Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

WaPo vs. Climate Change

Posted by Danny Morris on April 29, 2009

If any of you are avid readers of the Washington Post editorial pages, then lately you might have noticed some climate change-related hating. There was of course the well-documented brouhaha back in February surrounding George Will’s spurious climate change articles and the Post’s editorial board refusing to do anything about his painfully incorrect assertions. Accusations and double talk bandied about, arguments were made, a good time was had by all.

This week, Post columnist Robert Samuelson decided to get in on the act as well. His column doesn’t do anything as egregious as question whether global warming is real or not. Instead, he goes after environmental groups that are trying to convince the public that climate change legislation will cost almost nothing. Why is this bad? Because according to him:

The claims of the Environmental Defense Fund and other environmentalists that this reduction can occur cheaply rely on economic simulations by “general equilibrium” models…The trouble is that these models embody wildly unrealistic assumptions: There are no business cycles; the economy is always at “full employment”; strong growth is assumed, based on past growth rates; the economy automatically accommodates major changes — if fossil fuel prices rise (as they would under anti-global-warming laws), consumers quickly use less and new supplies of “clean energy” magically materialize.

So, either climate change doesn’t exist or it’s a great way for those evil enviro-types to lie to us all with their voodoo economics models, according to the WaPo editorial stable. Samuelson’s claims don’t hold up much better than Will’s, though. Just like Will got pummeled by the blogosphere, Paul Krugman rides into the picture to lay an editorial pimp-slap on Samuelson, saying:

I don’t think there’s a single thing there that’s right. What on earth do business cycles have to do with it? The models may assume growth based on past trends, but they DO ask whether emissions policy would greatly slow growth — and the answer is no. Consumers aren’t assumed to “quickly” use less — the time frame in these models is decades long. And new supplies don’t “magically” appear — they respond to price incentives, which is what economics usually says…this column exemplifies a strange thing about the climate change debate. Opponents of a policy change generally believe that market economies are wonderful things, able to adapt to just about anything — anything, that is, except a government policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

Well said, Dr. Krugman. Needless to say, if you are looking for a well thought-out and robust discussion about the pros and cons of climate change legislation, perhaps it would be wise to steer clear of the Washington Post.

4 Responses to “WaPo vs. Climate Change”

  1. […] the original post: WaPo vs. Climate Change Bookmark […]

  2. Carlos Ferreira said

    We’re getting two spectrums getting together: the “it’s not going to cost a thing to anyone, never” and the “we’ll all be broke”. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

    Also… if alternative supplies won’t materialize exactly overnight, the fact that we raise the price of fossil fuels will make investment in alternatives more attractive, lowering their opportunity cost.

  3. Dan Pangburn said

    Since 2000, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 18.4% of the increase from 1800 to 2000. According to the average of the five reporting agencies, the trend of average global temperatures since 1998 shows no increase and since 2002 the trend shows a DECREASE of 0.8°C/century.

    Many Climate Scientists are completely unaware of some relevant science and understand other relevant science poorly (it’s not in their curriculum). The missing science proves that added atmospheric carbon dioxide has no significant influence on average global temperature. See the pdf linked from for the proof.

    As the atmospheric carbon dioxide level continues to increase and the average global temperature doesn’t it is becoming more and more apparent that many climate scientists have made an egregious mistake and a whole lot of people have been mislead. I wonder how wide the spread will need to get for the IPCC to accept that they have missed something. Any action that is taken to reduce human produced carbon dioxide to reduce global warming is a mistake and puts freedom and prosperity at risk. Increased efficiency, reduced waste and reduced energy imports increase prosperity and security.

  4. Naima K said

    okay okay
    so do you all think that CARICOM, as a community, is prepared for the consequences of climate change?

    i really need this info.

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