Superfreakanomics arrive in the mail yesterday. It became a must read when Joe Romm who blogs at
ClimateProgress.org trashed the book. ClimateProgress.org is “dedicated to providing the progressive perspective on climate science, climate solutions, and climate politics.” When the left starts attacking books before they are published, you know their is something important they want to discredit, and it becomes a must read at NC Media Watch. Joe Romm at Climate Progress:
“Error-riddled ‘SuperFreakonomics’: New book pushes global cooling myths, sheer illogic, and ‘patent nonsense’ – and the primary climatologist it relies on, Ken Caldeira, says ‘it is an inaccurate portrayal of me’ and ‘misleading’ in ‘many’ places.”Now for the rest of the story in a New York Times article Global Warming in SuperFreakonomics: The Anatomy of a Smear by one of the authors, Stephen J. Dubner The full story is here, but these are the money paragraphs:
Last week, a few days before Romm’s post, Caldeira sent an e-mail to Myhrvold and cc’d me as well. It included a chain of earlier e-mails between Caldeira and Romm.Hey Anna, now you know why Climate Progress has no credibility at NC Media Watch, it is not longer about the science it is all about the politics.
The chain begins with Joseph Romm telling Caldeira that he had read SuperFreakonomics and “I want to trash them for this insanity and ignorance.” Romm adds that “my blog is read by everyone in this area, including the media” and tells Caldeira that “I’d like a quote like ‘The authors of SuperFreakonomics have utterly misrepresented my work,’ plus whatever else you want to say.”I understand that blogging, especially advocacy blogging, doesn’t operate under the rules of journalism (where you don’t feed quotes to people), but still: that’s quite a quote to feed to someone.
Caldeira didn’t give him the quote. He did, however, respond point-by-point to a series of statements about him in the book. “The only significant error,” he wrote to Romm, “is the line: ‘carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.’ That is just wrong and I never would have said it. On the other hand, I f&@?ed up. They 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.”
Romm still managed to get his point across, in the headline and elsewhere:
“One sentence about Caldeira in particular is the exact opposite of what he believes (page 184): ‘Yet his research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.’ Levitt and Dubner didn’t run this quote by Caldeira, and when he saw a version from Myhrvold, he objected to it.”
Except of course Caldeira did see that line, and the rest of the chapter too, not once but twice.But that didn’t seem to matter. While Romm’s post never actually delivered the Caldeira quotes teased in the headline – that it was “an inaccurate portrayal of me” and “misleading” – the point was clear to any reader: everything SuperFreakonomics says about global warming must be wrong because the main climate scientist they write about has refuted what he said. It’s hard to blame the bloggers who subsequently repeated this story: if you didn’t know it was false, it would have seemed pretty newsworthy. It’s also hard to misinterpret what’s going on here. Now that global warming has transcended science to become a political issue, the rules of politics apply: if you don’t like someone’s position, attack their credibility.