable? Has he limited the number of plane trips he takes per year? Does he heat his home with solar-derived warm water? Does he own more than one home? Tom Friedman, for one, flies nearly as much as Al Gore and lives in an energy-draining mansion.

Energy hypocrisy is among the many reasons that Copenhagen rings hollow. Some others:

1. Calling time-out in the conventional-energy game before the Third World gets a chance to develop properly is a moral disaster. The only reason that we’re capable of even thinking about a better environment in the West is because of the economic comfort brought by plentiful and affordable energy. Our rivers and air are cleaner today than a century ago, but we had to go through some environmentally ugly-duckling phases on our way here. (Not that we should ever stop fighting particulate and chemical pollution; we shouldn’t.) China and India will NEVER accede to meaningful co2 caps, at least not before 90 to 95 percent of their populations have electric power, something that won’t be taking place in the immediate future.

Expensive playthings: Modern windmills typically require conventional power generation backup, kill millions of birds per year, and don't provide electricity during some of the most important periods of the year (harsh winter cold snaps, notorious for still winds).)

2. The countries that have run the farthest with wind power are in economic trouble over it already. This is particularly true of Spain, which attempted to force-feed its economy a technology that provides intermittent power at high cost, created high-paying but temporary jobs, and has created potentially long-lasting unemployment.

3. The buying and selling of carbon is a rich man’s game. If the Nobel-winning Krugman’s best economic thinking prompts him to get behind this absolutely insane investment bubble in the making, then people would do well to look beyond the presumed authority and think for themselves on this one.

4. So far, in the entire history of planet Earth, a spike in temperature has yet to be caused by a spike in co2. Al Gore forgot to mention in his movie that every temperature spike on his graph preceded the correlating carbon dioxide spike by 800 years. Is co2 a greenhouse gas? Yes. Has the planet been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age 200 years ago? Yes. Does this establish causation? No. Water vapor is a far more significant greenhouse gas than co2 and is involved in a variety of highly complex and, so far, impossible-to-predict feedbacks by which it can cool the ocean-atmosphere system.

5. Mr. Krugman’s easy dismissal of Climategate is a serious moral blind spot on his part. If oil-company e-mails among industry climate scientists (not that such people actually exist) suggested deleting e-mails that were part of a Freedom of Information Act process, do you think that Mr. Krugman would dismiss their significance? If an oil-industry scientist had written an e-mail to his peers saying that he had found a good “trick” to “hide” the increase in temperature, would Mr. Krugman similarly tell his readers that this was no big deal? If oil-industry scientists described ways to control the peer-review process and freeze out scientists warning of global warming, Mr. Krugman would be fine with that, right?

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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