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Environment

Climate Furies

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorFebruary 28, 2009 12:47 AM

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By now, Andy Revkin must feel like a tackling dummy. All this week, numerous liberal bloggers have singed him for this piece he wrote on the misrepresentation of climate data, in which he essentially equated Al Gore with George Will. Gore's camp has taken offense, respected scientists have registered their disapproval, and climate change ideologues have gone barking mad. Today, it's George Will's turn to be offended. In this column, Will throws a few soft jabs at Andy's reporting and then digs in his heels over this previous column that triggered the fracas several weeks back. Taken together, both of Will's columns play Twister with science data to claim that concerns over global warming are exaggerated. Anyone familiar with Will's position on climate change knows that he has sung this tune for years. Yet, the outrage hurled at the Washington Post for publishing Will's columns is off the charts. I don't know, maybe it's me, but I don't see what all the fuss is about. This is not 1998, when the American public was still pretty fuzzy headed about global warming. The debate today has moved past Is global warming happening to How do we de-carbonize the world economy. I don't see anybody in Congress (besides Inhofe) arguing about the science. The battlefront has moved to policy. Sorry, Joe Romm, but I think you're stuck in mud, fighting an old war. You and your cohorts are working up frothy umbrage for naught. What's more, it's totally out of proportion to Will's actual influence and reach. Sure he's got a nationally syndicated column. But Thomas Friedman has a pretty large megaphone too and I'd argue that he's been a whole lot more effective at bringing the nation's thought leaders ( and politically moderate Americans) over to your side. Now let me be clear about something, because I've been teeing off on Romm and a few others all this week. I agree that Andy's equating Gore with Will was off base. My beef is with the way Romm and Brad Johnson went about it. I've already made my case for why I think Romm was out of line. Johnson's critique of Andy's column, while civil in tone, is undermined by his irresponsible character distortions of David Ropeik and Roger Pielke, Jr. At least Johnson provided a link to Ropeik's website so readers could make some kind of independent assessment. With Pielke, Jr., who, like Ropeik, Johnson characterizes as having "ties to corporate, right-wing America," there is no substantiation offered for this broad and vague depiction, much less a link to Pielke's homepage, which would reveal an impressive academic record. Moreover, earlier this week Johnson conducted an interview with Pielke Jr., and didn't see fit to post any of it in his "updates" of the Revkin critique post. (But he found space for Romm and Gore's spokesperson and others.) So let me direct readers over to Prometheus, where Roger has posted the entire interview with Johnson. I think Wonk Room readers would find it interesting reading. I'm all for vigorous, fiery debate. But not ad hominum attacks and weasly, unsubstantiated guilt-by-association smears.

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