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Paul Krugman on Gore Derangement Syndrome

By Joe Romm on October 15, 2007 at 12:24 pm

"Paul Krugman on Gore Derangement Syndrome"

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krugman.jpgThis morning Paul Krugman trashed the childish reasoning and antics of the anti-Gore camp, diagnosing them with a case of the “Gore Derangement Syndrome“:

On the day after Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize, The Wall Street Journal‘s editors couldn’t even bring themselves to mention Mr. Gore’s name. Instead, they devoted their editorial to a long list of people they thought deserved the prize more.

Then he goes on to note:

The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right… For the truth Mr. Gore has been telling about how human activities are changing the climate isn’t just inconvenient. For conservatives, it’s deeply threatening.

Krugman then discusses a key point that I made in my book — that conservatives dis climate science because they strongly oppose the key climate solutions — carbon prices and government regulations:

Consider the policy implications of taking climate change seriously.

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said F.D.R. “We know now that it is bad economics.” These words apply perfectly to climate change. It’s in the interest of most people (and especially their descendants) that somebody do something to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but each individual would like that somebody to be somebody else. Leave it up to the free market, and in a few generations Florida will be underwater.

The solution to such conflicts between self-interest and the common good is to provide individuals with an incentive to do the right thing. In this case, people have to be given a reason to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, either by requiring that they pay a tax on emissions or by requiring that they buy emission permits, which has pretty much the same effects as an emissions tax. We know that such policies work: the U.S. “cap and trade” system of emission permits on sulfur dioxide has been highly successful at reducing acid rain.

Climate change is, however, harder to deal with than acid rain, because the causes are global. The sulfuric acid in America’s lakes mainly comes from coal burned in U.S. power plants, but the carbon dioxide in America’s air comes from coal and oil burned around the planet — and a ton of coal burned in China has the same effect on the future climate as a ton of coal burned here. So dealing with climate change not only requires new taxes or their equivalent; it also requires international negotiations in which the United States will have to give as well as get.

Everything I’ve just said should be uncontroversial — but imagine the reception a Republican candidate for president would receive if he acknowledged these truths at the next debate. Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them.

So if science says that we have a big problem that can’t be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed. For example, Investor’s Business Daily recently declared that the prominence of James Hansen, the NASA researcher who first made climate change a national issue two decades ago, is actually due to the nefarious schemes of — who else? — George Soros.

Krugman ends pointedly:

Which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.

Some of those suffering from the Gore Derangement Syndrome likely include our very own President, who has yet to give an inch on climate policy. Over the weekend, another NYT op-ed (by Thomas Friedman) contrasted Bush’s leadership with Gore’s, and the difference it has made is disheartening.

Finally, the NYT editorial board itself tweaked the President, by writing:

There will also be those who complain that this prize — like the committee’s earlier awards to Jimmy Carter and the chief United Nations nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei — is an intentional slap at President Bush. It should be. We only wish that it would finally wake up the president.

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9 Responses to Paul Krugman on Gore Derangement Syndrome

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    The righties hate GW for one simple reason: It takes an enormous public policy issue and moves it from being simply a matter of opinion to one of provable fact–and they’re on the wrong side of the proof. Once they’re broadly seen as having been wildly wrong on such an important issue, and having fought for so long to have us do precisely the wrong things, they will have a gigantic credibility problem for a generation.

    They don’t like having to accept the kind of policies needed to deal with GW, but they absolutely hate the notion of being out of power.

  2. Ronald says:

    Nice job Krugman.

    Like when Richard Feynman said to NASA, it’s not the Public Relations department that is going to keep the shuttle from blowing up, the engineering has to be spot on. Without sliming somebody, Republicans are out of bullets. Lets hope people listen to the science.

  3. Ron says:

    http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?06a290f3-f334-4f6d-bec0-f8ee7e443dda

    Global Warming Insanity?
    By Paul Driessen, 9/19/2007 1:44:51 PM

    “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority,” Marcus Aurelius opined, “but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” An even worse fate would be to end up in minority status and an asylum. Recent developments suggest that this might become the destiny of climate change alarmists.

    Now that NASA has corrected its U.S. temperature records, the hottest year on record is no longer 1998, but 1934. Five of the ten hottest years since 1880 were between 1920 and 1940 — and the 15 hottest years since 1880 are spread across seven decades. This suggests natural variation, not a warming trend. Plant and insect remains found at the base of Greenland’s ice sheet indicate that, just 400,000 years ago, the island was blanketed in forests and basking in temperatures perhaps 27 degrees F warmer than today.

    Land area temperatures in South America, Africa and Australia have declined slightly over the last few years. Since 1998, sea surface temperatures over much of the world have decreased slightly, while globally averaged atmospheric temperatures have shown no change.

    Many U.S. temperature gauges are near air-conditioning exhausts, hot asphalt and other heat sources. Their readings are thus too high and must be revised downward — along with claims about rising temperatures.

    Over the past 650,000 years, global temperatures almost always rose or fell first — followed centuries later by changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as warming oceans exhaled CO2 or cooling seas absorbed the gas. (This inconvenient fact is what Al Gore is referring to when he says the temperature-CO2 relationship “is actually very complicated.”)

    More scientists are pointing to solar energy levels, cosmic rays and clouds as determinants of climate — and saying CO2 plays only a minor role. Thousands of scientists have questioned claims that humans are causing catastrophic climate change, and over the past year dozens have publicly switched from believers to skeptics about climate Armageddon theories. There is obviously no consensus on climate change.

    Latvia and seven other eastern European countries are threatening legal action against EU decisions to restrict their emissions, as they work to grow their economies after decades of impoverishment under Communism. China and India refuse to sacrifice economic growth to concerns about climate chaos. China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading CO2 emitter — and EU carbon dioxide emissions have increased faster than those in the United States, where both population and economic growth have been substantially higher than in Western Europe.

    During the just-concluded UN climate conference in Vienna, a number of industrialized countries rejected binding targets of 25 percent to 40 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2020 — while a bloc of 77 developing nations said industrialized countries should reduce their emissions 80 percent by that date.

    The response of climate alarmists is fodder for psychological textbooks. Greenpeace says cataclysm skeptics are “climate criminals.” NASA scientist James Hansen calls us “court jesters.” Grist magazine wants “Nuremberg-style war crimes trials.” Robert Kennedy, Jr. says we should be treated like “traitors.”

    Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit refused to reveal the methodology for his dire-sounding temperature data. “Why should I make the data available,” he asked, “when your aim is to find something wrong with it?” And Sen. Barbara Boxer turned climate hearings into inquisitions for catastrophe skeptics, while Congressman Jim Costa walked out on a witness who pointed out that proposed legislation would dramatically increase energy and food prices, cost millions of jobs, and severely hurt poor families — while doing nothing to stabilize global temperatures.

    Newsweek said climate holocaust “deniers” had received $19 million from industry, to subvert the “consensus” it claims exists about global warming. It made no mention of the $50 billion that alarmists and other beneficiaries have received since 1990 from governments, foundations and corporations — or of its 1975 article, which declared that scientists are “almost unanimous” in believing that a major cooling trend would usher in reduced agricultural productivity, famines and perhaps even a new Little Ice Age.

    (Newsweek contributing editor Robert Samuelson called the global warming “denial machine” article “highly contrived” and based on “discredited” accusations about industry funding.)

    Alarmists have blamed global warming for hurricanes, tornadoes, malaria, and even the Minneapolis bridge collapse, terrorism, Italian suicides, teenage drinking and “irritability” in mice. By combining far-fetched speculation with various computer-generated temperature projections and worst-case scenarios, they concoct even more ominous auguries, like this whopper from London’s Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre:

    If CO2 levels keep rising, global temperatures could soar, ice caps could melt, oceans could rise dozens of feet — and all that extra water pressure could destabilize Earth’s crust, squeeze out magma and cause volcanoes to erupt. The volcanic gases and dust could then cool the earth, and cause a new ice age.

    A 1993 blockbuster movie used a similar what-if pyramid scheme to generate terrifying encounters with raptors and tyrannosaurs. But when the lights came up, people knew it was just a movie.

    When it comes to climate change, however, many seem unable to separate science from science fiction — or even distinguish between headline-grabbing pronouncements, preposterous disaster flicks like “The Day After Tomorrow,” and pseudo-documentaries like “An Inconvenient Truth” and “The 11th Hour.” Instead of fostering rational discourse and responsible action, alarmists insist that we “do something” immediately to prevent climate cataclysm.

    Al Gore is buying carbon offset indulgences. Leonardo DiCaprio is replacing his incandescent lightbulbs. Cheryl Crow promotes one square per trip to the ladies room. Cate Blanchett will wash her hair less often in her new $10-million Australian mansion. Cameron Diaz promotes “indigenous” lifestyles in Third World countries.

    But they all support laws mandating greatly reduced energy use and economic growth — outside of Hollywood and Nashville’s Belle Meade area. In response, Congress has introduced a half-dozen “climate stabilization” bills — and state legislatures are reviewing 375 more — even as the scientific “consensus” fades, Europe’s united front on emissions trading collapses, and countries in the Asia-Pacific Partnership reject mandatory greenhouse gas cutbacks in favor of steady technological progress in pollution control and energy efficiency.

    These bills would cost American consumers many billions of dollars a year. But they would reduce average global temperatures by a tiny fraction of the 0.2 degrees F that scientists say the Kyoto Protocol would accomplish by 2050 (assuming CO2 really is a primary cause of climate change).

    It’s time to ask: At what point do symbolic gestures and political grandstanding become “doing something” about climate change? At what point do they amount to insanity?

    Many suspect that anxiety about climate change was never really about preventing a global warming — or global cooling — catastrophe. Instead, they say, the real purpose is controlling energy use, economic growth and people’s lives. Alarmist efforts to intimidate climate catastrophe skeptics and legislate mandatory energy restrictions suggest that these suspicions are valid, and that climate doomsayers are becoming increasingly desperate.

  4. Ron says:

    Joe,

    Are you of the opinion that Al Gore tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in his slideshow, Inconvenient Truth?

  5. Joe says:

    Ron — I am of this opinion:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/10/an_error_is_not_the_same_thing.php
    He said it as well as I could have — though I tend to take a somewhat stronger line on sea-level-rise.

    Driessen shows that the Deniers haven’t given up their disinformation campaign. He seems mainly from the tinfoil-hat crowd with his final paragraph.

  6. Ron says:

    Okay, so you would say that various parts of Gore’s movie are “badly worded”; and he should have said that Greenland could “possibly” melt and “possibly” cause the shutdown of the Ocean Conveyer (rather than “probably”); and instead of saying that global warming is drying up the glaciers on Kilimanjaro, and drying up Lake Chad, he should have said that it “might” be; and some other areas that maybe should have been toned down or explained better – but all in all you think the movie was quite factual. Does that about sum up your opinion?

    In other words, it may be basically propaganda in its tone, but it’s based on solid science. Is that correct?

    And as far as sea level rise goes, you personally think it’s going to be much worse; higher than 7 meters. Is this what you are saying?

    And thanks for lumping me in with the ‘tinfoil hat crowd’ – because I agree with that last paragraph – but tell me: where can I get real tinfoil? I’ve been using aluminum foil, but I’m still getting interference…..

  7. Joe says:

    Ron:
    Anyone who believes the conspiracy theory in that last paragraph is in the tinfoil crowd. Of course, those hats don’t really do much….
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin-foil_hat

    Your sum up is close. It is not propaganda as that word is typically used — it is a fairly accurate documentary — the articles that you post are the “bad” propaganda. [Technically, propaganda can be 100% true — see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda

    From all the experts I’ve talked to and a review of the literature, it seems clear Greenland (and large parts of Antarctica) WILL melt if we continue on the current emissions path — the only question is how fast. I’m with Hansen (and others who spoke to me off the record) that it could be a foot a decade by century’s end. If Earth warms another 2°C to 3°C, which we certainly will if we don’t sharply change our emissions trends, we will return the planet to temperatures not seen since sea levels were 25 meters (!) higher. Not pretty.

    I think the whole Ocean Conveyer stuff is a sideshow. I would have advised Gore to drop it entirely.

    Yes, the movie was quite factual and urgently needed.

  8. Ron says:

    Okay, I guess I’ll toss the foil hat. I didn’t read the Wikipedia entry, but I’ll take your word for it.

    And I agree that propaganda can be 100% accurate; one man’s propaganda is just another’s advertising. And one man’s ‘good’ propaganda is another’s ‘bad’ propaganda. Depends on your agenda and your point of view.

    And I do agree with your assessment of the Ocean Conveyer sideshow within the slideshow. And even my 7-year-old got a laugh when Al Gore left Anarctica off of the map.

    How about that idea of having Nuremburg-style trials for Deniers and treating them as traitors – How do you feel about that? Are you one of those Believers who would like to see a drastic reduction in humans, perhaps starting by hanging some heretics?

    You may say that article was ‘bad’ propaganda, but those people really said that. Do agree or not that such talk is ‘insanity’, or does it just depend on your point of view?

  9. Ron says:

    And technically, ‘disinformation’ is a sort of propaganda that’s usually mostly true, but with some exaggeration and a few lies thrown in.

    So I guess we shouldn’t just call Gore’s movie ‘propaganda’. If you believe manmade global warming is real, you’d have to classify the movie as disinformation.

    Do you think Al will run? I kind of hope so, for the entertainment value.