Misreading Romm

I began writing a post this morning about something striking that I read in this Joseph Romm post yesterday, in which he discusses the similar new books Break Through, by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, and Cool it, by Bjorn Lomborg.

Shellenberger, Nordhaus, and Lomborg are part of a dangerous new movement that believes in the science behind climate change but doesn’t think the effects will be that bad (or that we need to drastically cut carbon emissions). Clearly, this runs the risk of turning into a warm bottle for some world leaders and some Americans who are desperately needed to put pressure on Congress. Why stress about impending devastation when you have an excuse not to? Such an enticing possibility could quickly take the wind out of the sails of those fighting for a quick and comprehensive (and possibly costly) response to these challenges. That is why I was so shocked to see Romm, a brilliant champion for decisive action on climate change, quote a Robert Collier review of the books in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Nordhaus and Shellenberger, like Lomborg, will get plenty of attention in Washington from those who want to preserve the status quo. But for those who recognize the urgent need to transform the national and world economies and save the planet as we know it, they are ultimately irrelevant,” and then respond, “Precisely.” No, not precisely! As I have said before, there is real danger in underestimating the scope of the effects of climate change, in this case the chance that it will tamp down political will. They are not “irrelevant”; they are dangerous.

Thankfully, I looked back at some of Romm’s earlier writing (here, here, and here). He has gone beyond debunking them. He has said, in several different ways:

I strongly disagree with both statements — but I go further than simple disagreement, which is why I have spilled so much ink debunking both Lomborg and S&N. As long as Lomborg and S&N keep repeating their core positions and beliefs, they help undermine the consensus needed to achieve the urgent steps that could avoid apocalypse.

Well done. Romm has done yeoman’s work in this effort. The message: “Precisely” must have been a slip of the pen, and I need to keep up with my Romm reading.