Larry Summers: Beware Moral Hazard Fundamentalists
Inflation Expectations and the Federal Reserve

Why Oh Why Can't we Have a Better Press Corps? Joseph Nocera Edition

Huh. I had thought I had a positive recollection of Joseph Nocera. Apparently not. Ankush:

Nocera's column this week.... Regardless of one's views on whether it's a good idea to require companies to disclose the risk global warming poses to their businesses, I think it's safe to say that Gregg Easterbrook -- who only recently acknowledged the widespread view in the scientific community that warming is, you know, happening -- is not someone you should be relying upon.... And yet, there Easterbook is, peddling his new... view that global warming may not actually be so bad after all!

Nocera... [offers] skeptics on high-profile issues were given far more favorable treatment than their opponents, who, in turn, weren't offered an opportunity to respond directly.... It's a fairly transparent way for Nocera to emerge as a cool-headed realist among crazed, unthinking partisans.

The method is embarrassing and silly... unfortunately quite common in journalism...


Here is the link to the Nocera story:

This Climate Is Surely Full of Hot Air: Sometimes the only thing to do is just state the obvious. So here goes: The climate change petition that was promoted last week as a boon for investors and for the environment has almost no chance of ever being adopted.... It asks the Securities and Exchange Commission to force companies to begin disclosing their “climate change risk” in their financial documents....

[T]hese measures... are misleading and disingenuous... attempt[s] to use regulation and litigation to force companies to toe the environmentalist party line.... It’s environmental tyranny disguised as public policy.

By now, of course, there is no longer an argument over whether global warming is real; even Exxon Mobil is on board.... The question of what this ultimately means, however, isn’t remotely settled.... Gregg Easterbrook at the Brookings Institution... who has written lucidly over the years about environmental issues, said that it was far from certain that global warming would require radical changes.... “Global warming is fundamentally an air pollution problem,” he said, “and in the past, air pollution problems have turned out be far cheaper to fix and much more quickly corrected than anyone thought at first”...


Some of Gregg Easterbrook's "lucid" writings about climate change:

The moral flaws of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: The Al Gore movie has no sex scene. Gore is the only presidential candidate who has made out on national television, so this was a legitimate worry. Otherwise, An Inconvenient Truth could use some action. Maybe a chase scene through the winding streets of Davos. Maybe Gore parachuting off a skyscraper as he shoots at American Petroleum Institute commandos aboard a helicopter. Instead, we get a 100-minute PowerPoint presentation interrupted by outtakes from campaign ads, plus shots of Gore apparently rendered despondent by the weight of his environmental knowledge...

"W. Takes on Global Warming" by Gregg Easterbrook: If George W. Bush is reelected, how future historians remember him may become a White House concern. There remains a chance that history will come to regard the invasion of Iraq as a liberation and a progressive turning point in Arab society, but the odds are greater the invasion will be pronounced a colossal folly. A reelected Bush, if he wants to win favor with historians, will have to do something impressive, statesmanlike, and out of character. Which is why I think a second-term Bush will be the president who imposes global-warming controls...

And there is his inability to note that Fahrenheit degrees are smaller than Celsius degrees:

The studies that find a global warming trend during the 1980s rely on surface-temperature readings taken near cities. Researchers know that the urban "heat-island effect" distorts such readings, and they adjust data to compensate. The degree of adjustment required is controversial, however. The Goddard Institute, whose greenhouse studies are downbeat, subtracts about 0.1 degree Fahrenheit. [It subtracted 0.1 degree Celsius] Other researchers maintain that about 0.3 degrees [that's Fahrenheit] must be subtracted to remove the heat-island effect. If the Goddard Institute adjusted by 0.3 degrees [that would be Celsius], this would cancel out the entire claimed global temperature increase of the 1980s...

Then the trend dissipated, with 1991 and 1992 being slightly cool for American cities. Greenhouse true believers attributed this decline to the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which ejected large amounts of sun-filtering aerosols into the stratosphere. Tests showed that by late 1992 most Pinatubo effects had washed out of the air, suggesting that if an emergency global warming were in progress it ought to resume in 1993. But global temperatures recorded by NASA satellites for 1993 remained slightly below the 1980s average...

First, though an ozone hole has been opening over Antarctica since the late 1970s, it is not yet known whether artificial chemicals are the sole cause.... [P]art of the cause may be natural. Some new research suggests ozone breaches have been occurring on a cyclical basis since long before morning light first warmed our primate ancestors...

Though research on this topic is in its early stages, some tests show surface levels of ultraviolet radiation have declined slightly during the last decade. Doomsayers never mention this...

When nations began building high-energy accelerators to shatter protons and neutrons in search of quarks, some theorists suggested the collisions might manufacture a novel subatomic template to which all elemental particles would bind in some way, crushing the Earth, and perhaps the entire universe, out of existence. To this day, whenever a new accelerator such as the Superconducting Supercollider is contemplated, a committee of physicists is appointed to analyze whether the machine might generate a subatomic template...

And the 1991 NAS study:

The Poor Man Institute. Whoa, whoa, whoa - not so fast, Mr. Easterbrook.: When global-warming concerns became widespread, many argued that more scientific research was needed before any policy decisions. This was hardly just the contention of oil-company executives. “There is no evidence yet” of dangerous climate change, the National Academy of Sciences declared in 1991...

Here is what the NAS actually declared in 1991:

Increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations probably will be followed by increases in average atmospheric temperature. We cannot predict how rapidly these changes will occur, how intense they will be for any given atmospheric concentration, or, in particular, what regional changes in temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and frost occurrence can be expected. So far, no large or rapid increases in the global average temperature have occurred, and there is no evidence yet of imminent rapid change. But if the higher GCM [General Circulation Models] projections prove to be accurate, substantial responses would be needed, and the stresses on this planet and its inhabitants would be serious... [...] Despite the great uncertainties, greenhouse warming is a potential threat sufficient to justify action now...

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