Alternative Universes

In his column today Paul Krugman writes that the congresspersons who opposed the climate bill last week are traitors to the planet. And he added,

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.

Well, yes. No one denies the science behind global climate change is hard to grasp. The very fact of calling it “global warming” even is a problem since it doesn’t mean the globe is getting uniformly warmer, a point lost on the wingnuts who celebrate as vindication every time some part of the planet is unseasonably cool.

It’s an article of faith among the wingnuts that there is a vast underground of scientists who believe global climate change is a hoax, and their beliefs are somehow being suppressed by a minority of powerful scientific uber-lords who are using the global warming issue to create a socialistic one-world government.

In fact, not only do the overwhelming majority of earth scientists think that global climate change is real, 97 percent of climatologists say humans play a role. The biggest doubters are petroleum geologists — wonder why? — and meteorologists, who are not especially knowledgeable about long-term climate trends.

Reactions to Krugman’s column reveal much about peoples’ inner craziness. Libertarians, for example, are less afraid the planet will become inhabitable than they are afraid Krugman will line them up against a wall and have them shot. See also some meathead at the American Enterprise Institute — “Is Paul Krugman Inciting Violence?“)

Others think that not to give the tiny minority of scientists who deny global climate change at least as much credibility and debate time (more, actually) than the majority is denying free speech, or the right to dissent, or some such thing.

Of course, the Right is accustomed to being thus catered to by media. As Krugman himself once said, “If Bush said that the world was flat, the headline on the news analysis would read ‘Shape of Earth: Views Differ’.”

The one thing they absolutely will not allow themselves to admit is that climate changes might be the real danger. Not Paul Krugman, not liberals, not even climatologists. If Steven Spielberg were to cast them in a film, they’d be the mayor wanting to keep the beach open (until the shark attack) or the investment lawyer worried about profits and PR (until eaten by a T Rex).

Chicken Littles on Cap and Trade

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) passed narrowly in the House with the help of eight Republicans, who are being soundly demonized by the Right blogosphere today. This morning I saw a headline about “The Biggest Tax Increase in History.” This was from the Wall Street Journal, so naturally the rest of the Right picked it up and ran with it. Just so you know, the nation will be destroyed.

On the other hand, Joseph Romm writes,

The definitive analysis of ACES by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found the cost to the average American household in 2020 of ACES would be about a postage stamp a day — despite repeated claims of conservatives using dubious industry-funded research that this bill would devastate the economy.

Also, Romm says,

The GOP arguments against the bill, which included calling global warming a hoax, were so lame that one Democrat, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who had announced his intention to vote against the bill because it was too weak, switched to supporting the bill after “listening to the flat earth society and the climate deniers, and some of the most inane arguments I have heard against refusing to act on this vital national security challenge.”

Word on the Right is that cap-and-trade was tried in Europe and was a bust. On the other hand, an MIT study says the European cap-and-trade system is working well with little or no effect on the economy.

On the Left, the reaction ranges from general relief that the Dems could get something passed to concern that ACES doesn’t go far enough. For an optimistic view, see Thomas Noyes, “The price of climate change.” He says the Right also is citing an MIT study, possibly the same one:

One source of these spurious numbers, the Heritage Foundation, claims that Waxman-Markey would reduce GDP by a total of $7.4tn and destroy 1.9 million jobs by the year 2035. A family’s electricity bill would climb 90% and natural gas prices would climb 55%, adding $1,500 to the family budget. An even scarier assertion that the bill would cost families $3,100 was purportedly based on an MIT study – a claim that one of the study’s authors, John Reilly, roundly disputed.

Opponents reached these conclusions by exaggerating the downside and ignoring the upside altogether. They have overstated the costs of renewable energy, underestimated the future costs of fossil fuels and left out the cost savings of improving energy efficiency. The Heritage Foundation report projects home energy prices will increase three to four times faster than the Congressional Budget Office or Environmental Protection Agency studies, and doesn’t include any benefits from improvements in energy efficiency or investing in new industries.

As a species, we have to stop relying on fossil fuel sooner or later, if only because the planet isn’t making more of it. This is not a point you can get across to a wingnut, however.