Paul Krugman: Betraying the Planet

Are the arguments against the need to act to prevent climate change based upon a morally defensible position grounded in science, or, given the predicted consequences of inaction, a morally indefensible position based upon ideology and political interests?:

Betraying the Planet, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

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.

The … planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. …

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by … researchers … would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy. As a recent authoritative U.S. government report points out, by the end of this century…, Illinois may have the climate of East Texas, and … deadly heat waves … may become annual or biannual events.

In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

Well, sometimes even the most authoritative analyses get things wrong. And if dissenting opinion-makers and politicians … 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…, 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 … 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.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” … “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” … Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with a round of applause from his Republican colleagues.

Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting … studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

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 … when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America,… [so] 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.

11 Responses to "Paul Krugman: Betraying the Planet"

  1. Anonymous   June 29, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    It seems to me that the whole issue of climate warming has more to do with taxing people than saving a planet. In the mid to late 70’s we were talking about a new ice age. Today it’s just the opposite except money’s involved; thus the urgency.

    • Guest   July 3, 2009 at 7:46 am

      I totally agree, it is all about TAX, since when has any politician been interested in what happens after his or her term of office?.. They can’t predict next weeks weather correctly, but expect us to take the word of “scientist” who are told how high to jump if they wish to continue their employment.No, our weather is controlled by the sun, hopefully Hubble with it’s new filters will prove in the near future.

  2. Guest   June 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    I’ve lived through the potential ice age, “acid rain”, and the post-apocalypse scenario posed to me (as an impressionable kid) in “The Day After”.I’ll make it through this as well.

  3. Guest   June 29, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    The no vote was by representatives representing creationists who cannot count up to 9 let alone spell “degrees”. It seems to me that it does come down to education and taking it seriously.

  4. Guest   July 1, 2009 at 6:25 am

    It is amazing how many people have bought in to the con game, of green house gases and global warming – name was changed recently to climate change due to the recent drop in temperatures. The issue is more about people who want to run other people’s lives according to their rules. No where do I see mention the affect of sun activity on temperatures. I am old enough that I have lived through the coming ice age predicted by the same thought people, I am sure I will manage to live through this con game also. As a matter of fact given the choice between a warming climate and a ice age like we had a long time ago I will go with a warming climate, chances of survival are much higher. To take a recent temperature sample of the earth and make a declaration of what is normal compared to the age of the earth just defies logic. When I was a child in the sixties people complained about the crazy weather and they blamed it on us doing space travel to the moon. I guess if I was up to doing a con job the easiest way to manipulate the people would be using the weather as the subject matter.

  5. Jason Blue   July 3, 2009 at 7:03 am

    Accepting that our CO2 producton is causing climate change, I do not trust government planners to fix this. I heard Dr. Krugman became interested in economics through science fiction as a child. Although obviously very inteligent I think some magical thinking clouds his judgement. Although imperfect, all the free societies are living longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives on average than any time in human history. When grand planners (and I suspect Krugman aspires to be) impose on individual free will, even with it’s dirty imperfections, the unforeseen consequences causes setbacks in human progress on average. There is plenty of historical precidence supporting this. Leave aside the immorality of using coersive force to trample property rights of others to achieve these plans. Happy independance day.

  6. Francis R. Allocca   July 3, 2009 at 9:08 am

    I have been following the ‘climate’ debate since Jim Hansen first began reported his research…from that point to today, I have yet to see anyone post actual temperature readings to support their positions. Of the facts that I have read, man’s contribution to green house gases is a very small part of the total. Logic would support that reducing the amount of CO2 by whatever means will have a small effect on our climate. Neither the UN or the Media will allow thoughtful debate… and that worries me.

  7. Valissa   July 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    As a long time student of geology, I can safely claim that climate ALWAYS changes over time. No local or regional climate has ever been ‘static.’ So saying there is climate change is about as profound to most people as the fact that the weather changes. Is the planet warming? Of course it is, in many areas…. but it’s also cooling in some areas even if the average global temperature is rising. The big question is NOT whether climate changes, but how people and governments choose to respond to this (mostly) natural phenomena. Since this issue is now wholly politicized it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to have a rational discussion about the nature of weather and climate and what to do to plan for changing weather scenarios. This whole cap & trade idea will only benefit a few financially (another bubble for Goldman Sachs?) and given the long term trends in how climate operates, will benefit none of us climatologically. Cap & trade seems like a big scam to me, and I long to go back to the days where we talked about pollution and the negative effects of that. Where does this incredible hubris about the human power to “save us” from climate change come from anyway? And how is that any different from religious beliefs where some outside force is supposed to “save” us from whatever?Why is the temperature in cities a few degrees higher than in the neighboring countryside? Because of human density, buildings, roads, etc. Human agricultural practices have also been known to imoact local and regional climates. Obviously both human and animal density on the planet have some sort of impact on temperatures and climate, and the population of humans and animals are all increasing (in general). It’s also possible, that the heat generated from all the humans, farming and factories, etc is what stopped the planet from going into another ice age… which according to some scientists we were due.

  8. John R Bell   July 3, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I guess no natural scientists bother to read the comments that appear here. What appalling ignorance. I will make the rash assumption that the only science those who commented ever studied in depth was the psuedo-science of economics. Their comments show what comes of trying to settle scientific questions by ideological means. Apparently political correctness is a vice of the right as well as of the left.

  9. Anonymous   July 4, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Here’s how you catch a monkey, it’s a simple trap: you get a coconut shell and draw a hole in it, big enough for the monkey to stick his hand inside, fingers stretched, but not big enough for his fist to come out. Then you just throw some food inside and hang it on a tree. It is very hard for people to acknowledge that sometimes you can neither have the cake, nor eat it, even though it doesn’t belong to anybody else. The planet is that kind of trap, you know? And that’s not a moral issue, it’s just something you have to be old enough to understand.

  10. Donald Fleck   July 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    I am quite amazed at the level of denial. Melting ice caps. Lots of water, increasing temeratures, carefully measured. Yet, so many believing it is hokum. So hard to get past feelings, when they run so strong that they make seeing truth impossible. So, the first remeby for global warming, for the 212 who voted against the measure, and those above with clouded feelings, is parity in mental health treatment.