The Old Threads are all too long and too full of vitriol, but I've been thinking about the psychology/motivations that prevent so many from supporting addressing what is clearly an existential problem for the entire planet. I opened the New York Times this morning and read this column. It's obviously always on Paul's mind as it is many of the people who hang out on this and other forums of a similar bent. Here's the first:
Donald and the Deadly Deniers
Climate policy is the ultimate example of Trumpian corruption.
By Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Winning Economist, NYT Op Ed Columnist
Climate change is a hoax.
Climate change is happening, but it’s not man-made.
Climate change is man-made, but doing anything about it would destroy jobs and kill economic growth.
These are the stages of climate denial. Or maybe it’s wrong to call them stages, since the deniers never really give up an argument, no matter how thoroughly it has been refuted by evidence. They’re better described as cockroach ideas — false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.
Anyway, the Trump administration and its allies — put on the defensive by yet another deadly climate change-enhanced hurricane and an ominous United Nations report — have been making all of these bad arguments over the past few days. I’d say it was a shocking spectacle, except that it’s hard to get shocked these days. But it was a reminder that we’re now ruled by people who are willing to endanger civilization for the sake of political expediency, not to mention increased profits for their fossil-fuel friends.
About those cockroaches: Details aside, the very multiplicity of climate-denial arguments — the deniers’ story keeps changing, but the bottom line that we should do nothing remains the same — is a sign that the opponents of climate action are arguing in bad faith. They aren’t seriously trying to engage with the reality of climate change or the economics of reduced emissions; their goal is to keep polluters free to pollute as long as possible, and they’ll grab onto anything serving that goal.
Still, it’s worth pointing out how thoroughly all their arguments have collapsed in recent years.
These days, climate deniers seem to have temporarily backed down a bit on claims that nothing is happening. The old dodge of comparing temperatures to an unusually warm year in 1998 to deny that the planet is getting warmer — which is like comparing days in early July with a warm day in May, and denying that there’s such a thing as summer — has been undermined by a string of new temperature records. And massive tropical storms fed by a warming ocean have made the consequences of climate change increasingly visible to the public.
So the new strategy is to downplay what has happened. Climate change models “have not been very successful,” declared Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser. Actually, they have: Global warming to date is well in line with past projections. “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” asserted Donald Trump on “60 Minutes,” based upon, well, nothing. Krugman's Link: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2018/06/30-years-after-han...
Having grudgingly conceded that maybe the planet is indeed getting a bit warmer, the climate deniers claim to be unconvinced that greenhouse gases are responsible. “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” said Trump. And while he has sort-of-kind-of backed down on his earlier claims that climate change is a hoax concocted by the Chinese, he’s still seeing vast conspiracies on the part of climate scientists, who he says “have a very big political agenda.”
Think about that. Decades ago experts predicted, based on fundamental science, that emissions would raise global temperatures. People like Trump scoffed. Now the experts’ prediction has come true. And the deniers insist that emissions aren’t the culprit, that something else must be driving the change, and it’s all a conspiracy. Come on.
Why, it’s as if Trump were to suggest that the Saudis had nothing to do with the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering a Saudi embassy — that he was killed by some mysterious third party. Oh, wait.
Finally, about the cost of climate policy: I’ve noted in the past how strange it is that conservatives have total faith in the power and flexibility of market economies, but claim that these economies will be completely destroyed if the government creates incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Apocalyptic claims about the cost of reducing emissions are especially strange given tremendous technological progress in renewable energy: The costs of wind and solar power have plummeted. Meanwhile, coal-fired power plants have become so uncompetitive that the Trump administration wants to subsidize them at the expense of cleaner energy.
In short, while the arguments of climate deniers were always weak, they’ve gotten much weaker. Even if you were genuinely persuaded by the deniers five or 10 years ago, subsequent developments should have made you reconsider.
In reality, of course, climate denial has never had much to do with either logic or evidence; as I said, deniers are clearly arguing in bad faith. They don’t really believe what they’re saying. They’re just looking for excuses that will let people like the Koch brothers keep making money. Besides, liberals want to limit emissions, and modern conservatism is largely about owning the libs.
One way to think about what’s happening here is that it’s the ultimate example of Trumpian corruption. We have good reason to believe that Trump and his associates are selling out America for the sake of personal gain. When it comes to climate, however, they aren’t just selling out America; they’re selling out the whole world.
From Another Column published on 6/5/2014 for clarification purposes on Cost
The Climate Domino
By Paul Krugman
Maybe it’s me, but the predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules on carbon seem oddly muted and unfocused. I mean, these are the people who managed to create national outrage over nonexistent death panels. Now the Obama administration is doing something that really will impose at least some pain on some people. Where are the eye-catching fake horror stories?
For what it’s worth, however, the attacks on the new rules mainly involve the three C’s: conspiracy, cost and China. That is, right-wingers claim that there isn’t any global warming, that it’s all a hoax promulgated by thousands of scientists around the world; that taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions would devastate the economy; and that, anyway, U.S. policy can’t accomplish anything because China will just go on spewing stuff into the atmosphere.
I don’t want to say much about the conspiracy theorizing, except to point out that any attempt to make sense of current American politics must take into account this particular indicator of the Republican Party’s descent into madness. There is, however, a lot to say about both the cost and China issues.
On cost: It’s reasonable to argue that new rules aimed at limiting emissions would have some negative effect on G.D.P. and family incomes. Even that isn’t necessarily true, especially in a depressed economy, where regulations that require new investment could end up creating jobs. Still, the odds are that the E.P.A.’s action, if it goes into effect, will hurt at least a little.
Claims that the effects will be devastating are, however, not just wrong but inconsistent with what conservatives claim to believe. Ask right-wingers how the U.S. economy will cope with limited supplies of raw materials, land, and other resources, and they respond with great optimism: the magic of the marketplace will lead us to solutions. But they abruptly lose their faith in market magic when someone proposes limits on pollution — limits that would largely be imposed in market-friendly ways like cap-and-trade systems. Suddenly, they insist that businesses will be unable to adjust, that there are no alternatives to doing everything energy-related exactly the way we do it now.
That’s not realistic, and it’s not what careful analysis says. It’s not even what studies paid for by opponents of climate action say. As I explained last week, the United States Chamber of Commerce recently commissioned a report that was intended to show the terrible costs of the forthcoming E.P.A. policy — a report that made the least favorable assumptions possible in an attempt to make the costs look bigger. Even so, however, the numbers came out embarrassingly small. No, cracking down on coal won’t cripple the U.S. economy.
But what about the international aspect? At this point, the United States accounts for only 17 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, while China accounts for 27 percent — and China’s share is rising fast. So it’s true that America, acting alone, can’t save the planet. We need international cooperation.
That, however, is precisely why we need the new policy. America can’t expect other countries to take strong action against emissions while refusing to do anything itself, so the new rules are needed to get the game going. And it’s fairly certain that action in the U.S. would lead to corresponding action in Europe and Japan.
That leaves China, and there have been many cynical declarations over the past few days to the effect that China will just go ahead and burn any coal that we don’t. And we certainly don’t want to count on Chinese altruism.
But we don’t have to. China is enormously dependent on access to advanced-country markets — a lot of the coal it burns can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to its export business — and it knows that it would put this access at risk if it refused to play any role in protecting the planet.
More specifically, if and when wealthy countries take serious action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, they’re very likely to start imposing “carbon tariffs” on goods imported from countries that aren’t taking similar action. Such tariffs should be legal under existing trade rules — the World Trade Organization would probably declare that carbon limits are effectively a tax on consumers, which can be levied on imports as well as domestic production. Furthermore, trade rules give special consideration to environmental protection. So China would find itself with strong incentives to start limiting emissions.
The new carbon policy, then, is supposed to be the beginning, not the end, a domino that, once pushed over, should start a chain reaction that leads, finally, to global steps to limit climate change. Do we know that it will work? Of course not. But it’s vital that we try.