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Roger Pielke Jr. Challenges Joe Romm: Looking for Intellectual Improvement

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 7, 2009

There is that old saying–when you dig yourself into a hole, stop digging! Joe Romm at the influential climate blog Climate Progress continues to dig deeper in his spat with Roger Pielke, Jr., who is seen by Left and Right as a straight-shooter in the polarized climate debate.

This is an instance where bad behavior by Romm is backfiring on him and his sponsor, the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Pielke’s post, “Please Read Climate Progress” (July 31) begins:

It’d sure be nice if people who disagree could debate policy questions based on the merits of the issue. Of course, this is not reality. I have been amused to see Joe Romm … find himself unable to respond to the policy arguments that I make, and thus find himself having to instead engage in ever more shrill and personal attacks on me. Most recently he has falsely accused my university of violating my academic freedom by shutting down our blog, Prometheus. They of course did no such thing, and when a reader of both of our blogs called him on it he could not provide the goods (because there aren’t any).

And the Romm problem for Pielke Jr. goes deeper:

Now Joe says that my positions about climate change are not really my positions, that I am pretending to hold these positions. It is of course much easier to debate someone’s views when you just make those views up for them.

Pielke goes on to explain that Romm is a hired hand, explaining his policy reversal to support a very watered down climate bill, and thus (as explained by none other than James Hansen) the defeat of climate progress (the name of his blog!).

To give Joe a bit of a break, he has a role to play for CAP as a bulldog cheerleader for the Waxman-Markey bill. His salary depends upon playing this role which of course explains his about-face on Waxman-Markey and its genesis in the USCAP proposal.

(I personally have challenged Romm to challenge his boss, John Podesta, over the party in power’s worse-than-nothing climate policy–not unlike when I challenged my boss, Ken Lay, over climate alarmism back at Enron.)

Romm, in fact, is hurting himself by engaging in personal attacks rather than facing reality.

Joe’s increasingly desperate attacks are a good sign that he sees my views as being compelling (or else why attack?) and his inability to confront them head-on a sign that my views are pretty solid…. Ever since Joe has gone on the rampage about my views, demanding that the media not talk to me and people ignore my views, it seems that my inbox is has been flooded with requests for interviews and to provide commentaries. (Apparently, some in the media don’t like being ordered what to do and who to talk to, go figure!;-) Sales of The Honest Broker jump as well. So in the post-modern world of policy debates, you can make stuff up and try to shout people down, but all you really do is draw more attention to their views.

And Pielke ends by telling Romm to wise up or continue to lose credibility. After all, isn’t he a MIT Ph.D. working for a educational nonprofit?

If Joe decides to engage in substantive debate, he is welcome to do so here. If he does not, and wants instead to issue demands to the media and offer what my “real” views are, rather than the ones I actually espouse, well, that is fine by me. I’m pleased for people to read what I write here and also to read Climate Progress (which I strongly encourage) and come to their own conclusions about the arguments that they encounter.

I added this comment to Pielke’s post to let his many readers know that Romm’s double-bogey behavior has backfired on him in my case:

I have also been on the receiving end of Joe Romm’s peculiar behavior with his repeated personal attacks on me at Climate Progress. He even called me a “sociopath” four times in one email.

Joe is trying to discredit me for having worked at Enron and been Ken Lay’s speechwriter, but as it turns out he was a bigger cheerleader for the company than I was in energy matters. I explain this here for those interested.

I have been told to just leave Joe alone. But he has a wide readership, and by drawing him out, more and more open-minded people will come to see him as part of the climate-change problem, not the solution.

I certainly do not know anyone on my side of the debate who acts like he does, and I do not think that institutions on the free market side would tolerate what the Center for American Progress does with him. But these are desperate times for climate alarmism and policy activism on all fronts–physical science, political economy, and public policy.

Improving the Debate

Here are three recommendations to Dr. Romm to improve the debate going forward:

  1. Be more respectful toward your intellectual opponents. Beware of the “smartest guys in the room” problem, or what F. A. Hayek called the pretence of knowledge.  The “skeptics” of climate alarmism have very serious arguments that could avoid what nobody wants: an energy road to serfdom. (Remember Jimmy Carter’s thermostat regulations? Beware of the carbon police!) I personally fear the effect of government intervention in the name of climate-change for the energy poor.
  2. Welcome and publicize the good news about CO2 and global climate change. There are plenty of studies and recent evidence of climate calm (temperatures, hurricanes, etc.) that should be recognized as such. There are ecological and economic positives from the green greenhouse gas that should be factored into the equation–a happy fact given that politics cannot solve the alleged problem (have you noticed?).
  3. The climate debate is very much two-sided. Don’t bully those on your side who share the nonalarmist view with their readers or listeners. They will smell a rat, not be intimidated. Journalists must be fair–that is part of their code of ethics.

May the climate debate become more civil and the best arguments win!


  1. Andrew  

    Since Romm is attack a fellow Andrew (we stick together 😉 )-ol’ Andy Revkin, who I usually enjoy having a little fun at the expense of-I feel I must point out that he is bringing out the old canard of models underestimating warming. This is based on, to my knowledge, some work by Stefan Rahmstorf-work which has been totally discredited, to the point of him needed to cheat to save face:

    Quite a scandal!

    More over, I just recently calculated the trend in UAH LT trend up to the most recent month (July, which Roy posted up the values on his site) from all the way back to April of 1997-there is NO positive trend over that period-I don’t know if that’s outside the confidence limits of model LT trends over this period for that length of time, but I’d bet my hat on it. It certainly isn’t greater than .2 degrees C per decade.


  2. John Droz  

    A fourth suggestion for Dr. Romm:

    Take the formal stance that ALL positions on this matter must be vetted via scientific methodology.


  3. More Deceit from Climate Progress, Center for American Progress (Is Joe Romm shooting himself in the foot?) — MasterResource  

    […] obviously did not do much good, but I will repeat my previous plea made on August 7th at here at MasterResource: Improving the […]


  4. Roger  

    What a whiner.


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    […] He has remained vitriolic and stubborn in the face of contrary evidence regarding dilute, intermittent energies, not to mention his notion of an unlivable climate. He will not engage in open debate with his critics–but likes to work behind the scenes to bully and discredit them. […]


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    […] He has remained vitriolic and stubborn in the face of contrary evidence regarding dilute, intermittent energies, not to mention his notion of an unlivable climate. He will not engage in open debate with his critics–but likes to work behind the scenes to bully and discredit them. […]


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