Climate Progressive Joe Romm Ducks Debate

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Joe Romm

The Breakthrough Institute's Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are calling out the Center for American Progress' climate change blogger, Joe Romm. The pit bull of self-styled climate change "realists," Romm is notorious for his take-no-prisoners and damn-them-all-to-hell style of "scientific" debate. Now it appears that Romm is ducking a debate over global warming policy and science with University of Colorado environmental studies professor Roger Pielke, Jr.

Roger Pielke Jr.

The whole Breakthrough Institute debate challenge post is well worth reading, but to give H&R readers a flavor of what is going on I provide an  excerpt below:

The last few months have been rough for Joe Romm. Forced to spin Copenhagen as a success, climategate as a skeptics' conspiracy, and cap and trade legislation as world-changing, Romm has started making increasingly wild accusations against working journalists and academics.

Just in the last few weeks Romm has piled up quite a list: Newsweek's Fred Guterl, the Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Ball and Keith Johnson, the Times' Andy Revkin, climate researchers, Judith Curry and Roger Pielke, Jr., a Breakthrough Senior Fellow. Romm has shown himself willing to say virtually anything to avoid dealing with the fact that his apocalypse-mongering has backfired, and that his climate policies are failing.

A telling moment came last week after Revkin wrote on the Times blog Dot Earth, that one test of the IPCC's credibility is whether it will choose Pielke to co-author the next IPCC report on climate change and natural disasters. Revkin noted that Pielke has one of the longest, if not the longest, list of peer-reviewed publications on the matter.

While he has been an aggressive critic of the panel's practices on his blog, and a frequent target of energy and climate campaigners, Dr. Pielke's research record in this particular field stands on its own." Romm responded with a 4,000-plus word diatribe that charged:

Roger Pielke, Jr. is the single most disputed and debunked person in the entire realm of people who publish regularly on disasters and climate change. In the comments, Revkin asked Romm to back up his claim that Pielke's work has been debunked.

Any reason you didn't direct your blast at, say, Chris Field, co-lead of Working Group 2 for 5th IPCC assessment (who says he's eager for Pielke to contribute), Michael Oppenheimer ("He fits" in this extremes report), Richard Klein (strong endorsement)? Oh, I almost forgot that the Obama Administration, in submitting Pielke's name, described all of the candidates as "impressive." Was that a mistake on their part? Lacking evidence, and faced with the reality that Pielke's work has mainstream credibility, Romm backpeddled:

You missed the whole point of my post. This isn't about whether Roger is technically qualified. Strange then, that just moments earlier Romm had claimed Pielke "is the single most disputed and debunked person in the entire realm of people who publish regularly on disasters and climate change."

Over at his blog, Pielke responded:

In an effort to turn this episode into something constructive and educational, I'd like to formally challenge Joe Romm to a public debate on climate policy to be held in Fall, 2010 in his home town at a date convenient for him, so that he does not have to travel and the timing can be made to fit his schedule. Moments later a reader commented at Romm's blog:

Well Joe, now that you've taken Pielke to task, you must just be chomping at the bit, then, to debate him in person… Are you going to take him up on it? Romm responded:

The question is why waste any more time on him?… He simply isn't relevant to the debate anymore. But if Pielke is so irrelevant, why did Romm just spend 4,000 words attacking him?
In a comment on both men's blogs, Les Johnson announced he would contribute $2,000 to the charity of the winner's choice.

Romm replied:

Zzzzz. I've explained many times why one doesn't want to give a platform to people who spread mis-and dis-information and then have to use all my time debunking it. And yet just a few months earlier Romm had debated an actual skeptic, Marc Morano, and days before had gone on Fox News to defend snowstorms as evidence of global warming. Why the double standard? Because -- "Zzzzz" -- it's boring?

Romm's readers weren't having it. Jonathan Adler, a law professor from Case Western, comments:

Like many others, I'd love to watch a webcast of the two of you exchanging views in person, and I can't see any reason you'd refuse. Unable to stick to a single reason to avoid debating Pielke, Romm replied:

"You don't read this blog, do you? I've explained my position on this sort of things many times." Many times and, notably, many different ways. …

The terms and venue couldn't be more favorable to Romm: The magazine Foreign Policy has agreed to host the debate in Washington, DC (Romm's home town) and the winner, as determined by vote of the audience, gets to donate a tidy sum to the charity of his choice.

Personally, I would pay some good money to listen to such a debate. I'll keep H&R readers informed of any developments.

For more background, take a look at Romm's blog, Climate Progress, Pielke's blog, and this tendentious Breakthrough Institute post where Shellenberger and Nordhaus decried Romm's "Climate McCarthyism."

Disclosure: I have expressed skepticism with regard to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's massive government-funded energy R&D proposals, both online and face-to-face at a conference with them. I have quoted Pielke in a generally favorable manner a few times in Reason articles and columns.