The Debate Gets Civil: Romm Apologizes For Unfair Attacks

A controversial commentaryin last week's Nature -- arguing that the IPCC greatly underestimated the emissions reductions challenge -- immediately launched a heated debate among environmentalists. We had hoped for an open and productive exchange of ideas, but after the rude welcome the Nature piece got from Joe Romm, we braced ourselves for another round of low blow mud-slinging and ad hominem attack. The ugly battle wore on for a week before things took a turn for the better.

In the comments section of one of Romm's posts yesterday, Ted pleaded to elevate the level dialogue:

If you would stop with the hysterical character assassination and slander, we might actually be able to have a serious debate about the proper mix of pricing, regulation, and public investment in U.S. climate policy - one that might actually contribute to the policies that the next president and the next congress might actually enact.

What ensued was the beginning of the level-headed, honest critique of each other's ideas -- what we had wanted to begin with. Romm responded,

I think I have stopped calling you two "delayers" a while back. If not, I'm sorry. Anybody who supports Obama's plan is not a delayer. I disagree with some of the things you are doing -- and plan to point that out.

It's time for the folks at Grist, Climate Progress, and Breakthrough to realize that we all have the same end goal in mind: a livable climate that can support the aspirations of human civilization. We have different ideas about how to get there, but Breakthrough is the first to acknowledge that our way isn't the one true way. There is no divine authority here, and an open conversation is the best chance we have at finding a way to success.

Pielke and his coauthors have presented a series of important, honest questions for the environmental movement to grapple with. Rather than "debunk" this effort, we need to start dealing with these questions:

Will carbon pricing be able to reduce emissions enough?
Do we have all the technology we need?
How much should we invest in clean energy?
How much should go to development/demonstration/deployment?

Here's hoping that we can put behind us the destructive attacks on the credibility and character of those who, in good faith and with the goal of protecting humanity and the planet, ask hard questions about how we are attempting to address the problem. We commend Romm's shift in tone and appreciate his apology and look forward to an open debate that focuses on these challenges.