There is nothing in this world that I hate more than contrarianism. Say what you will about Villagers, but their predictive powers are probably only marginally worse than those of a coin flip. The predictions Mickey Kaus makes are always wrong. I defy any of you to name a single thing that Mickey Kaus predicted that actually happened.
And that’s why I’ve always hated the guys who wrote Freakonomics. It seemed to me they were lending an undeserved intellectual respectability to the most childish of pursuits. So I was glad to see their new book get torched by Matt Yglesias and others:
As misleading as the Superfreakonomics chapter on climate change seemed to me yesterday, the email that Steven Dubner sent to Brad DeLong really compounds the sin. Dubner whines that Joe Romm “makes it sound as if we somehow twisted and abused Caldeira’s research; nothing could be further from the truth.”
Of course it’s possible that the UCS is mistaken about some matters. And it’s possible that Ken Caldeira is mistaken about some things. But it’s not possible that Levitt and Dubner are correctly representing the views of Caldeira or climate scientists in general. Nor is it possible that Levitt and Dubner are correct when they assert that photovoltaic cells are black (they’re usually blue) nor is it correct to say that black PV cells lead to net increases in global temperature. These mistakes. A mixture of bad science and bad reportage on a crucial public policy issue, done by a writing duo who became famous for clever statistical analysis of trivial matters.
Of course, none of this will prevent George Will, David Brooks, and Ross Douthat from claiming that these jackasses have thoroughly debunked modern climate science.
Update. More from Krugman:
Levitt now says that the chapter wasn’t meant to lend credibility to global warming denial — but when you open your chapter by giving major play to the false claim that scientists used to predict global cooling, you have in effect taken the denier side. The only way I can reconcile what Levitt says now with that reality is that he and Dubner didn’t do their homework — not only that they didn’t check out the global cooling stuff, the stuff about solar panels, and all the other errors people have been pointing out, but that they didn’t even look into the debate sufficiently to realize what company they were placing themselves in.
And that’s not acceptable. This is a serious issue. We’re not talking about the ethics of sumo wrestling here; we’re talking, quite possibly, about the fate of civilization. It’s not a place to play snarky, contrarian games