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James Hansen Slams Joe Nocera For Failure To ‘Understand Basic Economics’ And Selective Quotation

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"James Hansen Slams Joe Nocera For Failure To ‘Understand Basic Economics’ And Selective Quotation"

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You might think an A-list business reporter for the NY Times would know basic economics. But not in the case of Joe Nocera.

His umpteenth confused post on the Keystone XL pipeline suggests that when he talks to people like, say, James Hansen, he doesn’t really listen:

On Monday, I finally spoke to Hansen. His knowledge and sincerity are easy to admire, even if his tactics are not. He told me he would like to see oil companies pay a fee, which would rise annually, based on carbon emissions. He said that such a tax could reduce emissions by 30 percent within 10 years. Well, maybe. But it would also likely make the expensive tar sands oil more viable. If you really want to eliminate expensive new fossil fuel sources, the best way is to lower the price of oil, which would render them uneconomical. But, of course, that wouldn’t exactly lower demand either.

#FAIL. Just how admirable is it to interview a world-class expert, mis-state his position, get the economics of his plan exactly backwards, and then disparage his tactics in the pages of the NY Times?

Hansen, as I would assume everyone knows, wants all fossil fuel providers to pay a fee, not just oil companies. Further, Hansen has published what he emailed Nocera:

An economic analysis indicates that a tax beginning at $15/tCO2 and rising $10/tCO2each year would reduce emissions in the U.S. by 30% within 10 years. Such a reduction is more than 10 times as great as the carbon content of tar sands oil carried by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (830,000 barrels/day). Reduced oil demand would be nearly six times the pipeline capacity, thus rendering it superfluous.

How precisely would a high and rising CO2 tax make the dirty tar sands more viable? In an epic blunder of basic economics, Nocera has apparently confused a higher market price for oil — which would make the tar sands more viable — with what Hansen has actually proposed, a higher price to the consumer and businesses for using carbon-based fuels (but no direct change in the market price).

Ironically, Nocera’s economics are so backwards that he fails to realize that his final lines of snark are also utterly dead wrong. The carbon tax Hansen proposes would clearly lower demand for oil overall, and thus lower the price of oil, which would also undermine the tar sands viability.

And as Brad Plumer notes in his debunking, “No, a carbon tax wouldn’t be good for Canada’s tar sands,” tar sands oil “would be at an even greater disadvantage” since it “is more carbon-intensive than other types of crude, creating 14 percent to 17 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions over its lifespan.”

It is a sad commentary on the state of (lack of?) basic editing at the NY Times that it ran this error-riddled piece.

Finally, if you were seduced by Nocera’s “maybe” into wondering whether a CO2 price rising to $115/tCO2 in 2023 would cut U.S. CO2 emissions by 30%? Well, the Energy Information Administration says that a mere $25/tCO2 would cut CO2 emissions 20% in 10 years. So I think it is rather obvious that another $90/tCO2 on top of that would easily cut emissions 30% (especially since Hansen doesn’t want to stop the CO2 price rise after just 10 years).

As Hansen writes:

Joe Nocera was polite, but he does not understand basic economics.  If a rising price is placed on carbon, the tar sands will be left in the ground where they belong.

Hansen explains why he posted his email to Nocera: “Joe Nocera quoted a private comment from a note explaining that I could not promise I would be back in New York to meet him.  But he did not mention the contents of the e-mail that I sent him with information about the subject we were to discuss.  The entire e-mail is copied below.” In a cover email, Hansen explains, “Apologies to Bill McKibben for the comment that could be misconstrued — I do not question the efforts to wake up the public to the situation at hand, and pressure elected officials to serve the public interest, not special interests.”

Last year, Nocera took exception to my saying he joined “the climate ignorati,” asserting that I was casting him as a “global warming denier.” But as I noted at the time, the ignorati are, as Google reveals, “Elites who, despite their power, wealth, or influence, are prone to making serious errors when discussing science and other technical matters.” The shoe fits.

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52 Responses to James Hansen Slams Joe Nocera For Failure To ‘Understand Basic Economics’ And Selective Quotation

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Nocera appears to be precisely that type of creature who totally dominate the MSM. It is actually hard these days to think of many exceptions. For these creatures the primary task in their work is to ensure that they stay employed. ‘Thought crime’ that threatens the economic and political power of their very, very, rich owners is career-ending behaviour, so we get intellectually embarrassing balderdash like this, with some sneering references to people better than themselves (which always pleases the Right). If one makes the leap of faith to imagine that Nocera is smart enough to understand his petty role in the universal denialist project on the Right (which includes confusionism, disinforming, obstructionism etc as well as rank denialism)then one is left to wonder, as one must with all these creatures, just how they make the calculus between their naked self-interest and the interests of their children and grand-children in surviving to a ripe old age.

    • I think it goes deeper than just “following orders”.

      My experience is that many people who have high-carbon privileged lifestyles have a psychological block to viewing high-carbon as a bad thing. A classic example is trying to talk to frequent flyers about aviation ghg.

      It is basic denial. Climate denial to me isn’t about not liking the facts it is about not wanting to participate in the solution.

      The recent Lincoln movie showed the denial rampant in the age of slave energy. Efforts to end an immoral energy system were attacked and ridiculed by the people most benefiting from that system.

      I think Joe is very generous to put folks like Nocera in the “ignorati.” Denial is closer to the mark in my view.

      • paul magnus magnus says:

        Spot on Barry.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Well observed Barry. I was generalising about the milieu in which Nocera acts, and attributing any particular set of motivations is a conceit on my part. I do not know what motivates Nocera to act as he does, which, of course, I believe to be perfidious. Whether it is deliberate or the result of self-indoctrination matters little, in the end. If the latter I guess there remains a tiny chance of his awakening, and I wish him luck. If it happens he’ll be assailed by bitter regret at his previous behaviour.

  2. Nocera is just plain incompetent.

    There are plenty of studies showing how carbon pricing disadvantages the tarsands.

    The IEA had a special section on just this topic in their World Energy Outlook of 2010. In every scenario they ran, global demand for oil sands in 2035 was well below what has now already been approved. Carbon pricing disadvantages tar sands relative to other sources because tar sands are dirtier.

    An MIT study titled “Canada’s Bitumen Industry Under CO2 Constraints” states: “The niche for the oil sands industry seems fairly narrow and mostly involves hoping that climate policy will fail…”. It shows clearly that carbon pricing makes tar sands oil too expensive to sell.

    It isn’t like taxing gasoline is a new concept! Look at european gas taxes to see how taxing oil products raises the price to consumer leading to greatly reduced demand.

    Hard to imagine Nocera doesn’t understand something so basic. But denial does that to people, eh?

    • Merrelyn Emery says:

      Incompetent or just following his job description? ME

      • David Smith says:

        I think that if a carbon tax would advantage the tar sands product,make it more viable, then our opponents would be pushing it into law and ALEC would be trying to have its way with the state legislatures.

      • Richard Miller says:

        I put him in the category of what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called the last men – “the last men make all things small.” Small minded people who cannot grasp the enormity of the climate change problem. Remember this is a guy who questioned the objectivity of the research of Robert Howarth, the Cornell scientist who identified the importance of methane leakage from natural gas pipelines, because Howarth sometimes wears a “no fracking pin”. See here

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/opinion/16nocera.html?_r=0

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          The little men are those who stand for nothing but self, who cut their opinions to fit the ‘market demand’ of their employers, present or possible. They who anaesthetise their intellects and consciences at the first tug on their leash, who attack those better than they who have not sold out (it’s called ‘moral vanity’ by the Murdoch sewer here, the refusal to sell out whatever moral principles you have, in return for money and status, as is compulsory for News Corpse hacks). In the neo-capitalist Lilliput, every honest, rational, humane individual is a Gulliver, in need of cutting down.

  3. robert says:

    Unlikely Nocera will apologize or correct is blunder. He’ll just move on to the next thing.

    I stopped reading Nocera about a year ago after it became clear to me his process for understanding and evaluating is seriously inhibited by his constant overestimation of his own knowledge base. Everything he wrote about, that I knew quite a bit about, he got wrong. Leads me to believe that most of what he’s writing about he’s getting wrong.

    So why read him?

  4. Edward Wolf says:

    Nocera co-authored a prescient and important book about the financial crisis with fabulous financial reporter Bethany McLean (“All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis,” 2010), but he is way off the rails here, and Jim Hansen deserves an opportunity to respond and clarify on the op-ed page of the Times.

    The sad thing is, Nocera DOES know economics, but is selective about applying what he knows. A shame.

  5. Here are quotes from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2010 on carbon pricing and the Alberta oilsands I found with 2 minutes of Google search:

    pg 144: “the attractiveness of investing in unconventional oil is highly sensitive to the … penalties on CO2 emissions”

    pg 144: “In the 450 Scenario, oil demand is relatively weak and the large CO2 penalty further depresses demand for unconventional oil”

    pg 159: “At $120/tonne of CO2 (the projected price in the 450 Scenario in 2035) the additional production cost would be $5/barrel, which, coupled with the reduced oil price of the 450 Scenario, would make the economics of new oil-sands projects marginal…”

    The Nocera article is just like the recent Tesla review in NYT. Denial of the climate crisis leads to lack of objectivity which leads to shoddy reporting.

    It seems to be a quick path to destroying the credibility some reporters have built up over the years.

  6. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe, with all due respect, I “take exception” to your concluding paragraph which characterizes Nocera as a member of the “ignorati” and “prone to making serious errors”.

    Nocera, and the New York Times more generally, are not “making errors”.

    They are deliberately and knowingly misleading their audience about ALL aspects of the energy climate issue — from misrepresenting the science of climate change, to misrepresenting the performance of EVs, to misrepresenting the economics of a carbon tax and of renewable energy.

    The Nocera article isn’t the result of “error” or incompetence. It is the product of a media organization that is deliberately propagandizing the public on behalf of the fossil fuel corporations.

    It’s time to stop pretending that the New York Times and the Washington Post are merely “error prone” when it comes to reporting and analysis on climate and energy.

    Like their colleagues at the Wall Street Journal, they are deliberately lying. And they should be called out for it, harshly, and unambiguously.

    • Joe Romm says:

      That’s a bridge too far for me, but these aren’t normal “errors” I agree. They are confirmation bias.

      • Paul Magnus says:

        Indeed. Just makes you ill thinking about people like this.

      • “confirmation bias”? You are being incredibly generous in your interpretation here.

        To me “confirmation bias” is selectively choosing data that supports your view. But there isn’t any data that supports the view that carbon taxes make high-carbon sources more economic. None. Nocera is just plain wrong on the basic facts. That to me is more than bias, it is either denial or intentionally lying. I’d vote for denial…as that, in my experience, is the overwhelming reason people are wrong on climate.

    • Daniel Coffey says:

      What is the technical training of the author? Is the author able to sort out what is real or imaginary, false versus true? I think it is difficult enough to sort through all the claims when you focus on real physics and chemistry, but almost impossible to cope with tax policy and human responses to costs. Lawyers and tax experts are paid large sums to “predict” such behavior, sometimes with absurdly bad results.

      Also, will someone point out for me what measured reduction in driving has occurred as a result of the ~ $0.50/gallon “gasoline tax” collected at the pump and used to build roads? If a tax on carbon is going to work, some empirical evidence from many years of gasoline/diesel tax collection should shed light on the real effect.

      Also see mdenison comment indicating proposed carbon tax would add about $0.25 per gallon of gasoline, or about half of the current – existing – gasoline tax. This suggest a relatively small effect of the tax.

      • Superman1 says:

        Daniel, Do some back-of-the-envelope estimating. Assume you pay 25K for a car, keep it ten years, then trash it. You drive 15K miles annually, get 25mpg, and pay $4/gal today. Your insurance costs you $1K/yr, and maintenance/repairs/personal property taxes cost another $1K. So, right now, the amortized cost is about $7K/yr. If a gas tax of $1/gal were added, that would increase your annual cost about $600, or slightly under 10%. How would that affect your driving? How many miles less per year would you drive? Obviously, the answer depends on your economic stratum. Middle class or higher: zero. That’s why if you want to really solve the problem, hard rationing across the board is your only choice.

  7. Ken Barrows says:

    A lower oil price would indeed lower oil production. (The Bakken, I think, would close up shop with sub $50 oil.)

    However, no carbon price means coal, which means death for (almost) all.

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    I don’t think it’s an error, any more than equally horrible stories from Revkin, Tierney, Broder and Rosenthal. Their body of work communicates the kind of fear that a lap dog shows for his master. Plenty of tale wagging and good behavior, but never any inclination to say anything that would displease the bosses.

    The real bosses, of course, are the advertisers, especially those in fossil fuel and related businesses. Their balance sheets are gushers, so they can afford to throw off millions on the left wing media.

    This is the most cowardly and damaging abdication in the history of journalism. All so these hacks can rake in a few more paychecks.

    Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite wouldn’t have done it, not to mention Frank Rich and Hunter Thompson. Our souls have decayed. Yeah, the hippies lost, but the victors (including plenty of former hippies) have brought shame on their families for generations.

    • Spike says:

      In the UK it has emerged that energy companies lobbied the last government hard to ensure harsh jail sentences were passed by our nominally “independent” judiciary on climate protestors taking part in actions at power stations. Apparently threats of withdrawal of UK investments were bandied about.

      Who can doubt that newspapers and therefore their reporters come under threat of loss of revenues from such creatures.

    • squidboy6 says:

      Yes, and don’t forget Brooks. Many seem to be well-meaning, Ross D isn’t one of them, but always wrong.

      It’s as though they are unable to see what they have wrought over the last thirty years and realize it doesn’t or hasn’t worked. The money they take in is so good they step over or around the destitute on ballerina’s toes so they don’t wake the dead and dying.

      The only one with facts and reason behind him is Krugman. Collins is funny but it’s not worth a laugh anymore.

  9. Ben Lieberman says:

    This is one of the worst pieces ever to appear in the New York Times. It’s one thing to make a mistake once, but quite another to double down. Aside from the utter disregard for climate science, the piece is also contradictory on its own grounds: we’re supposed to lower demand fr fossil fuels by lowering the price? What kind of economic advice is that? Somewhere a group of energy executives are experiencing a moment I will not imagine in detail.

  10. Paul Magnus says:

    My favorite word comes to mind. Bizarre.

    It would be interesting to note some of the dynamics with pricing on oil. Recently the consumption of gas has gone down in the US due to several factors.

    One ‘side effect’ of this is that the gov revenue base on this has gone down. Thus road repair etc costs are now starting to have a funding concern. A vicious circle indeed.

    A rising price on oil would mean that the market cost of the oil would go down as more reserves are held in storage. THis would happen until the realization that all reserves are guaranteed never to enter the market. A situation may arise where the tax would have to be adjusted dynamically to address this.

    • Paul Magnus says:

      Meanwhile in England…

      WHY THE GOVERNMENT LOVE PETROL
      People might be struggling to pay for the price of petrol now, but for the Government it is an absolute gold mine.

      If you fill your car with £50 of fuel, the Government will get £30.
      http://www.thegreenage.co.uk/greenblog/2013/02/18/the-true-cost-of-oil/

      • Paul I think you are missing the bigger picture here which is total revenues.

        The very high gas taxes in the UK cause citizens to use gasoline more efficiently and thus buy much less of it. My research on this has shown that the government brings in the same amount of gas tax revenue per person in UK as they do in Canada or USA where gas taxes are far lower per liter.

        In fact the people in the UK spend FAR LESS overall on gasoline each year than people in Canada or USA because they use it so much more efficiently so don’t have to buy as much.

        Compared to UK, Canadians:

        * spend twice as much on gasoline per person each year
        * buy three times more gasoline per person
        * pollute three times more CO2 per person from our personal transportation
        * generate much less GDP per litre of gasoline
        * pay more when gas prices spike per person
        * are less prepared for peak oil impacts
        * are less prepared for low-carbon mobility
        * are less prepared for low-carbon prosperity
        * have more work remaining on climate solution

        All those benefits while not taking in any more in total taxes from the citizens. Sounds good to me.

        This has lessons for carbon taxes as well. For a carbon tax to work at continually reducing CO2 pollution it needs to keep rising over time. A rising carbon tax can potentially balance out the falling carbon purchases and allow the revenue to be fairly constant or even increase.

        I suggest people read about UK’s intentional decision in the 1990 to rapidly increase the gas tax. This history holds a lot of lessons for the coming carbon tax. I wrote about it here and here.

        One final point: the UK, French and German gasoline taxes are equivalent to a $500/tCO2 carbon tax on motor fuels. So don’t go thinking a $30/tCO2 carbon tax is going to be where we end up if we want a safe climate.

    • Paul Magnus says:

      They have a challenge trying to balance the books while not increasing fuel duty too much to choke off demand. So, bringing this back on topic, what is the effect of fuel on the tax receipts?

    • Paul Magnus says:

      Neat way to value a barrel of oil….

      If you calculated the ‘work’ that can be carried out using the energy in one barrel of oil and compared it to the equivalent amount of work that a human could do, it would take a human about 10,000 hours to complete the same amount of work (based on the assumptions here. If you then take an average hourly wage of $6.60, then oil should be worth $66,000 a barrel (if you just took the UK, with an average wage of $20, then it would be worth $200,000 a barrel).

  11. jk says:

    For what it’s worth, there were more than 300 comments on Nocera’s post before comments were closed, and it appears that a significant majority of them disagree with Nocera.

  12. Leif says:

    “Slavery” is alive and well right here in the USA. Please give me another word for a capitalistic system that pays a minimum wage lower than average living costs to millions of it’s citizens. About 80% of whom are women. Is not poor access to food, health care and housing torture in every sense of the word? Statically dooming the receiver to early death. How about a government that taxes me to provide profits to others directly working to destroy Earth’s Life Support Systems? The GOP do not fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why must progressives fund the ecocide of the planet via subsidies to the Fossil Barons? Corporations, “Corpro/People”, are people now. How come the special treatment? “We the People” will be fined for throwing a paper cup out the car window. ($1,000 in AK.) Yet Corpro/People dump 19 pounds of toxins out the exhaust of commerce and get rich! Privatized profits and socialized loses are a failed paradigm.

    This is “Slavery” in every sense of the word IMO. When one segment of society is in a life and death bondage to another which prevents escape of the first? What would you call it?

    • Spike says:

      Actually it’s worse. If you purchased a slave in the days of slavery you at least had a financial interest in keeping the slave fed, watered and alive and healthy enough to work. With low waged underclass members our lords and masters are free to dispense with them immediately they lose their usefulness, knowing there are plenty more to replace them. Tiresome costs such as food and healthcare may be dispensed with.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      And don’t forget debt peonage that further enslaves millions, and makes them that much easier to manipulate and coerce. The central thrust of neo-feudal capitalism is to disempower as many as possible, and reduce them to the status of rats in a Skinner Box.

  13. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    The new york times was bailed out in 2009 by the richest man in the world, mexico’s “slim”, who owns large mining companies. Slim is now the second largest owner of the NYT, which explains the paper’s shift to the right since 2009. The paper has also turned against the working people, in a recent school bus strike, they supported NYC’s billionaire mayor’s attempt to break the bus drivers union. The times is still generally liberal, but it is now a corperate liberalism at best. that is why we use internet sites to get our news, instead of billionaire owned news orginazations.

  14. zander77 says:

    Mulga – I never tire of your sharp clarity in describing the evil choices these communicators make, in moral terms.

    Absent policy options, we must deny these monsters the ability to ethically survive their crimes against humanity.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      You are too kind. I’m no moral exemplar or philosopher, but I find it inexplicable that the denialists can act in the way that they do, and that the leaders of every so-called religion and philosophy of the planet are not denouncing them from pulpit and page, every single hour of every single day. This is, to my untrained eye, the greatest moral outrage in history. And that the Right, so globally dominant in politics, business and the MSM are, at best, morally indifferent to the consequences of their behaviour, says something very troubling about the human condition, as it stands on the brink of willful self-destruction. My mind reels from the reality of it all.

      • Mike Roddy says:

        Here in the US, people are afraid of the media. Corporations want to sell their products there, and their implied censorship comes from wanting to maintain empty headed consumer demand. The public puts even terrible columnists like Nocera on a pedestal, giving the New York Times far more gravitas than it deserves. Bad schools and endless media pablum have degraded our ability to think critically. NYT was good once, and they are not just trading on a past reputation, they are preying on it.

      • Superman1 says:

        C’mon, Mulga. The climate change deniers follow a long tradition by providing ‘cover’ for the 99% of the public that wants to continue the high energy intensity lifestle enabled by the unlimited availability of cheap fossil fuels, and can point to the denials that fossil fuel has anything to do with climate change. No different from the deniers that provided ‘cover’ for the 42% of adults who smoked and didn’t want to acknowledge the lung cancer link, or the deniers that provide ‘cover’ for the 99% of people who use cell phones and don’t want to acknowledge the brain cancer link.

  15. Hey Folks,

    Remember what Al Gore quoted Mark Twain as saying:

    “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it. “

    • robert says:

      Nice quote — though its Upton Sinclair, I believe…

    • Aussie John says:

      “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act ” – George Orwell

      A concise and thoughtful article from Andrew Glikson (Earth and paleo-climate scientist at Australian National University) is here:-
      http://theconversation.edu.au/orwellian-climate-double-speak-dominating-discussion-12279
      Final para – “The criminal dimension of the current campaign to negate climate science and defame climate scientists will only be fully comprehended by our children and grandchildren, when it may be too late.”

      A dismal outline of wealth induced myopia – human failure to address our planets deadly predicament.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Very good, John. The criminal element is omnipresent in all Rightwing activity. Criminal, not in the legal and jurisprudential sense, the Right having concocted the so-called ‘Common Law’ to overlook their criminality, but in the moral, ethical and spiritual sense. The chasm between Good and Evil has never gaped wider in human history.

  16. mdenison says:

    You suggest that $25/tCO2 would reduce consumption by 20% in 10 years.

    Does this apply to petrol and diesel consumption?. 1 tCO2 is about 100 gal of fuel so the tax would add about 25c to a gallon.

    Over the last 10 years US fuel consumption has fallen by about 20% presumably because of the increase in the price of fuel. But this increase is more like $2.00/gal which is equivalent to a tax of $200/tCO2. 10 times higher than you suggest.

    In Europe the fuel price is more like $8.00/gal. Taxation (not a CO2 tax) is adding about another $400/tCO2 to fuel prices and although transport in Europe is more fuel efficient as a result it is not that much better, perhaps 30% to 40%.

    Even if you tax at $100/tCO2 you only add $1 to a gallon of fuel. Not even close to European levels and still short of the recent price increases.

    So why would just $25/tCO2 be so effective at cutting consumption?

    • Joe Romm says:

      It cuts CO2 emissions, Not consumption per se. That is all the IEA analysis said.

    • mdenison, I agree that we will need a lot more than $20/tCO2 to reach European fuel consumption levels.

      However it might also be true that $25/tCO2 could cut 20%.

      The UK, French and Germans tax motor fuels about 80 cents more per liter than we do. That is equivalent to adding a $300/tCO2 carbon tax. But they also buy just a third as much gasoline as we do. So a $300 carbon tax equivalent creates a 66% cut in CO2.

      The USA is so wasteful with gasoline that I can believe that a $25 carbon tax could remove a big whack of CO2 over time. There is lots of low-hanging fruit. CO2 cuts will be non-linear with the easy ones pealing off first with the least cost.

  17. Bob LaVelle says:

    The New York Times is in a relevancy death-spiral.

  18. Aldous says:

    One of the best ways to combat the disruption of the Internet is to educate people on common tactics used.

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/11/the-15-rules-of-web-disruption-2/

    This Joe Nocera article is a classic example of # 2 and # 13 on the list.

    When approached with this framework, reading these kinds of articles becomes more tolerable, more exciting (it becomes a game trying to identify which tactic is used) and it ultimately educates people who are sitting on the fence in the comment section.

  19. Joan Savage says:

    When the NYT doesn’t sell useful information, it can resort to selling a basis for controversy. Even when, or especially when, Nocera fails to understand economics, he puts out that controversy bait for readers.

    A flawed column generated over 300 comments in a few hours. That sells newspapers, so it isn’t going to get him retired.

    Don’t feed the wrong dog.

  20. Daniel Coffey says:

    I am very troubled by the entire tax argument, as it assumes happy outcomes, but fails to account for the games played by those skilled at tax avoidance. It also does not direct funds toward solving the real problem by creating substitutes. Instead, it offers a dreary burden-filled world of less consumption. While such behavior might seem appropriate for those who have everything, its not so cool for those who have little and it costs them everything to get it.

    Another assumption is that investment and markets will naturally occur to create replacements for already built technology and cheap carbon-based fuels and electricity. The recent arc of history shows that it is equally possible for the wealthy to merely withdraw from the larger society, invest narrowly in what serves them, and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves. Think public schools replaced with private schools; think gated communities; think tax policy generally; think short-sale investments and derivatives; think….

  21. Lewis Gannett says:

    This Nocera article and the comments are superb, the best of its kind I’ve ever seen. I especially like the question of denial vs. incompetence vs. deliberate lying. A lot of perfectly nice, “left-leaning” people who consider themselves well informed, and who don’t think about climate change, seem to be in denial. Incompetence? You don’t get away with sustained incompetence at the NYT, unless… The NYT doesn’t mind lying about carbon. The tip-top petro world, just like the tip-top tobacco world, knows the science perfectly well. They have real scientists who do real work, in addition to hack deniers. But they lust for the tar sands anyway. Why? That’s a fascinating psychological question. But there’s something far more disturbing. Since they know the science, and know the consequences, they are in effect writing off the lives of perhaps hundreds of millions of people. Or more. It’s hard not to conclude that they don’t mind the prospect of living in a less-crowded world. This is the all-time biggest crime in the history of our species.