It wasn’t surprising that the Wall Street Journal published an error-riddled op-ed about climate change last week, essentially saying it was bunk and we shouldn’t “panic” about it. We’ve gotten used to that. But what has really started to amaze me about that newspaper’s editorial page and the far right is that they now venture beyond delusion or misinformation. They lie, and they know they are lying.
That’s a big claim, but how else do you account for the statement that “the earth hasn’t warmed for well over 10 years now” when it is well known by anyone working on climate that 2010 was the hottest year on record?
Despite the fact that many of the authors of the article are funded by ExxonMobil through the George C. Marshall Institute, and despite the fact that none of them are leading scientists, they, and the editor of the opinion page, simply had to know that that statement was false. They may be unethical, but they are not stupid.
This is new stuff. The claim of “no recent warming” has been made deviously before by taking a snapshot of an upward-sloping zigzag line graph. (If you take a snapshot of an upward zigzag, it can even appear to be going down … ) But rarely before have we seen brazen, unobscured lying in such a prominent location. Usually the lie or misinformation is gussied up just a little bit. It suggests a desperation of sorts, as Joe Romm pointed out in his masterfully complete debunking. Romm also noted that it brings up some questions. Why would anyone — spaceman, oil industry shill, editor, university professor, or simple citizen — tarnish their name by signing onto an obvious untruth? How does that help their cause?
The problem is that willful lies have become the stock in trade of the extreme right. Another example, outside the climate arena, is the notion that if you cut taxes for the wealthy, and cut corporate taxes, the economy booms. Where are the economic or historical studies that say when you cut taxes for the wealthy, it creates jobs or stimulates the economy? Where are the economic or historical studies showing that cutting corporate taxes creates jobs? They don’t exist. And we have a 30-year test period showing that trickle-down economics didn’t work either. So how come people keep claiming it’s true?
Another claim in the article is that “a recent study by William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls … ” Well, let’s ask Nordhaus what he thinks of that. In Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth blog he stridently disagrees with that statement:
The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science, PNAS, among others) … I can only assume they [are] either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings.
A whole campaign, a whole half of the country, now believes blindly in multiple falsehoods. On climate, at least, some of the people you can blame for this are the spacemen and oil guys who signed the WSJ op-ed. But opportunities for blame abound. Should MIT sit idly by while a professor of theirs, Richard Lindzen, incorrectly says the planet hasn’t warmed in 12 years? Is that a teacher you want on your staff, a guy who’s missing something that basic, and lazy enough not to correct the record?
The most guilty party of all is a fellow named Paul Gigot. He’s the editor of the Wall Street Journal opinion page. And he should be held accountable for knowingly publishing statements both he and his authors understood to be false — in particuar, the lie that the earth has not warmed in the past 12 years. Galileo would have muttered: “But it has.” And because of that, Gigot should resign.