May 18, 2009
Joe Romm’s Challenge
Joe Romm, a former political appointee [Update: Mr. Romm, has asked that a fuller description of him be provided here, so here is a link], has engaged in an increasingly hysterical set of attacks on the Breakthrough Institute and people associated with it. His most recent attacks focus on my paper out this week with Tom Wigley and Chris Green. Despite writing close to 10,000 words in reply to the paper, it does not appear that he has actually read it.
Mr. Romm issued a challenge to us, which we respond to here.
1. "I challenge Pielke or Hoffert or Shellenberger or Nordhaus or anyone else at B.I. [or anyone on the face of the planet] to show me where in the Nature piece it "shatters the notion we have all the technology we need to deal with climate change"?"
Answer: Here is what the paper asserts:
Enormous advances in energy technology will be needed to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at acceptable levels. If much of these advances occur spontaneously, as suggested by the scenarios used by the IPCC,
then the challenge of stabilization might be less complicated and costly. However, if most decarbonization does not occur automatically, then the challenge to stabilization could in fact be much larger than presented by the IPCC.
2. "I also challenge Pielke and B.I. to indicate where the IPCC ever said "we already have all the technology we need to deal with climate change."
Answer: The IPCC SPM WG III writes, "The range of stabilization levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are currently available and those that are expected to be commercialised in coming decades." Assessed stabilization ranges include 450 ppm CO2eq (or about 400 CO2).
3. "I specifically challenge Pielke and B.I. to state what "atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations" are "acceptable.""
Answer: We define "acceptable levels" in our Nature paper as 500 ppm (the level focused on by IPCC WG III) and 450 ppm (the level focused on by the EU and implicitly in the FCCC).
Had Joe Romm actually read either our paper or the IPCC WG III SPM he would not have had to ask such questions, as the points above are abundantly clear in each.
The reactions to Pielke, Wigley, Green from the broader environmental community have in fact been quite positive. Mr. Romm is an unfortunate exception displaying the worst face of intolerance among an increasingly isolated, detached few. Unfortunately, his attacks reenforce tired stereotypes and probably do some harm to the community who seeks practical and effective policy action on both mitigation and adaptation.