Time loves a hero

By Bryan Walker 30/09/2009


“I used to be very frustrated. But the blog keeps my blood pressure down.” Joseph Romm, quoted in Time Magazine’s article naming him as one of their Heroes of the Environment 2009. His blog Climate Progress doesn’t read like a blood pressure-lowering exercise. Every day brings several fresh and vigorous posts cheering on those working to tackle climate change, demolishing the naysayers and delayers, drawing attention to developments in clean energy, focusing on significant developments in the science, chiding lazy journalism. 

On the matter of careless journalism the writer of the Time article, Bryan Walsh, ruefully admits to having himself occasionally been taken to task by Romm, most recently for relying on analysis from The Breakthrough Institute regarded by Romm as a disguised contrarian organisation. Walsh notes that he’s at least in good company: writers from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have all been the subject of Romm posts. However he goes on to say generously that more often than not Romm’s right.

Actually Walsh had relatively gentle treatment.  Romm has recently not hesitated to fire warning shots at Andy Revkin of the New York Times, who is normally seen as an example of responsible journalism in relation to climate science.  A week or so ago he started a post with these words:

The top climate reporter for the NYT has published what is arguably the worst article of his career, replete with statements that simply are scientifically inaccurate or misleading beyond belief.

 Accusing Revkin of pushing the global cooling myth (again!) and repeating outright misinformation he explains in a long statement where Revkin has gone wrong and says he should retract the entire piece which he describes as unsalvageably bad, and a great disservice to his readers and the nation.

Back in April columnist George Will of the Washington Post, who peddles the denialist bric-a-brac, earned the paper a full broadside:

In a move that calls into question the journalistic integrity of the entire Washington Post editorial staff – especially editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, who should be fired – the newspaper has published a third disinformation-pushing op-ed by George Will ’Climate Change’s Dim Bulbs.’

…Does the Washington Post editorial staff care that Will is playing them for fools? Does the Post have any idea whatsoever how amateurish this makes them look, like some high school newspaper?

Not that Romm spends undue time on the deniers and delayers. It is when they appear to gain traction in the media that he descends on them. I’ve used these extracts only as examples of his forthrightness and alertness. Most of his posts are illuminating explorations and interpretations of what is happening in climate science, in green technology, and importantly in the politics of climate change in the US.

Hot Topic carried a review of his book Hell and High Water a few months ago. The urgency of the book continues in his full time website. Romm lives with the knowledge that hell and high water await us if we don’t change direction.  He is convinced that today’s green technology can save us if we allow it.  He uses his blog eagerly to share these messages with a now wide readership.  He’s been fittingly chosen as one of Time’s heroes of the environment.

I can understand that writing helps keep his blood pressure down. Anyone who takes on board the full reality of climate change is likely to want to shout warnings to the still largely unheeding population and draw attention to the path to safety. Which is certainly what Joseph Romm’s blog enables him to do with energy and resolve.

[Little Feat]