Debunking the Latest Argument to Ignore Climate Change

Jonathan Chait examines the latest argument: ‘Do you support President Obama’s EPA restrictions on emissions even though science reporters at the New York Times admitted in a recent story that restrictions will do nothing to combat climate change by themselves?’

“The New York Times story … does not say the Clean Power Plan will ‘do nothing.’ It says, ‘Mr. Obama’s new rules alone will not be enough to stave off that future.’ There is a difference between going part of the way toward solving a problem and doing nothing at all to solve a problem … Reducing emissions in the United States, the second-largest emitter in the world, will alleviate the problem without eliminating the problem.”

“Second, a major purpose of reducing American emissions is to encourage further international cooperation [and] that reducing American emissions is a necessary if not sufficient condition to produce an international agreement.”

“So to say that lower American emissions will not solve the problem “by themselves” is to introduce a caveat that makes the point meaningless. If you suffer a heart attack, calling 911 will not by itself prevent you from dying, because the ambulance might not make it to the hospital before you die. Buying groceries will by itself do nothing to prevent your children from starving, because, hey, maybe your kids won’t eat the food.”

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  • This seems pretty intuitively obvious that I didn’t think it deserved a formal argument to debunk. But I guess that’s what passes for intellectual arguments on the republican side. May as well put it in plain english for those who haven’t put forth any effort in considering the matter.

  • chuddery85

    This new argument shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. It’s the exact same argument that’s used to fight gun control.

  • Adam Brown

    The full relevant passage from the NY Times article:

    Mr. Obama’s new rules alone will not be enough to stave off that future. But experts say that if the rules are combined with similar action from the world’s other major economies, as well as additional action by the next American president, emissions could level off enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

  • Calbengoshi

    Even without misquoting what was said in the NYT article, it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to base his/her views regarding climate change on what NYT science reporters, rather than actual climate scientists, say or think about climate change.

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