A Few Things Ill Considered

Krugman and Climate

Aside from the climate blogosphere, Paul Krugman’s “Conscience of a Liberal” is my most regular blog visit.  He does not usually have a lot to say on climate change (which is mildly disappointing) and I have seen only very shallow and casual dismissals of the, to me compelling, notion that perpetual growth as a requirement for economic prosperity is problematic (which is very disappointing).  It is however, usually very interesting and I have learned a lot about economics, something very apropos given the ongoing global crisis.  I do enjoy the political snark as well, as long as it is reality based!

Uncharacteristically, he has made quite a few posts and op-ed columns over the last few months centering on climate issues and I have been keeping tabs on that (literal sense here, I have 10 tabs perpetually open meaning to post about!).  So that I can finally close these down, here is a quick rundown of all that content:

Salvation Gets Cheap – A discussion of some economic optimism regarding the costs of climate change mitigation, specifically good news about the solar energy industry.  This column has an example of the casual dismissal of perpetual growth skepticism I mentioned above.  After the caveat “(I hate it when pundits try to make every issue into a case of “both sides are wrong,” but, in this case, it happens to be true.)” he says “On the left, you sometimes find environmentalists asserting that to save the planet we must give up on the idea of an ever-growing economy; on the right, you often find assertions that any attempt to limit pollution will have devastating impacts on growth. But there’s no reason we can’t become richer while reducing our impact on the environment.”  That “but” only really addresses the concern from the right.  This is not to say the “left” position he has presented is necessarily correct, but it certainly is not dealt with in his column.

Crazy Climate Economics – a discussion of the anticipated Republican response to the (at the time) coming new EPA regulations.  The headline captures well the flavor of that discussion!

Cutting Back on Carbon – this is a good one on how a Chamber of Commerce search for bad economic news regarding carbon regulations is really an “own-goal”.  Their as-pessimistic-as-possible prediction is for a cost to the US economy of $50 billion per year.  This may be many month’s income for a guy like me (hello blogging fees!) but it is just 0.3% of a $17 trillion economy.  This is a tiny price tag given the existential threat climate change poses to society.

Energy Choices – Here Krugman turns his attention to a letter to the Financial Times from Roger Pielke Jr and finds him sadly lacking in intellectual honesty (…or competence, Roger really likes to keep us all guessing on that one).  Money quote: “This is actually kind of wonderful, in a bang-your-head-on-the-table sort of way.”  Welcome to our kitchen, Paul!

The Climate Domino – another op-ed column on the (then proposed) EPA regulations of coal fired power plants and specifically how it relates to the “But China!” objection to any US climate policy.

Interests, Ideology and Climate – Dr. Krugman thinks that ideology is more important than the Koch factor in the climate denial machinations.  Here’s an excerpt:

So why is the opposition to climate policy so intense?

And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

Incentives and Technology – just addresses a little blow-back from his take-down of RPJr above (Energy Choices).

Yes He Could – An op-ed giving praise to Obama’s accomplishments in the passage of ACA (Obamacare) and his actions around climate change.  I don’t know how much praise Obama merits with respect to action on climate change, but the accomplishment falls short of what is needed regardless of whether it is the best that could be done or not.

The Big Green Test – a discussion of long-time republican Henry Paulson’s op-ed calling for republican action on climate change and more generally how this fits with conservative approaches to economics.

Depression Economics and Climate Policy – a debunking of the “reform conservative’s” answer to calls for climate mitigation action, i.e. “not while the economy is hurting”.  (I’m sure some years down the track it will be “not while the economy is booming”).  Krugman says economically that this is exactly the time for agressive government intervention, while stimulus spending is sorely needed.  This point was actually the cause of my initial Obama disappointment.  I thought that the moment of crisis when he took office was exactly the moment for fundamental changes, economic, political, social.  Kind of a “disaster progressivism” approach ala Naomi Klein’s disaster capitalism, substituting change because we need it to solve the problem for change because that’s what we wanted to do anyway.

And that does it.  It is a relief to close those tabs

…discuss if you wish!

 

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Roberts
    July 16, 2014

    > “… while reducing our impact on the environment.”

    He should have said “reversing” rather than “reducing” there.

    I’d like to see someone like him give us a hypothetical for discovering another ‘New World’ — in the sense Columbus et al. did — and deciding what if any level of ‘impact’ would be sustainable.

    Then move the clock back to where there were still giant sloths and mastodons as the top grazers and do the same exercise.

    Nobody remembers that bison were a poor replacement for the original big grazers, and few admit that cattle fail as a replacement for bison.

    Look at the whale pump story. What if we’d not screwed _that_ trophic system up by taking the top predator off? How much more CO2 would the ocean ecosystem be managing now if it were in good shape?

    Paging Dr. Krugman. An economist is just a partially educated ecologist with a sideline in imaginary ecosystems like banking.

  2. #2 coby
    July 16, 2014

    I agree, now it is essential to reverse our environmental impacts to some substantial degree, and then any new regime must be a net 0 impact. I really fail to understand how this is compatible with any meaningful definition of growth.

  3. #3 GregH
    July 17, 2014

    An economist is just a partially educated ecologist with a sideline in imaginary ecosystems like banking.

    Good one!

  4. #4 Michael Roberts
    October 30, 2014

    “I have seen only very shallow and casual dismissals of the, to me compelling, notion that perpetual growth as a requirement for economic prosperity is problematic (which is very disappointing)”

    These are not shallow and casual dismissals. Economists have spent a lot of time and effort studying and explaining this fallacy, and Krugman knows this literature well, as he helped Nordhaus in his early work. What has been casual and shallow is the dismissal by some scientists (Meadows and Meadows are perhaps most infamous) of elementary economics.

    Indeed, perhaps the most powerful argument for curbing global warming quickly and soon is that the cost of doing so is very low, a small fraction of one percent of growth, probably not even noticeable in the larger scheme of things. And this is according to a number of estimates that typically make pessimistic assumptions about induced innovation that might come about from actually pricing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Look, there are plenty of economists who share your passion for science and interest in saving the planet. But what you’re doing here is roughly equivalent to an economist casually dismissing evolution as obviously flawed and casual dismissal of creationism. Smart economists that share your will politics will dismiss you (appropriately so), as just plain ignorant.

    You should do better.

  5. #5 coby
    October 30, 2014

    Hi Michael,

    “These are not shallow and casual dismissals.”

    What is your “these” referring to? Regardless, I do not mean to say economics is flawed, rather only that I can not find anything that seems to me is seriously addressing the issue that perpetual growth as a requirement for economic prosperity seems to me problematic.

    I would be very interested to read something that addresses that directly, from Krugman or anyone else. If you can explain, or point me somewhere (specific) I would be keen to engage.

    Thanks.

  6. #6 freddy
    November 4, 2014

    coby, so you are a “degrowth” activist, true?

  7. #7 coby
    November 4, 2014

    I don’t know what a “degrowth activist” is, so can neither confirm nor deny your allegation.

  8. #8 Wow
    November 5, 2014

    coby, it’s someone who sees a cancerous growth and thinks it would be a good idea to prevent it growing worse.

    Kaibot doesn’t believe that is necessary if he, personally, has to pay a damn thing for it.

    I.e. it’s a neocon loon in his teens.

  9. #9 PaulinMI
    Carbon neutral kingdom
    November 9, 2014

    Coby, others,
    It might help your discovery if you first defined what you mean by growth, whether it is a goal or a result, then surmise why it is or isn’t needed.

  10. #10 Wow
    November 11, 2014

    Pauline, it may help us to say what you expect to understand if we answer that question.

    A few queries for you and the other neocon deniers:

    Is rioting a good thing because of all the extra industrial activity needed to rebuild and restock?

    Is growth a good thing in and of itself? If so, why? If not, then why must we grow?

  11. #11 PaulinMI
    Carbon Neutral Kingdom
    November 11, 2014

    I dont expect anything. The answer is for you.
    _
    So, you’re also calling for the end of carbon by 2050, or are you the denier, neocon or otherwise?
    _
    please clarify the last two. they’re not making sense.
    It might help to define what you mean by growth.

  12. #12 Wow
    November 13, 2014

    I dont expect anything.

    Then feel freeto accept nothing.

    Here it is:

    You’re welcome.

    So, you’re also calling for the end of carbon by 2050, or are you the denier, neocon or otherwise?

    Do you want to give an either/or option where the two are at least somewhat relevant to each other? The calling for the end of carbon, being unstated as to what you mean there, is orthogonal to being denier, neocon and only, by covering anything else, “otherwise”.

    Of course, you will avoid any comment other than one to make your name appear, so this query is mostly to educate any noob deniers that they need to up their game to stand a chance of being taken seriously.

  13. #13 PaulinMI
    Carbon neutral kingdom
    November 13, 2014

    Thanks for nothing. If you don’t need it you’re off to a great start discussing growth.

    The end of carbon by 2050 means exactly that. Shut down of all sources by 2050. It’s the only choice to minimize the coming climate mayhem.

  14. #14 Hank Roberts
    hankroberts.wordpress.com
    November 15, 2014

    > shut down all
    You understand how the perfect can be the enemy of the good?

    Yeah, you can do that, but you won’t accomplish much to help the world by consuming no carbon fuel whatsoever.

    Do something that nets out positive.

    For example, go buy a piece of waste land and grow topsoil on it. The way to be carbon neutral is to turn more into carbohydrates than you burn as hydrocarbons.

    Start when you’re young, as it’s a 200 year project.
    Here’s how: http://www.alibris.com/The-Earth-Manual-How-to-Work-on-Wild-Land-Without-Taming-It-Malcolm-Margolin/book/1862149

    Yeah, I know, one person doesn’t make a significant difference, but it’s good exercise, keeps you outdoors a lot, serves as an example of at least trying to do it right.

    And you’ll have to keep track of how much carbon you burn, and estimate how much you fix. That’ll educate everyone around you and inspire them as well.

    Just sitting and burning zero carbon doesn’t do that.

  15. #15 PaulinMI
    Carbon neutral kingdom
    November 16, 2014

    Already way ahead of ya on that one Hank.
    At the end of the day though, we have to net negative globally.

  16. #16 PaulinMI
    Carbon Neutral Kingdom
    November 17, 2014

    _
    It’s actually worse than we thought.
    The warming continues at record levels.
    Many areas will see climate depart from normal ranges as early as 2025 to 2040.
    We have seen the beginning of the 6th great extinction.
    The human population may dwindle by half as early as 2050.
    _
    oh, and this time . . .
    . . . there will be no ark.

  17. #17 freddy
    November 17, 2014

    wow, the dwindle risk is grossly related to the west’s dangerous behavior towards president PUTIN.

    as “climate change” has not been shown scientifically convincingly, forget it, no danger.

  18. #18 Wow
    November 18, 2014

    PaulinMI
    Carbon neutral kingdom
    November 13, 2014

    Thanks for nothing.

    If you’re going to get our panties in a bunch because you get nothing when you ASK for nothing, then why not just stay in your room and pout like the angsty teenager you are, Pauline?

    You’re definitely not going to go to all the effort of explaining what you want, are you. So your disappointment is entirely self-manufactured by you so you can feel as though you’ve been hard done by the world.

    Feel free, but on your own dime, your self pity sickens me.

  19. #19 Wow
    November 18, 2014

    wow, the dwindle risk is grossly related to the west’s dangerous behavior towards president PUTIN.

    Do you want to try again, but this time NOT in baby-talk babble, dearie?

  20. #20 Wow
    November 18, 2014

    as “climate change” has not been shown scientifically convincingly

    As climate change HAS been shown extremely convincingly to those whose minds aren’t closed off to anything they don’t like, you’re an arsehole.

  21. #21 PaulinMI
    Carbon Neutral Kingdom
    November 18, 2014

    Wow,
    you must have trouble accepting gratitude.
    I was thanking you for what you gave.

    Again, I don’t want anything, the definition of growth is for you to determine in the context of your use for your discussion.

    If you so choose.
    nothing to do with me, for me or otherwise.

    oh, and thanks for the kind words.

  22. #22 freddy
    November 19, 2014

    wow

    instead of blathering “… As climate change HAS been shown extremely convincingly ….” you MUST provide at least three statements which support your claim more specifically

  23. #23 Wow
    November 21, 2014

    Wow,
    you must have trouble accepting gratitude.

    Nope, I have no trouble in that regard.

    However you appear to have a problem in reading English sentences.

  24. #24 Wow
    November 21, 2014

    instead of blathering “… As climate change HAS been shown extremely convincingly ….” you MUST provide at least three statements which support your claim more specifically

    Yup. Easy, moron-boy.

    1) IR absorption by CO2 and not N2/O2.
    2) Temperature rates rising in the night more than the daytime, more in the winter than the summer
    3) Temperature rates rising despite a reduced solar output

    Any chance of YOU supporting your insane blather about how “as “climate change” has not been shown scientifically convincingly” with anything other than a head-up-your arse refusal to look?

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