The SuperFreakonomics Approach to Cooling the Planet

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The new "SuperFreakonomics" book has attracted some passionate criticism from climate scientists and a community of writers, researchers and scholars for a chapter on global warming. Co-authors Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt reject the idea that reducing carbon emissions should be the sole focus for addressing global warming, and dive into an array of bold ideas for "geoengineering," which would allow people to directly change temperatures on Earth. Stephen Dubner joins us to explain and defend the Freakonomics approach.


Stephen J. Dubner

Comments [7]

L Carey

The idea of Mr. Dubner using the term "fatwa" to refer to the many substantive criticisms responding to the multitude of errors and misleading statements contained in Ch. 5 of the book is patently ridiculous. If Levitt and Dubner chose to advance a poorly researched proposal about a pressing worldwide problem they show little evidence of understanding, they should be prepared to respond to criticism from people who are actually work in the climate sciences and climate economics, without whining that they're being "persecuted".

Nov. 19 2009 11:48 AM

Global climate change has indeed turned into 'religion' as represented by the comments herein and unwillingness to even consider contradictory scientific evidence.

Nov. 17 2009 08:31 PM
Brad Johnson

Didn't realize links would be stripped.

Brad DeLong:

Steve Levitt:

Nov. 17 2009 10:01 AM
Brad Johnson

This is a pretty good summary of a number of the errors by economist Brad DeLong.

Here's a critique of a particular false claim in the book (that solar panels have "hidden" costs that eliminate their emissions benefit) by University of Chicago climate scientist Ray Pierrehumbert.

Note that the above math shows that both the "albedo debt" and "construction debt" of solar panels replacing coal plants are minimal.

Nov. 17 2009 10:00 AM
Brad Johnson

SuperFreakonomics misrepresents climate science and policy, including the falsehood that research into geoengineering has been suppressed or ignored, or that stratospheric seeding with sulfur dioxide has been proven harmless.

Nov. 17 2009 09:58 AM
Brad Johnson

In the chapter, the authors argue that the scientific consensus -- that global warming is manmade, caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, is already causing the planet damage, and threatens catastrophe if nothing is done starting now -- is uncertain, in part because climate modeling is less like physics than economics.

They also argue that carbon mitigation as a response to global warming is too expensive, too uncertain, and too slow, in part because trees, wind power, solar power, etc. all have major unexpected problems.

They conclude that the cheap, simple, and easy solution is stratospheric dimming, which they claim has been proven harmless -- and that the only reason this alternative hasn't been chosen is because zealots like Al Gore control all the policy strings, instead of climate scientists like Paul Crutzen and Ken Caldeira.

To make this argument, they rely on innuendo, ad hominem attacks, mathematical errors, errors about climate science, and falsehoods.

Nov. 17 2009 09:55 AM
laura dupouy

SuperFreakonomics is reactionary junk riding its shameful wave to easy book sales. Disgusting.

Nov. 17 2009 08:14 AM

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