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Environment

The Climate Debate Litmus Test

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMay 6, 2009 10:02 PM

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Nothing bugs me more than when so-called progressives have their own litmus test on political issues. In the last two days, blogger Joe Romm has taken his fellow climate advocate, Jim Hansen, to the woodshed (see here and here), because of Hansen's vocal opposition to cap and trade. One irony is that Hansen, in this commentary published yesterday, uses the same blunt rhetorical language that is characteristic of Romm's blogging style. No matter. Hansen, who argues that a carbon tax is far superior to cap and trade as a solution to global warming, is off the reservation. (Romm is an equally vocal proponent of cap and trade and dismisses carbon tax as politically untenable, and thus unworthy of serious consideration.) Now one would think this a healthy debate to have in a democracy. Not Romm. This headline from today's post tells you everything you need to know about the terms of debate that Romm (and like-minded climate advocates) have set for all discussion on climate change politics and policies: Memo to Hansen 2: Why is the country's top anti-science blog reprinting your stuff? It's the ultimate litmus test:

if anything you say can be used as fodder for Morano and his crowd, then you're aiding and abetting the enemy, and thus you're no better than them.

In an email to me some months ago, one staff writer for a prominent environmental webzine used this same logic to slap down a few critical posts I wrote (see here and here) about Romm and another climate blogger:

"Oh, ha! I see you already were linked in Morano's latest email. Congratulations."

That's simply moronic. Imagine if every journalist worried if what he or she wrote would be used as a screaming headline by Drudge. (Actually, most journalists would gladly cut off a pinky toe in exchange for a prominent Drudge link.) Or if that kind of logic was followed by U.S. politicians when crafting legislation? You wouldn't see this or this. As Roger Pielke Jr. notes here, Jim Hansen's carbon tax versus cap and trade argument is strikingly similar to that of Rex Tiller's, Exxon Mobil's CEO. Does this mean Hansen is also giving comfort to the oil and gas industry? Yesterday, after Romm posted part one of his missive against Hansen, this comment caught my eye:

Is climate change a serious enough problem that it trumps representative government?

I dunno. Is it serious enough that it dismisses all views that dissent from your own? Several months ago, Roger Pielke, Jr., that big bad bogeyman to Romm and his ilk, said this to me and a bunch of other journalists at a roundtable seminar: "We live in interesting times." Yes, indeed.

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