Superfreakonomics appears to contain a lot of nonsense climate contrarianism. Major media organizations are normally extraordinarily bad at policing the people who write for them in terms of accurate presentation of scientific information, so I’m pretty sure Leavitt and Dubner can get away with totally misrepresenting the climate impact of solar power. Still, it is worth dwelling a moment on the fact that their critique of photovoltaic literally rests on the idea that PV cells are black whereas in reality they’re usually blue:
Correctly ascertaining the color of widely available macroscopic objects is not much to ask from authors.
That aside, something journalists typically do understand is the idea that you’re supposed to correctly represent what sources tell you. So for example compare their characterization climate scientist Ken Caldeira’s views (“Yet his research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.”) with Caldeira’s characterization of his views:
I believe the correct CO2 emission target is zero. I believe that it is essentially immoral for us to be making devices (automobiles, coal power plants, etc) that use the atmosphere as a sewer for our waste products. I am in favor of outlawing production of such devices as soon as possible….
And Caldeira’s explanation to Joe Romm of how his views came to be so grossly misportrayed:
If you talk all day, and somebody picks a half dozen quotes without providing context because they want to make a provocative and controversial chapter, there is not much you can do.
Dubner and Leavitt’s editors at The New York Times have some ‘spainling to do. This is not conduct that they would deem acceptable from any of their reporters.