I read once that Ulysses Grant’s strategy for beating Robert E. Lee in battle was to engage Lee constantly, in order to deprive Lee of the time to come up with clever battle plans. Megan McArdle, I’m afraid, has adopted a variant of this strategy: by constantly creating complicated nonsense, she deprives the rest of the world of the time it needs to come up with effective rebuttals. Eventually, the rest of the world will simply become exhausted and start nodding along with Kevin Drum’s and Sully’s approving McMegan links. At that point, it’s fair to say that the terrorists have won.
In the meantime, commenter BR has sent me a good take-down of McMegan’s latest:
I’m amazed at McMegan’s ability to be wrong on topics as unrelated as economics and climate change, and to do so in obvious ways.
1. “1. It’s one paper. I am not casting aspersions on the authors or their methodology…” It’s not just this paper that’s been saying this. Take a look at Jeremy Jackson’s talks on the death of the ocean or similar talks on how the ocean is being turned into a parking lot – it’s a trend that’s been going on for ages, it’s not just one category of ocean life but a broad die-off, it’s not due to just one cause but a variety of human actions, and has been well documented. I mean, it took me 5 seconds to find an SF Chronicle article from 2003 on the subject.
2. The bit about all the carbon used to be in the atmosphere and the planet supported life – maybe she should have looked into the Permian-Triassic extinction event to understand what little sort of life was supported at points where a lot of greenhouse gases were in the atmosphere. This is CEI-style nonsense – “they call it pollution, we call it life.” And the level of warming we’re headed for is roughly PETM levels which means that we may be finding out by the end of the century what sort of life really can be supported.
3. The third argument is just nonsense contrarianism – the argument is that scientists who study the oceans or climate are silly people who don’t even think that there might be negative feedbacks because they’re so blinded by…I don’t know what…that they don’t know how to do their own science. And of course, she doesn’t even cite any supposed negative feedbacks that would mitigate the damage but just assumes there must be some and that the scientists must have ignored them.
The difficulty in all of this is that even many mainstream environmental organizations are compromised, and so we probably will be hearing this sort of nonsense pass for reasoned discussion on issues of the Earth for a long time.