Romm's Weekend Froth

Yeah, why would one prominent guy who writes about climate policy want to debate another prominent guy who also writes about climate policy? Here’s Joe Romm, in a response to a reader, explaining why he has no interest in debating Roger Pielke, Jr:

The question is why waste any time on him at all? He isn’t a climate scientist and doesn’t dispute the science and asserted on this blog we must stabilize at 400 to 450 ppm CO2. So not much to debate there. And he certainly isn’t an expert on climate solutions. He simply isn’t relevant to the debate anymore.

So if he’s not relevant to the debate, then why waste a precious Sunday writing over 4,000 words about him?  How many posts have you done on Roger in the last year alone, Joe? How many tens of thousands of words have you wasted on someone who “simply isn’t relevant to the debate” anymore?

In that same response, here’s a chestnut Romm pulls out everytime he tries to de-legitimize a voice in the climate debate:

The fact that he is so widely debunked should tell you that he puts out a lot of misinformation and disinformation. As I’ve said many times, it is a waste of my time to give him a platform to spread mis- and dis-information and then have to use all my time debunking it.

Joe, it is clearly not a waste of your time, or why would you keep at it? Oh, and as for that “widely debunked” assertion, has anybody informed William Connolley of this yet, because here’s what he wrote last summer, in a post on another Rommian screed against Roger:

RP is pointing out, yet again, that evidence for increased cost of GW in disaster related losses is thin at the very best, and that people seem very happy to quote outdated reports if they support their pov. Unfortunately, this is a message that many people don’t want to hear.

I happen to think Joe Romm is an important voice in the climate debate–both for better and worse. He has the ear of media elites. I just wish he thought his opinions weren’t the only ones that mattered.

UPDATE: Foreign Policy magazine has agreed to host a debate between Roger Pielke, Jr. and Joe Romm. Here’s hoping that Romm accepts.

UPDATE 2: Hilarious comment from a reader at Roger’s blog:

My prediction is that he will say he will not dignify your ideas and your “legitimacy” by agreeing to a debate. Only he’ll say it in 2000 words.

6 Responses to “Romm's Weekend Froth”

  1. Marlowe Johnson says:


    I’m not sure it would be much of a debate because the two of them tend talk about different things.  Joe tends to talk about 4 things: latest climate science (which support and/or show the conservative tendencies of the IPCC), coverage of climate change in the U.S. press, U.S. climate policy in D.C., and technology solutions to climate change.
    Roger tends to focus on the failings of the IPCC and other scientific institutions (e.g. CSIRO), his research areas (e.g. disasters, hurricanes), and criticizing ‘activist’ climate scientists.

    The strange thing is that I suspect the two of them (and most of us who are engaged on the issue) share the common goal of seeing effective climate policy taking root sooner rather than later.  Where the disagreement seems to lie is the broader discussion about tactics and in particular what role climate scientists should play and what the overall thrust of initial policy direction should be.

    I suspect Joe would say deploy/incent existing technologies through a range of policies including C&T, subsidies, RPS, efficiency standards, etc. AND put more gov money into basic climate-oriented R&D (the bulk of which would be energy-oriented).  He would also say that climate scientists have a duty to correct misrepresentations of climate science and its implications when they come across it. Not to do so leads to a distorted view of the risks of climate change among the public and shrinks the policy space that policy makers have to work with.
    Personally I’m sympathetic with this view on philosophical (lies and lying liars shouldn’t be left unchallenged) and tactical grounds. On tactical grounds I think the relationship is fairly clear. All other things being equal, politicians are more likely to pass climate legislation/policies/programs if there is a high degree of public support. The degree of public support is influenced by the information that is presented in the media. End of story.
    Now after a number of years of observation I suspect Roger’s positions would go something like this:
    -Too much time has been spent on target setting and political grandstanding (agree).
    -If people really understood the scope of the challenge of decarbonization more effective policy would result (don’t agree. We’re having a hard enough time just getting started on relatively small cuts and it isn’t clear to me how redefining the scope of the problem from “˜very hard’ to “˜very very hard’ makes much difference in terms of strategy).
    -More emphasis should be placed on an energy R&D strategy complemented by a modest $5 carbon tax (Disagree. Why not $10, $15, $25? What is the empirical basis for this recommendation? Why would a publicly funded R&D strategy be more effective at mobilizing and deploying mitigation technologies than a C&T system? Even with a weak cap (i.e. synonymous to a weak tax) there would still be significantly more incentive for individual firms to reduce emissions than under the proposal that Roger advocates (as I understand it).
    I’ve yet to see a clear, concise empirical argument from Roger or other climate “˜realists’ as to why their recommended approach is more likely to succeed but I’d love to hear it. And I mean that sincerely; I don’t have any personal axe to grind in this and have been in this game long enough to see that the perfect really can be the enemy of the good. Most of the chatter on the blogosphere seems to be about bruised egos and gamesmanship than about substance and lots of people end up looking worse for it, including Roger, who despite his apparent claims to civility often resorts to the same sort of incendiary language as Romm. For example, from a recent post:
    “The climate scientists (and their willing allies) have taken their battle to the arenas of politics, waging a scorched earth campaign of bullying, name calling, threats, and obnoxiously absurd appeals to authority. The skeptics participate in similar fashion, and the result is an all out brawl that we see escalating still before our eyes.”
    Is it any wonder that Roger gets the reception he does from mainstream climate scientists? Now I doubt I’d be any better (or civil) if I had the same kind of personal skin in the game, so I tend not to judge this sort of behavior too harshly . If anything though, I’d prefer that he (and others including you) spend more time in posts on clarity, civility, and substance and less on point scoring and schoolyard shenanigans.
    As a final aside, I share Steve Bloom’s recent puzzlement about Roger’s involvement on the Klobatzch et al paper given that it falls outside his stated area of expertise? Any insights on that one?

  2. Tim Lambert says:

    So your thesis is that when Connolley criticizes Romm he is right, but when he criticizes Pielke he is wrong? In your opinion, has Pielke ever got anything wrong, ever?

  3. Keith Kloor says:


    That’s a good overview of their respective positions. I still think there’s plenty to debate–if only judging by how many times Romm has attacked Pielke  on his blog. I’d like to respond in full, but have been busy with deadlines the last day. Will return to this soon.

    Is that my thesis? I didn’t know that. Perhaps you could  show me where I make such an argument.

  4. Tim Lambert says:

    I might have known that I wouldn’t get a straight answer from you.

  5. Marlowe Johnson says:

    I’m sure it would make for good theatre but not much else I suspect…

  6. Marlowe Johnson says:

    good job on moncton btw Tim!

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