Ken Caldeira Contradicts SuperFreaks: ‘Carbon Dioxide Is The Right Villain’

Superfreakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner have lashed out at physical scientists who have criticized misrepresentations of climate science in the “global cooling” chapter of their book. They disparage the Union of Concerned Scientists, whose staff includes Nobel Peace Prize-winning climate scientist Melanie Fitzpatrick, as an “environmental-advocacy group” that “pressured NPR into reading a statement critical of the book.” Dubner wrote to J. Bradford DeLong, an economist and blogger, claiming that physicist Joseph Romm’s “attack is full of deception and outright lies,” especially in its depiction of climate scientist Ken Caldeira:

His attack is full of deception and outright lies. He makes it sound as if we somehow twisted and abused Caldeira’s research; nothing could be further from the truth.

Funny, because Caldeira himself disagrees with the portrayal of his research in SuperFreakonomics.

The “SuperFreaks” claimed that Ken Caldeira’s “research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight”:

SuperFreaks: "Carbon dioxide is not the real villain"

Caldeira has responded on his professional website: “Carbon dioxide is the right villain, insofar as inanimate objects can be villains”:

Caldeira: "Carbon dioxide is the right villain"


Union of Concerned Scientists spokesman Aaron Huertas tells the Wonk Room:

Melanie Fitzpatrick, one of the climate scientists on the Union of Concerned Scientists’ staff, produced a rebuttal of the SuperFreakonomics chapter which points out the many ways it misrepresents climate science. Our communications team simply passed this critique on to media outlets that were planning on covering the book, including NPR. Our organization believes it is incredibly important for scientists to accurately communicate climate science to the media and the public. UCS’s criticisms are valid and NPR rightfully recognized the value of informing their listeners that the book misrepresents climate science.

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,Joe Romm, Scott LeMieux, Paul Krugman, Brian Dupuis, and David Roberts have more, little of which looks good for the SuperFreak Steves.

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,In 2007, Caldeira said “we should avoid geoengineering if possible“:

I don’t see a whole lot of political momentum toward seriously addressing the problem, just a lot of superficial things that will be ineffective. That’s because politicians have a lot to gain from appearing to address it, but little to gain from actually solving what is a multi-decade problem.

One scenario is that we won’t really do anything until a catastrophe happens, and then people will demand that we do both [transition away from fossil fuels and conduct geoengineering]. When the s– really hits the fan–when huge droughts in the Midwestern breadbasket are collapsing our agriculture system, ice sheets are melting, sea levels are rising, and we’re getting hit by Katrina-scale hurricanes–geoengineering might be an emergency backup system we could deploy.

We should avoid geoengineering if possible, but we need it in our toolbox in case of catastrophe.

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