SuperFreakonomics Redux: Even Congress is Riled Up
Last week I wrote in this space that when faced with a problem (global warming, carbon dioxide emissions) that so clearly requires huge top-down action from governments the world over, what two contrarians write in a book doesn’t exactly bother me that much. It bothers Joe Romm at Climate Progress, clearly, and now, well, I’ve got even less company, because members of Congress are pissed off too.
House of Representatives member Jay Inslee (D-WA, pictured above) called out SuperFreakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner for participating in a “continuing effort to deceive the American public.” Well then. Don’t hold back or anything.
He was lumping in the authors with coal industry lobbying efforts that involved sending forged letters to Congress opposing the Waxman-Markey bill. As this debate over SuperFreakonomics has continued to evolve, I can’t really say I’ve changed my opinion on this: they’re authors and they’re trying to sell books. This is not the same thing as trying to deceive members of Congress into voting down some of the most important legislation in the country’s history. Let’s keep things in perspective here.
Now, the argument can of course be made that the book will be widely read and discussed, and if it contains false information on such an important issue then it could lead to the public pressuring their representatives to follow whatever brutal and misguided paths it seems to suggest (like sulfur dioxide geoengineering fixes). Frankly, though, that almost requires a bit more faith in the Democratic process in this country than I can muster. I don’t think misleading a few people with misinformation in a book will change anything on a governmental scale.
At the same time, though, it is encouraging that Congress wants so badly to fix the misconceptions about climate change that it feels the need to bring this up in committee hearings. Although we may not get a bill passed before Copenhagen in December (in fact, almost definitely not), there certainly seems to have been a shift in the Congressional mood on this. Senator Inhofe (R-OK) is really becoming the last major voice of craziness in this debate, and his isolation leaves him drifting farther and farther toward the fringe. And soon enough, the fringe won’t matter. Let him stay there.