Joe Nocera is a business columnist for the NY Times. He understands business, including some aspects of the energy business (see Nocera on “The Phony Solyndra Scandal”: The “Real Winner is … the Chinese Solar Industry”).
But his Monday NYT article on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline reveals the myopia on climate that is characteristic of most business and economics reporters. He simply asserts the tar sands “is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose,” while providing no evidence.
And Nocera asserts, “Environmental concerns notwithstanding, America will be using oil — and lots of it — for the foreseeable future,” which is true in a hand-waving sense: If we ignore environmental concerns, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. Whether humanity can withstand such self-destructive activity, however, is the real issue.
Ultimately Nocera writes:
As it turns out, the environmental movement doesn’t just want to shut down Keystone. Its real goal, as I discovered when I spoke recently to Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, is much bigger. “The effort to stop Keystone is part of a broader effort to stop the expansion of the tar sands,” Brune said. “It is based on choking off the ability to find markets for tar sands oil.”
This is a ludicrous goal.
In fact, it isn’t a ludicrous goal. As the nation’s top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen said back in June, “Exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”
If Nocera wants to take on Brune’s position, then he is going to have to actually discuss climate change, which he fails to do at all in this article. So far, it seems as if Nocera’s views on global warming derive from reading the likes of the widely debunked physicist Freeman Dyson and attending Exxon-Mobil shareholder meetings, which causes him to dismissing knowledgeable people who express science-based views of as trying to “push Exxon Mobil toward their belief system — their global warming religion.”
That equation of science with religion puts him him the climate ignorati.
If Nocera wants to become informed on climate science, I’d suggest that he start talking to actual climate scientists, folks like Hansen (who is conveniently located in New York). He might also call up Lonnie Thompson who can explain why climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.”
Nocera could also review the recent scientific literature, which I have summarized here: “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces.”
One final note. What is particularly ironic about Nocera being suckered by the “Big Lie” of the climate deniers is that he described how the Big Lie works in a different instance with uncanny accuracy in a column titled, “The Big Lie“:
So this is how the Big Lie works.
You begin with a hypothesis that has a certain surface plausibility. You find an ally whose background suggests that he’s an “expert”; out of thin air, he devises “data.” You write articles in sympathetic publications, repeating the data endlessly; in time, some of these publications make your cause their own. Like-minded congressmen pick up your mantra and invite you to testify at hearings.
You’re chosen for an investigative panel related to your topic. When other panel members, after inspecting your evidence, reject your thesis, you claim that they did so for ideological reasons. This, too, is repeated by your allies. Soon, the echo chamber you created drowns out dissenting views; even presidential candidates begin repeating the Big Lie.
Sound familiar? Nocera was talking about a different lie:
Thus has Peter Wallison, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, almost single-handedly created the myth that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac caused the financial crisis.
But he has nailed how the climate science deniers operate — if you multiply the whole thing by, say, 16 (see In Must-Read WSJ Letter, 3 Dozen Top Climate Scientists Slam Murdoch’s 16 Posers: “Dentists Practicing Cardiology”).