The original title, which my editor changed in the last revision, was “SuperFreakonomics: Constructing Straw Men, Misrepresenting the Science, and How NOT to Sell Books.” It’s a little play on the actual title of the controversial follow up to Freakonomics and much more indicative of how I feel about the chapter-in-question. Oh well, below is the opening to another blog post that should have been an article.
UPDATE: My post has been promoted to the Top Story box–a first for me at Mother Jones! It has also been linked to by Brad DeLong, FireDogLake, and Climate Progress which was the original source of the story.
It is still nearly a week before the follow-up to Freakonomics—the award-winning pop economics tome by journalist Stephen Dubner and University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt—hits the shelves. Yet already the book is generating controversy. A chapter on climate change—a new subject for the authors—has attracted the ire of Joe Romm, an outspoken expert on the subject. But with the provocative title SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, perhaps that’s what the authors intended.
The chapter on climate is titled “What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common?” [PDF]. The author’s answer to this quixotic question is that both Gore and Mt. Pinatubo present solutions to global warming—but that Mt. Pinatubo’s are better. Dubner and Levitt conclude that Gore-style proposals to cap carbon emissions are ineffective and prohibitively costly. But they see the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo—a volcano in the Philippines that spewed 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, lowering average global temperatures by half a Celsius degree for two years—as an example of the best way to combat climate change. The authors don’t advocate blowing up more volcanoes to avert a climate catastrophe, but rather geoengineering a similar result. The concept of geoengineering—a low cost but high-risk remedy to climate change—is highly controversial. And a closer reading of the chapter prompts a number of questions about the scientific evidence the authors cite to make their case.
Click here to read the rest of The Blue Marble blog post.
Photo credit: Chris Makarsky (via Flickr)