Not So Super Freak

The Freakonomics sequel is taking some heat for questionable analysis, especially for their writing on climate change. Here's Bradford Plumer:

In just a few dozen pages, Dubner and Levitt manage to repeat the myth that the scientific consensus in the 1970s predicted global cooling (quite untrue), imply that climatologists are unaware of the existence of water vapor (no, they're quite aware), and traffic in the elementary misconception that CO2 hasn't historically driven temperature increases (RealClimate has a good article to help with their confusion). The sad thing is that Dubner and Levitt aren't even engaging in sophisticated climate-skepticism herethere's just a basic unwillingness to gain even a passing acquaintance with the topic. You hardly need to be an award-winning economist to do that.

What's more, as Joe Romm reports, the main scientist that Levitt and Dubner actually interviewed, Ken Caldeira, says they've completely twisted and mischaracterized his viewsa glaring bit of journalistic malfeasance. And, as Matt Yglesias points out, one of Dubner and Levitt's arguments rests on the (demonstrably wrong) premise that solar panels are always black. Now, as a journalist, I'm all in favor of having people write about things they're not an expert inand mistakes do happenbut this is a little absurd.

Stephen J. Dubner addresses the Freakonomics chapter on global warming here but doesn't respond to any of the substantive critiques.