Climate Progressive Joe Romm Ducks Debate


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.

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  1. Romm knows full well that Pielke will mop up the floor with him, figuratively, to the point of even getting into the corners. It’s one thing to play ‘angry man’ on the innerwebs, quite another to be shown up as a sputtering buffoon in front of real live people.

  2. “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.”

    Is Tony really Joe Romm?

    1. Nah, Romm is way more the Intertubes tuff gai punk. Tony is just dim and annoying. Oh, Romm’s an actual human being too, but only barely.

    2. Is Tony really Joe Romm?

      Tony is a complete idiot….to call Romm an idiot is an insult to idiots.

  3. Ron,

    Did you go out of your way to find a picture of Romm with the smuggest possible look on his face?

    1. John: How could you think such a thing of me?! All I did was use the photo directly from Romm’s own bio.

      1. He looks like a cat who ate a canary in that picture. But if it is from his own bio, I guess he is asking for it.

        1. Actually, I think he looks really drunk and is enjoying the warm trickle of piss snaking down his thigh because he thinks no one else knows.

          1. Yeah. I have seen that very look on drunk people’s faces at pool parties, now that you mention it.

          2. The piss running down his leg is from the thought of having to defend his vacuous and execrable opinions, in person, and opposing someone who actually knows what the hell he’s talking about.

        2. Looks more like a dick with ears to me – smile is only natural.

  4. Hey Joe Romm, time to let it go. You will never train your side hair to climb up your cranium and cover that vast expanse of nothing. It’s called gravity for a reason, and even spray lacquer has its limits.

  5. If you are a climate denier then you are also a Tragic Manichaean conspiracy nut. Repent ye unfaithful.


  7. The Settled Science would be a good name for a band.

  8. That being said, the public debate is a pretty terrible forum for resolving scientific issues. Look at the continued proliferation of evolution vs. creationism debates, which produce lots of smoke, but very little light.

    1. That being said, being a complete asshole and accusing a reputable scientist of being “the single most disputed and debunked person in the entire realm of people who publish regularly on disasters and climate change” and then refusing to back such a claim up in person and in public makes you a douchebag.

      1. No doubt. But there’s no reason not to keep this in the blogs.

  9. Killer Alt-Text!

    1. Ron has never really put forth any alt-text effort. Kinda not a scientific thing I guess. OR, one must be wearing The Jacket to do it right…maybe that is the rule.


      1. Gillespie isn’t the King of Alt-Text. Welch is.

        1. oooo I smell a challenge.

  10. This whole debate is boring, and the sun is burning my head. Also, you’re all wrong. I’m tired, and I forgot to feed my cat, so I can’t stay here and explain why. Now fuck off.

    1. You forgot about the wolves that are after you.

    2. Uh Huh.

      And I bet the dog ate your homework, too.

  11. I briefly worked with Pielke (and took his father’s boundary layer dynamics course) while in grad school and I would think he would be the kind of skeptic that climate change “progressives” would at least be willing to sit down and chat with. He doesn’t take the hard-line stance that global warming is a lie but rather focuses on what we know (and don’t know) about both mankind’s contribution to climate change and the long-term impacts. If one were confident in his understanding of the science, then a debate with Pielke would provide a great opportunity to persuade others of one’s viewpoint. Of course, I suppose that “if” is the real sticking point…

  12. 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.

    No Ron Bailey?

  13. I can think of one reason why he wouldn’t debate Pielke that he’s not willing to disclose: Romm isn’t a good debater. I don’t mean that personally, but in the sense that if Obama and I were to take to the stage for a formal debate he would wipe the floor with me (in the “who won the debate” popularity contest manner). Not because he knows more, is armed with facts, or argues from first principles, but because he’s a skilled public speaker and I’m just some dude.

    1. Romm isn’t a good debater.

      I thought he was the master.

    2. Dude are you fucking serious? Obama is a terrible public speaker. With no teleprompter, I could wipe the floor with him.

  14. So where are the posts on Reason Hit-and-Run denouncing Inhofe as a McCarthyist, or the tactics of those who used out-of-context quotations from the “Climategate” e-mails to spin a whole lot of nothing into “ZOMG professional misconduct and fudging of data!!!!!1@!!!!@!!!11111111ONEONEONE”

    It’s more or less the same thing that Romm does, but worse. Perhaps since it comes from denialists it gets a pass.

    1. Maybe that is because

      1. No one around here really listens to Infore

      2. It didn’t take any spinning of the climate gate emails to realize there were a really big deal and anything but a “whole lot of nothing”.

      1. If the Climategate e-mails were a “really big deal”, where are the paper retractions?

        Some thought they were a big deal because they revealed that scientists were a bit pissed off at declining intellectual standards at a journal, as though that’s not supposed to happen. As I said: spin, and nothing but spin.

    2. or the tactics of those who used out-of-context quotations from the “Climategate” e-mails

      Because in context, the e-mails pretty clearly showed massive disobedience to Freedom of Information Act requests, and fudging of data.

      I believe in FoIA and in open source science.

      1. Perhaps “massive” disobedience to FOI requests and perhaps not…and perhaps only disobedience to FOI requests asking for information not subject to FOI provisions. I’ll leave that as a matter for the British to sort out.

        Academics shouldn’t be subject to 50 FOI requests per day or to mal fide FOI requests; it’s clear at this point that the Macintyre crowd was using British FOI laws to harass academic scientists and perhaps to force them into a failure of compliance. “We can’t find any wrongdoing on your part, aside from that you didn’t fill out line 37 on form Q!”: failure of compliance is a classic misdirection tactic.

        “Fudging of data” is a libelous smear. Just who was “fudging” data and what paper should be retracted because of it? Why hasn’t that paper been retracted yet?

  15. This debate were better settled by a cricket match , with Lord Monckton captaining Morano’s Maulers, and The Ecologist Twelve led by Zak Goldsmith .

  16. The new evidence does not invalidate the science *click!*… invalidate the science *click!*… invalidate the science *click!*… invalidate the science *click!*

  17. The conspiracy nutters are denialist, therefore I support the CO2 tax. It is the most libertarian option

    1. This made me laugh a bit.

      But to quote Obama “Let me be clear” as a member of the nut bag wing of libertarianism i would prefer a carbon tax over cap and trade and i would favor a carbon tax combined with a corresponding income and capital gains tax even more.

      But all things being equal I don’t want any of them. The choice i make between the options is only to pick the least worst one.

  18. Only the paranoid-conspiricist wing of libertarianism is against the carbon tax.

    1. Only the paranoid-conspiricist [fill in the blank] wing of libertarianism is against the carbon tax[fill in the blank].

      Jesus. Use the “No True Scotsman” tactic much?

      1. Kool meet Troll. Troll meet Kool.

        1. +1 to this troll, also.

  19. The debate is over!!!!!!

    How about something really instructive, informative, and inspiring like a MSM presidential debate!?

  20. Most of the commenters (not word, according to spellcheck) here have played right into Romm’s twisted little game. Romm has been trying for years to make AGW political action synonymous with AGW science. Not one of the AGW deniers here could win any kind of scientific debate against researchers like Pielke, yet they assume that one has to be deny AGW science in order to be against AGW policy making. This is exactly what Romm wants. As soon as those who oppose his political agenda become synonymous with science-ignoring troglodytes, he wins on both counts.

    Romm’s political agenda is wrong, climate science isn’t.

    1. Well done, Heller. I keep trying to make this point to people… I’m very tempted to do a new video on that as my next personal project, actually. It’s pretty frustrating since the problem with the political action being pushed around the world is that it’s completely and utterly a non-sequitur to the science.

      But douchebags like Romm want us all to act like they are identical propositions. So if AGW is true, then “solutions” of massive government power increases must also be true. Of course that’s ridiculous, but people seem to struggle immensely in understanding that point.

  21. Heller and Sean are both wrong. If you are against the carbon tax then you are against science. Everyone knows it is warming. If your baby has a 105 degree fever do you just wait around and hope it gets better? no you take ACTION.

  22. I tried to leave a response on romms site only to see it promptly deleted he seems happy to just talk **** and not back it up.

  23. Hey Cosmotarian Overlord i have some sweet property for sale you interested in it even though you havent seen it or even know where it is?

  24. Hi,

    Joe Romm doesn’t just refuse to debate. He also routinely censors (e.g. refuses to post) comments that are in any way critical of his behavior.

    Here was an initial comment I made and his response:

    Why would anyone refuse to debate someone else if the outcome would be more money to a charity like Nobel-Peace-prize-winning Medicins Sans Frontiers?

    [JR: Because unless this donor (who has never contacted me with any such offer) is just some sort of bizarrely heartless person, they would NEVER let their charity be held hostage to this nonsensical challenge. I’m supposed to legitimize Pielke’s incessant disinformation and his attacks on me and countless scientists because some supposed donor is holding needy people hostage. What’s next — if I don’t debate, they’ll drown some puppies? Seriously, where do you people come from?]

    I then responded to his comments. But of course he never published my comments (his words and the words of ljohnson are in quotes, my words are not in quotation marks):

    “…this donor (who has never contacted me with any such offer)…”

    Perhaps you simply deleted his comment, as you do with many comments you receive. Here’s what Roger Pielke’s website has from ljohnson:

    “Lets up the ante Joe.

    I will match every dollar you put up, to 10,000 USD, to the winner’s charity of choice. If you win, you don’t pay and I do, to your charity.

    If you lose, we both pay to Medecin san Frontiers. The winner is determined by an audience, which, as you choose the time and venue, is really chosen by you.”

    “Because unless this donor (who has never contacted me with any such offer) is just some sort of bizarrely heartless person, they would NEVER let their charity be held hostage to this nonsensical challenge.”

    It’s *you* who are holding Medicins Sans Frontiers hostage, so you are by your own words “some sort of bizarrely heartless person”. ljohnson offered to match the money YOU would give if you lost. So *you* are the one who is withholding money from Medicins Sans Frontiers (if you lost), or FROM YOUR OWN CHARITY if you won.

    “Seriously, where do you people come from?”

    Where I come from, people aren’t afraid to debate. ESPECIALLY if the debate would result in more money to charity.

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