Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Liars, Charlatans, and Republican Legislators

Yes, Mark Thoma gets shriller and more firmly based in reality with each passing day:

Economist's View: A Gathering of Liars and Charlatans:I will be glad when this nonsense ends. Government hearings should not be "a gathering of liars and charlatans, sponsored by those industries who want to protect their profits." This is Daniel P. Schrag, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard and director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment recounting his recent experience testifying before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:

On a swift boat to a warmer world, by Daniel P. Schrag, Commentary, Boston Globe: I am a climate scientist and an optimist. This may seem like a contradiction, with all the talk of scorching heat waves and bigger, deadlier hurricanes. But it's not. Let's be clear: I am not a skeptic on climate change. In my earth science courses, I teach that burning fossil fuel is raising atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels not seen on Earth for more than 30 million years. In public lectures, I show pictures of what would happen ... if half the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, asking people to imagine abandoning New Orleans and Miami. I tell people that, unless we take action to reduce emissions, the question is not whether this is going to occur, but when.

Yet I am an optimist because I believe we can fix the climate change problem. We can deploy the technologies to meet our energy needs while slashing carbon emissions: plug-in hybrids, windmills, carbon sequestration for coal plants, and even nuclear power....

Unfortunately, I am a little less optimistic today than I was a couple of weeks ago, before testifying at the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. It was Senator James Inhofe's last hearing as chair of the committee, and the focus was on media coverage of global warming. I was invited by the Democratic staff to counter arguments that global warming is a hoax perpetrated on the American people by scientists like me....

I still hoped I could help educate our lawmakers -- maybe not Inhofe, but perhaps some of the others.... [G]lobal warming is not a partisan issue. America should lead the world and capitalize on an extraordinary business opportunity as we invest in new energy technologies, I said. Then I watched in horror as Inhofe's witnesses spouted outrageous claims intended to deceive and distort. Two were scientists associated with industry-funded think tanks. They described global warming as a "mass delusion" among the scientific community, sowing confusion by misrepresenting the ... data... They even recommended burning as much fossil fuel as possible to prevent another ice age....

Some senators defended the integrity of the scientific community, including Barbara Boxer.... But... no one stood up and called this hearing what it was: a gathering of liars and charlatans, sponsored by those industries who want to protect their profits. Later that day, Inhofe... [claimed] that I "agreed" with him that the Kyoto Protocol "would have almost no impact on the climate even if all the nations fully complied." In fact, I had interrupted him during the hearing to object to this claim....

Taking the first step without government isn't feasible - if it was, why haven't we taken it already? Voters sent a message in the last election -- we'll see if Congress and the rest of government hears it.... The assault on the science underlying global warming is ongoing. For example, this is from Friday's American Spectator:

The Gore Who Stole Christmas, by Rob Bradley, American Spectator: The... science behind rapid, disruptive global warming scenarios is murky at best.... [P]eer-reviewed studies dispute virtually all the tenets behind climate alarmism.... [T]hese scares du jour may go the way of yesterday's alarms over global cooling, the population bomb, and mineral-resource exhaustion. Nonetheless, one part of these scare stories is genuinely frightening: the heavy-handed government intervention that advocates always look to as the source of salvation. Yesterday's foes of the free market were socialists, communists, and Keynesians. Today's are greens who want government engineering to "stabilize" the climate and ensure "sustainability."...

Keynesians... those awful people who brought us things like Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, and macroeconomic stabilization policy. And all those government regulations about polluting the air and rivers those commies put into place are such an inconvenience for business. It was so much better when they didn't have to care.

I am not anti-market. When there is market failure and markets are broken, they need to be fixed. I want markets to work efficiently and that requires some mechanism to force economic agents to internalize the costs they impose on the environment.

People who deny this basic point, or refuse to acknowledge the science that would justify such actions, should not promote themselves as advocates for well-functioning, efficient markets.

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