Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Easy Being Green, but It Takes Gall to be Paul

I don't even need to read all of this to know it's going to be stupid. Next week TPWK will go back to it's normally scheduled programming (intermittent posts with ironic pictures of squirrels). For now, let's take on everyone's favorite prize-winning hack.

Title: It’s Easy Being Green

See what I mean, people? The title of this piece is a hackneyed Kermit the Frog reference. Your New York Times, ladies and gentlemen.

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform?

No.

Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

Yes.

If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.


I'm revving up for a dose of intellectual honesty right now, which I will receive when I read an entirely different editorial.

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Intellectually honest is also going to mention the economic costs, what with him being an economist and all, right?

But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

And, if this bill passes, there will be quite a few more suspects elected to office in 2010. Oh, and it's not as though Krugman is going to break the mold here.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive.


And the usual suspects will find it sufficient simply to discredit this lone argument when advancing a bill that will cost trillions of dollars and do next to nothing to impact global warming.

But that argument is wearing thin — as thin as the Arctic pack ice,

He's here all week folks.

which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.


Sounds good.

So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth.

Good thing you devoted half your column to it, then.

It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy.


That's because doing "anything" actually means doing "something", and that "something" is a stupid cap and trade bill that will cost trillions of dollars.

As the blog Climate Progress puts it,

Yeah, let's let a left wing blog speak for conservatives. That's fair.

opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”


Reason: The proposed fixes get more expensive. Like the Cap and Trade proposal, which will cost trillions.

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial.

The way in which they are bogus is to be not particularly bogus at all.

Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either. How do we know this?

By considering the argument obliquely and pretending to have made a comprehensive case against it? Cause, that's what you're going to do in 3... 2... 1...

First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now.

Blastoff. He has a point, though. Just yesterday I poured gasoline on my ferns just to watch them die. In retrospect, I suppose I didn't HAVE to do that.

That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living — a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.”

Is Krugman going to augment this assertion with anything other than the fact that "the literature" has a name for it?

The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.


So, no, we're not going to see any evidence. Well, then allow me to rebut his assertion with logic. If the price of resources has failed to assuage "wastful" energy usage, then there is no compelling reason to think increased prices will do so, at least not in the long term.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income.

Horsefeathers. The CBO estimates that tax credits in the amount of $161 for a single person and $359 for a family of five will be distributed to the bottom 20% of wage earners, and that this number will rise by 75%, to $280-$630, in 2019.

This amount is meant to offset the lost purchasing power of the BOTTOM 20%. The average family has 3.14 people, so let's say that represents the median expenditure. The average middle class family makes about twice what a 20th percentile family makes. By my estimate, that would put the average cost per family at $900 per year.

Maybe Republicans wouldn't call Democrats liars if they didn't, you know, lie. It's also worth noting that the CBO estimates that this bill will reduce carbon emissions by all of 2%. That's $900, per family, for a 2% change.

By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income.

This proportionally correct. In other words, Krugman is right that the bill will cost six times as much in 2050 as it does in 2020, which, per above, is $5,400 per family.

But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent.

In real dollars, then, we are looking (optimistically) at $2,200 per family to (realistically) $3,000 per family.

The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth.
Because Paul says so.

And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.
Which this bill will not do to any discernible degree (pun intended).

So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?

Math.

Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really.
We're just accurately reporting what the data says, rather than taking one piece of data, and applying it to a fundamentally different demographic, and pretending that cherry picked demographic is representative of the whole. Shame on us.

It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.

The "literature" doesn't even have a term for it, so it can't be true.

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Paul has tipped his toe in the data, and found it to be a bit cold. Cue Glenn Beck reference in 3... 2... 1...

Thus, last week Glenn Beck — who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. —
That's some compelling analysis there, champ.

informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.
Except for the CBO thing.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar — and similarly false — claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

Paul Krugman = Supposed Expert
A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior.
Instead of being shocked, maybe our Nobel economist would like to take the time to explain how a $900 billion bill can cost $160 per year, per family. I mean, God forbid we'd ask him to do the hard work of fisking a press release before regurgitating it. That's what they pay bloggers for.

But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides —
What does this have to do with anything?

and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.

Can't... Type... Fists... Curling into... Ball... At... Hypocrisy... Rage... Building...

So here’s the bottom line:
Yes, Paul. You've offered so much detailed, factual analysis here, and have made such a comprehensive case, that it is imperative, for us naifs I mean, for you to distill its essence.

The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax.

Oh, you're summarizing by repeating the same assertion you made over and over in your op-ed.

The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.


Just as long as you're full of brown.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey at least opening up those shipping routes north of Siberia might reduce the instances of piracy. I mean it's great to be a pirate in the tropics, but who wants to hang out in the arctic circle?

It never ceases to amaze me that this is a leading global issue. True, industry causes CO2 gases to increase, but we don't have much data on historic weather patterns. Most scientists have a hard time determining if it's industrial pollution or natural phenomena that are warming the planet, and there are a fair amount of scientists insisting we are heading towards another ice age.
I don't think the die hard go greenies will be happy until we all live in huts and ride donkeys again- though they themselves wouldn't want to live that way.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

Yeah, I think a moderate approach is best. Monitor the issue, devote resources to generating conclusive evidence, so that we can act to prevent disaster. I have no problem with this.

But there are those who want to manufacture a disaster out of global warming, out of a broader desire to sublimate mankind. Environmentalism is a religion, and until it becomes otherwise, I am going to oppose the movement.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Environmentalism is a religion, and until it becomes otherwise, I am going to oppose the movement." I didn't realize that you thought Christianity was bullshit.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

I don't follow your reasoning, anonymous. Can you unpack that a little.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous The 13th Apostle said...

I think he means that if environmentalism is not worthy of trust because it is a religion, then religions are apparently not worthy of trust. Therefore Christianity is also not worthy of trust.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

That's what I thought, but this represents a pretty substantial gap in logic, so I thought I'd let him defend it.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous The 13th Apostle said...

He does have a point though. The way you state it, it sounds like you're saying that if something is a religion, it can't be taken seriously. Just sayin'.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

I said that I have no interest in environmentalism as a religion, not that I reject religion outright. The timbre of his comment does not indicate that he wants to engage in any serious discussion, so I am not going to go to great lengths to clarify my point for him.

9:54 AM  

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