I think it is safe to cancel your subscriptions to the one-time paper of record. While there are 1 or 2 reporters at the New York Times who get climate and energy, it’s obvious that most don’t and, more importantly, the editorial staff simply don’t know what they’re doing.
This is typical hyperbole from Romm that largely gets ignored by climate media watchers. But this particular rant caught Charlie Petit’s eye at the Tracker. As he noted, Romm was upset
because the section is full of news on fossil fuel industry expansion but not enough, not much at all actually, on why it’d be much better to look forward to a future with no fossils fuels at all and a stabilized atmospheric concentration of CO2.
Petit then says something that gives a clue as to why Romm gets a free pass for his heavy-handed attacks on journalists:
Romm’s energy sensibilities are on the side of the angels. We got an emergency unfolding and governments and their populaces are, most of them, pulling pillows over their heads so they can sleep.
But then Petit’s better journalistic angel takes over (my emphasis):
Would the [Times] section have been better to have run a significant feature on the consequences to the planet if the growth curves of fossil fuel use implied by what industry and policy experts expect were to occur (not the same as what’s best)? Sure, why not. It is gut-wrenching to read, amid a few pieces on the struggles of the clean-energy business, how bullish analysts are on petroleum and natural gas. But cancel the paper? Romm seems to be temperamentally skating close to the mentality of police state censors: as in China when nothing in the news about policy matters could be printed without reference to Mao, as in the Soviet Union when it was ditto for Stalin (or, today, to the Dear Leader or whatever they call the monomaniac in charge of N. Korea). Not that I’d equate, at all, the edifice of climate science with the intellectual bankruptcies of various dictators. But to demand only one angle on news stories, an angle that has been given extensive coverage and is therefore not news anymore except when things come along to advance the ball, is to be delusional about that a news medium’s job is.
It’s not often that Romm gets called out by media watchdogs for his rhetorical excesses, so this one time was worth noting.
From one of the many (which includes academics and journalists) who get slandered by Romm:
It is long overdue for the environmental community to start pushing back on Romm as he continues to stain their entire enterprise. His lies and smear tactics, which are broadly embraced and condoned, are making enemies out of friends and opponents out of fellow travelers. Vigorous debate is welcome and healthy. Lies and character assassination not so much.
Say one thing about Joe Romm, he understands the value of getting ahead of a story to try and influence the media narrative. He’s kinda like Mike Tyson in his prime, who would launch from his corner stool like a ball of fury as soon as the opening bell was rung and pummel his opponent into a sagging heap. Romm is similarly relentless and too goes for the quick knockout.
But like Tyson, who also had no compunction about biting off ears and hitting below the belt, Romm has shown that he’s willing to fight dirty. See, for example, this post from Romm yesterday, in which he breaks a media embargo, that astonishingly, a Harvard University-affiliated journalism watchdog, seems okay with. (Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Watchdog appears to accept at face value that Romm has accurately characterized this report by American University communications professor, Matthew Nisbet.)
So days before the official release of Nisbet’s report, he has been forced to wade through the mud that Romm has thrown up. Every journalist writing about the report will now be forced to sift through the mud, too.
And where are the referees who are supposedly interested in fair play? They are writing approving headlines like this:
Killing a false narrative before it takes hold
Even Tyson got called out when he mugged his opponents.
UPDATE: It should be noted: Robert Brulle, who was a peer reviewer on Nisbet’s report, and who didn’t like the conclusions drawn, dramatically jumped ship last week and is now doing everything he can (in tandem with Romm) to torpedo the report’s credibility. In Romm’s latest post on this, I see he’s saying that a “reanalysis” of the data has been done, with “the help of Dr. Robert Brulle.” Yeah, no axes to grind here.
Is this what passes for acceptable behavior among scholars? Is it ethically appropriate for someone who doesn’t like the results of a study he helped review then join forces with a partisan blogger to deep six the report before it is even officially released?
Well, here’s a shot across the bow.
Time for a flashback, to put things in context.
A few years ago, Joe Romm got quite perturbed at former Real Climate contributor William Connolley over this post at Stoat and the comments William made in the thread. At one point, Romm couldn’t take it anymore and came over to “set the record straight.” He got more than he bargained for in this exchange with William, who deconstructed all of Romm’s distortions. William also distilled Romm’s modus operandi, with this eternal quip:
You’ve done so much out-of-context quoting that no-one is going to trust you any more.
Same as it ever was.
It would be so entertaining, wouldn’t it?
Can someone please cut through the BS for me and explain what is going on with their dueling posts on this Berkley Earth Temperature Station business?
Romm’s latest contains not one but two “bombshells,” a “wow” and a “double wow.” He also says that he meant all along to “smoke out the deniers.” It’s like he’s doing his own psych ops or something.
Over at WUWT, Anthony’s latest claims Romm is pulling the “old pea and thimble trick” and hyperventilating
like some cheap MSM news labeling graphic where they’ve caught some sex poodle on tape.
Who’s smoking who here?
A fierce debate on the merits of energy efficiency, triggered last month by David Owen’s article in The New Yorker, has perhaps entered an ugly phase today, with this post by Joe Romm. And that’s too bad, because the thorny questions raised in Owen’s piece deserve to be judged on the basis of reasoned argument.
On that note, let me say that part two of this post (tomorrow) will discuss the broad outlines of the current debate. For the moment, I’m going to focus directly on the style of argument waged by Romm in his post today, because he has a large, devoted following and has the ear of influential pundits in the media.
I’m just going to ask a few simple questions. Romm fans are invited to respond and maybe Joe will stop by himself, as he is wont to do from time to time.
So my first question is: Does Romm’s latest bashing of The Breakthrough Institute (TBI) qualify as an “attack”? I’m asking because in his post, Romm says that TBI recently
launched a major attack on energy efficiency.
Romm then explains how TBI has waged this “major attack”:
They used talking points that right-wing think tanks have pushed for years (see The intellectual bankruptcy of conservatism: Heritage even opposes energy efficiency). This shouldn’t be terribly surprising to longtime followers of TBI. After all, last year they partnered with a right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, to push right-wing energy myths and attack the most basic of clean energy policies, a clean energy standard.
Second question: Is there a term for this style of argument? (Oh, one other thing–that partnership also included the Brookings Institution.)
Romm’s methodology continues in the same vein:
This year, Breakthrough’s attacks on clean energy were used by the Republican National Committee as part of their overall attack on Obama’s clean energy agenda. Again, not a big surprise. TBI’s work is consistently cited by those who want to attack environmentalists and climate scientists, “George Will embraces the anti-environmentalism “” and anti-environment “” message of The Breakthrough Institute.”
Third question: is there a term for this style of argument?
Romm’s critique (this is just a critique, right, not an attack?) continues:
Yes, I know, The Breakthrough Institute will insist it’s purely a coincidence that they are the darling of the anti-science, pro-pollution right-wing disinformers. The fact that they push right wing myths and even partner with right-wing organizations to push those myths has nothing to do with it. Nor does the fact that they spent the past two years dedicating the resources of their organization to help kill prospects for climate and clean energy action “” and to spread disinformation about Obama, Gore, Congressional leaders, Waxman and Markey, leading climate scientists, Al Gore again, the entire environmental community and anyone else trying to end our status quo energy policies (see “Debunking Breakthrough Institute’s attacks on Obama, Gore, Waxman, top climate scientists, progressives, and environmentalists“). Nor does the fact that they even attacked Rachel Carson, who died decades ago after helping launch the modern environmental movement!
Fourth question: is there a term for this style of argument? BTW, in case you were wondering, Romm helpfully tells us that
some in the media have started to see through this shtick. For an excellent debunking by the media of a typically flawed TBI analysis attacking the clean energy bill, see Markey spokesman: “The Breakthrough Institute seems to believe, much as the Bush administration did, that technology will solve all, even without a market.”
The link is to a 2009 Romm post that references a single Greenwire story of the same year, that coincidentally, heavily quotes Romm. It’s also worth mentioning that this citation, like all the previous supporting links offered by Romm, are to his own posts.)
In conclusion, Romm reminds us that he’s “debunked” TBI multiple times in 2008 and 2009 and that
I have mostly ignored the nonstop disinformation coming from TBI founders Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, as well as TBI’s Jesse Jenkins, for as long as possible.
Fifth question: Is there a term for this style of argument?
Finally, Romm explains that he can no longer “ignore” the “confusion” TBI is trying to spread.
Last question: was his post an “attack”?
I have a few questions for Joe Romm.
3) When you discuss the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, do you focus on what sparked it (such as the suicide of a Tunisian man), a contributing factor (such as rising food prices), or underlying causes (such as social inequity, injustice, and government repression)?
Romm need not bother stopping by with his answers. I found them at his blog.
1) He goes with mega-root causes, as this Ponzi scheme post demonstrates.
2) He identifies larger, industry-wide attitudes and practices as the main reasons for the BP spill.
(So far, we’re two for two, in that Romm explores underlying causes to major events.)
In his latest post, Romm concedes that
major historical events have multiple causes. Some are underlying causes, and some are precipitating or triggering causes.
Then he makes an interesting statement:
Those who believe they understand the underlying causes are only revealing their ignorance if they shout down or dismiss those who are trying to explore some of the precipitating or triggering causes.
That’s precious coming from a guy who has done more than anyone to shout down and dismiss others who have explored climate solutions that have differed from his own. In any case, I’m not opposed to rising food prices being part of current Tunisia/Egypt conversation. I’ve just suggested it be put into some proper perspective, which is captured in these opening lines from an op-ed in today’s WaPo:
The demands for change sweeping across the Arab world are the manifestation of unrest that has festered for years. The status quo is unsustainable.
Hmm, “status quo” and “unsustainable”– two terms often invoked in the climate change debate. Maybe there’s a connection to be made somewhere there for those in the climate community who want to expand their frame of reference beyond rising food prices and global warming.
Is Joe Romm trying hard to convince himself that he’s not swimming against the current?
If truth serum existed, and you gave it to Romm just before he sat down to write this post, you can be sure it would have turned out differently.
Even one of Romm’s fiercest loyalists concedes the obvious (at least in the first half of this sentence):
It seems that the Pielkes and Nordhauses are getting through to the Administration, which prefers a smiley message, not a practical one.
Actually, it seems the Administration prefers both a smiley message and a practical one.
Last week, two tireless bloggers who are often highly critical of the media had opposite reactions to ABC, one of the major broadcast networks in the U.S.
one of the best climate change stories ever to appear on a major network’s evening news show.
Meanwhile, Orac panned ABC’s morning news show for its decision to interview anti-vaccine crusader Andrew Wakefield, the subject of a recent devastating investigative report. According to Orac, this was yet another sorry example of
fallacious “tell both sides” journalism…
Can anyone tell me why these respective pronouncements of GOOD ABC (Romm) and BAD ABC (Orac) are wrong? Extra bonus points for which ABC segment got the story right and why.