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Superfreakonomists spout off about global cooling

SFlarge.jpgThe authors of the bestselling Freakonomics, which was largely an attempt to make sense and fun of economics for those who don’t think they care about such things, are now back with a title that sounds like a bigger and better version of the original: Superfreakonomics. Exploring the topics of global cooling, patriotic prostitutes, and why suicide bombers should buy life insurance, economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen Dubner are again unabashedly aiming for mass appeal.

But on the topic of global cooling….(er, don’t they mean warming, or is that just the theme of the week?), critics are none too impressed with Levitt and Dubner’s analysis. Having tried their utmost to discredit global warming, the authors none-the-less propose a solution, which goes something like: basically, let’s forget about mitigation, pump a load of sulphur into the atmosphere and be done with it.

The trouble here, as Joe Romm and William Connolley have already detailed on their respective blogs, is that Levitt and Dubner clearly have virtually no understanding of atmospheric science. As such, they fail to account for some of the other planetary woes their proposed scheme – a sulphur-spewing 18-mile-long hose pipe – would engender. Ocean acidification? Ozone depletion? Alan Robock’s latest paper gives a more complete list.

“We could end this debate and be done with it,” Levitt says, in Monday’s Guardian, “and move on to problems that are harder to solve.”

Sorry guys, but it looks like we’ll still need to redefine our energy system and the global economy too.

Olive Heffernan


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    Mac said:

    Quoting Joe Romm on atmospheric science is like quoting Rasputin on theology.

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    JohnB said:

    Given the inability of the climate modelers to build a model that predicts well going forward, it can be argued that they don’t understand the atmosphere very well either. Yet these unvalidated models are given as the rationale for, as you say, “redefin[ing] our energy systems and the global economy”.

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    Karen Nyhus said:

    Olive, thanks for covering this story. In the US, our national public radio network (“NPR”) interviewed SuperFreakenmonics authors this past week (mid-October), noting that the Union of Concerned Scientists (a US NGO specializing in rebutting false science and the interests they represent) has proposed to debate the authors on the climate science fundamentals. I hope they do — let’s stay tuned.

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    Hank Roberts said:

    Shame about the troll problem here. It’d help if they had full names, maybe.

    NPR’s “Marketplace” program for tomorrow promises a piece on what’s needed to solve the climate ‘free-fall’ — short answer from the teaser is, everything we can do, as quickly as possible.

    It’ll be interesting to see this presented to the “Marketplace” audience.

    It’s about time.

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