Willful Blindness

Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research….

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians based their dissent on hard work and hard thinking — if they had carefully studied the issue, consulted with experts and concluded that the overwhelming scientific consensus was misguided — they could at least claim to be acting responsibly.

But if you watched the debate on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial….

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.

Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.

Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.

So is it fair to call it willful blindness when Krugman ignores principled arguments against catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory in favor of painting all skeptics as unthinking robots driven by political goals? Yes it is.

I am not entirely sure how Krugman manages to get into the head of all 212 “no” voters, as well as all the rest of us skeptics he tars with the same brush, to know so much about our motivations.  He gives one example of excessive rhetoric on the floor of Congress by a skeptic — and certainly we would never catch a global warming alarmist using excessive rhetoric, would we?

Mr. Krugman, that paragon of thinking all of us stupid brutes should look up to, buys in to a warming forecast as high as 9 degrees (Celsius I think, but the scientist Mr. Krugman cannot be bothered to actually specify units).  In other words, he believes there will be about 1 degree per decade warming, where we saw exactly zero over the last decade.  Even in the panicky warming times of the eighties and nineties we never saw more than about 0.2C per decade.  Mr. Krugman by implication believes the the Earth’s climate is driven by strong positive feedback (a must to accept such a high forecast) — quite an odd assumption to make about a long-term stable stystem without any good study showing such feedback and many showing the opposite.

But, more interestingly, Mr. Krugman also used to be a very good, Nobel-prize winning economist before he entered his current career as political hack.  (By the way, this makes for extreme irony – Mr. Krugman is accusing others of ignoring science in favor of political motivations.  But he is enormously guilty of doing the same in his own scientific field).   It is odd that Mr. Krugman would write

But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Taking this statement at face value, a good economist would know that if the costs of a cap-and-trade system are low, then the benefits will be low as well.  Cap-and-trade systems or more direct carbon taxes only work if they are economically painful for energy consumers.  It is this pain that changes behaviors and reduces emissions.  A pain-free emissions reduction plan is also a useless one.  And in fact, the same studies that show the bill would have little economic impact also show it will have little emissions impact.  And thus it is particularly amazing Krugman can play the “traitor” card on 212 people who voted against a bill nearly everyone on the planet (including the ones who voted for the bill) know will not be effective.

I remember the good old days when Democrats thought it was bad when Republicans called folks who did not agree with them on Iraq “traitors.”  After agreeing with Democrats at the time, I am disapointed that they have adopted the same tactic now that they are in power.

  • Mark

    There is no Nobel Prize in Economics. Only the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

  • GP Hanner

    Yes. A one-time economist who believes that a Ph.D. in economics qualifies him to be an atmospheric scientist. That should work.

  • AnonyMoose

    An economist can be qualified to discuss climate issues, but only if he has studied the topic. Merely parroting press releases is not a discussion.

  • Ken Frazier

    As the new “green” religion states; you must believe or you are a bad person. That’s right, don’t let facts or data alter your opinion, the debate is over, right Al? Enjoy the energy tax and the coming runaway inflation y’all.

  • Alan D. McIntire

    About 30 years ago, my favorite razor ad appeared. It addressed both Wilkinson blades and Gilette blades, repeating the prior advertising propaganda for both. It ended with,
    “Try them both. We think you’ll know which company is sponsoring this ad.”

    I suggest everyone read “realclimate”, including the links, “climate audit”, including the links,
    and “climatescience”, Roger Pielke Sr.’s blog.

  • hunter

    In ref: to Krugman’s arc of professional accomplishment-
    He won the Economics prize for work he did in 1979:
    “Krugman’s explanation of trade between similar countries was proposed in a 1979 paper in the Journal of International Economics.” Wiki
    He has been moving over to the dark side for quite some time since then.
    As easily the most belicose voice of the NYT’s team of political hacks, he is simply the most well medaled.

  • http://proteinwisdom.com/pub dicentra

    “By the way, this makes for extreme irony – Mr. Krugman is accusing others of ignoring science in favor of political motivations. But he is enormously guilty of doing the same in his own scientific field”

    It’s not irony: it’s SOP for political hacks like Krugman. Rule one for the extreme Left: Project, project, project.

  • hunter

    Lucia, Dr. Spencer, the many geologists I have met who doubt AGW, none of them seem particularly traitorous, to me.
    But then I have not won a Nobel Prize.

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  • MikeN

    Low costs doesn’t have to mean low benefits. Suppose solar power cost .5c per KWh more than coal, and the extra CO2 emissions would cause all the bad things being predicted in 10 years instead of 100.
    Sounds like a small cost versus a large benefit.

  • NewEnglandDevil

    I just want to know which Republicans called Democrats “Traitors” for not agreeing with the Republicans on Iraq? That is a claim I’ve yet to see substantiated.

    NED

  • http://www.benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com bmmg39

    It used to be a last resort: this engaging in name-calling (“You’re a denier/racist/Neanderthal/fascist/Nazi/etc.!”). Now, it appears to be the left’s first plan of attack for just about any issue. Just look at the comments section there. About one third are in support of Krugman’s column, and most of those seem to suggest that everyone who disagrees with them believes the world to be flat, or is “brainwashed” by right-wing radio.

    Have you noticed that a ten-year cooling trend is considered “insignificant,” but something like “it’s like 95 degrees here today!” is considered irrefutable proof of AGW?

  • kuhnkat

    Y’all miss the point of the pain free Cap and Trade.

    Once it is passed, it will be a small effort to put teeth in it when they desire.

    Gorebull warming is just the excuse to pass all the framework to control us. If they can get it passed, it will be virtually impossible to roll it back.

    MikeN,

    suppose we could wish for things and they would happen…

    Unfortunately for you, the world, including volcanoes, would have to stop emitting CO2 for the next 100 years to make a dent. It is simply a bad joke to consider these bandaids anything other than social engineering.

  • MikeH

    I am looking at Figure 3 “changes in global average surface temperature” in the Copenhagen synthesis report. All of its projections (11 year smoothing) show projected temperature increases. I suppose you can see a “ten-year cooling trend” if you select the right 10 years but if you look at the whole graph you can see this “trend” in context.

  • Michael Jennings

    #
    MikeH:

    I am looking at Figure 3 “changes in global average surface temperature” in the Copenhagen synthesis report. All of its projections (11 year smoothing) show projected temperature increases. I suppose you can see a “ten-year cooling trend” if you select the right 10 years but if you look at the whole graph you can see this “trend” in context.
    July 2, 2009, 5:38 am

    Using whose figures? Before or after any “adjustments” to the numbers? How does it reconcile to Dr. Roy Spencer’s satellite readings? Why is the “increase” you claim such a pathetic amount if CO2 continues to rapidly rise? Hope these questions don’t inconvenience you in any way.

  • MikeN

    MikeH, this chart has been shown to be off.
    The caption is wrong, and it is in fact 15 year smoothing.
    The smoothing was changed to make things look as bad as his last chart.
    If he had stayed with 11 year smoothing, you would have seen a flattening in the temperatures.
    Even with 15 year, compare to the projections, and you see the temperatures come back and intersect.
    Also, with this 15 year smoothing(or any number of years), you ahve to guess future temperatures to draw the graph!

  • kuhnkat

    Actually, this is an embedding period of 11 or 15 years. This is still a little misleading.

    More info from PaulM here:

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=6440#comment-347636

    Also, Lucia and team took it apart here:

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/source-of-fishy-odor-confirmed-rahmstorf-did-change-smoothing/

  • Thomas J. Arnold.

    I do not believe in ‘little green men’ some people do, the possibility exists and I don’t deny this.
    Pumping CO2 into the atmosphere is something that nature is very good at and we humans have helped it along a little since the industrial revolution.
    We may have effected a change in atmospheric temperature, we may not have. Climate changes and this is the glory of mighty nature. CO2 is a life giving gas, fundamental for propagation of plant life, consequently vital for the Human race.
    The science of so called ‘global warming’ is a relatively new discipline, anybody can have an opinion, until scientists can say with any authority what or why or when, no one person can be absolute.
    Increasingly people who question the possibility of AGW are being attacked. The hysteria with which the ‘warmists’ pursue their beliefs becomes ever more maniacal. Why? well, I think that the agenda is to do with intellectual ‘kudos’ or ‘face’, plus there is no doubt that politicians have jumped on the bandwagon, to further their political ambitions.
    Most tax paying citizens do not get it! The problem seems to exist in the minds of the twittering classes and the political elite, particularly in Europe and the USA and on Tuvalu. The evangelically driven madness of global warming brings on an almost religious fervour, something I’ve witnessed in large crowds and in gatherings where people are like minded; at pop concerts, sports gatherings and during religious ceremonies. All very worrying. I read in the Guardian/Grauniad in comments pages, that some folk want denying AGW- IE, thinking that man-made global warming is hokum, to be against the law! 1984 and all that- the thought police are not so far away.

    Krugman is entitled to his opinion but so am I!! In twenty years perhaps less, the world will wonder what all the fuss was about (IMHO).

    Tom.

  • Chris Winter

    bmmg39 wrote: “It used to be a last resort: this engaging in name-calling (”You’re a denier/racist/Neanderthal/fascist/Nazi/etc.!”). Now, it appears to be the left’s first plan of attack for just about any issue. Just look at the comments section there. About one third are in support of Krugman’s column, and most of those seem to suggest that everyone who disagrees with them believes the world to be flat, or is “brainwashed” by right-wing radio.”

    In fact, this count is not accurate. I’ve tallied the comments. It comes out 333 “pro”, 153 “con” — a ratio of 2.18. (The remaining 16 either were duplicates, or I couldn’t divine their view.)

    Also, if you check the average recommendation scores, these come out 18.0 for the “cons”, 29.1 for the “pros”.

    “Have you noticed that a ten-year cooling trend is considered “insignificant,” but something like “it’s like 95 degrees here today!” is considered irrefutable proof of AGW?”

    I’d need proof to believe anyone who supports AGW holds both those views. It’s the Denialists who insist that a decade of cooling in the midst of a much longer warming trend disproves the warming.

  • Chris Winter

    “So is it fair to call it willful blindness when Krugman ignores principled arguments against catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory in favor of painting all skeptics as unthinking robots driven by political goals? Yes it is.”

    What principled arguments? We’re talking about science here. You want to disprove AGW? Come up with some solid evidence that it’s wrong. It won’t respond to your “principled arguments”, no matter how eloquently they protest the coming damage to “truth, justice, and the American way” — unless, of course, you are Superman.

  • http://www.benevolentgrammarian.blogspot.com bmmg39

    “It comes out 333 ‘pro’, 153 ‘con’ — a ratio of 2.18.”

    I apologize for what was a borderline typographical error. I had meant to write that “…about TWO thirdS are in support of Krugman’s column.”

  • markm

    Chris: Which “long term” trend?

    1850-1940: Rapid warming.
    1940-1980: Slow cooling.
    1980-2000: Rapid warming – but ending the same or a little cooler than the 1930’s.
    Since 2000: Cooling.

    There was an apparently significant warming trend from the start of the industrial revolution to the 1930’s, but after 1940 – when carbon emissions from fossil fuels increased far more than before – the only clear trend is increased hysteria and data manipulation.

    Or if you want a longer timescale:
    1000 AD: Vikings raise cattle and probably some crops in southern Greenland.
    1500 AD: Vikings frozen out of Greenland.
    2009 AD: Greenland is warmer, but still too frozen for farming.

    Whatever caused the “Little Ice Age” clearly ended in the 1800’s, and temperatures returned to something closer to the mean of the last 8,000 years. Beyond that, we’re trying to tease out trends that are far smaller than the measurement errors – and politicians and political scientists are going into hysterics over unconfirmed computer models.

  • markm

    That should be, “politicized scientists”.

  • http://www.nofreewind.blogspot.com nofreewind

    here are two periods of global warming, one before the hand of man was involved and one since 1979. they look the same to me.
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/gistemp/mean:12/from:1910/to:2009/plot/gistemp/from:1910/to:1945/trend/plot/gistemp/from:1975/to:2009/trend

    of course, did the world ever warm in the first place is a good question? methinks the corruption is DEEP AND PERVASIVE!
    http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/GW_Part2_GlobalTempMeasure.htm

  • http://www.nofreewind.blogspot.com nofreewind

    here are two periods of global warming, one before the hand of man was involved and one since 1979. they look the same to me.
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/gistemp/mean:12/from:1910/to:2009/plot/gistemp/from:1910/to:1945/trend/plot/gistemp/from:1975/to:2009/trend

    http://nofreewind.blogspot.com/2009/06/recent-global-temperature-rise-same-as.html

    of course, did the world ever warm in the first place is a good question? methinks the corruption is DEEP AND PERVASIVE!
    http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/GW_Part2_GlobalTempMeasure.htm

  • http://nukemhill.wordpress.com NukemHill

    Chris Winter.

    There are several fundamental flaws in the whole AGW argument. For details, see other postings on this blog, at climateaudit.org, wattsupwiththat.com, noconsensus.wordpress.com, etc. There is plenty of mathematical rigor behind the criticisms, if you are really interested in that. I have my doubts, though, given the dismissive language you use above.

    Here are some basics, though, just to give you an overview:
    1) The temperature sensors used here in the US are supposed to be placed according to some pretty strict rules, as established by the Federal Government. As documented quite extensively by Anthony Watts at http://www.surfacestations.org, these gauges are, in fact, not maintained with any rigor, and are quite often placed such that other factors impact the temperatures being measured: too close to blacktop, near air conditioning vents, near b-b-que pits, etc. These will quite often cause a temperature reading to be higher than would otherwise occur. Why is this an issue? Because urban heat island (and other even more local) effects are being mistaken for “global warming”. Dr. Hansen, at NASA, claims he factors these issues into his calculations, but nobody knows how, and he refuses to release his algorithms. So much for publicly funded science.
    2) The famous “Hockey Stick” graph, used by Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth”, and the various IPCC reports, was originally constructed by Mann in ’98. He relied extensively on tree ring measurements (as proxies for temperature), and some rather interesting algorithms, to demonstrate a rather sharp increase in global temperatures starting during the later half of last century. There are several critical (hell, fatal) flaws that have been unlayered. First, the bores he used are from trees that demonstrate sensitivity, not just to temperature changes, but also to changes in Nitrogen, Carbon-Dioxide, and rain levels. In other words, other factors impacted the ring measurements. Those factors are not accounted for in any of his calculations. Second, Mann basically “invented” several non-standard statistical methodologies for measuring the reliability of his calculations. He was thoroughly eviscerated by Wegman, during testimony to Congress a few years ago. Wegman was (is?) the President of the American Statistical Association. Someone who deeply understands statistics, obviously. Mann’s methodologies have been thoroughly debunked. But the Hockey Stick lives on.
    3) It has been demonstrated many times over that the climatology community has a severe lack of understanding of statistical methodologies, and is almost fatally inbred. Steve McIntire at Climate Audit, Ryan O at CA & Air Vent, Warren Meyer here, etc., have all shown pretty conclusively that the methodologies being used to “prove” AGW are either mis-applied, or simply being made up out of whole cloth. That simply doesn’t work. And then the “independent” analysis being done by other climatologists isn’t so independent. They are a very tight-knit community (quite often having worked together, or studied together or under one another). So they end up using the same data, the same way, with the same analytical techniques. And then they “peer review” each other’s work. Of course, always with great rigor applied….

    I could go on. The point is, the skeptical position is well-founded. The challenges to AGW arguments are based on “some solid evidence”, as you demand above. The response to those arguments? Dismissive condescension; hysterical name-calling; blacklisting; accusations of being bought by Big Oil. And now being called traitors.

    Sorry Chris. Trying to dismiss the skeptics as “Denialists”, while typical of your ilk, won’t wash. The ice you tread is getting thinner by the moment. Hopefully, the Great American Public will awaken to the con-job that Al Gore and his sycophants are trying to foist upon us before it is too late. I have my doubts, though. You guys seem to have won the rhetorical war, in spite of the lack of actual science to back your claims.

  • Chris Winter

    NukemHill:

    “There are several fundamental flaws in the whole AGW argument. For details, see other postings on this blog, at climateaudit.org, wattsupwiththat.com, noconsensus.wordpress.com, etc. There is plenty of mathematical rigor behind the criticisms, if you are really interested in that. I have my doubts, though, given the dismissive language you use above.”

    Yes, I’m dismissive. That’s because I’m aware of the arguments used on those Web sites. Why would you assume I wasn’t?

    I’ll reply to your points, giving each one a title to save space.

    1) surfacestations.org

    I’ve been aware of Mr. Watts’ Surface Stations Project for over a year. Are you aware of the report just issued by NOAA, which finds the data from the 70 stations ranked in the two best categories by that Project almost perfectly reproduce the result from the entire group? In other words, the serious bias Mr. Watts claimed is in fact negligible.

    2) The famous “Hockey Stick” graph

    I’ve looked into this closely as well. To sum up, the NAS examined Mann’s work. Problems were found, but once they were fixed the result was almost the same as before. The NAS concluded that there was substantial support for Mann’s view that the last decades of the 20th century were warmer than any time in the past 400 years. Subsequent work has extended that period farther into the past.

    As for Dr. Wegman’s investigation, initiated by Rep. Joe Barton, the net result of the mathematical changes he wanted was also a negligible change in Mann’s original graph. See here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/07/the-missing-piece-at-the-wegman-hearing/

    So as far as Mann having been “eviscerated” or his methodologies “debunked” — no, that is simply wrong. And the worst thing about this constant harping on the subject is that it’s such a small part of the case for AGW.

    3) Kallikak science

    I chose this title. It refers to… Hell, Google it. My point is, your argument here parallels Barton’s: that there was some sort of group collusion involved in supporting Mann’s work. It’s rather difficult to set limits on the size of that group, since it evidently includes the NAS.

    4) Al Gore’s “con job”

    Sorry yourself, NukemHill. I’m not convinced. All I’ve seen is assertions that most of the world’s scientists are practicing bogus science, either because they don’t know any better or because they’re all in some vast (and leakproof) conspiracy. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • ron from Texas

    Chris, you asked for proof against AGW (I presume) by means of CO2.And it is given to you in so simple a term that any layman can understand it and you still refuse to acknowledge it, as it violates your faith. Real science accepts all evidence, rather than adjusting evidence or engaging in apologetics (real and metaphorical) to maintain the religion of AGW. Yes, the globe has warmed, no doubt about that. Has man caused it, no. The very graph you quote, shows that CO2 lags behind temp increase. CO2 does is crap as far as being a greenhouse gas. But you refuse to see that. So, you asking for any disproof of AGW is a fool’s bet because you’ve already determined that AGW exists regardless of any evidence contrary to the predictions of the theory. It’s a great example of faith, a profound determination to debate from a position, but it is not science.

    Also, why is it that Mann and others will not release their algorithms? They hide behind the fact that they programmed in Fortran and any computer program is intellectual property, protected by copyright. Because then, you would see how the data has been skewed to create a result, rather than reflect reality.

    You refuse to acknowledge the cooling we’ve had in spite of increased CO2 levels, you have refused to acknowledge the EPA’s own admission that not only is CO2 such a small fragment of the atmosphere and almost non-existant as a forcing agent, but that cutting CO2 will accomplish nothing. Well, that doesn’t fit the litrugy and catechism of AGW, I suppose.

    Of course, if one is a socialist, then I understand the desire to support AGW. Many notables, such as Al Gore, have spoke of a need for global convernance and some socialist orgs see Climate Control, a laughable concept, as the perfect vehicle to ensure socialism, redistributing wealth, when actually, the opposite will happen. 3rd world countries will stay 3rd world because they can’t afford power generation, thanks to governments bent on solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

    If you like, I could explain feedback to you. I just realized that you might not have some of the basic understanding of science that I have and I wouldn’t want to talk over your background to understand it.

  • peter the teacher

    I have read all the comments, encouraging to see that there are many heretics who do not follow the rants of “Rev ” James Hansen and others. Go to http://www.numberwatch.co.uk and read Roger Bricknell’s essay “Global Warming as Religion ” A Masterpiece.