I am aware that some of the concepts introduced in Part II are difficult. Species extinctions driven by human actions are easy to understand, but thermodynamic models relating energy and the global economy are very hard to understand.
I want to point out that humans, especially orthodox economists, are just as deluded as I said they are, a point which becomes easier to make when we consider Paul Krugman's Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free? (hat tip, reader Reed).
This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free.
But will anyone believe the good news?
I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.
But you know that such assessments will be met with claims that it’s impossible to break the link between economic growth and ever-rising emissions of greenhouse gases, a position I think of as “climate despair.” The most dangerous proponents of climate despair are on the anti-environmentalist right. But they receive aid and comfort from other groups, including some on the left, who have their own reasons for getting it wrong...
For the record, I am not political. I am neither on the "right" nor the "left," but I am squarely in Krugman's climate "despair" camp. According to Krugman, a person is in the "despair" camp if he believes "the only way to limit carbon emissions is to bring an end to economic growth."
Going back to Tim Garrett's thermodynamic model, think about this next Krugman quote. It's time to pull out the red font.
And you sometimes see hard scientists [like Garrett] making arguments along the same lines [i.e., there are limits to growth], largely (I think) because they don’t understand what economic growth means.
They think of it as a crude, physical thing, a matter simply of producing more stuff, and don’t take into account the many choices — about what to consume, about which technologies to use — that go into producing a dollar’s worth of G.D.P.
It is quite clear that Paul Krugman's feet have left the ground altogether. After all, isn't the ground one stands on, nay, the planet Earth itself, merely "a crude physical thing?"
We might think of Krugman's view this way:
Why should the Laws of Economics—i.e., the Laws of Human Desire—be constrained by mere Physical Reality?
So sayeth Paul, who finishes with a flourish.
So here’s what you need to know: Climate despair is all wrong. The idea that economic growth and climate action are incompatible may sound hardheaded and realistic, but it’s actually a fuzzy-minded misconception. If we ever get past the special interests and ideology that have blocked action to save the planet, we’ll find that [fixing global warming] is cheaper and easier than almost anyone imagines.
There is always safety in numbers. It's a Really Big Club, the one Paul Krugman belongs to. Tragically, it is also an outsized lunatic asylum. Krugman is a master of existential threat filtering (Adventures In Flatland, part I).
I thought this note might clear a few things up for some of you.