No wonder people are confused …

Andrew Revkin, at the New York Times, who I generally find very much worth reading, has a dousy today.  In a review of three global warming books, Revkin speaks of Bjorn Lomborg as a “centrist” and discusses his book without suggesting that there any factual errors or how truthiness runs roughshod over the truth. He similarly glosses over the serious problems with Newt Gingrich’s Contract on the Earth.  Nordhaus and Shellenberger are discussed between Newt and Lomborg, and thrown into the same camp with Lomborg. 

It is hard to explain all the problems with this review as it truly mischaracterizes these presentations. And, well, what does it say about the level of debate and discussion when someone whose work focuses on truthiness rather than truth (see misrepresenting evidence, reviews are coming in, truthiness, putting the heat on Lomborg just, well, to start) is represented as a centrist, someone reasonable in the discussion? 

As I have written elsewhere, Lomborg raises a good question: How can we make better, more informed decisions about use of (by definition) limited resources?  He then focuses, falsely, on Global Warming and plays very loosely with statistics and data to present an incorrect view of the realities of the threats and opportunities that we face.  His question: reasonable.  His approach to answering it: disingenuous, at best.

Newt Gingrich’s Contract on the World is also filled with misleading truthiness. He decries the partisan nature of Washington, DC, yet cannot find a phrase to indicate that he might have had anything to do with that, in any way.  He decries the failure to use science in decisionmaking without mentioning his role in the dismantling of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), the small group that provided non-partisan scientific advice to Congress.  Many of his thoughts and concepts are worth discussing but they are wrapped in a disingenuous way of discussing the world. A truthiness that obscures truth and fosters his arguments for an inevitably inadequate response to the challenges we face.

I regret that Nordhaus and Schellenger are capture in this trio. I have yet to read their book but, from what I can tell, while I will not “agree”, I will find much to appreciate in it. 

In any event, Revkin has done his readership and discussions of Global Warming a real disservice with this review.  To the extent that Gingrich and Lomborg are “centrist”, this can only be viewed in a context of American politics where utter rejection of fact and dismissing evidence are accepted as reasonable.  


4 responses to “No wonder people are confused …

  1. It’s not a review.

    My blog (and that survey of the books in Science Times) is about my opinion, or intended to be judgmental. It’s an effort to track trends and news that relate to whether humans are, or aren’t, going to shift to a new relationship with the planet and themselves.

    When I see high-profile figures from the “other side” of the climate divide saying decarbonization is vital, that is worth noting, regardless of their pedigree.

    For many disengaged, doubtful people out there, that alone is breaking news.

    The commentary portion of Dot Earth is where the truth detecting, in either argument, emerges.

    I encourage you to post a short version of this post there, with a link to your home post.

  2. His approach to answering it: disingenuous, at best…

  3. Andy, I appreciate you commenting here, as I couldn’t find a way to comment on your blog (it’s a blog?). I don’t understand how any of these books are a call to the “center” of any spectrum. If Gingrich and Lomborg embrace the ideas of the left than they are moving to the left or perhaps the environmentalist side of the issue. From your opinion (critique, review, what have you), I gather that Nordhaus and Schellenger are talking about the tactics of the environmentalists rather than their beliefs.

    By framing this as both extremes coming to the center, while it may be satisfying on an existential level, is not a reflection of reality. All of us must move toward an environmentalist’s viewpoint if we wish to coexist with a healthy environment.

  4. Here’s Newt’s original Contract On America:

    Now, thirteen years later, we have an idea of how well his new contact is likely to work.

    And does anyone here know what a republican mole smells like? There’s something peculiar in the air.

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