Rep. Jay Inslee slams SuperFreakonomics: “People are still trying to write books to deceive the American public” on climate science.

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"Rep. Jay Inslee slams SuperFreakonomics: “People are still trying to write books to deceive the American public” on climate science."


This is a repost from Wonk Room.

Yesterday, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) rebuked the authors of SuperFreakonomics for participating in a “continuing effort to deceive the American public” on the science of climate change. During an investigative hearing on forged letters sent by the coal industry to oppose climate action, Inslee condemned the industry’s effort to “hoodwink, defraud, and deceive the American public now to cover up the toxicity to the world environment” of global warming pollution. Inslee then turned to Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, criticizing them for “absolute deception” in their work on global warming:

The second thing I want to note is this is not the only continuing effort to deceive the American public. I want to note a book called Freakonomics, or SuperFreakonomics, that some authors wrote, that basically said or asserted we don’t have to control CO2, we’ll just pump sulfur dioxide up into the atmosphere and that will solve the problem. They purported to quote a scientist named Ken Caldeira from Stanford who’s one of the predominant researchers in ocean acidification to suggest that Dr. Caldeira didn’t think we should control CO2. Which is an absolute deception. Dr. Caldeira I’ve spoken to personally. He’s told me we have to solve ocean acidification. You can’t solve ocean acidification without controlling CO2 and yet people are still trying to write books to deceive the American public. And we ought to blow the whistle on them, we’re blowing the whistle on one today, we’ll continue to do it, because ultimately science is going to triumph in this discussion.

Levitt and Dubner’s promotion of geoengineering as a “cheap and simple” alternative to carbon mitigation is in direct opposition to the views of Dr. Ken Caldeira, Paul Crutzen, and the world’s scientific community. Although Caldeira objected to the chapter and has since repeatedly said he was misrepresented in multiple ways, the SuperFreakonomics authors have continued their deception, joining the billion-dollar effort by fossil-fuel companies and the radical right to thwart action on climate change.

Transcript:

We have seen this movie before, and it was the exercise by the tobacco industry to try to hoodwink and cover up the science of the devastating toxicity that they were involved in for decades. And it actually worked for decades. And we have seen a similar effort to hoodwink, defraud, and deceive the American public now to cover up the toxicity to the world environment, and ultimately to our own health, of carbon dioxide and other climate change gases. They have used every trick in the book including the ones we will investigate today But I just want to note that they are now failing. The tobacco industry got its comeuppance, if you will, and justice triumphed ultimately.

And that’s what’s going on right now in the climate change debate. You see in the U.S. Senate, members of the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan basis finally coming out to move based on the science, which is now becoming dominant in the discussion.

The second thing I want to note is this is not the only continuing effort to deceive the American public.

I want to note a book called Freakonomics, or SuperFreakonomics, that some authors wrote, that basically said or asserted we don’t have to control CO2, we’ll just pump sulfur dioxide up into the atmosphere and that will solve the problem. They purported to quote a scientist named Ken Caldeira from Stanford who’s one of the predominant researchers in ocean acidification to suggest that Dr. Caldeira didn’t think we should control CO2. Which is an absolute deception. Dr. Caldeira I’ve spoken to personally. He’s told me we have to solve ocean acidification. You can’t solve ocean acidification without controlling CO2 and yet people are still trying to write books to deceive the American public. And we ought to blow the whistle on them, we’re blowing the whistle on one today, we’ll continue to do it, because ultimately science is going to triumph in this discussion.

Update 1: The House Committee on Science and Technology will be holding a hearing on geoengineering next Thursday, with witnesses including Dr. Ken Caldeira.

Update 2:  Inslee, beware! Steven Levitt has licked ocean acidification, too:

Of course, ocean acidification is an important issue. Now, there are ways to deal with ocean acidification, right, it’s actually, that’s actually, we know exactly how to un-acidify the oceans: it’s to pour a bunch of base into it, so, so if that turns out to be an incredibly big problem, then we can deal with that.

Listen here:

Update 3:  At Deltoid, Tim Lambert notes when Dubner claimed “we routinely address the concerns that critics accuse us of ignoring (the problem of ocean acidification, e.g.),” he was lying.

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26 Responses to Rep. Jay Inslee slams SuperFreakonomics: “People are still trying to write books to deceive the American public” on climate science.

  1. WAG says:

    I dug up some Calvin & Hobbes cartoons that I think say it all – Levitt and Dubner talking about geoengineering is about as reasonable as having a six-year-old fix your sink instead of a plumber:

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-do-superfreaks-and-calvin-hobbes.html

  2. Lou Grinzo says:

    WAG: Speaking as a major C and H fan, let me say I’m very jealous I didn’t make that connection. It’s perfect.

  3. paulm says:

    3 cheers for this guy! Whew!
    Everyone is finally starting to get it. Including the senate.
    Whew!

    Now, if only Levitt and Dubner can stand up on Oprah and loudly say – sorry, we got it wrong, this is the situation and we have to do something about it yesterday.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    The MEDIA should take note of this, because it does seem that more and more people are gaining the energy to face and solidly address people who get the science wrong, confuse it, or try to deceive others.

    In other words, will the media do what they are supposed to do, and get AHEAD of the curve for once, or will the media be “the last to know” and “the last to take the matter seriously”. Will the media be among the first to arrive at the fact-based party, or will the media be among the last?

    Already, we are seeing Representatives point out the bunk and even a Republican organization shine light on ExxonMobil, something that The Times has been unwilling and unable to do.

    But, the media and The Times should realize this: More and more people in the public understand how many of such stories you have missed or been “way late” on, and each time the media apologizes and says they’ll get it right the next time. And then we all go through the same cycle again. Real Credibility is at stake, and more and more people are on the verge of giving up on the media, including The Times. No more “we’ll get it right next time”. GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME! Or else, you’ll lose customers and credibility, for a long, long, long time.

    Sorry to sound so serious. But these are serious matters. And, it’s clear that The Times isn’t doing the job it should be doing.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  5. Armand Chase says:

    Can someone decipher any of this in a language we can all easily understand? A recent finding by Richard Lindzen.

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/cooler_heads_lindzen-talk-pdf.pdf

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Now that the book has been shipped, the only way for L and D to redeem themselves is through a full mea culpa. They would definitely wait until the first edition sells out, but better late than never.

  7. Greg N says:

    I think Steven Levitt’s “pour a bunch of base into the oceans” comment was a joke.

    Nobody could say it for real.

    Could they?

  8. Gail says:

    I forgot to point out, that casually mentioned in the narration is the fact that most of the oxygen we breathe comes from life in the ocean.

    oops.

  9. Richard Brenne says:

    So the question in the excellent CO2 and ocean acidification (which particulate geo-engineering does not address) film you linked us to (thanks Gail) is, do we want to continue to have the entire seafood buffet we’re used to having, or instead merely peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches?

    I’m a big Jon Stewart fan, but was anyone else phenomenally disappointed in him, his apologist, aw-shucks, there’s no problem lobbing of watermelon-sized softballs and pointless gushing to Levitt when he was on his show recently?

    I’ve just produced eight events in eight days with many world-class climate and other scientists, IPCC Report lead authors, etc – and then capped it off last night with a discussion of “Communicating Climate Change” with top communicators as well, including University of Texas Journalism Professor Robert Jensen, who has thought about the shortcomings of all media more than anyone I know.

    His take-home message was that we need to change everything. How hard could that be?

  10. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Richard (Comment 9),

    Although I’m not quite sure what you or Robert Jensen include in the word ‘everything’, my estimate is that the notion that we “need to change everything” when it comes to the shortcomings of the media is, alas, most likely correct.

    I’d enjoy reading what he has to say, if he has an article or short paper as a good summary?

    Of course, one question is HOW to change the media, i.e., how to encourage or prompt or “force” them (figuratively speaking) to change.

    I’ve been trying, but I must be doing something wrong.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    Actually, there’s a way for the Steves to get out of this with a little dignity. Have them each amputate a digit, Yakuza style, send it to Climate Progress, and then agree to donate profits from the first edition of Superfreakonomics to their charities of choice.

    Failing that, I don’t see how they can possibly recover from errors of this magnitude and potential impact.

  12. Mossy says:

    Re: Armand #4 and Lindzen:
    Living in the Boston burbs, we frequently attend lectures and talks at the big schools, including MIT. From conversations with numerous people, I present four Richard Lindzen factoids.
    l. He’s a meterologist, not a climatolgist, and doesn’t seem to understand the difference between the two.
    2. He, or at least his family, suffered in the Holocast, and his chief fear is big government and excessive government control.
    3. He does have tenure at MIT, but is not supported by his collegues with his stance on AGW.
    4. He’s one of these huge denialists who build up their own egos by being a contrarian, and reveling in all the attentions that creates.

  13. SecularAnimist says:

    I hate to break it to you folks, but Jon Stewart is not a journalist. He is a comedian.

    Stewart’s job, for which he is very, very, very highly paid, is not to inform his audience about important facts and issues, but to make them laugh, and thereby get them to watch his sponsors’ commercials, which comprise more than half of the actual running time of each episode of The Daily Show.

    If he can capture viewers’ eyeballs for his sponsors by snarking at Dick Cheney, that’s fine with him, and the corporation that employs him.

    If he can do it by shooting the breeze with (i.e. “interviewing”) vapid self-absorbed movie stars as he has often done, or by sucking up to self-aggrandizing, greed-driven, cynical, dishonest, phony “contrarians” like Levitt, then that’s fine with him too.

    It is very sad that “conservatism” in America has degenerated to the point where many “conservatives” think that Rush Limbaugh is a conservative “intellectual”.

    I think it is equally sad that so many “liberals” think that Jon Stewart is some sort of muckraking journalist. He is not. He is an entertainer, whose job, just like Rush Limbaugh’s job, is to make money for his network and his sponsors.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    Armand Chase (4) — Alas, I fear that Lindzen is now completely ignorable; WUWT certainly is.

  15. Ray Duray says:

    Richard@9,

    I share your disappointment about Jon Stewart’s bizarre reaction to Steven Levitt’s childish views on climate. Of course, Levitt is an economist so what can we expect? These are the geniuses who tell us that when an American is diagnosed with a major cancer that we can add $250,000 to our GDP! But Stewart the supposed sophisticate and satirist was shockingly naive. All I could think is that the man hasn’t been out of the City for his entire life.

  16. Leif says:

    Does anyone have a ball park number on the amount of “base” needed to counter the extra CO2 currently in the oceans? Also what would be the most likely basic material, given that it is going to take a whole lot,I am quite sure? Is there even enough of said base on earth to bring the ph back into compliance? We might even get a ball park number for cost. I admit that this is all academic but it might be nice to have some numbers to hit the tin hats with. I will bet that sustainable energy will be a whole lot less expensive. On the other hand, perhaps EXXON, big coal and all would be happy to foot the bill…

  17. “Public sentiment is going against climate action not because of pro-carbon propaganda, but because of unbalanced commentary like yours.”

    Infantile stuff and nonsense. If you are going to make factual claims, then support those claims with facts or keep your silly opinions to yourself.

    “Unbalanced commentary” has been the driving force of the Rightwing driven media for decades. If this was actually a problem, it would have shown up to their disadvantage DECADES ago. In the meantime, the “balance” you speak of is nothing more than a lot of gutless, snivelling, puling and whining in the childish hope that if we only give these vicious animals everything they want, they will finally start being nice to us. In the context of your pathetic and spineless universe, “unbalanced commentary” such as you criticize amounts to nothing other than the willingness to finally stand up in public and tell the truth about these lying hypocrites.

    Go ahead and provide some facts to prove your point; make me eat my words. Oh, but that would actually require that you do something other than sit around and pule and whine about “unbalanced” speaking of the truth.

  18. Roger says:

    OK, Lief, I’ll take a quick stab at answering your question about whether there’s enough base to neutralize the oceans. Without even taking out an ‘envelope’ for calculations, the answer is ‘NO!’

    You’d need a stronger base than lime in order to get the job done fast enough. So, the most plentiful and least expensive base to choose would probably be soda ash. The quantities are orders of magnitude out of synch, with far more soda ash needed than is available. Besides, when you add in the cost element for the soda ash, it would be far cheaper to leave the CO2 sequestered as coal, cut the federal depletion allowance for coal, and put our support behind wind, solar and etc.

    By the way, it’s about time that our elected officials, and everyone else get smart enough on this topic to be able to recognize the people who are profiting by spreading misinformation. In fact, with so much at stake–if we had the benefit of climate change hindsight–we would have long ago made it a crime to spread misinformation such as this. (Because we HAVE had experience with fires, and with panic, it is illegal to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, despite “free speech!”)

    Hmm, this makes me wonder how a U.S. Senator keeps getting away with what he is doing, without getting some type of official reprimand. What Inhofe is doing, it seems to me, with millions of lives potentially on the line, is far, far worse than shouting “You lie!”

    Thank you, Rep. Inslee. Keep up the great work! Let’s see more of this from everyone who cares about having a livable climate for our kids and grandkids.

  19. pete best says:

    Real climate have just produced a piece that will make you happy Jospeh? Its a quality peice and even has a reply from in there from one of the freakonomics crowd.

  20. Brewster says:

    Leif;

    I wouldn’t be concerned as much about the cost of the “base” as what we’d be doing by dumping even MORE chemicals into the ocean.

    THAT scares the H*ll out of me…

  21. Leif says:

    Thank you Roger, pretty much what I expected and certainly not advocating. Mostly looking for come-back to statement by Superfreakonomics statement that it is easy to stop ocean acidification, just add base.

  22. Lee says:

    Lief, check out the Royal Society paper “Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide” Ken Caldeira is one of the members of the working group that produced the report. On page 37 (45 of the pdf) is called “Engineering approaches to mitigation of ocean pH change” the conclusion about dumping base in the oceans is:

    “To counteract the changes in acidity caused by today’s ocean uptake of roughly 2 Gt C per year (IPCC 2001) would require roughly 20 Gt CaCO3 per year (Caldeira & Rau 2000), which, for a limestone layer 100 m thick, would require the removal of roughly 60 km2 each year. This limestone would need to be coastally located, or transportation costs would likely be prohibitive (Rau & Caldeira 1999). Thus, features such as the white cliffs of Dover could be rapidly consumed. Therefore the introduction of limestone to offset ocean acidification would raise a host of additional environmental problems. Furthermore, limestone does not dissolve in surface waters, so additional processing, and energy, would be needed (Kheshgi 1995; Rau & Caldeira 1999).”

  23. Leif says:

    Thank you Lee, #24 You folks out there are great!

  24. I agree to with Lee steatment, i like this “Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide”..