Yet more snarking

This stuff just gets weirder; maybe you should just read Brian for some sense instead. Anyway, so as the Breakness Institute (-it all fits together, folks, with the Emeriti) point out, Romm has silently changed his headline from "Meet Trash Journalist Keith Kloor" to Meet blogger Keith Kloor. But even if you don't remember the original you can tell he's done it, because of the post URL. This is all very funny, because one of the first charges that Romm throws at Kloor is having his Nature post altered.

Meanwhile, over at the Dark Side, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus try to pretend that Romm is McCarthy. This is absurd, and dull (also, presumably in an effort to wrest the irony prize away from Romm, they "out" Eli in an attempted piece of bullying). They do it, I think, not because they care, but because it serves as a smokescreen to try to defend the indefensible SuperFreako global cooling junk (reminder: I junked it here; Elizabeth Kolbert junks them in the New Yorker, if you prefer things slower and gentler. Lots of nice quotes there).

While I'm snarking, Romm recently wrote about sea ice again so I put in a comment inquiring if he wanted to increase our bet. Mysteriously, that comment hasn't appeared. How very strange.

[Update: if you want to read utter drivel, then you could do worse than A Great Jump to Disaster? By Tim Flannery in the New York Review of Books -W]

More like this

Yes indeed. Sorry. Weeelll. No I'm not, really. Anyway, so I was idly browsing my "shared by" in google reader and came across My Rebuttal to Romm which is by Keith Kloor who I know nothing about other than that I read Joe Romm ranting at him at some point. Kloor defends himself - read it if you're…
This is my first contribution for "Ask Stoat", and I'm doing it because it is low hanging fruit :-). I was going to do the even lower-hanging "airbourne fraction" but that will come. This is for Brian. So, the issue is in the news because of the 2350 / 2035 kerfuffle, and links to Brian's other…
Never blog when pissed [*] they said... So, Kloor and Romm are having a dust up over stuff, and if you care you can read the details or even take sides (I'm with Kloor, you won't be surprised to learn). But we can take a step back and consider a more generalised problem, in the context of Doctors…
I liked Freakonomics, so I'm a bit sad to see the (inevitable) sequel being so hopelessly wrong. Probably this is a case of the old rule: whenever you see people write about stuff you know, they get it wrong. Joe Romm has a fairly characteristic attack; and just for a change I'll agree with him;…

Somebody just make all the nonsense stop. All these histrionics about nothing. Getting lost in all of the mess is that Superfreakonomics indeed used Caldeira's quotes to give the impression that he thinks things that he does not think. Romm's quote-feeding doesn't change that in the least.

I like this making of bets. It leaves a more noticeable record of whether there is, or is not, a consensus among scientists about whatever Romm is spewing lately - at least, more noticeable for the people too busy blogging to actually read the published literature.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

William, Thank you for linking to our post. That should be helpful background for your readers since you misrepresented our post. We were critical of Superfreakomics in our original post

[No idea what you mean here. Which post? I would be interested to read it.

Update: it turns out that he means…. In which case, he is talking nonsense; that is a defence, not critical. Oh well, so much for truth -W]

and have made clear, in the face of repeated loyalty oath demands from commenters who share your dim view of the book that we do not support geo-engineering or believe that emissions reductions are impossible. But that was never really the point of our post, making it all the more ridiculous that you would suggest that the purpose of writing it was "as a smokescreen to try to defend the indefensible SuperFreako global cooling junk."
For the record here is what we said about Superfreakonomics in its entirety:

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."

This has been deemed insufficient outrage by folks who would prefer that we pile on to Levitt and Dubner rather than making law abiding liberal denizens of the climate blogosphere uncomfortable by showing how the most widely read liberal climate blogger in the country tries to intimidate working journalists. In the course of explaining why we are not similarly obsessed with Levitt and Dubner, we have actually gone to the trouble of explaining what the chapter on warming is actually about - the failure of the regulatory approach and apocalypse talk - which has predictably led to even greater outrage.
By contrast, you couldn't be bothered to say even a couple of sentences about the main argument of the chapter, nit-picking with opinions you don't share (e.g., environmentalism as a religion, Lovelock as high priest, etc) and then dressing them up as errors. More evidence of the ways in which many climate bloggers and other commentators continually conflate climate science with climate opinion.
As for Joe Romm, you're right: heâs no Joe McCarthy. Heâs Climate McCarthyite in-chief. He exercises influence with Nobel prize winners (Paul "I trust Joe" Krugman), America's most influential columnist, Thomas Friedman, Al Gore, and much of the rest of the green-lib-Dem establishment. Romm has convinced (or cowed) much of Washington into believing that we can solve global warming through existing technology, some new regulations, and framing climate change as apocalypse.

Happily, bullies back down when people stand up to them, which is why Romm changed the Kloor post.
As for Eli Rabbett, you'll have to explain how it's "bullying" for us to call out Professor Halpern for repeating outrageous lies about our motivations and funding under a pseudonym.

Dubner failed to change the "villain" quote, even after Caldeira objected to it. At the time that Caldeira wrote that he thought the authors were in "good faith" and accepted responsibility for failing to find the misquote, he also thought that they had not received his objection to the attribution of the "villain" line to him.

Caldeira wrote: "I do not think my edited version was ever returned to Dubner ... because it got lost." (This edited version was based on a draft forwarded to Caldeira by Nathan Myrhvold). But it turned out the authors had received his objection, yet still didn't change the quote.

That's an essential fact missing from Dubner's (and the Breakthrough Institute) account.

W., can you point to your sea ice bet with Romm? I missed that one.

[ (I have 1/3 of Romm's $1000 -W]

It's pretty humorous that Eli calls them out for being passive aggressive and then Nordhaus provides such an apt illustration.

That said, I think Romm's partisan focus isn't helping. We need reasonable conservatives (yes, a few exist) to effect serious change.

Forget the 'villain' quote, and forget Romm. Caldeira has come out and said, in his own words (see the Yale e360 interview), "So I think that the casual reader can... come up with a misimpression of what I believe and what I feel about things."

It's funny how so many people feel the need to explain what Levitt and Dubner's chapter was actually about. Perhaps they could have written it better, then?

The whole chapter can be summed thus: avoiding climate change will be hard, it's a tragedy-of-the-commons, and we've bought the investment pitch of somebody involved with geoengineering without critically thinking about the possible downsides. Sprinkle in some easily debunked talking points spread by sceptics who don't even think there's a problem to geoengineer away, and that's your whole chapter.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 09 Nov 2009 #permalink

Is this the movie where the old schoolyard bitter enemies end up together in the same war, on the same side, in the same stinking trench under fire, and while continuing to cordially despise each other, finding more and more reason to believe each that the other is scum, nevertheless are able to cooperate with clear-headed precision and superhuman effort to attack the enemy position, clear out the bunker, relieve their unit, capture the hill and plant the flag? And at the end, they still hate each others' guts, but they won the battle together?

Or are we doing the Scottish Play, or King Lear --- joined in a tragedy of mutual incomprehension and unfolding vituperation, that can end only end with the destruction of all that's fair and beloved?

Time will tell, I suppose.

When I think of the Fermi Paradox, I fear for my little world, all alone in the dark.

"Break a leg."

Note that all parties in this dispute agree Superfreakonomics belongs next the Chariots of the Gods on the bookshelf.

The question really is why should anybody listen to Joe Romm? He misrepresents the science,is paid to be hyper partisan, and constantly engages in wild attacks. Is he the new McCarthy? He's more like Glen Beck.

One thing I know. Since he started climateprogress, acceptance of AGW has gone down among Americans, reversing the pre-Rommian trend.

Why are you so confident you'll win your bet?
Still 11 years to go.

[I didn't say I was. But things have got better, not worse, since I made it. So I think on balance I'm willing to take on more risk. Now if you read Romm's post, you might well get the impression that he thinks that things have got worse, not better. So you would expect him to want to take on more risk, but on the other side of the bet. So we should have perfect conditions for a bet. But alas he just deletes my comments, so there must be something wrong with my analysis above. I'm certain about my own opinions, so the flaw must be in my perception that Romm thinks things are getting worse, not better. Interesting, no? -W]

I feel sorry for Caldeira. Not only does he get his opinions misrepresented (to whatever extent, and however deliberately) by the Freako duo, but his attempt to remain civil and moderate in tone leaves him in the unenviable position of being used by both sides of the debate to entrench their own positions and belabour the enemy. Poor bugger. For setting the tone of this debate, if nothing else, Romm has a lot to answer for.

To TN:
Regarding 'unforgiveably wrong', surely you must realize what an absurd claim you make above. Rabett very obviously meant that the Freakonomics guys were factually wrong, not morally wrong, so the comparison to Jim Jones is obviously fatuous. And even if he had meant 'morally wrong', there's a great deal of variability in what may be considered unforgiveable - seducing your best friend's wife might be unforgiveable, for example, without approaching mass murder in its wrongness...

Personally I wouldn't call the errors in Superfreakonomics 'unforgiveable' - but 'credibility destroying' they certainly are, especially compounded by the refusal to admit that any error was made.

Thanks to Ted another of the Bunny's predictions comes true

Now Eli fully expects a great harumphing to emerge from the Breakthrough Institute/ Roger Pielke Jr./ Marshall Institute nexus, pointing to 23rd paragraphs where they say they really didn't mean it.

They do.

Rabett Run, where you read it before it happens.

The more Nordhaus posts, the more juvenile he appears. He would have done well to stay out of the comments here altogether instead of adding more petty bickering. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

By Ambitwistor (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

"As for Joe Romm, you're right: heâs no Joe McCarthy. Heâs Climate McCarthyite in-chief. "

I've been puzzling over this sentence. What on earth does it mean?

By carrot eater (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

It means they're desperate for the attention.

Note they're up against Scientific American* and Bart** and other reliable sources saying the whole "wait for a Republican President before taking action"*** approach is stupid.

Not to mention the notions that no individual can do anything worthwhile, just be quiet and get in line folks.

They're really good at the responses along the lines of we didn't mean it, not exactly, we've been misquoted -- perhaps that stuff has been subcontracted out to someone familiar?


Well, look, there's a great opportunity here for all concerned to say:

"I may very well have been wrong."
"I'm an AGU member and I agree with the motto 'unselfish cooperation' and I promise to do better."

Shall we get to work fixing this climate?

Ya know, there may be a deeper political issue at work here.
Up until the last decade or two, actual physical experiments have been able to run to completion long before the computer simulations got their shoes laced to start running.

Now some experiments can be run in simulation.
Before we know it, others -- like for example the interaction effects of the various synthetic chemicals in living systems -- are going to be capable of simulation.

This, if governments accept the reasonableness of using simulation, is going to _horribly_ constrain business as usual.

Think about tobacco, the poster child for problems. The tobacco companies were doing research at least as early as the 1950s, kept secret for decades, on the effects of their product. Nowadays, if the information were available, the results could be determined in simulation.

As some physicists wrote about a simpler system:

"... "As far as we know the experiment has never been performed but that is not fact, it may not even be wise to do the actual experiment in order to understand .... given that numerical computation is by now much faster than classical experimentation - why should anybody put an effort in the real thing?"*

That would certainly cut in to the profitability of going to market quickly to exploit the value of a period of arguable uncertainty *cough* Daubert *cough*.


That's a doubled edged sword, no?

Anyway, wrt climate we obviously can't afford to get the precision that would be offered by waiting for the results of "real" experiment, say, for doubling CO2. So I'm with you there.

"Getting to work fixing the climate" is the right thing to do. TBI and Pielke jr seem to put a lot of energy into opposing the first steps that are on the table now. The more they can be ignored the better.

I think Romm's policy analysis (and climate science explication) makes way more sense than TBI or Pielke. It's too bad he's allowed his combative nature to sidetrack discussion. Eli does have a point - Romm has been deliberately provoked. Still, one can legitimately question whether overblown rhetoric and trigger hair response to criticism really advances common goals.

I think it's important to counteract nonsense though. I struggle to find the right way to do that (not that my small efforts matter too much). I don't blog about Pielke myself, but I too find Bart Verheggen's take on Pielke jr pretty compelling (admittedly of late Bart does seem to mirror my bafflement at the barrage of what one could call "friendly fire" coming from that quarter).

A little background for the naive:

Romm isn't just Romm, he's the climate voice of John Podesta and the Center for American Progress (Action Fund, technically). "Joined at the hip to the administration" hardly begins to describe the relationship. If Joe's a little over-the-top at times, it's at least in part because the higher-ups at CAP(AF) think that makes sense as part of the package.

Romm's criticism places TBI's funding at risk. They are dependent (last time I checked anyway) on a single foundation for their survival. I suspect Podesta could put an end to them with a single phone call, but that would be too heavy-handed. Better to simply convince the funders that TBI is no longer playing a useful role in policy formation, recalling that they were founded more or less as an attempt to get the Bush regime to move forward on *something*. That didn't work (to be fair, nothing else did either), and now the approach seems like an anachronism. I think it may not be too long before the funders decide to put their money to better uses.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

When you sort through the vaguness of the Breakthrough Institute's rhetoric, the key flaws with their approach are the common themes that:

1. The only thing government should do to mitigate global warming is throw money into research and hope for a breakthrough in technology.

2. We should wait until low carbon sources of energy are as cheap or cheaper than high carbon sources, and ignore the hidden costs of fossil fuel usage in any economic analysis.

Scientific research is important, but they brush off the powerful motivator that private market incentives generated from a carbon tax or cap and trade system can be in advancing technology. We've seen it before with appliance efficiency standards. When California mandated that refrigerators be substantially more efficiency, manufacturers claimed it was impossible. The technology didn't allow for it and it would be way too expensive. Once the mandates were signed into law, "magically" they were able to meet the new standards, and lower costs in the process. This was due in part to private industry suddenly having the strong market incentive to developed advanced technology, and making the necessary investments to do so.

TBI also exaggerates the current cost difference between high and low carbon sources of energy to begin with. Wind power is already economically competitive with coal. Solar is still significantly more expensive. But when market incentives are in place and production is ramped up, economies of scale increase and prices come down. In addition, the hidden costs of fossil fuel usage are tremendous. A recent NRC report places just the health cost of fossil fuel usage in the U.S. at $120 billion per year.

TBI gives the impression of offering an "alternative". That government incentive schemes should focus on making low carbon sources cheap, rather than making high carbon sources expensive. This is a lot of rhetoric. Making low carbon sources cheap in their approach means subsidizing their deployment - not a cheap endeavor, and one that costs taxpayer dollars (minus the revenues resulting from the economic benefit of putting money into these sources). Putting a price on carbon has the benefit of bringing in revenues, giving flexibility in returning revenues back to the consumer. I don't believe this approach is world's apart from TBI's, but they try to make it sound like it, attacking cap and trade every chance they get, leaving some to question their motives.

On an unrelated matter: I perused WUWT for a bit today.

I'd like to see somebody do some blog science that might actually be interesting: on RC and WUWT, what percentage of comments fall into the following categories:

1) Sycophants saying amen, without understanding the post
2) Opponents saying something critical, without understanding or addressing the post
3) Actual substantive comment or question

I wonder what the signal-noise ratios are for comments at the different sites.

[It is an interesting question. You'd probably want to include CA and (for completeness) here -W]

By carrot eater (not verified) on 10 Nov 2009 #permalink

@carrot eater (and William): I don't think the analysis would give you much to work on. Realclimate 'censors' (and to some extent William does, too), and is quite active in keeping the comments relevant to the post. I think RC also removes any "interesting, thanks"-type of comments, and most OT comments.
The analysis would thus likely show a much higher signal-to-noise ratio for RC compared to WUWT and CA (stoat probably somewhere in-between), from which we can conclude...what?

Please don't take my use of the 'censor' term wrong; I am not referring to not allowing dissenting voices.

Yes, heavy moderation would affect the results. So the conclusion should be posed as "the comment threads on site X are worth reading, or are readable." Exactly why that is would be due to moderating, as well as the quality of the audience.

Subject matter also matters. Highly technical posts and reviews of new contributions get low comment volume. Posts that dispute something said by the other 'side' are comment magnets.

I haven't got the time now to do any such thing; but maybe sometime in the next year.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 11 Nov 2009 #permalink

#19 Steve Bloom

Not sure if I'm considered one of the "naive", but for the record I'm aware of JR's affiliation with CAP, and their general "working from within" relationship with the Democratic Party. Obviously there's general alignment in terms of overall analysis and goals.

SB seems to indicate that JR's "attack" style is largely dictated from above as implicit or even explicit marching orders. I don't know about that, but I do question the effectiveness of that style in achieving goals that I happen to largely share. Having said that, I totally reject characterizations of Romm as a "liar" (Pielke jr), indulging in "slander" (Kloor) or "McCarthyite" (TBI).

As for TBI/Pielke, I see their role as an attempt to offer the Republican Party a way to adopt minimal, if not particularly meaningful, action on climate change. The only substantive proposal I've seen from TBI Senior Fellow Pielke is an ill-defined research program to be funded by a $5 per tonne carbon tax, which works out to a few pennies per gallon of gasoline. Even that was never taken seriously by any Republican leaders, as far as I can tell.

Wrt TBI funding, Anna Haynes reports that funding comes from the Lotus Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She quotes from a Lotus Foundation statement:

Lotus Foundation ... is a private foundation whose purpose is to promote a more informed and tolerant society by encouraging citizen participation through a balanced and open dialogue. The Foundation is supported by Ms. Rachel Pritzker and members of her family. Grantees include Center for American Progress, Media Matters, and Center for Independent Media. Lotus Foundation has been proud to support the work of Breakthrough Institute in its work analyzing and explaining climate and energy policies and creating a new progressive agenda for the 21st Century. [Emphasis added]


Two additional links on Rachel Pritzker and the Pritzker family:

carrot eater,
It could be interesting to see what characteristics of comment threads predict the blog's "impact," but I think you'd want to examine more than just the 3 categories you mentioned above. Combining that with characteristics of blog posts would be really interesting. Sounds like a time-consuming, content-coding headache, though...

Depends on what you are looking for. The comment threads at a lot of places are Yoo Hoo look at me, and it seems to work for a bunch of folk. What goes on at CA is closer to mobbing.

DC, I think Nathan Cummings is (and has been) the main funder, as Anna confirms. The Pritzker involvement is interesting -- possibly for the newish TBI "next generation" project? In any case, NC would be the relevant plug-puller.

Re Joe's style, to clarify I do think he comes by it naturally. It's just that he works for a larger organization that instituted the blog as a tool to influence policy makers, so if his tone was considered to be a big problem he'd be asked to reduce the volume of that stuff. So far I see no evidence of that, so my conclusion is that they're happy with the mix.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 12 Nov 2009 #permalink

My couple day's foray into WUWT leaves me shaking my head. It seems that the lot of them can't get their head around the carbon cycle. I think my head would explode if I ever actually did that little comments survey.

It's also amusing how sharply divided they actually all are, as they espouse various mutually exclusive hypotheses.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 12 Nov 2009 #permalink

carrot eater, as your survey seems to assume that all WUWT posts are amenable to understanding, I'm quite confident your head would explode. :)

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 14 Nov 2009 #permalink