Harris’ column presents reasonable climate change solutions — from 30 years ago – Courier Journal
Students from the University of Louisville and Manual High School showed support for climate change action Alton Strupp, Louisville Courier Journal
As Mark Twain might’ve said, When the end of the world comes, I hope Jordan Harris is assigned to report it; he’s always 20 years out of date — and blissfully misinformed.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad Harris has belatedly “accept[ed] that climate change is happening.” But having accepted it, he peddles long-debunked errors and dodges while proffering fantasy solutions that might have been workable when George Bush (senior or junior) was in the White House; alas, the Bushes fiddled away our long lead time and left us, 30 years later, in a conflagration.
Harris says we don’t know how much of global warming is caused by human activity. This is false; we do. As the Union of Concerned Scientists notes, “atmospheric CO2 contains information about its source… [F]ossil fuel emissions are the largest contributor of CO2 emissions since the pre-industrial era.”
Harris showers praise on the think tank ideologue Björn Lomborg, whose 2001 book relies on outdated assumptions and, anyway, commits crucial fallacies. Specifically, Lomborg presents the false dichotomy that we have to choose between stopping climate change and “upending the global economy and dooming billions to poverty.” We have long known that “upending” and “dooming” are the things that climate change itself will do; whereas the Green New Deal correctly recognizes that we have to address both problems at once, confronting global warming by fixing the economy.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders rallied support for the Green New Deal on Monday night Time
In support of Lomborg’s faulty analysis, Harris cites the economist William Nordhaus’ 1994 article recommending only modest changes to address global warming. Nordhaus might have been right at the time; but now, 25 years later, atmospheric carbon is far higher and we’ve missed out on all the incremental benefits we could have been reaping if Bush senior hadn’t blown his chance to lead on this issue. Anyway, Nordhaus’ recommendations were based on a discount rate assumption that was immediately challenged for being far too high and is widely viewed as, at best, overly simplistic. And in this kind of economic modeling, the discount rate assumption makes all the difference. Harris didn’t mention that part; he is probably unaware.
In addition to using outdated assumptions and radical oversimplifications, Harris dabbles in name-calling and smears. He calls Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph “fraudulent.” The graph is correct; Harris’ smear is not. Similarly, Al Gore’s predictions have consistently turned out to be accurate or, if anything, on the conservative side. The fact is, about these issues, Harris is either lying to himself or has been immersed in such a toxic bath of right-wing lies that he can’t recognize the truth anymore.
Now this becomes a challenge for the Courier Journal. Why does it allow opinion columnists like Harris to state untruths as facts in the pages of the newspaper? Opinion journalism is supposed to make arguments based on facts. Factual claims stated in the newspaper must be subject to editorial oversight and fact-checking; that they appear on the “Community forum” page is no license to lie.
Harris purports to be a serious man engaging “a serious problem.” If so, then he should approach it with the seriousness of purpose and honesty that it requires. And the Courier Journal must demand at least this — honesty and factual accuracy — from its columnists.
Avery Kolers is a professor of philosophy at the University of Louisville and teaches in the interdisciplinary programs in health care ethics and philosophy, politics and economics.
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