Jonah Goldberg on the Economics of Global Warming

The latest attempt by Jonah Goldberg to do economics starts off with an obvious observation:

Public policy is all about trade-offs. Economists understand this better than politicians because voters want to have their cake and eat it too, and politicians think whatever is popular must also be true.

Never mind the fact that Goldberg lets Lawrence Kudlow oversea the usual National Review economic stupidity that pretends there is no law of scarcity. But then his latest gets incredibly stupid:

Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century while it increased its GDP by 1,800 percent, by one estimate. How much of that 0.7 degrees can be laid at the feet of that 1,800 percent is unknowable, but let’s stipulate that all of the warming was the result of our prosperity and that this warming is in fact indisputably bad

Well if average annual growth was between 2.9% and 3% per year, we are producing about 18 times what we produced a century ago. Of course, that would grossly overestimate the increase in per capita income unless we had zero population growth for the past century. But this is not why Goldberg’s op-ed was incredibly stupid. He is assuming that there is some fixed temperature to GDP relationship. In other words, it is not possible to alter how we produce goods so as to not cause global warming. But his assumption sort of denies the possibility of improvements in technology that allow us to have more goods and a better environment. But then – what would you expect from a National Review nitwit? At least he understands the law of scarcity, which makes this op-ed a vast improvement over the usual nonsense from the National Review.

Update: Thanks to one of our readers for letting us know about this graph showing average annual global temperatures. It does look like this average rose by 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past century – but notice something else that Mr. Goldberg failed to mention. In the last half century, the increase has been about 0.6 degrees Celsius. Was Mr. Goldberg too stupid to check the data – or was he simply exhibiting the standard behavior of National Review writers who deem their readers to be stupid and worthy of being lied to?

Update II: Martin Wolf leads a discussion on the Economics of Climate Change. Hat tip to Mark Thoma for picking up on a suggestion from Andrew Oswald entitled the Global Warming Bond. Mark notes:

That’s a good trick – charging future generations to prevent environmental damage that would occur before they are born and then affect them. I wonder if we can get the unborn to pay us not to do other sorts of damage, kind of a protection racket. Pay us off in bonds or we’ll pollute this river!