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Krugman weighs in

Filed under: — david @ 11 April 2010

After weeks and months of press coverage seemingly Through the Looking Glass, Paul Krugman has sent us a breath of fresh air this morning in the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Building a Green Economy“. Krugman now joins fellow NYT columnist Tom Friedman as required reading in my Global Warming for English Majors class at the University of Chicago.

There is a lot here to comment on and discuss. The extinctions at the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum, for example, were mostly limited to foraminfera, single-celled shelly protozoa living at the sea floor, not really a “mass extinction” like the end Cretaceous when the dinosaurs got feathered. The Gulf Stream is not the only thing keeping Northern Europe warmer than Alaska. Krugman’s four reasons why it’s dubious to compare costs of climate mitigation to adaption didn’t include the unfairness, that the people paying the costs of climate change would not be the same ones as reap the benefit of CO2 emission. He also seems to have missed the recent revelation that what really matters to climate is the total ultimate slug of emitted CO2, implying that unfettered emission today dooms us to more drastic cuts in the future or a higher ultimate atmospheric CO2 concentration, which will persist not just for “possibly centuries”, but almost certainly for millennia.

But despite a few off-notes, reading this very nicely written, beautifully laid out and argued piece felt like getting a deep sympathetic body massage after a bruising boxing match. Thank you, Mr. Krugman.

510 Responses to “Krugman weighs in”

  1. 501
    John E. Pearson says:

    Hank (494): “But I looked for the “some” who say what he claims. I find nothing.”

    I figured I was the “some” to who Rod referred to when he said: “> Rod B says: 8 May 2010 at 11:37 AM > I was asking/commenting on the narrow subject of peer review > publishing as the entry ante for saying anything. Some believe > that to be so, others not.”

    OF course I didn’t say that one had to publish in the peer-reviewed literature in order to say anything. I’ve never published a single word on climate. However that isn’t at all what happened and Rod knows it. What happened was a guy that had published 4 papers in his entire career all in the 1960’s and none of them related to anything close to greenhouse gases, climate etc, claimed to be an expert on the greenhouse effect. So yeah, there’s a bar you have to get over. Not to yammer on RC but to be an “expert.” To be an expert in a field you need to be publishing in the field. If you want to overthrow the established wisdom in the field with your revolutionary new theory you have to publish in the peer-reviewed literature. If your theory stands up to the beating it will get in peer-review you’ll be the most popular kid on the block. The guy that we’re talking about, whose name escapes me, was regurgitating stuff that had been shot down a half century ago. Simply put, Rod was being ridiculous.

  2. 502
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I figured I was the “some” … OF course I didn’t say that …
    Yup; “from that he kind of slides sideways”

    Who he? Oh, some people. You know, them. That kind. Speaking generally.

  3. 503
    Rod B says:

    Hank, I was simply asserting that some put peer-reviewed publishing in the field by someone trained in the field as a high bar for even entering the discussion. Others don’t make the bar so high. This is evident by reading posts. I saw no useful purpose (and a little rudeness) in naming names and referencing posts.

    Though I admit your general observation in #495 have merit.

  4. 504
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I was simply asserting that some put peer-reviewed publishing
    > in the field by someone trained in the field as a high bar for
    > even entering the discussion.

    What’s “the” discussion you’re talking about? Not this one here?

    Surely you don’t mean ‘discussion’ by publishing in a children’s climate book baseless claims contradicting known science, claiming “some” peers reviewed the content before the book was written? You wouldn’t defend that, would you? Why, you could use CO2Science for source material and publish their distortions, if you dug a hole and set the “bar” that low.

  5. 505
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., OK, who should know about a system better than the people who
    a)study it for a living
    b)are obsessed with understaning the system to the point where they have little life outside of work
    c)are acknowledged by their peers (e.g. those similarly exhibiting characteristics a and b) as having insight into the system?

    Put another way: Why waste your time with folks who may have absolutely no idea what they are talking about when you can come to the people whose job it is to understand what is going on? Do you go to a plumber with a blog when you have chest pain?

  6. 506
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Hank, I was simply asserting that some put peer-reviewed publishing in the field by someone trained in the field as a high bar for even entering the discussion.”

    And so what? I call strawman.

    Nobody is saying you have to have peer reviewed publishing to enter the discussion.

    I don’t.

    But if you’re going to teach children YOUR version of the truth then you need to either be following those who ARE plentifully backed up in their theories by peer reviewed work, or be one of those highly-cited masters in the subject yourself.

    You don’t get to teach kids pi = 3 unless you’ve managed to prove that this is so with peer reviewed work. You CAN teach kids pi~3.142 or 22/7 because, for younger children, those values are “right enough” by what other people have proven and your assertion is backed by strong evidence.

    Unlike pi = 3, which is not.

    Neither is JRB’s “work”.

    If he wants to preach his lies to children, he should prove his position first.

  7. 507
    Hank Roberts says:

    So, why not talk about Krugman, and others, and cite to economic facts?

    What if the facts used aren’t reliable? Who do you cite?

    Try this guy for a contrast to the standard numbers:

    “Americans are learning that perhaps they will have to live with less for a long time to come, and that it’s time to face the facts.”

  8. 508
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 507

    “Americans are learning that perhaps they will have to live with less for a long time to come, and that it’s time to face the facts.”

    But the reason for that is Peak Oil not cooked numbers. The cost of energy will now act as an automatic choke. As economic activity picks up so will the cost of energy, and that will siphon off the capital needed to kick start an expansion.

    Our current recession is due to the over-leveraged positions ($13 trillion) of the shadow banking world not to Williams’s theory of cooked numbers. Williams strikes me a typical reductionist. “It’s bad and I’ve long said it’s bad.” Yes, things are bad but not for the reasons he provides.

  9. 509

    Hank @ 507:

    The problem with people who claim the government consistently over-reports or under-reports is that these supposed systematically too-rosy (or too gloomy) reports cannot be sustained indefinitely. Sooner or later the “power of compounding” causes the bogus claims to be exposed.

    The problem with economic numbers is that they aren’t just numbers — they are assumptions about behaviors that have no =fixed= basis in fact. If a rumour starts tomorrow (or just some bad news), people will respond to that rumour (or bad news) by modifying their behavior in a way that negatively impacts the economy. When some good news comes out, the economy responds positively because people again alter their behavior.

    The question then becomes — this sounds an awful lot like “Psychology”, and the answer is “Yes”, psychology plays a major role in the economy, and what many prophets of gloom and doom (and the other way, too, but the economy supposedly is “very weak” right now) are selling is validation of psychology.

  10. 510
    James R. Barrante says:

    Good grief! Are you guys still at it? There was a great movie back when I was in college called “The Hustler” with Paul Newman. You should watch it. I’ve been looking at your site for years and dying to pop in, but never had the right opportunity. Then, miracles, Chuck’s OT thread appeared about my book. You guys took the bait, just as I thought you would. All of you were right on cue. I haven’t had this much fun in ages. Particularly when your little toady, Jacob Mann, jumped in. He put his foot where his mouth is. I probably could sue him for slander. But it’s not worth it. I’m too old.

    I chose not to publish my greenhouse gas research, because it wasn’t worth the grief. I’ve heard the war stories of people who don’t agree with the your side of the story trying to get published. Also, I was too deeply into the work I was doing in X-ray diffraction theory. Yes, I know a little about crystals too, Dr. Ladbury. I found one of the first ordered perovskites back in the ’60s. Anyhoo, BPL, I did read your paper on “saturation.” You should have had it peer-reviewed. I’m still trying to figure out how you can have all the energy “in” equal all the energy “out” and still have the temperature of the system increase. On the other hand, if you are saying that the temperature of layer 1 goes up at the expense of it going down somewhere else in the system, then the system is not at thermal equilibrium and equilibrium thermodynamics doesn’t work. This has been my contention all along. That the greenhouse gas effect cannot be described using equilibrium thermo, because it is a steady state kinetics effect. The atmosphere is never in equilibrium.

    The only person in the group that I feel bad about messing with is Jim Bullis, and I owe him an apology. He was fair-minded and actually treated me with respect. The physicists behaved typically, like a number of my physicists friends in the Physics Department. Me Tarzan, you Jane. What do you know? Like I said, right on cue. John E. Pearson is a mystery. I can’t find anything about him. All I know is that he comments a lot about other people’s work. I’m sure he’s done some original work on his own like most of you, but I’ve noticed over the years, when anyone asks you guys to explain something, you send them to someone else’s work. I actually counted how many times you said, “Go read the literature” to me.

    Finally, I’m not sure how the acid-base stuff got into the argument. I don’t discuss it in my book (you really should read more than 25 pages of book, if you can stand it). Oh, I did mention on page 84 that the CO2 never truly saturates to extinction because the relationship is logarithmic. Yes, I do understand Sturm-Liouville systems and their relationship to self-adjoint operators in quantum mechanics. But getting back to acids and bases, and the toady might learn something here, my point that saying that the oceans are acidifying because they are absorbing CO2 is technically dishonest. One of you used the hot-cold analogy. Hot and cold are relative terms, not absolute terms. This is not true for acids and bases. When something is less basic, it is not more acidic. That is a freshman chemistry understanding of acid-base theory. There is an absolute demarkation point that separates acids from bases and it is not subtle, as one of you pointed out, the pH scale is logarithmic. So my point about ocean chemistry was that when the pH drops from 9 to 8, to say that the solution is more acidic is dishonest. It is less basic, meaning its approaching a neutral state. The pH of the oceans is around 8.4, which is exactly the pH of a saturated solution of bicarbonate (pH = 1/2 (pK1 + pK2)) in the carbonic acid dissociation. It is going to take a lot of CO2 (a lot of CO2) to overcome this buffer system and drop the pH below 7. Could it happen? Absolutely, but I think the excess CO2 will precipitate out as CaCO3 or some other carbonate before this happens. I never heard that the oceans were fizzing in the past. (CO2 is a very weak acid). Acid rain is essentially sulfuric acid which is a strong acid. That’s why I mentioned it. It went over your heads, I guess, I don’t know. You guys seem to fall right into my first chapter, which is entitled, “I Dare You to Teach Me.” I know! You are all physicists. What could a chemist ever teach you. Well, it’s been fun! I think you should get off JRB’s back now and get back to insulting someone else.