Sunday, November 08, 2009

In lieu of an actual climate change post, I'll just quote myself

I win for lazy AND egotistical by quoting a comment I submitted to the Breakthrough Institute/Ted Norhaus attack piece on Joe Romm that doubled as a lame semi-defense of Superfreakonomics (hasn't been approved yet, so we'll see when it shows up).

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:

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."

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.

I've been meaning to write some kind of open letter to Joe Romm saying "don't blow it with your increased visibility, and be more cautious about your interpretations of facts". Maybe this will have to do. He can keep the vitriol if he wants, but he needs to be more careful on the factual interpretation.

UPDATE: Two more thoughts: first, the quote-feeding attack on Romm is a red herring. I've been asked by journalists after they've gotten a feel for my viewpoint, "Is it your position that (attempts to describe in a sentence what I've been saying)." Romm knew Caldeira, and he was doing the same thing I've experienced, even if he did it a little clumsily.

Second, Romm needs to be more accurate. I'm particularly concerned that low-IQ/high visibility types who don't check sources use Romm as a crutch. For example, I defended Romm from William's critique as not providing worthwhile information when I pointed to Romm raising the possibility that no-till farming might not store carbon. But then Romm blows it by significantly exaggerating the report (read the comments at the link). This is the kind of thing he needs to fix.

UPDATE 2:  post edited to lower the tone, remove unnecessary wisecracks on my part.

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