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SuperFreakonomics Authors Forced To Answer Critics

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Since we posted the video and teaser for SuperFreakonomics, the follow up to the bestseller Freakonomics, there's been an outcry from scientists over the chapter on climate change. A pdf of the chapter, titled "What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common," was posted briefly on the internet. Scientists did a quick review and what's come out of the ensuing online debate is that the book has possibly misrepresented the position of the climate change expert, Ken Caldeira, the source Levitt and Dubner relied upon for their own position on global cooling. Based on their interpretation, they called global warming a "religion," and claim that Caldeira said that CO2 emissions were not the culprit in climate change.

But Joe Romm, an MIT physicist and former employee of the Department of Energy now at the Center for American Progress had an e-mail exchange with Caldeira and it is reported in Climate Progress' blog:

Levitt and Dubner's portrayal of Caldeira is false. As he told Climate Progress's Joseph Romm in an e-mail interview, he believes carbon dioxide is the central villain: "Every carbon dioxide emission adds to climate damage and increasing risk of catastrophic consequences. There is no safe level of emission. I compare CO2 emissions to mugging little old ladies."

And from Mother Jones

Romm also questions the way Levitt and Dubner characterize the conclusions of one of the primary sources in the chapter: Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology. Levitt and Dubner describe Caldeira as "among the most respected climate scientists in the world" and write that his "research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight." But Caldeira tells Romm a completely different story: "carbon dioxide emissions represent a real threat to humans and natural systems, and I fear we may have already dawdled too long."

We want to hear from the authors of SuperFreakonomics as well as anyone who's read the chapter in question. Is the global cooling stance just another form of denial about the damage we've done to the environment, or is global warming a "religion" as the authors suggest?

Update: Huffington Post Books pushed this story to the top and asked for an answer to the critics of the science world. You can read the author's response here.

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