Climate McCarthyism Part I: Joe Romm’s Intimidation Campaign

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Joe Romm's recent attack on an independent journalist is further proof of his intimidation campaign aimed at squashing the debate over climate solutions. But bullying only works when nobody stands up to the bully. Jon Stewart has indirectly challenged the climate of intolerance. Will others?

November 3, 2009 | Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus,

If you want to understand how it is that the debate over global warming policies became so shrill, consider the recent pattern of behavior by the country's second-most read most-read climate blogger, Joe Romm.

Last month Romm emailed Stanford scientist Ken Caldeira for a quote so he could, in Romm's words, "trash" the authors of the new book, Superfreakonomics, which includes a discussion of a climate solutions that Romm hates.

"I want to trash them for this insanity and ignorance."

The reason we know this is because Caldeira forwarded the whole awkward interaction to the authors of Superfreakonomics, who had run the relevant sections of their book by Caldeira twice before publication for his approval.

Romm wanted to make sure Caldeira understood the impact his trashing of Superfreakonomics would have:

"My blog is read by everyone in this area, including the media."

Romm then added:

"I'd like a quote like, 'The authors of SuperFreakonomics have utterly misrepresented my work,' plus whatever else you want to say."

And indeed Romm's attack had great impact, resulting in scathing attacks on the book by The New Republic's Brad PlummerGrist's David Roberts, UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLongliberal blogger Matthew Ygleisas, and Nobel Laureate and New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, who acknowledged that he had not read the book but said, "I trust Joe Romm."

He shouldn't have. What Ken Caldeira said to Romm about the misquote was the following:

[The Freakonomics authors] sent me the draft and I approved it without reading it carefully and I just missed it ... I think everyone operated in good faith, and this was just a mistake that got by my inadequate editing.

In this context, a former editor of Audubon Magazine, Keith Kloor, objected:

One of Romm's constant themes at Climate Progress is that the mainstream media is incompetent and unscrupulous when it comes to climate reporting. Well, feeding a source a quote is a serious breach of journalistic ethics.

But, Romm claimed,

It is exceedingly common in regular journalism to ask people for a quote that makes a very specific point -- I've been asked many times by reporters to do similar things.

Kloor wasn't buying it.

At NYU, where I've been an adjunct journalism professor, I couldn't imagine telling a student this was acceptable behavior. In fact, in the five years I've taught classes there, I can't recall when a student has even asked if this was acceptable behavior. I mean, it just feels wrong to do that kind of thing.

Romm stayed quiet for a week and a half. Then, last Sunday morning, Romm let it rip with this headline:

"Meet Trash Journalist Keith Kloor"

Romm goes on:

Day in and day out, Kloor just trashes people who disagree with him.

Take a minute and pause at what is going on here. Romm, who had just asked Stanford professor Caldeira for a quote to "trash" the authors of Superfreakonomics, has just accused reporter Keith Kloor of being trashy.

You don't have to be a Jungian psychoanalyst to see the projection at work.

Romm claims Kloor has attacked Romm's parents, but Kloor does nothing of the sort. Kloor simply refers to Romm's own claim that he knows journalistic ethics because his parents were reporters at a Hudson Valley newspaper. Kloor jokes that he should call reporters at the newspaper to see if they actually do feed quotes to sources like Romm did to Caldeira.

Romm procedes to suggest that Kloor "even threatens to try to dig up some dirt on my late-father" and "this is simply beyond the pale even in the tough to-and-fro of the blogosphere."

Well, yes, if Kloor had threatened that, it would be beyond the pale. But Kloor didn't. As is customary for him, Romm is careful to never link to Kloor's post and it's clear that his loyal commenters never bothered to read it. Romm lies about Kloor's post, and then conjures fake outrage about it. Given that Romm routinely refers to his late journalist father when justifying his unethical practices, Kloor is entirely justified in asking what it is exactly that Romm learned from his father.

Romm at one point says that Kloor "brags" that he is adjunct professor at NYU's journalism program. It's just another character attack. Kloor never brags of his title, he just says what it is.

The projections just pile up. Who is it, again, that "brags" "trashes" and "threatens"?

Bullying is not just schoolyard stuff but happens in the workplace. It's not just direct physical violence, it's also indirect violence, like smearing people's reputations. Such bullying takes place with the consent of the employer, as is apparently the case with Romm's employer, the Center for American Progress:

Unlike the more physical form of school bullying, workplace bullying often takes place within the established rules and policies of the organization and society ... Particularly when perpetrated by a group, workplace bullying is sometimes known as mobbing. It can also be known as "career assassination" in political circles.

Career assassination indeed.

These days especially, journalists are an easy mark. Journalists are perhaps the most insecure professionals in America. Reporters fear for their future, and with good reason. Bureaus are closing, journalists and editors are getting laid off, and whole newspapers and magazines are going under. Reporters who are insecure for their futures are easy prey for bullies like Romm, whose attacks are aimed at having a chilling effect on the entire national press corps.

What are the warning signs that one is dealing with a bully? Wiki names, "Quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions." Bullies, Wiki notes, "will even create blogs to intimidate victims worldwide."

The character assassination, the bullying, the psychological projection -- it all adds up to Climate McCarthyism, and Joe Romm is Climate McCarthyite-in-chief. Joe Romm's "Global Warming Deniers and Delayers" play the same role as Joe McCarthy's "Communists and Communist sympathizers." While Romm built a loyal liberal and environmentalist following for attacking right-wing "global warming deniers" -- a designation meant to invoke "Holocaust denier" -- he spends much of his time attacking well-meaning journalists (eg here, here, and here), academics (here and here) and activists (here, here and here) who take the issue of global warming seriously, accept climate science, and support immediate action to address it. His aim is to intimidate and prevent increasing numbers of people from questioning climate policy orthodoxy, and especially Democratic efforts to pass cap and trade climate legislation.

And make no mistake, Joe Romm's political agenda is as mainstream among liberals today as Joe McCarthy's was among conservatives in 1953. Romm is held up by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, UC Berkeley's Brad DeLong,The New Republic's Brad Plumer, Grist's Dave Roberts, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as an inspiration. He works for John Podesta, Obama's transition director and head of Center for American Progress. And he is the leading spokesperson for Waxman Markey climate legislation that passed the House, and Kerry-Boxer legislation in the Senate.

Think about it: If you're an ambitious young Democratic Hill staffer, a liberal policy analyst, or a struggling young reporter, why would you ever stand up to a guy who is famous for first trashing people to their editors, employers and funders in private emails, and then, if that doesn't work, in public blogs? Why would you challenge someone who seems to have so much of the liberal establishment on his side?

Romm's McCarthyism is apparently contagious, as Krugman now seems to see it as his role acts as an enforcer of the orthodoxy, issuing this chilling warning in the wake of the Superfreakonomics controversy:

If you're going to get into issues that are both important and the subject of serious study, like the fate of the planet, you'd better be very careful not to stray over the line between being counterintuitive and being just plain, unforgivably wrong.

Get that? Not just wrong -- "unforgivably wrong." That's a pretty amazing judgment against a book suggesting an alternative strategy for dealing with global warming. When we think of unforgivably wrong, we tend to think of things like, say, getting thousands of people to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. But suggesting we should consider shooting sulfur dioxide particles into the sky to cool the earth? That's unforgivable?

We take Caldeira's view:

I believe the authors to have worked in good faith. They draw different conclusions than I draw from the same facts, but as authors of the book, that is their prerogative.

Now, neither of us are fans of the idea of shooting sulfur particles into the sky. Too many risks and possible unintended consequences (some quite predictable). But we, like Caldeira, support funding for research, and are open to changing our minds.

In the end, the purpose of bullying is not simply to victimize individuals, it's to intimidate the bystanders. What most bystanders want is to not be attacked by the bully. It ruins your day and threatens your career. So if you are a reporter you hew to the climate orthodoxy because, well, after all, look at what Romm did to Keith Kloor.

This is the state of liberal debate about climate change. Those who question apocalyptic predictions are treated as global warming deniers or traitors or worse. Those who advocate solutions other than cap-and-trade have their characters assassinated. Those who stand up to Joe Romm find themselves turned into projection screens by an angry and vindictive bully.

Joe McCarthy, like Romm, was compulsive in projecting his own dark side onto others. In 1943 McCarthy defeated Senator Robert LaFollette by claiming that LaFollette was a war profiteer because he had made $47,000 in stock market profits during the war; it turned out that McCarthy himself had made $42,000 doing the same thing. McCarthy also lied about his war record in order to construct an identify for himself as a war hero.

Joe Romm, like Joe McCarthy, is full of rage -- one of the most salient characteristics of bullies. McCarthy was defended in his day as being full of passion. Likewise, Romm's excesses are often excused by his admirers as well-intentioned and a reflection of his deep passion for his cause. Both defend their bullying as necessary. "McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled," McCarthy said in 1952.

While McCarthy had a disturbingly long run, he was eventually challenged for his tactics, most famously by the Army's chief legal counsel who said, during Senate hearings, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" at which point the audience in the hearing room broke into applause.

Another key turning point was when CBS Newsman Edward Murrow directly challenged McCarthy in a series of nationwide television broadcasts. Some now point out that Murrow waited until the worm had already turned, with many smaller reporters doing the spadework exposing McCarthy's bad deeds. But what it finally took was establishment leaders standing up to the bully.

Maybe it's already begun to happen with Romm. In response to the egregious "trashing" of Superfreakonomics by Romm, Krugman, DeLong, Plummer, Yglesias and many others, Jon Stewart finally stepped in last week, inviting the book's co-author and economist Steven Levitt, onto "The Daily Show."

Stewart opined:

I have been somewhat surprised by how angry people are. Because you don't deny global warming, or that CO2 isn't a factor, but they feel you are betraying environmentalism? The world? ... Why are people so angry about this? Why do they have to be so dogmatic?

There will always be bullies like Joe Romm -- they are not the problem. It is the the establishment figures who goad them on, and the bystanders who could speak up but do not, fearing the consequences of doing so. If we are to move to real solutions to global warming, and protect some level of basic human decency, Joe Romm and his enablers must be challenged. For Climate McCarthyism isn't just bad for climate policy, it's anathema to liberal and democratic values.

Update 2 (Nov 6, 2009 8:30 am PDT) Joe Romm has surreptitiously changed the headline to his attack on journalist Keith Kloor, from "Meet Trash Journalist Keith Kloor" to "Meet Blogger Keith Kloor." In the comments below, Brad Plumer retracts his misrepresentation of our views on geo-engineering and Superfreakonomics while continuing to downplay his role in hyping Romm's misrepresentations of the views of Stanford scientist Ken Caldeira, and refusing to acknowledge that he has done little to correct the record or rebuke Romm's McCarthyite tactics on his New Republic blog. 

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who has weighed in. It's been heartening to receive so many emails from activists and reporters thanking us for standing up to a bully. Yesterday, Center for Environmental Journalism Director Tom Yulsman affirmed our defense of journalists and weighed in on the importance of standing up against McCarthyite attacks. In the comments below, The New Republic's environment blogger, Brad Plumer distances himself from Romm's McCarthyite tactics - but then he insists that we agree with Superfreakonomics, even though we had made clear our disagreements with Levitt and Dubner in our original post below. Howard University Chemistry Professor Joshua Halpern comments below under a pseudonym, "Eli Rabbett," and claims that we are supported by a right-wing foundation and organization -- a smear we have repeatedly corrected throughout the blogosphere. Readers can decide for themselves whether the comments Plummer and Rabbett/Halpern are consistent with the pattern of behavior we describe below.

Further reading:

Climate McCarthyism Part 2: Equate Your Political Opponents with Holocaust Deniers

Climate McCarthyism Part 3: The Hyper-Partisan Mind

Climate McCarthyism Part 4: The Headquarters in Washington

"The Green Politics of Personal Destruction"


Comments

TN writes, "I can find no evidence that you or any of the other prominent bloggers and columnists we cited have ever publicly rebuked Romm for his behavior, which is toxic to civil and healthy democratic discourse."

Nice addition of the "we cited" escape clause. If you look a little more broadly you get William Connolley at Stoat who went after Romm quite harshly long before your post here:

http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/06/foaming_at_the_mouth_with_joe.php

Now the funny thing about that is what Connolley had to say about the Superfreaks and how it contrasted with your approach:

"Joe Romm has a fairly characteristic attack; and just for a change I'll agree with him; though he chooses odd bits to assault."

http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/10/superfreakonomics_global_cooli.php

Personally I think Connolley is over-harsh with Romm, while I also think Romm is insufficiently cautious about his interpretations of what he's learned.

It's more than clear, however, that Superfreaks wrote a horribly-flawed chapter. While I'm no one of consequence, I was able to write three posts critiquing Levitt and Dubner without once referencing Romm, and I doubt I'm the only one.

I think the most telling part of TN's post was citing favorably to Jon Stewart's puff-piece interview of Levitt, the shoddiest work I've ever seen from Stewart. It was a content-free response that ignored the many substantive criticisms to the chapter, and here we see it repeated again, beyond a few cursory acknowledgments of errors.

By Brian Schmidt on 2009 11 08


You might get the wrong impression, although Eli would not, but some others, not Eli, whem MS writes

"You say above that you actually read the global warming chapter of their book. How curious, then, that you chose not to refer to it in your review."

But if, as Eli did, you read the post, the reason is clear.

"Wm Connolley stopped when he had found ten serious errors, so I'll continue where he left off and see if I can find ten more. To make it more of a challenge, I'm just going to look at the extract that appeared in the Sunday Times entitled "Why Everything You Think You Know About Global Warming Is Wrong"."

Roy would have been proud

By Eli Rabett on 2009 11 07


Tim,



I believe you when you say that you had exaggerated your headline to make a point. In this way your headline was consistent with your exaggerated review, which neither represented the argument of the chapter nor said anything of about what the authors got right about global warming.



Your claim that your ten complaints about the book represent "ten serious errors" is also a gross exaggeration. The first three misrepresent the Caldeira affair. All are minor. And none contradict the larger argument the chapter makes, which is that efforts to reduce emissions have failed, for good reasons. There is a huge technology and price gap between low-carbon power and fossil fuels. Apocalypse mongering will not motivate governments or their citizens to make fossil fuels more expensive. And the religious discourse on climate is counterproductive.



It's quite telling that you chose to not even represent the core argument of the book in your review. You offer not a single sentence that states the argument above. You elevated minor issues -- as did Romm and his other followers -- as a way to get reviewers and readers to dismiss the book. And above in the comments you continued to misrepresent the exchange between the authors and Caldeira.



You say above that you actually read the global warming chapter of their book. How curious, then, that you chose not to refer to it in your review.



Michael

By Michael Shellenberger on 2009 11 07


Michael, the title of my post is hyperbole. Hyperbole is exaggeration for emphasis and is not meant literally. I chose that title to reflect the title for the Sunday Times extract which was "Why Everything You Think You Know About Global Warming Is Wrong". This was also hyperbole and I haven't you notice demanded a retraction.

Tell me, Michael, if someone says: "I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse!", do you point out that their stomach volume is insufficient to hold an entire horse and that if they care about accuract and integrity they should issue a retraction?

If you had read my post you would have noticed that I document ten serious errors just in that extract and not counting the ones that William Connolley found. If you had read my post, you would have noticed that I am not echoing Romm, or taking Romm's word for anything except one quote from Caldeira. I wrote the post after reading chapter 5 of the book because I was appalled at how badly they got the science wrong. I was particularly disappointed because I liked their previous book and had spent a fair amount of time defending it against what I considered unfair criticism.

Try not to fit everything that happens into your feud with Joe Romm.

By Tim Lambert on 2009 11 06


PaulM wrote:


An excellent article. May I correct you on one point. The country's most-read climate blogger is not Joe Romm, but Anthony Watts, whose wattsupwiththat climate blog is read by roughly twice as many internet users as Romms, according to the Alexa web information site. Wattsupwiththat also ranks above climate progress on the wikio list of top science blogs.



PaulM: Thank you for this. I went to Alexa.com and indeed you are correct. We stand corrected. I shouldn't have taken Romm's word for it. We will make the change.

By Michael Shellenberger on 2009 11 06


This discussion is going around in circles, so I'll just repeat a few quick points and leave it at that.



Ted N: It's going around in circles because you continue to shift the discussion away from Romm's latest effort to intimidate and discredit a well regarded journalist who had criticized him.



1) Superfreakonomics made a lot of grave errors and misleading claims about climate science (and about things like solar panels) that had absolutely nothing to do with Caldeira. Given that it's a book a lot of people will likely read and discuss, it was very much worth criticizing and rebutting these errors, which was a big focus of my original post. Complaining that this sort of criticism constitutes "ganging up" or "mobbing" is silly.



Ted: There is much less than meets the eye to the errors that you and other critics have alleged. The number of errors and their magnitude has been exaggerated in order to discredit Dubner and Levitt rather than deal with the main argument of the chapter which is that based upon the last several decades of experience and the current absurdly inadequate efforts to address global carbon emissions, we probably need to start thinking about other ways to deal with climate change.



2) On the Caldeira point: Yes, Dubner/Levitt did misrepresent Caldeira's views, which is bad, but this particular mistake was probably not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, especially given all their other, more serious, errors. If the sentence about the "right villain" had been the only error, it wouldn't have been worth an endless round of blog posts. Alas, it wasn't the only error.



Ted: I think it's been pretty well demonstrated in the comment above that Dubner and Levitt did not misrepresent Caldeira's views. That charge is based upon a single sentence that Dubner and Levitt revised at Caldeira's request. Caldeira did not explicitly ask that any part of that sentence be revised. He offered an ambiguous comment suggesting that he had a somewhat different view than Myhrvold. Dubner and Levitt revised the paragraph in a manner that was entirely appropriate given Caldeira's comment upon reviewing the manuscript. Not much point in debating it further. Folks can make up their own minds.



3) Debating the difficulty of reducing CO2 emissions, and how best to do it, is a totally valid discussion and I hope we have more of it. I certainly don't want to shut down that debate, though I'm sure you'll find some way to accuse me of doing so. In my last comment I should've written "difficulty" rather than "impossibility," but it was just a hasty word choice, not some dastardly attempt to "narrow climate politics."



Ted: I'll accept your explanation that the choice of words in your prior comment was just hasty and not intentional. However this is the second time in your comments to this post that you have had to take back your words. In the first case your word choice implied that we agreed with Superfreakonomics, and in the second that we thought emissions reductions were impossible. In both cases your misstatements indicate a very particular pattern of misunderstanding.

By Brad Plumer on 2009 11 06


Tim,



It is quite revealing that you continue to misrepresent Superfreakonomics even after it has become clear that the authors represented Caldeira's views quite well. That they offered to modify a single sentence is not an acknowledgment that they misrepresented Caldeira.



On October 16 you claimed that "Everything in Superfreakonomics about Global Warming is Wrong". If you believe that then you also believe there is no connection between carbon emissions and global warming, a connection the authors clearly and repeatedly state as a fact.



Admit it, Tim, you mobbed Superfreakonomics on Joe Romm's signal, just like Plumer, Yglesias, Roberts and Krugman did. There's no evidence you read the book before making your claim that "everything" in it on global warming is wrong -- which may be why you don't actually refer to the book in your post, only to an excerpt in the Sunday Times. If you did read the book you grossly misrepresented it. Either way, you did not investigate before making your wild accusations.



If you care at all about accuracy and integrity, you need to retract your post, and correct your comment above.



Michael

By Michael Shellenberger on 2009 11 06


Brad,



I did not suggest in my comment that curbing emissions is impossible and neither do Dubner and Levitt. They do suggest that the current framework for doing so has failed and will continue to fail, that the technological challenges to doing so are a good deal more substantial than you and Romm acknowledge, and that the costs as such, given current technologies are very high and represent a substantial obstacle to effective emissions reduction action. On these points, Dubner and Levitt, Caldiera (the ostensible victim in the drama that you, Romm, and others have manufactured), and Michael and I are in agreement. Indeed, in his correspondence with Dubner and Levitt, Caldiera writes:

"My pessimism stems from the apparent difficulties of solving the "prisoner's dilemma"- and "tragedy of the commons"-type aspects of this problem."


And in his controversial New York Times op-ed from 2007 he is even clearer on this point:

"Despite growing interest in clean energy technology, it looks as if we are not going to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide anytime soon. The amount in the atmosphere today exceeds the most pessimistic forecasts made just a few years ago, and it is increasing faster than anybody had foreseen."


Your reduction and mischaracterization of this view to "the impossibility of emissions reduction" is as good an example as any of the ways that you, Romm, and others in the climate blogosphere continually attempt to narrow climate politics to a pitched battle between those who believe that we are going to eliminate global carbon emissions with light bulbs and off the shelf technologies like wind and solar, and so-called "deniers/delayers" who Romm and others say are undermining efforts to save the planet - in Krugman's words, to "commit treason to the planet."



The fact that Dubner and Levitt have offered to revise a single sentence in the book does not in fact constitute an acknowledgment of significant error in the representation of Caldiera. Caldiera has acknowledged that the book's representation of him is accurate and that the change that Dubner and Levitt in fact made in the manuscript was a reasonable response to his comments. The attempt by Romm and now you to manufacture this revision into a major retraction and acknowledgement of error is a tried and true tactic. Get your opponent to acknowledge a minor mistake and then blow it up to suggest that it is evidence that the entire argument is bogus. It is one reason that retractions and corrections have become so uncommon in contemporary political discourse - because opponents use them to imply much greater error than the corrections themselves actually represent.



Finally, it is pretty clear in the original post, the update, and my comments that we are suggesting that you have participated in the "mobbing" of Dubner and Levitt, not being the primary source of McCarthyite behavior. McCarthyism is a very strong word and a serious charge and we reserve it for Romm. But McCarthyism requires enablers and mobbing, as noted in the post is a common feature of bullying. In the workplace, mobbing refers to "ganging up" by others to harass and intimidate an individual." It is hard not to read your post in the context of the overheated reaction from climate bloggers and conclude that the reaction to Superfreakonomics has been a classic case of mobbing and that you have been party to it.



Ted

By Ted Nordhaus on 2009 11 06


Ted, respectfully, I have to disagree about Caldeira. Dubner/Levitt really did misrepresent his views with that "right villain" sentence, and I'm not going to retract my saying so. I do think Dubner's explanation in his latest post of how the error happened is reasonable (they didn't realize why Caldeira was objecting to the sentence), but it's still an error. As far as I can tell, the main thing Romm got wrong initially was that he claimed Dubner/Levitt never ran the quote by Caldeira. But on his other points, Romm appears to be correct.

Your other argument, that people should've focused more on Dubner/Levitt's points about the impossibility of curbing emissions, rather than their many serious errors and misleading statements, is fair enough, but grave errors in best-selling books always attract more attention than the reasonable points. I guess I just disagree that this counts as McCarthyism.

By Brad Plumer on 2009 11 06


An excellent article. May I correct you on one point. The country's most-read climate blogger is not Joe Romm, but Anthony Watts, whose wattsupwiththat climate blog is read by roughly twice as many internet users as Romms, according to the Alexa web information site.

Wattsupwiththat also ranks above climate progress on the wikio list of top science blogs.

By PaulM on 2009 11 06


Levitt and Dubner claim that Caldeira believes that carbon dioxide is the wrong villain. This misrepresents Caldeira's views. Caldeira saw this line in a draft and objected to it. Even though Levitt and Dubner saw this objection, they left it in. Dubner no longer disputes this. (See his latest post.)

So rather than showing Romm's charge that he misrepresented Caldeira to be false, Dubner now concedes that it was true.

By Tim Lambert on 2009 11 06


Brad,




Thank you for clarifying your intent and correcting your mischaracterization of our views on Superfreakonomics and geo-engineering. There are indeed a number of errors in the global warming chapter of which, as you note, much has been made by you, Romm, and many others.



But there is also much in that chapter that Dubner and Levitt get right, about which much less has been made, most especially the utter insufficiency of current or proposed policies to achieve substantial emissions reductions, the high cost of existing alternative energy technologies, and the resulting high costs of mitigation given current technological options.



These points, largely ignored in the scathing attacks upon the book by you and others, are a good deal more significant than the obsession with Nathan Myrhvold's views about black solar panels or whether Ken Caldiera was accurately portrayed in the book (given what we know of Caldiera's communications with the authors, his prior writing on the topic, and the tepid retraction he has actually requested it is difficult to conclude that he was not fairly and accurately represented).



The main issue at hand remain, which is Romm's effort to intimidate reporters and the tacit acceptance, if not outright approval, of these practices by other bloggers, including you. You piled on once Romm attacked ("mobbing," in the parlance of bullying), reflexively repeating Romm's charges, and casually adding as an update to your post simply that Dubner had responded.



So let's be clear. In the update you never acknowledged that Dubner and Levitt had not misrepresented Caldeira -- a fact which Caldeira acknowledges. You did not mention in your update that Romm had planted Caldiera's quote and misrepresented his correspondence with Caldiera. Nor did you acknowledge that Dubner had shown Romm's charges to be false. Instead, you excused Romm's misrepresentations and your amplification of them because Dubner hadn't corrected the other errors in the book.



Further, in the comment above you misrepresent what you actually said in your update. You wrote, "I thought it was a reasonable response and said so" -- in fact, you said nothing of the sort in your update.



You know as well as we do that Romm engages in this kind of thing routinely, and that you rushed to pile on to his attacks without investigating for yourself. I can find no evidence that you or any of the other prominent bloggers and columnists we cited have ever publicly rebuked Romm for his behavior, which is toxic to civil and healthy democratic discourse.



Ted

By Ted Nordhaus on 2009 11 05


Ah there is a character limit.

The diode lasers have too high a divergence to be used for the down link and the Nd lasers he proposes are not nearly that efficient. It is tough to see how diode laser pumped Nd lasers could be better than 20% efficient, and more likely much less than that. Then we get to the issue that neither type of laser is eyesafe.



Again, apologies for the divergence, but this actually is an issue that Eli is interested in

By Eli Rabett on 2009 11 05


Sorry, but there are a bunch of straw men being attacked in this post.

I mainly criticized Superfreakonomics for its shoddy and misleading presentation of climate science, as did William Connolley. (That post of mine you linked cites Romm only at the end.) A lot of other critics also focused on serious mistakes in the book that had absolutely nothing to do with Romm. Delong raised a whole slew of concerns. Krugman discussed the book's misreading of Marty Weitzman's research. These were all valid objections, and trying to wave them away as mere "bullying" is wrong.

Look, it would have been perfectly fine if Dubner/Levitt had just wanted to discuss the subject of geo-engineering. Plenty of other people have done so and that's a good discussion to have. But Dubner/Levitt came under fire because there was a lot of rubbish in their book

By Brad Plumer on 2009 11 05


Some others might say (not Eli of course), that you left out a word or two there, so let us look at the entire paragraph, which, as it happened was talking about how geo-engineering would require a world government



"The bottom line is that geoengineering requires fleets of black helicopters to get done. The requirement for something that will not amuse the guys at the Breakthrough Institute and their CEI/Heartland type funders. (OK, that's a WAGNER, but Eli is a smart bunny). Stuff like that on a global scale requires a global Ghengis Khan to pull the strings."



Now, to be charitable, and we are all charitable here, some might say (not Eli, of course) that it is easy to leave out a word or two when you are crying. Eli fully understands that tearing up is a real problem. However, just for the record, because, of course, it makes not a little bit of difference, there is that word -type- of funders and WAGNER, is a Wild Assed Guess, No Explanation Needed and it would appear reasonable to think that BI gets a lot of its funding from libertarian types. Still, there are others, not Eli of course who would like to know who your funders are. That, of course is their, not Eli's interest.



SNIP. TN: Were Herr Professor Halpern not such a lazy bunny he'd hop across the hall to the political science department where they might explain to him that libertarian funders typically don't fund organizations that advocate MASSIVE STATE INVESTMENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT OF CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES. But then once a clever bunny gets so far down the McCarthyite rabbet hole such details apparently don't much matter.

By Eli Rabett on 2009 11 05


Thanks for dropping by Mr. Halpern. Coming from a guy who won't comment or blog under his own name and recently smeared us by claiming that we where funded by "CEI/Heartland funders" it should come as little surprise that you would defend Romm's McCarthyite behavior.

By Ted Nordhaus on 2009 11 05


Kloor went looking for a fight and a bunch of links and he found it. Now everyone is whining. As dsquared said:

Okay, point one. The whole idea of contrarianism is that you

By Eli Rabett on 2009 11 05


Anna, would Michael and Ted be justified in their comments about Romm if your search had come up with those names you want to see (I only recognize two of them)? Your logic escapes me.

McCarthyite behavior is wrong. Period. It has no place in the climate debate or any part of American society. Wouldn't you agree?

By Confused Green on 2009 11 05


> "Anna, this isn't about Morano or Michaels or Harris"



Jesse, this is about saving the world for human habitation - a cause which isn't helped by running a blog that's fixated on Romm to the extent that it hasn't even *mentioned* the most egregious climate inactivists - my Breakthrougn Institute blog Google search returned 0 mentions of Pat Michaels, 0 mentions of Tom Harris, 0 mentions of Marc Morano, and a gazillion mentions of Romm.



If this is what your funders are paying you to do, they're getting their money's worth. If it isn't...

By Anna Haynes on 2009 11 05


One thing is disagreeing with an idea, a another is claiming someone should not or is not allowed to express their views. This is unjustifiable in a democratic society. Disinformation was the same pretext used in mock trials in soviet union and it is not an excuse for silencing, inciting others into trashing someone and the like.

If people don't understand this basic principle, may god help us...

By fd on 2009 11 05


Anna, this isn't about Morano or Michaels or Harris, although I hope you're not excusing McCarthyite tactics even against those you may fervently disagree with. Click through the links to some of Romm's posts included above and you'll see him similarly lashing out against committed grassroots activist organizations like Greenpeace and the Energy Action Coalition, climate reporters like Andrew Revkin (NY Times) and Bryan Walsh (TIME), and of course, those of us at the Breakthrough Institute, who are one and all committed to effective and immediate climate action.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 11 05


To quote Deep Climate: "Sure, call out Romm on whatever you think he's done wrong. But how about sparing a bit of that outrage for the likes of Patrick Michaels, Marc Morano and Tom Harris, who have done so much to confuse the public on climate change issues."

But maybe you've already been doing so...let me google...

I guess not. Findings:

* Your search - "morano" site:thebreakthrough.org/blog - did not match any documents.
* Results 1 - 2 of 2 from thebreakthrough.org/blog for "harris" (neither of which was Tom Harris)
* Results 1 - 3 of 3 from thebreakthrough.org/blog for "michaels" (none of which was Pat Michaels)

and

* Results 1 - 10 of about 283 from thebreakthrough.org/blog for romm.

Vision, Michael & Ted, vision...

By Anna Haynes on 2009 11 04