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The New York Times Sunday magazine features a tour de force on climate economics by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Entitled Building a Green Economy, a more appropriate title might be Climate Economics 101 and it should be required reading of every single Member of Congress and any journalist who writes on the issue of costs and benefits of action to mitigate climate change.

This truly excellent piece, however, has several serious weaknesses. There is, of course, the base problem that the 'costs' of climate change are -- even in his work -- seriously underestimated.  But, Krugman is an economist building on the work of other economists.  In that community, he is not on the optimistic side in terms of climate change's impacts even if he is likely too optimistic against what the real impacts will be.

More importantly, the Nobel-prize winning Krugman fails to call out the economic community and economic analysis for incredibly stove-piped analysis of climate change issues and the potential positive value of climate change mitigation.

The Cost of Action

Just as there is a rough consensus among climate modelers about the likely trajectory of temperatures if we do not act to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, there is a rough consensus among economic modelers about the costs of action. That general opinion may be summed up as follows: Restricting emissions would slow economic growth — but not by much. The Congressional Budget Office, relying on a survey of models, has concluded that Waxman-Markey “would reduce the projected average annual rate of growth of gross domestic productbetween 2010 and 2050 by 0.03 to 0.09 percentage points.” That is, it would trim average annual growth to 2.31 percent, at worst, from 2.4 percent. Over all, the Budget Office concludes, strong climate-change policy would leave the American economy between 1.1 percent and 3.4 percent smaller in 2050 than it would be otherwise.

And what about the world economy? In general, modelers tend to find that climate-change policies would lower global output by a somewhat smaller percentage than the comparable figures for the United States.

While high quality in their own way, the CBO (and many other institutions) operates with a set of constraints that lead them to do stovepiped analysis that is overly pessimistic.  Very simply, if anything, the CBO scoring of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy & Security (ACES) Act was overly negative since it doesn’t consider systems-of-systems implications of climate.

  • Job creation and, therefore, lowered governmental services demand: not in the calculation. (Trading imported oil for jobs building up an electrified rail network, for example …)

  • Economic implications of climate change — and the avoided costs due to reduced pollution: not included.

  • Health care benefits (to federal budget and otherwise) due to reduced fossil fuel pollution: not included.

  • Increased productivity due to better health and better working conditions: not included.

  • The analysis didn’t even include the bill’s strong energy efficiency provisions, which are direct cost savers.


In citing studies from institutions like the Congressional Budget Office, Krugman doesn't comment that they fail to account for issues like:

  • Health Care Benefits of Climate Change Mitigation Efforts:  The National Academy of Sciences published a study last fall estimating an impact to the US economy of some $120 billion ... per year ... in hidden costs from fossil fuels.   Considering that health care costs have consistently escalated above inflation, how much money would the US economy save in 2050 if we could (nearly) eliminatate fossil fuels?

  • Intellectual quality:  Fossil fuels are impacting average intelligence.  Some medical research has concluded that the average IQ in the United States is roughly 1.5 points lower due to the mercury emitted by burning coal.  What would the economic impact be of eliminating that drag on the American intellect?

  • Worker productivity:  Study after study shows, quite conclusively, that greening workplaces improves productivity even while saving money in terms of reduced utility costs. The CBO economic analyses of climate change mitigation via the Waxman-Markey bill didn't even account for the energy savings (but did count the costs to achieve those savings) but more importantly did not take any account of the worker productivity.  The more pessimistic analyses have show a worker productivity improvement of five percent (others have show 10+ percent improvements).  Well, that five percent is roughly five times the cost of the building energy and some 25 times the value of the saved energy and perhaps 50 times the value of the energy savings subtracting the costs to achieve them.  What would the value be to the US economy of 2050 (and 2040 and 2060 and ...) of an average worker productivity improvement of 5 percent? What about 10 percent?

  • Educational performance: Just as workers do better in cleaner, quieter, healthier, more comfortable workplaces, so do students.  Greening the School House has many (many) benefits, including significant improvements in educational achievement. (Considering just one element: daylighting vs artificial light: A study in North Carolina revealedthat children in schools with more natural day lighting scored 5 percent better on standardized tests than children in normal, comparable buildings.) What would the economic value be for an indefinite bump upwards in the educational achievements of American students (at all levels of education)?


Krugman falls into the trap of discussing the costs of dealing with climate change, discussing how little it will cost to mitigate climate change and insure against catastrophic climate chaos. In falling into this trap, the Nobel-prize winning economist fails to explain (fails to understand?) that full analysis shows that in discussing the economics of climate change mitigation, a robust cost/benefits analysis would show that the discussion would not end with a calculation of the "marginal costs of action vs the larger costs of inaction" but would result in a very serious statement as to the "huge risks and costs of inaction vs the very serious benefits of action".

Krugman's article is a tour de force even as he missed this critical important point.

Note: See The political and practical necessity for bold action not tactical retreat.

Two important DKos discussions of Krugman:

Sadly, I don't have time to do Krugman's excellent work full justice. He examines the costs and benefits of action on climate change, tackles issues (cogently) about the science, and highlights the critical importance of 'insurance' -- valuing the potential, in decision-making, not just of 'Climate Change' but of catastrophic climate consequences -- the low probability but incredible serious in impact risks.  For other discussions here see:

Captain Future Krugman on climate economics, another view

The debate is now being cast in the mind-numbing terminology of Mitigation vs. Adaptation, which is maybe why nobody much cares about it but policy wonks. But the need to do both--to cut heat-trapping pollution and switch to clean energy at the same time as we're dealing with long-term disasters (droughts, sea level rise, higher incidences of insect-borne diseases etc.) and an avalanche of short-term emergencies (storms, floods, killer heat waves, etc.)--is the economic as well as civilizational challenge of the future. Which is rapidly intruding on the present.

Like a lot of economics, and even science, this is fairly abstract. The reality won't be, and the possibilities aren't.

Laughing Planet Krugman's tour de force: Building a Green Economy

Today's New York Times features a piece of writing which should be required reading for every American. This is not a piece from his blog, but a "Magazine Preview", which means it's rather lengthy. On an issue this important, the ten pages of length are appreciated.

To anyone who may still doubt that real progress on the climate change issue will "cost too much", we learn that the truth is less than economic Armageddon.

Note that the real point is not that "the truth is less than economic Armaggedon" but that the truth is that the benefits will outweigh the costs -- even if we don't count the insurance value of reducing catastrophic climate chaos' impacts on the United States and the planet.

UPDATE: Two Brad Johnson discussions at Wonkroom: Economists hate environment and Climate science economics

Originally posted to A Siegel on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:36 AM PDT.

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  •  Tip Jar (215+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, Ed in Montana, vicki, opendna, coral, jillian, Odysseus, melo, grollen, alisonk, PeterHug, RunawayRose, cotterperson, OLinda, eeff, dsb, frisco, RFK Lives, SallyCat, MarkInSanFran, mataliandy, Plan9, opinionated, bronte17, BlackGriffen, rhp, whenwego, srkp23, Larry Bailey, nargel, Random Excess, Jesterfox, splashy, wader, psnyder, emmasnacker, Miss Jones, JimWilson, HeyMikey, Chirons apprentice, AbsurdEyes, riverlover, alizard, inclusiveheart, econlibVA, ybruti, side pocket, JayDean, Mosquito Pilot, Albanius, Josiah Bartlett, murrayewv, maybeeso in michigan, NoMoreLies, jrooth, tle, LarisaW, JanetT in MD, gmoke, Simplify, truong son traveler, MT Spaces, david78209, oregonj, where4art, Inland, Little Lulu, Yamara, exmearden, Island Expat, pacotrey, xaxnar, CJnyc, BachFan, Milly Watt, ej25, RustyBrown, HoundDog, koNko, mango, greenearth, blueoasis, birdbrain64, Ashaman, se portland, NearlyNormal, Preston S, soccergrandmom, hlsmlane, profh, Timothy J, WarrenS, blueoregon, blueintheface, Nulwee, Aaa T Tudeattack, bigchin, One Pissed Off Liberal, Noor B, Loudoun County Dem, Bob Guyer, blue armadillo, dmh44, possum, moodyinsavannah, offgrid, BruceMcF, Matt Z, hold tight, Jimdotz, ilex, DWG, Unbozo, puzzled, Seneca Doane, artisan, jnhobbs, millwood, pioneer111, Joffan, yella dawg, Brahman Colorado, ImpeachKingBushII, keikekaze, cacamp, theotherside, trivium, condorcet, ShadowSD, jamess, monkeybrainpolitics, kelib, happymisanthropy, geomoo, Populista, mofembot, Seamus D, matching mole, sydneyluv, SolarMom, ZhenRen, LaFeminista, Old Woman, cameoanne, SciMathGuy, Pris from LA, Neon Vincent, sustainable, Gwyneth Cravens, divineorder, maryabein, mkor7, Daily Activist, Bonsai66, elziax, asym, allep10, realwischeese, Adept2u, davespicer, Dichro Gal, citisven, Leftcandid, LookingUp, parse this, swaminathan, patrickz, Diesel Kitty, dorkenergy, LaughingPlanet, The Jester, jethrock, Interceptor7, Garfnobl, gulfgal98, NY brit expat, samanthab, ItsSimpleSimon, Cure7802, JasperJohns, Egalitare, NYWheeler, cai, Unenergy, science nerd, soaglow, sturunner, Colorado is the Shiznit, slowbutsure, freesia, BlueJessamine, Eclectablog, marleycat, Wolf10, theone718, Earthfire, yaque, Cpt Robespierre, Josh Nelson, VTCC73, Marihilda, kuutnustroolboot, Friendlystranger, SoCalSal, tjampel, RLMiller, Regina in a Sears Kit House, PrometheusUnbound, judyms9, yanksfan6129, wolfie1818, efraker, dance you monster, Eric Nelson, Joieau
  •  Opportunity cost of not joining in (59+ / 0-)

    what other countries are doing to build energy technology manufacturing industries should be high on the list of priorities for all Americans.

    If all of the new ET is built in China/India, America continues falling behind the 8 ball. To a place where it will have difficult recovering.

    Those folks who are trying to get in the way of progress - let me tell you, I'm just getting started. I don't quit. I'm not tired; I'm just getting started.

    by Unenergy on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:46:19 AM PDT

    •  My thoughts exactly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nulwee

      See down post, written in response to the diary before reading comments.

      Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

      by koNko on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:02:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  China will clean our clocks if we let them (22+ / 0-)

      This article on China assisting California with high-speed rail is sadly unsurprising.  The first paragraph says it all:

      Nearly 150 years after American railroads brought in thousands of Chinese laborers to build rail lines across the West, China is poised once again to play a role in American rail construction. But this time, it would be an entirely different role: supplying the technology, equipment and engineers to build high-speed rail lines.

      If the US simply isn't going to make the commitment to invest in green technologies and major transportation infrastructure, it will be one of a number of factors that will drive our economy to second-tier status as China, India and others leapfrog on by.  The Party of No doesn't understand this and seems to want to do anything it can to weaken the nation by recklessly kneecapping anything with the word "government" in it, consequences be damned.  Will the Changer-in-Chief figure out that it's not only good politics to highlight this backward thinking, but there's an added bonus of being the right thing to do to bring about a strong future for America?

      •  At the risk of being flamed into oblivion, (19+ / 0-)

        I have lost all faith that most of the current crop of elected Democrats at all levels of the federal government have the stones to stand up to the short-term, myopic resistance of the corporations.  With the Citizens United decision, even fewer Dems will be willing to buck the money power.  Watch.  Even with this latest mining tragedy, we won't see a serious, concerted shift away from clean coal to renewables.

        They have the White House and both chambers of Congress.  If they really wanted to change the way this country operates -- make the green investments, restore the rule of law, rehabilitate our international image by getting us the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan and closing down Gitmo, among other things -- they would be doing it.

        And no, I haven't a damned clue what our electoral alternatives are.  But I am sick and tired of feeling had.

        "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18 (-8.50, -7.23)

        by Noor B on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:22:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  For some reason, the Europeans who (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1

        invaded North America all brought the cheap-skate gene.

        http://www.youtube.com/cyprespond

        by hannah on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:16:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They all suffer from Short arm syndrome (0+ / 0-)

          When it comes time to pay, the afflicted's wrists suddenly are attracted to their shoulders.  Leaving the afflicted to be unable to grasp their wallets.

          The only known cure is to remove the bill from view.

          A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.- Albert Einstein

          by bldr on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 09:49:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  India isn't in the same league as China (8+ / 0-)

        Why must India follow every sentence about China?  It took India a decade to build one new airport in Calcutta.  In that decade, China built twenty international airports and the rapid transit systems linking them to the city centers.

        India is a lot more like the US: no manufacturing base, decaying infrastructure, caste-system inequality, and a lot of hype on virtual things (software, financial products).

        India will always be a Third World country so long as it tries to foolishly bypass the Industrial Revolution and imitate the US (hell we Americans will soon be going the path of Brazil and Mexico if we keep this up too).  A world class Indian software company employs 1000 people out of a billion. That will never be the solution to alleviating India's poverty.

        •  Actually (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alizard, swaminathan, iceweasel

          india may be doing better these days then you think.

          While I agree they have suffered from political dealock for decades, they are now finally moderninzing and building a lot of clean energy and rail infrastrucure.

          Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

          by koNko on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 10:34:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  and of course (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            alizard

            they're also (neo)colonizing Africa

            "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

            by grollen on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:21:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  SNARK? (0+ / 0-)

              How so?

              Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

              by koNko on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 05:20:22 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  India is involved (0+ / 0-)

                in major land and agriculture development for export in Africa  link

                Devinder Sharma of India's Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security said the companies buying up land to export food from Africa were "food pirates" and compared them with the English companies that shipped food from Ireland during the 19th century potato famine.

                "There are 80 Indian companies trying to get land in Ethiopia, and it's all to be imported back to India. The government of India has been encouraging them," he said, and warned of danger if famine returned to Africa.

                "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

                by grollen on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 03:43:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  qwerty (0+ / 0-)
                  India is itself an exploited country with corporate giants such as Monsanto (resp. Coke) invading its agrosphere (resp. aquasphere), leading to hundreds of farmers committing suicides, as the site you've linked to itself points out in various articles: http://www.africanagricultureblog.com/...

                  If these Indian entrepreneurs are getting into Africa, I'd want them to be non-exploitative, fair-minded and just towards the native African people. Further, with India being a free democratic country with an independent press and many conscientious pro-environmental voices (such as Vandana Shiva) expressing their views freely, one can be better assured (compared to China and Saudi Arabia, which are apparently also venturing big time into Africa) that unfair exploitation would be brought to light and likely disapproved by the Indian people.

                  Did you know that Indians invented the # 0 and the decimal/binary systems: a primer on Indian mathematics.

                  by iceweasel on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 11:07:16 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  a free democratic country with an independent pre (0+ / 0-)

                    a free democratic country with an independent press

                    I'm not too sure what this means, or how it looks in India ... maybe they have more funding/interest for investigative journalism there than US corporate media ... but what you are naming 'entrepreneurs' are big corporations themselves and I'm sure that they'll be oh, so responsive to your wants (ie being 'non-exploitative, fair-minded and just') - at least as much as Monsanto or Coke.

                    And just  because India is and has been exploited doesn't make it okay by any means for them to plow over the rights and interests of other groups.

                    "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

                    by grollen on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 12:45:24 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Based on (0+ / 0-)
                      the tone of your original comment and that of your response, your motive appears to be to cultivate Indophobia, instead of fairly and objectively examining the evidence.

                      I don't see any evidence in your link that the Indian companies or entrepreneurs in question are actually exploiting the locals; for all you know they maybe providing fair wages and good gainful employment to the locals working on their farms.

                      You should also know that Indians, who were brought as laborers and plantation workers by the colonial empires, have always had a significant presence on the African continent. India's and Africa's ties go far far back in evolution and civilizational realms, but that's a discussion for another day.

                      If you have real evidence of unfair/unjust activities, I'd welcome you to alert the countless Indian journalists to take up the cause in India (there will be plenty of takers) and influence the Indian govt to take action against any offenders and serve justice.

                      What is unfair is for you to attempt to smear India and Indians by throwing suggestive innuendo out there to an audience that isn't too familiar with India. That I ask you to stop doing.

                      Did you know that Indians invented the # 0 and the decimal/binary systems: a primer on Indian mathematics.

                      by iceweasel on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 01:05:21 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  by no means (0+ / 0-)

                        am I trying to cultivate what you name Indophobia

                        I'm not trying to smear India or Indians, but there needs to be room for being critical.

                        The injustice I was speaking towards was abstract, not a charge of wrongdoing.  A general statement that prior victimhood does not legitimize becoming a victimizer.

                        The ag deal sounds promising, but I hesitate to promote large scale petroleum based farming and even if the local pay is more than competitive does that mean it is a just wage?  And how does it stand to effect local farming production in India?  What guarantees are there that the food will be sold locally at all, despite assurance to the contrary?  How will this development benefit the ethiopian communities?

                        many, many questions remain and I don't think that naming me as promoting Indophobia serves to help resolve them.

                        "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

                        by grollen on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 07:53:22 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

        •  While I agree with you that (10+ / 0-)
          India is way behind China (I'd say about 25 years on the development curve), and that sticking in India after China in every sentence is misguided (the main factual ground for this at the level of concern being, US' trade deficit with China is horrible, whereas the US has a balanced and much smaller trade with India. In 2009, US trade deficit with China was $227 billion, whereas that with India was only $4.7 billion), but as a "low" caste Hindu (and a proud Hindu at that!) who had every opportunity that the "upper" caste Hindus had (if not more, due to the quota system India has, although, due to (fortunate) merit, I didn't have to use quota system to attend India's top engineering school, practically for free. Socialism rocks :)) growing up in India, often with generous support and help from "upper" caste Hindu elders, I find it also highly inappropriate for people to stick in "caste system" in every sentence about India.

          Did you know that India's Chief Justice  (of India's supreme court) is a "low" caste Hindu? Or that the Chief Minister of India's largest state (UP) is a "low" caste Hindu woman?

          Since the secular democratic nation of India was constituted in 1947, following a tumultuous 1000 year period of brutal Islamic invasions and oppressive and exploitative Western colonialism, India made significant strides on social justice which people observing from a distance (still, unwittingly, under the influence of the anti-Hindu propaganda from various forces that are intent on decimating Hinduism) do not seem to realize or appreciate.

          India is behind China on the development for a variety of reasons, including:
          1. extremely corrupt politicians
          2. China amassing huge trade surpluses with the US year after year (vs fairly balanced, and much smaller trade between India and the US)
          3. India having to continuously contend with Pakistan's psychotic anti-India obsession in the form of 4 wars and countless terrorist attacks
          4. strife induced by other destabilizing factors such as the Maoist rebels (who, reportedly, have ties with proselytizing Missionaries which operate all over South and Southeast Asia, and they also reportedly get some help from China in the form of arms)

          Also, by its very definition, democracy (compared to centralized planning), pulls the society in various directions. If there is plenty of capital to go around, that seems to orient the society to make it functional (as has been the case in the West), but when a country is trying to boot-strap itself out of (induced) rank poverty, I think it can slow things down a bit; India's early decades of slow growth maybe a good example of that.

          Keep in mind that when the British left, as a result of 1000 years of subjugation and strife, India had a meager literacy rate of 17% and was rendered very poor, and so it's an ongoing struggle to lift itself out of poverty.

          Finally, did you know that until 1700 AD (when the British rule started settled in), India was a leading economic superpower with 20-25% of world's GDP? You will find that here: Share of GDP: China, India, Japan, Latin America, Western Europe, United States

          Did you know that Indians invented the # 0 and the decimal/binary systems: a primer on Indian mathematics.

          by iceweasel on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:01:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  What is "Sad" about it? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel, SolarMom, divineorder

        You seem to use the words India and china is the pejorative sense as if these socities are somehow below the US. Are they unable to do good things?

        In fact, if you do your homwork, you might find these countries are taking a sensibe approach to moderizing their mass transit systems by partnering with European, Japanese and Canadian companies to use the technology and know-how they have to offer and improving upon it as well as contributing designs of their own. For example, Siemens, AD Tranz, ABB, Bombadier, Alstom, Hitachi and Kawasaki all have large rail projects in China, often partnering with Chinese companies such as Shanghai Electric or China Rail (who excels at constructing state of the art rail infrastructure using fast-track, modularized techniques). The China CRH locomotives are a joint project of Kawasaki and Sifang Locomotive using the the basic Japanese design and improving on it, with rolling stock constructed in both countries.

        This approach would make sense for the US as well since these companies have experience and can deliver well-designed, high quality systems that could be constructed in the US leveraging proven designs to get systems built instead of wasting years reinventing the wheel. Several US systems have already been built by such consortiums. Siemens has a rolling stock manudfacturing plant in Sacremento, CA and Kawasaki in Yonkers, New York.

        When other countries purchase Boeing aircraft or Catapillar heavey equipment is that sad too?

        SH Metro m6 sign

        Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

        by koNko on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 10:31:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You entirely misconstrued my "sadness" (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          melo, koNko, divineorder

          There's no pejorative from my perspective.  Good for China, Canada and any other country taking smart steps to modernize their transit systems, industrial development, etc.  The "sad" part, if you will, is that the United States is constrained not by technolgical expertise or lack of resources, but primarily by the lack of political will and vision to do the same.  

          •  I think Obama is woring on it. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel

            But I agree nimbyism and the comminly help belief "it won't work here" create political obsticles that must be overcome.

            But one important point is "do it right the first time". Some US mass transit projects such as LA Metro were poorly concieved and executed in terms of loack of user-friendlyness and feeder routes resuton bas examples. granted these things are fixable but it give the opposition ammunition. On the other hand, seattle has a good and growing system that sets a good example

            Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

            by koNko on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 05:35:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Also at issue with China (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo

        (and India?) is that they have a huge native population they are not shy about exploiting.

        And, sadly, US business models are doing their best to keep up.

        "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

        by grollen on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:19:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exploiting or employing? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel, iceweasel
          Prior to domination by western colonialists, both India and China were affluant nations, far more so than their European advesaries. Europeans explotinted both (and oher) nations stripping out the wealth and leaving poverty, famine and chaos behind.

          When you have a poor society where millions are starving, development is a slow, step by step process and not all boats rise together on the tide; this has not been the history of the world and certianly was not the case in the US which actualy got a more adventagous starting point.

          The average percapits income of China is less than a quarter f the US and the standard of living is certianly lower, but rising faster thn the US did and on the way, insome respects more equitably - for example, building mass transit is for the greatest good, not for the benifit of the few.

          I think good and bad ideas come from everywhere and both India and China have taken many lessons from the West, perhaps a reversal of the process would be good for the US.

          Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

          by koNko on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 10:24:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  sometimes (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel

            that is a distinction without a difference

            According to a recent World Bank report, the Gini Coefficient for China, a main gauge of income disparity, surged to 0.47 in 2009 as the country expanded to the third biggest economy in the word, exceeding the "security line" of 0.4, indicating unequal income distribution could arouse social unrest.

            The figure was 0.21 to 0.27 three decades ago.

            source

            the employed can also be exploited

            your boat is full of holes

            the gdp and gnp are poor measures of actual social well-being

            patchwork adoption of 'good ideas' band-aiding over the bad ones (no matter what local elite you choose to adopt them from) is not sufficient - systemic reforms are necessary

            "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

            by grollen on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 03:55:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Three decades ago EVERYONE was POOR. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              grollen, A Siegel

              And the main difference was if you were staving or just cold and hungry. Even in the 1980's, when I lived in the US attending University we were still living off ration coupons and then, farmers were actually richer than urban people because they had markets to sell food to make money. By the late 80's/early 90's the siutation reversed in costal cities with industrialization, and that's why china has so many migrant workers in such places. Development simply does not work uniformly in the begining and it's a challange to spread the wealth for sure.

              Is growing income disparity a problem in China? Certianly yes. In fact, this is considered to be one of the top 3 problems facing the nation and the focus of much legal and social reform under the current administration which is making some historical changs, and to some degree, swinging back toward socialism because it's the only logical solution. If you were to research Chinese policy and recent legal reforms, you would get a more complete picture and I think you would find a systematic approach at work. However, along the way some band aids are nscessary because systematic change tends to be a long-term proposition and we live in the here and now.

              This is what Dung Xiaopeng called "Feeling the stones to cross the river", ie, you sometimes need practical, short-term solutions and policy adjustments along the way because the system is dynamic and no political system or plan is ever perfectly concieved or executed.

              BTW I have often raised the increasing Gini Coefficient as a common problem of both Chinese and American society. If you are American, your boat is full of holes too.

              Both tend to value the concept of hard work, entrepenuralism and the Horatio Alger myth to a fault except in the case of Chinese, people tend to accept community obligations to a somewhat higher degree than Americans who tend to put the concept of personal freedon first. I think the differnce is, Chinese, as a society, have suffered poverty and starvation to a greater degree so we say "The first freedom is freedom from hunger" and accept some limits and obligations for the public good Americans wouldn't consider an acceptable compromise - at least those Americans who have enough to eat. These days more Americans are going to bed hungry and that's not a good thing either.

              There are downsides to both modes of thought, but I'm not sure kids that go to bed hungry ever get to enjoy their freedom as much as others so I personally draw the line for compromise there. Oh, how very Chinese! Respect Authority!

              China is working on tax reform, the US needs to. More taxes for public works and institutions would make both better places to live.

              If you would like some insight on Chinese migrant workers I suggest the book (in English) Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang, it's becoming outdated but a pretty accuate picture of migrant workers lives, most of whom are young and unmarried (to start). Her husband, Peter Hessler, is also an English language journalist and is recent book Country Driving is an excellent and entertaining read, I just finished a couple of months ago and he had me laughing with recognition the entire way. Life is stranger than fiction.

              I don't think many chinese would like to turn the clock back to the mid 1970's. Those of us old enough to remember sometimes miss the greater feeling of community then, living 10 to a room tends to have that advantage, but no one minds having enough to eat or a decent house and question now is how do we get the people left behind a better deal and how can we make society economically and environmentally sustainable (and I will ask you to consider the last because the percapita CO2 emissions of the US multipled by China's population would be completely unsustainable so we will never get what you have and need to do with less and find another way).

              Cheers.

              Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

              by koNko on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 08:44:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  sustainability is definitely a big issue (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                koNko, A Siegel

                sorry if I came across as extolling the US as a paragon developmental virtue - trust me, I harbor no such illusions

                also I was not trying to set up some comparison of China and the US

                the boat I was referring to which I said was full of hole is that of dominant development -

                I admit I am woefully unaware of current Chinese policy works and do not want to stereotype the Chinese government, but if their current approach is anything like that they used in constructing the Three Gorges dam I retain my skepticism

                "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

                by grollen on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 12:32:05 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  US should engage in as balanced trade as possible (0+ / 0-)
      with all countries (except the very poor ones where we'd like to give some initial lift to their economies and also, in the process, enable them to become continued trade partners into the future, converging eventually towards balanced trade with the US). That's the key to sustained economic strength for the US as well as a viable path for development for the poorer countries (provided they educate their young well.)

      It helps to keep in mind that US' trade with India is small and quite balanced, but that with China is grossly unbalanced. Please see my earlier comment for links on trade data.

      Here is an excel file for 2009 trade data (since, being a math/science geek myself, I know that you like playing with spreadsheets :)): http://www.census.gov/...

      Did you know that Indians invented the # 0 and the decimal/binary systems: a primer on Indian mathematics.

      by iceweasel on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:23:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent as always, ty. (7+ / 0-)

    Oh no, the dead have risen and they're voting Republican. - Lisa Simpson

    by LaFeminista on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:49:28 AM PDT

  •  Oh I might add (25+ / 0-)

    what the harm in leaving the world a better place to live on, who cares about the cost, as I believe it is out duty.

    Oh no, the dead have risen and they're voting Republican. - Lisa Simpson

    by LaFeminista on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:50:47 AM PDT

  •  Krugman got the disincentives (21+ / 0-)

    but completely whiffed on the other half, government-sponsored active alternative energy development. Cap and trade and emissions regulation are necessary but not sufficient even if they do "succeed". If government should be doing anything, it should be unapologetically funding its own large-scale renewable energy research and rolling out tax incentives (and any other possible incentives) to encourage equivalent development in the free market. At this juncture, I don't even care about business abuse of such incentives: this is a do-or-die moment for the planet. Simply moving around existing pollution is a Red-Queen-running-in-place scenario, especially given that we have inadequate leverage over the rest of the planet to play along with such schemes.

  •  The entire field of economics needs an overhaul (12+ / 0-)

    Some economists would argue that with infinite money there are infinite possibilities.  What it all comes down to when all is said and done is, you can't eat money.  Krugman's piece is good, but this one is better.  Should be submitted as an op-ed to the NYT.  

  •  outstanding diary (10+ / 0-)

    This deserves to be on the Rec list.  Tipped and Recommended.  

    "in the wake of Sept. 11, a frightened nation betrayed one of its core principles -- the rule of law -- for the fool's gold of security." Leonard Pitts

    by gulfgal98 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:08:28 AM PDT

  •  Energy efficiency and fuel switching (16+ / 0-)

    also help to control oil prices and (even if a lot of solar manels end up being made in China) affect the balance of payments positively. Insulation installation, solar panel and windmill installation and repair must be done here and are labor intensive. So to is public transit relative to automobile production (a reality that will only increase in the future).

    I do not know how much of that is included by Krugman, but it is worth mentioning anyway. I will now go read his piece. this has all along been my most important issue, but I am now not optimistic that the bill that emerges will be anything like sufficient mostly because it may not pass before November and therefore will not likely get any easier.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:16:59 AM PDT

  •  You can't talk GW without talking population (9+ / 0-)

    Work the numbers!  A finite planet with diminishing resources, a complete addiction to fossil fuels for it's economic survival, and a steadily growing population, has no chance to solve the Global Warming problem without reducing it's population.

    The easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to reduce fossil CO2 from entering the atmosphere is to reduce the number of people using fossil fuels.  With each new economic crises (and there are many, many in our near future) there will be the cry "drill baby drill".  And as we reach Cheap Peak Oil, the cry for coal and NG will become louder and louder.

    If you're not talking population reduction, you're simply fooling yourselves, and your children.

    •  There's a method of population reduction already (7+ / 0-)

      at work in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It will become more common if we don't reduce demand while increasing the supply of alternatives.

      At the risk of thread hijacking, isn't the war in Iran a botched first Peak Oil gambit?

      "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

      by Mosquito Pilot on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:44:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  you know... (9+ / 0-)

      even if fossil fuels did not cause climate change...they are still dirty, polluting, increasingly expensive and finite. That is reason enough to move away. It's perhaps a better frame than the warming part, because I think so many people think it's a joke or love the fact that it would get warmer. It's not getting any better when you look at polls.

      There are incredibly persuasive arguments for the masses for why we have to move away from fossil fuels that directly impact them...far more persuasive in my opinion than the threat of global warming which huge numbers of people take as a joke. I don't care how we get there, but we have to, and if it means using a different frame I'm all for it.  

      "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

      by michael1104 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:07:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree, but (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, Nulwee, Pris from LA

        You are absolutely right that the public is simply too stupid to understand the profound disaster that is at their doorstep.  It's all about money, so an economic argument must be made to get the public to move away from fossil fuels to renewables.

        But I see NO possibility of completely substituting renewables for the current fossil fuel usage.  Even with a substantial life style change, we simply can't build enough PV panels, wind generators, and Lithium batteries to prevent catastrophe.  If we were able to shift 20% of our current fossil fuel usage to renewables in 15 years, we would still be using the same amount of fossil fuels because of population growth.

        If you think people can't see the Global warming problem in front of them, then they are completely blind to the civilization ending catastrophe of population growth which is the root of the Global Warming problem.  

        •  I totally agree on population. (5+ / 0-)

          It is a major problem that too many ignore. It is a very serious issue. And even more so in poor countries where resources are already very scarce--it will add tremendously to misery, disease, and suffering in those areas.

          "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

          by michael1104 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:37:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Sigh .. (7+ / 0-)

          Actually, it is far from a stretch goal to eliminate coal from the US electricity system in 20 years and globally in 25.  A stretch goal would be to make that 10 and 15, respectively.  

          And, in that time, with shifting ever more transit to electricity, we could (globally) be drastically cutting oil use.

          And, yes, we need to be taking population seriously. How many times more do we spend on fertility research than on birth control research?  Family planning, over the long term, is a key tool in helping reduce impacts of climate change as well as so many other stresses on the global system.  

  •  The cost of doing nothing is $0 (14+ / 0-)

    That remains the mindset of too many people.

    I'm glad we have such solid work on hand for the next several levels of argument--and I mean both Krugman's work and this diary.  That said, our task today is to continue working on the broad population's mindset--each of us, everytime we get the chance.

    Can you imagine how inadequate our climate change legislation will continue to be if a significant fraction of the population doesn't believe that people are ruining the planet?

    "The Universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it." Marcus Aurelius

    by Mosquito Pilot on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:35:13 AM PDT

    •  UNfortunately I know many of the folks down here (17+ / 0-)

      in TX, land of one of the worst State Boards of Education and Tea Party Central...believe that "God will provide".  

      Do you remember the troglodyte that "stumped" the Energy Secretary by asking during a Congressional hearing, "How did all that oil get up to Alaska?" and followed up with "we didn't have a pipline to pump it up there from Texas". Another guy brandished his bible at another hearing and announced that he believed every word in that book and that God will decide when the world ends, not man.

      Some of these folks buy into the bizarre theory that oil is being created every day...since the world is only 6000 years old and we've had all this oil already, it can't possibly take millions of years to create these fossil fuels, you silly scientists! God is making it renew itself beneath our feet!!!

      I'm not making this stuff up - there are some truly wacky "theories" or more correctly, beliefs out there and with the likes of Palin and Beck and Limbaugh driving the opposition....facts are useless against their willful ignorance.

      Hopefully we can reach rational people but wow - I never thought I'd see so much willful stupidity in America in the 21st Century!

    •  Market failures - our civilization's undoing (6+ / 0-)

      This is the heart of the issue and, by ignoring these real failures, our economists and politicians continue under the assumption that doing nothing will cost nothing.

      But the Stern Report and others put the cost of inaction in the high TRILLIONS of dollars.  The consequences of a changing climate are unprecedented in human history.

      A Siegel summarized it well above:

      "huge risks and costs of inaction vs the very serious benefits of action".

      "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

      by oregonj on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:31:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I suspect intangibles like better health (8+ / 0-)

    are considered too soft to calculate accurately, so are just tossed in analysis. Another problem is that gross economic analysis lacks the sensitivity to deduct environmental health problems from GNP or GDP instead of adding to it as expenditures in health care. The dismal science has a ways to go in helping us here.

    On energy efficiency, if anyone paid attention to the price of energy efficient materials last year, they would know now is the time to make the switch in earnest. Last year's energy price spike made many materials quite a bit more expensive. This is just a little breather to the next spike. Pay a lot now, or much, much more later in more ways than $.

    "Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge." H Mann

    by the fan man on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 05:46:52 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    I just hope the Obama administration gets this. Supposedly Obama is very smart, but this is not coming across very well in his actions so far.   I wish climate change had been first before health care.    And now a Supreme Court fight is looming.  If we lose significant seats to Republicans or lose the majority in either house, we may have missed our chance  because many Republicans and teabag people seem to have already lost too many brain cells to mercury poisoning to comprehend the problem.  Will we even get to this before midterms?

  •  Climate vs economic models (8+ / 0-)

    I always find it amusing when "think tanks" like the Heritage Institute release economic predictions concerning the economic impacts of emissions reductions while disputing the science of climate models.

    Krugman makes a very good point about their failure to consider ingenuity.  But human ingenuity (and stupidity) is near impossible to quantify.  The  upshot of this fact is that economic models are inherently loaded with a vast terrain of uncertainty.  The same is not true for climate models, which are based on a fairly well-understood physical system.

    Yes, weather is hard to predict but climate is not.  That's because climate views long term equilibrium trends while weather is local and highly influenced by small pockets of chaotic turbulence.

    Imagine pouring a packet of cream into a cup of coffee.  You will see complex swirls of ghostly white turbulence as the cream mixes with the coffee.  It is impossible to predict the exact positioning of each wave of cream in the coffee as it is stirred.  The size and vigor of the spoon, the location of the pour in the coffee, the height of the pour, etc. will affect the image.

    That said, it is a no brainer to predict the ultimate outcome of adding a packet of cream to the cup of coffee.  The coffee lightens.  Adding another packet lightens it even further.  All coffee drinkers know exactly how much cream or milk or soya they want in their coffee.  That's because the even distribution of cream in the coffee is practically inevitable.

    Great diary, A Siegel!

  •  Water savings by going green (10+ / 0-)

    are  overlooked by economists. Fossil fuel and nuclear power plants use enormous amounts of water.

    look for my DK Greenroots diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 06:09:43 AM PDT

    •  What about solar PVC manufacture and hydropower? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayDean

      I mean, in terms of end-use equivalent energy production?

    •  True but agriculture irrigation, particular where (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, Joffan

      done inefficiently and or in arid areas uses considerably more water then is used for electrical power production. Both are necessary.

      •  Relatively little of U.S. water (0+ / 0-)

        is used for agriculture and residential use.

        There are immense conservation opportunities, enough to support a vastly larger population...or the current one (more or less) AND conserve natural habitat and a higher quality of life.

        •  That is incorrect. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grollen, Joffan

          This is a little date but still applicable.

          http://pubs.usgs.gov/...
          U.S. Geological Survey
          Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2000
          "bout 195 Bgal/d, or 48 percent of all freshwater and saline-water withdrawals for 2000, were used for thermoelectric power. Most of this water was derived from surface water and used for once-through cooling at power plants. About 52 percent of fresh surface-water withdrawals and about 96 percent of saline-water withdrawals were for thermoelectric-power use. Withdrawals for thermoelectric power have been relatively stable since 1985.

          Irrigation remained the largest use of freshwater in the United States and totaled 137 Bgal/d for 2000. Since 1950, irrigation has accounted for about 65 percent of total water withdrawals, excluding those for thermoelectric power. Historically, more surface water than ground water has been used for irrigation. However, the percentage of total irrigation withdrawals from ground water has continued to increase, from 23 percent in 1950 to 42 percent in 2000. Total irrigation withdrawals were 2 percent more for 2000 than for 1995, because of a 16-percent increase in ground-water withdrawals and a small decrease in surface-water withdrawals. Irrigated acreage more than doubled between 1950 and 1980, then remained constant before increasing nearly 7 percent between 1995 and 2000. The number of acres irrigated with sprinkler and microirrigation systems has continued to increase and now comprises more than one-half the total irrigated acreage."

        •  Also... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joffan

          http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/...

          "The importance of irrigation to the United States is illustrated by the large amount of fresh water that is used to cultivate crops, which are consumed domestically and throughout the world. In fact, irrigation is the largest category of water use in the United States, as it is worldwide.

          Read more: Uses of Water - building, river, oceans, important, largest, plants, source, human http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/...
          "

          •  And again (0+ / 0-)

            as I spoke of irrigation in my own post.

            Thank you for not one but two assists.

            •  I don't think we are reading the same data. (0+ / 0-)

              Both souces state that agriculture consumes the most freshwater.  Not that I am making an argument against either agriculture of power production.

              The other aspect is water withdrawl versus actual water loss or cunsumption.

              http://www.crwa.org/...
              "Irrigation
              Water withdrawals are used for irrigation of agricultural crops and residential landscapes.
              In the urbanized northeast United States, recent development of large lot residences with
              in-ground irrigation systems has promoted the irrigation of lawns and landscapes.
              Irrigation is a loss of water to the atmosphere. The common misconception that most of
              the applied water percolates through the soil and recharges the groundwater is completely
              false. Depending on the type of irrigation system and degree of water management, the
              12
              water that is lost entirely to the atmosphere is 50-75 percent of the applied water.
              Irrigation systems with high uniformity (i.e., even application of water over the desired
              area) and high irrigation efficiency (i.e., most of the water ends up in the desired volume
              for the root zone) use less water but have the highest percentage loss to the atmosphere."

              Where as thermoelctric plants return as nuch a 85% of the water used for cooling (albeit with thermal pollution) back tot he source.

    •  Brayton cycle: gas replaces water (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joffan

      Thermal energy released by the chain reaction can heat up gas in a closed loop that can be used to turn turbines.  More compact, more efficient.  

      So with nuclear power, water shortages need not be a deal-breaker.

      Amory Lovins: "Coal can fill the real gaps in our fuel economy....." IPCC: Anthropogenic greenhouse gases will cause extinction of up to 70% of species by 2050.

      by Plan9 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:26:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Do you know, how these costs compare (0+ / 0-)

      to those of manufacturing solar panels?

      "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

      by grollen on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:46:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Economics is Not an Honest Pursuit (6+ / 0-)

    The greatest economic forces of humanity have incentives to see that the analysis is gamed.

    There's so much clearly false work being put out that there's just no way for a lay citizen to trust anyone in the field.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 06:30:44 AM PDT

  •  Wasn't it the 1% Doctrine? (7+ / 0-)

    That is, wasn't it Dick Cheney who decreed that if there was even a 1% chance Pakistan was going to allow Al Qaeda access to nuclear weapons, it had to be treated as 'actionable'? Sure, the odds might be low, but Cheney argued the consequences if it came to pass were too high to ignore.

    Billions of dollars later, we're still following up on that policy.

    Given that the odds of climate change having a significant effect on the U.S. and the world are approaching certainty, one wonders about the ability of humans to set priorities in a rational manner.

    For climate change we should have been at orange alert for a long time. How soon before it gets shifted to red? Maybe the complete melting of the north polar ice cap will do it. Or maybe it will take the ocean rising up over the southern end of Florida.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 06:36:34 AM PDT

  •  excellent. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl

    "History is a tragedy, not a melodrama." - I.F.Stone

    by bigchin on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 06:50:31 AM PDT

  •  An Example of Health Benefit Analysis (8+ / 0-)

    After George HW Bush instituted the first cap and trade for SO2 and NiOx emissions George W Bush's OMB did an economic analysis of it in 2003. Here are the remarkable results (pdf):

    The Acid Rain Program has produced remarkable and demonstrable results. It has reduced SO2 emissions faster and at far lower costs than anticipated, yielding wide-ranging health and environmental improvements. In fact, a 2003 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) study found that the Acid Rain Program accounted for the largest quantified human health benefits – over $70 billion annually – of any major federal regulatory program implemented in the last 10 years, with benefits exceeding costs by more than 40:1.

  •  He is also missing the cost of inaction (6+ / 0-)

    If the US fails to develop green energy and mass transit infrastructure, and to get started in a buig way very soon, it will become non-competative against nations that do and face the lost opportunity of the century.

    On one hand I'm pleased that the realization that China is "compeating" in this area is waking up some Americans and getting thier competative juices flowing some types of comptition are good) but focusing so narrowly on China verses the US can be a mistake if the US fails to capitalize on it's own strengths and needs, which may be different in some cases and complementary in others, not t mention the opportunities for copperation between the US and various countries.

    Unfortunately calculating lost opportunities is usually a 20-20 hindsight excercise, but hanging a number on it may not be so importiant if you read the legend "objects may be closer then they appear".

    T+R

    Ask me about my daughter's future - Ko

    by koNko on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:01:44 AM PDT

  •  Cost benefit analysis of doing something (7+ / 0-)

    about climate change at this time will not come close to the future reality.  Krugman and other economists are doing the best that they can with what amounts to linear models in which what we know today is projected into the future.

    This approach possibly works better for the costs and benefits of doing nothing than those of doing something.

    But even in the case of doing nothing there has been a lot of talk about unknown tipping points that could make things a lot worse than indicated by current projections.  From studies of past climate change we know that the tipping points exist.  We just don't know all of the causes and when they kick in.  Most economic projections still ignore them.  In the long run that is a big mistake.

    In the case of doing something there will also likely be tipping points.  These will be in the positive direction.  The history of creativity shows that the intense pursuit of any new area of knowledge or any new line of technologies leads to many unpredictable innovations that can revolutionize the future in knowledge and wealth.

    Basically I'm sure that there will be net economic costs in the short run if we take strong action to deal with the climate crisis, but I think that in the longer run, beyond about 20 years, the net economic effect will be very positive.

    The human spirit of innovation works best when we move in new directions.  

    In this respect I think that what Krugman has done is a useful first step, but I'm with A Siegel in thinking that he hasn't gone far enough.

    "Trust only those who doubt" Lu Xun

    by LookingUp on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:04:01 AM PDT

    •  The Permian Extinction tipping point (11+ / 0-)

      was apparently a 5 degree increase in global temperature, secondary to co2 from a huge prolonged lava flow, that raised ocean temperature enough to release the frozen methane on the ocean floor. The tipping point methane release raised the temperature another 5 degrees and life could not adapt fast enough for the interrelated living systems to survive. The result was truly catastrophic.

      Over 90 percent of Earth’s species, including insects, plants, marine animals, amphibians and reptiles, were destroyed worldwide. The Permian is therefore remembered as the time when life came the closest ever to being wiped off the face of the planet.

      We are playing with forces far exceeding our ability to cope with them. We are dying of our own arrogance born of an assumption that we are somehow separate from and not absolutely dependent on our ecosystem.

      Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

      by Bob Guyer on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:38:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Geoengineering? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Guyer

        The power to save our world does not lie in rocks, rivers, wind, or sunshine. It lies in each of us.--"Power to Save the World"

        by Gwyneth Cravens on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:40:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Geoengineering inevitable, Lovelock likes nuclear (0+ / 0-)

          energy as an existing alternative that could slow the addition of co2 to the atmosphere. It seems you have come to the same conclusion. I don't like it but the alternative of a slower pace of co2 emissions decrease seems to hold much more danger for the stability of our ecosystem. I hope something like Polywell fusion turns out to be a revolutionary change in energy production, but that is far from a sure thing, particularly with the speed and scope of the problem we are facing.

          There are two ideas that I like that weren't mentioned in your link. One is massive biochar to sequester atmospheric co2, another idea favored by Lovelock and the other is spraying water from the oceans to transfer heat energy into space. If we could do both on a significant scale we could sequester atmospheric co2 (deal with the cause of the end cause of the problem) and reduce heat directly that might forestall or prevent heating that would destabilize cold methane sinks in the ocean and permafrost. Have you studied these ideas?

          Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

          by Bob Guyer on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:52:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  RE geoengineering ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bob Guyer

            Geoengineering: basic principles, some thoughts, some questions

            In the face of the potential for catastrophic climate change and global warming, "geo-engineering" is an arena getting a little attention and some press,

            Geoengineering is the deliberate modification of Earth's environment on a large scale "to suit human needs and promote habitability".

            One can argue that all efforts to control carbon emissions (to reverse past emissions) falls within GeoEngineering, but that is not the general context of consideration, which often focuses on efforts that would, somehow, have a direct impact on Earth's temperatures (and not, necessarily, on carbon loads).

            One step back question, which does not necessarily seem to occur in many conversation, is:

            What principles should guide Geo-Engineering efforts and prioritization of their potential.

          •  Asilomar Climate Intervention conference (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Siegel, Bob Guyer

            I attended the conference last month and the most buzz seemed to be about spraying salt water to make clouds shinier and therefore better able to reflect solar radiation back into space.  Special sail-powered ships would traverse the ocean spraying a fine mist made from seawater.  There are variations on this theme--making clouds by spraying procedures; enhancing stratospheric clouds.  There were also reports from scientists who have been studying isolating crop waste on the seabed.  Biochar was mentioned, but IIRC it requires quite a bit of energy.  (I could be wrong about that!)

            All of these schemes are very preliminary and require further study.

            Many attendees seemed concerned about the melting permafrost and undersea methane releases as the ocean heats up.

            Nuclear power is the only expandable, large-scale, existing technology that can meet base-load demand without emitting carbon.  As it happens fossil fuel combustion just keeps increasing, making any geoengineering solutions that much more difficult.

            The power to save our world does not lie in rocks, rivers, wind, or sunshine. It lies in each of us.--"Power to Save the World"

            by Gwyneth Cravens on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 01:41:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I am not for Waxman-Markety bill. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, Bob Guyer, In her own Voice

    James Hansen's analysis of the bill was devastating.

    Couple that with the fact that corporations and the banks are writing our bills and it spells disaster for the country and the climate.

    Why are Democrats willing to spend the little bit of political capitol they have left on a bill that will only help corporate America rather than the climate or it's people?

    I think you know the answer to that.

  •  The underlying dynamic is cost-benefit to whom (8+ / 0-)

    I love the re-framing of cost benefit analysis as

    "huge risks and costs of inaction vs the very serious benefits of action"

    . The lyrics are good and it has a beat you can dance to. When the coal and oil lobby funded opposition tries to move it back to pure cost without benefit, the follow up should be something like, "stop pretending that cost to your industry is the only cost. The coal and oil industry would suffer, but the whole economy, including peoples health, would benefit greatly"

    Love = Awareness of mutually beneficial exchange across semi-permeable boundaries. Political and economic systems either amplify or inhibit Love.

    by Bob Guyer on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 07:26:11 AM PDT

  •  Terrific post (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, cotterperson, A Siegel, Nulwee, trivium

    Merci!  ;-)

    (as always...)

    I'm not going anywhere. I'm standing up, which is how one speaks in opposition in a civilized world. - Ainsley Hayes

    by jillian on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:03:42 AM PDT

  •  Re: Underestimated Costs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, FarWestGirl

    I think there is a tendency among journalists and other commenters to downgrade the doom and gloom predictions so as not to seem hysterical and therefore easily ignored. My own view is that I don't see anything wrong with best case/worst case scenarios outlining what may happen in the future with climate change but do acknowledge that many things are just not knowable in any definitive way.

    And as the song and dance begins/The children play at home with needles/Needles and pins

    by The Lone Apple on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:31:29 AM PDT

  •  Excellent analysis as always A. S. (4+ / 0-)

    The benefits of action on a grand scale are always downplayed, even by action advocates.

    We have such amazing things we can do, and so many yet undiscovered for sure, but it is hard to translate visionary thinking into sound bites for a 3rd grade science world.

  •  Perhaps those data weren't *omitted*... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl, judyms9

    ... but were being saved for Climate Economics 102. I appreciate your diary - tipped and recced, of course - but I'd be more likely to give Krugman credit for doing a lengthy, understandable piece on the economic parts of climate change that many of us don't follow (as) much.

    Even I can understand the points you brought up, and I appreciate your doing so. I've read about them before, but not in quite so concise a manner (you done good!). The points that Krugman brought up, though, are things that are much newer to me, and they're things that I wouldn't have bumped into, let alone been able to understand at all, without his article today. They're things that I probably wouldn't even have tried to understand if Krugman, with his ability to translate economics into plain English, hadn't written it.

    That's not saying that the things Krugman wrote about haven't been written about before, even here. I've even read about some of them. They just didn't stick well. My bad - I'm no economist, never will be, no matter how hard I try. The best I can do is value input from all sources whenever and wherever I find them.

    I hope that made sense. Sometimes I'm a brick wall...

    The fundies are right! The world is ending! There's a black guy with his feet up on the Oval Office desk! Oh Noez!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    by SciMathGuy on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:51:28 AM PDT

  •  Oil and the 'M' recovery (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, VClib, Pris from LA

    What if we do nothing? Well, as the economy recovers, factories fire up, the demand for the middle barrel distillates increases, the price of a barrel of oil goes up, the economy contracts. We often think in terms of gasoline because that is what most of us see on a daily basis, but it is the middle barrel fuels that have been driving the price of oil. Right now there is a surplus of gasoline, but the prices are going up. That is because the middle of the barrel is in demand and supplies are short. Gasoline can almost be viewed as a by product of fuel oil which drives the price of oil.

    So, I question the assertion that the economy will be x% smaller if we move to alternative energy. And even if that assertion is true, the benefit of long perhaps slow sustained expansion far out weighs the jerky 'M' economy we will see if we do nothing.

    Four out five sock puppets agree

    by se portland on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:54:01 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this excellent analysis. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 09:26:37 AM PDT

  •  Krugman's fine partial analysis and (0+ / 0-)

    admonitions notwithstanding, the American people are nowhere near comprehending or embracing any appropriate actions because they have been successfully distracted by more visible human woes.  It will take tiny South Korea looming large in energy technology, so much so that our kids will have to seek employment there, before we get it.  By then all we will be able to add to the effort will be trained security officers.  Same legacy as the Romans.

  •  I like Krugman's new focus (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, FarWestGirl

    He really is doing some good, I think.  And there is so much to do if we intend to save this planet from all its enemies.

    A good, healthy discussion like this diary keeps people thinking about what really matters.

  •  I'm an economist and I agree with you A Siegel.. (6+ / 0-)

    I'm an economist (PhD, Harvard, 2002) and I think the costs of moving to a carbon-free economy are overstated, for all of the reasons you state here.  Also, I think that we are MUCH closer to having the technologies to end fossil fuel use than we think.  There is a lot of research out there that will speed up greatly when there is a significant price placed on carbon.

    Also, I think that we need to get behind the idea of a carbon tax that rises every year and a full rebate to consumers.  Some Republicans strongly support this idea.

  •  Getting US to world energy std is eco stimulus. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, Ezekial 23 20

    For the US to spend $1T on getting US to CURRENT world energy standards would be a huge economic boost to US, tons of jobs and industry.  US is 50% less energy efficient than rest of the world and this costs us $400B per year in energy imports, $500B in military costs to secure oil supplies, $500B in lost business from energy inefficient products in world market, $500B in pollution costs, lost of fisheries, recreation industry/jobs, loss of quality of life.

    Pure capitalism in a lot of ways, long term investments in capital equipment for long term gains. Much of the problem with getting US to world energy standards is that $1T investment does have a long pay back period. That is hard for individuals and businesses to justify but makes total sense for nations with longer horizons.

    That's what it really comes down to, investing for the nation, for the next generation, for our kids vs. not investing in energy efficiency for our own short term gains.

  •  A timely debate... RFK, Jr. vs Blankenship (4+ / 0-)

    On January 22, 2010 Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. took on Massey energy CEO Don Blankenship.

    They debate everything from economics, global warming, safety, health, jobs, mountain top removal, law and more.

    It's important to see that these are the people fighting meaningful climate/energy legislation. It's worth watching in it's entirety.

    Here is part 1 of 9

    Baby's on fire And all the laughing boys are bitching, Waiting for photos, Oh the plot is so bewitching-- Brian Eno

    by jethrock on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:05:34 AM PDT

  •  Well, said Adam (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, swaminathan, jethrock

    My diary was somewhat hastily written, and your phrase ("the benefits will outweigh the costs") would have been better.

    Green Econ 101, indeed. Lots of basics and not enough urgency were my take overall after digesting the whole thing after more thorough reading.

    Good to get your take on his piece.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

    by LaughingPlanet on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:27:55 AM PDT

  •  Fewer teabaggers, perhaps? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, FarWestGirl

    Intellectual quality:  Fossil fuels are impacting average intelligence.  Some medical research has concluded that the average IQ in the United States is roughly 1.5 points lower due to the mercury emitted by burning coal.  What would the economic impact be of eliminating that drag on the American intellect?

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 12:13:21 PM PDT

    •  These Teabaggers are probably starting at about (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      david78209

      100 IQ points anyway.

      I doubt 1.5 points is really going to make much of a difference to these white rural people when they're also filling their idiot brains with the idea that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

      Although I agree that it's a crime that poor latino and black people who have to live next to these power plants should be subjected to it.

    •  Nice snark. :-) But that's a combination of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      david78209

      environment and culture, if I can be didactic for a sec. The pollution certainly doesn't help, but glorifying ignorance and conflating it with 'faith' is the biggest part of the problem. ::::sigh:::

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:12:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like Colbert, I trust my gut more than facts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, divineorder, jethrock

    Well, at least in one area.  That's the scientific-sounding payback times contractors and providers recite for various energy saving measures.  In an extensive home re-modeling a few years ago, I was fighting them every step of the way in trying to get more insulation, tighter windows, etc.  I was on the board of our energy-guzzling tennis club when we insulated the entire building.  This was being done for cosmetic reasons, and I was the only one on our board--in a very liberal part of the country--who was even focused on the importance of insulating well.  We saved money and did a truly half-ass job.

    I know in my gut that those estimations, which pretend to look into the future, are based on denial of how the economy, especially the energy economy, will look in ten years.  I would appreciate anyone who can empower me with concrete responses which I can use to counter the damaging short-sighted vision I see in the building industries.

    The problem after a war is the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence will pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?

    by geomoo on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 12:38:26 PM PDT

  •  Don't forget coal mine accident deaths (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, banderson

    Is there any other source of power that even comes close to coal mining in directly caused deaths?  Sure, you can get killed drilling for oil or gas, you can fall off a windmill, and you can die in a uranium mine accident or building a hydroelectric dam; but I have the impression none of those other sources of energy takes anywhere near as many lives as coal mining does, even allowing for the large fraction of the world's energy coal supplies.

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 01:25:58 PM PDT

  •  What's the cost of 29 dead miners? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    At some point we have to admit that these dirty fuels have hidden costs that not even environmentalists are talking about.

    These dirty fuels kill lots of people, the least of which are the poor souls who have to spend their lives in the dark, digging the crap out of the ground.

  •  Thank you for expanding Krugman's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    analysis to include social costs and benefits.

    It's too easy for traditional economics to overlook these elements.

    And as you may (not) be aware: The GDP is inadequate as an indicator of public well-being in many regards.

    "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

    by grollen on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:06:36 PM PDT

  •  Why are there 'costs'? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    Isn't anything we do to mitigate climate change going to make money for someone too?  You don't mitigate climate change simply by burning money.  If one person spends it, someone else is taking it in as income.  It's a GDP and economic growth driver, not something that stunts growth.  The money just isn't going into the same pockets as it was before.  The way to make it a plus, then, is simply be on the side of providing such services and goods, as a country, as opposed to merely importing them from other countries.

    I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Oliver Cromwell

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:06:41 PM PDT

  •  How to Change the Energy Debate in Six Months (7+ / 0-)

    Farmers' market season is beginning soon.  It usually starts around Memorial Day.  Go to your local farmers' market every week (there are over 4000 around the USA) with energy information, working solar devices, real demonstrations of available energy-saving technology and show your neighbors what they can do themselves and what we can do together.  If there are weatherization or solar barnraisings in your area, promote them.  Do it every week until the end of the season (Halloween or Thanksgiving, depending upon your area) and you will have changed the way a core constituency of early adopters of green ideas, farmers' market patrons, thinks about energy and acts on energy issues.

    If enough people around this country do something like this, it will change the way our nation thinks about energy and climate change and environmental issues in one growing season.  In addition, it will be a grassroots effort that does not rely on any politician, leader, or media figure but only ourselves and our own imaginations.

    More at http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:12:08 PM PDT

  •  We put 1/4 of our net worth into solar grid (5+ / 0-)

    tie with battery back up one our 150 year old house in a tiny city which does not pay for private energy production. (We are retired hs teachers so our net worth ain't that much, still we put up $20,000 plus helped install it.)

    A friend asked what our pay back would be. We told him we did it because it was the right thing to do, and that we might never see an economic pay back in terms of dollar's saved.

    Thanks for the critique of Krugman. Like Obama, his work is favorable to other alternatives, but does not quite get there in deeply progressive way.

    www.yesweSTILLcan.org

    by divineorder on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:20:30 PM PDT

  •  $1T pluses to US cutting greenhouse gases. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel
    1. $400B in US oil trade deficit. This is a direct tax on US and means $400B less in jobs and standard of living for all Americans. It's overall economic loss for US. This is eliminated by US cutting oil use by 50% to match Europeans.
    1. $400B in US military spending to keep military to secure Middle East oil fields. Pentagon budget is $720B and 50% of this is for the military forces needed to secure Middle East oil fields. This is the yearly expenditure not counting the $1T spent over last eight years for the actual Middle East oil wars and oil financed terrorism. We cut greenhouse gas use by cutting oil use 50% we eliminate threat to US national security and $400B year in military spending.
    1. $200B in pollution costs, health care issues caused by air and water pollution, quality of life loss from polluted lakes, rivers, recreational jobs lost, fishing and other jobs lost, Exxon Valdez alone coast salmon industry $1T plus clean up costs.
  •  Another option: Give up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder

    Hi piece misses something else which I don't understand why people are not talking about -- if there is so much climate disaster, can it really be changes/stopped and at what cost?  And if part of the climate change is not all man-made, then at price to the health of the planet do we attempt to change the climate "in our own image" in order to preserve our current way of life.  

    Would it not be wise to consider another option: accept climate change and start preparing for it?  Encourage more inland living; and, encourage more local farming?

  •  Krugman spends the last few pages on cap & trade. (0+ / 0-)

    Mainly, he points out that some Democratic senators, and some formerly supportive Republican senators have now turned against cap and trade.

    Thing is, hasn't the administration also turned against cap and trade?

    At the same time the White House is opening up to offshore oil and natural gas drilling, the Obama administration is backing away from "cap and trade," a market-based plan to limit the nation's carbon output -- or at least that particular language used to describe the plan.
    "I think the term 'cap and trade' is not in the lexicon anymore," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said this morning on CNBC.

    That was April 5, so what am I missing? I am hoping that it's just the "term" that is dead not the whole concept. Maybe this transition?

    If cap and trade is to survive, it would likely, at the least, need a new name. One solution for the White House could be a piece of legislation from Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) called "cap and dividend," which would auction off pollution permits and return three-fourths of the revenue to citizens.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/...

    "[K]now that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy." -Barack Obama

    by Battle4Seattle on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 03:47:37 PM PDT

  •  this puts the GCC debate and need for action... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayDean, A Siegel

    ...in simple, concise logical terms that anyone from economists to regular folks can be easily convinced that we must act quickly and we must act now. We don't have the time to debate GCC forever, much less the time to drag our feet about taking the most appropriate steps to stave-off the extinction of life on this planet as we know it. At best, even if we were carbon neutral yesterday, it's a race against the clock, and not just about a next to useless cost-benefit analysis of the cost, which ignores the urgency of and the cost for failing to act as fast as humanly possible NOW:

    "Peace is the protector of genius. War is the mortal enemy of both peace and genius."

    by ImpeachKingBushII on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 03:58:38 PM PDT

  •  Cost of Inaction (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    We're all dead. Or close to it. Or our grandchildren are.

    We can't afford not to act. And we're not: we're actively polluting, all day, every day. The only question is whether we'll act mostly right, or just wrong again in a different way. Or whether we opt to act wrong the same way. See above.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:57:48 PM PDT

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