By Tom Fuller
I’d like to express my thanks to Jeff for letting me guest blog here. I’m sure he needs the break, but I need a neutral forum even more than he needs his rest. I don’t want people to think I’m doing this to attract traffic to my own webspace, so this is a big opportunity for me.
What I’m trying to do is describe an ecosystem by pairing up bloggers with similar profiles to see what we learn. As some of you may have already noticed, both consensus climate blogger and non-consensus bloggers are now locked in a symbiotic relationship. Much as we fume at each other, we actually need the other side even more than we need the support from people of our own persuasion. But I’m getting ahead of myself there.
Yesterday we compared The Air Vent to Deltoid. Today we’re after bigger fish–let’s look at Marc Morano’s Climate Depot and Joe Romm’s Climate Progress.
In many ways this is the easiest pair to analyse. First, they are two of the most popular weblogs devoted to climate issues. The website Alexa ranks Climate Progress at 37,736 and Climate Depot at 73,002. (Those are very respectable ranking in a field of over 1 billion.)
More importantly, they are the two climate blogs that are openly political, Romm’s Climate Progress being sponsored and funded by the Center for American Progress and Morano of Climate Depot having served as an aide to Senator James Inhofe, a confirmed skeptical Republican.
Joe Romm’s pedigree is particularly impressive. He holds a PhD in physics from MIT and served in the Clinton administration.
Marc Morano is a veteran journalist and participated in the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, which I consider unconscionable.
Okay, again I must declare personal bias (this will hold true throughout this series, I’m afraid.) Joe Romm and I have had a series of spats, with him declaring me ‘hubristic’ for daring to report on climate issues, and I’ve gone after him a number of times myself. I even had to apologise to him once–I wrote that he had predicted dramatic sea level rises, and he never has. (He lets others do it and prints their silliness.) Interestingly, Romm and I have a bet with each other regarding climate change during the current decade–If it’s low enough, I win a grand. If it goes up like the past few decades, he does. On the other hand, Morano has frequently linked to my articles, and has been cordial in our communications. After what he did to John Kerry, I almost wanted him to be meaner, but he hasn’t been. We obviously disagree on climate change (I’m a lukewarmer, he’s a skeptic), but as we seem to be on the same Enemies List held by the consensus defenders, we unintentionally end up in the same camp on a number of occasions.
So bearing my prejudices in mind, let’s take a look at the two sites.
Marc Morano’s Climate Depot is an aggregator. He links to stories found on other websites, writes headlines guaranteed to put the skeptical cause in the best, and the consensus cause in the worst light possible. He writes very little copy of his own. This was probably the best decision Morano made about Climate Depot. As a journalist (rather than a scientist), he would have very little credibility on the scientific issues. As a former communications director for Senator Inhofe, Morano would be seen as little more than a mouthpiece for Republicans on policy issues. Keeping silent and directing people to friendly stories was a really intelligent move.
Joe Romm’s Climate Progress is structured like an ordinary blog, with the layout not much different than The Air Vent’s. However, Romm is extremely prolific, posting six or seven times a day. He makes liberal use of guest bloggers, and quite a few of his posts are basically referrals with copied material leading up to a link. However, Romm writes a lot–maybe too much. Romm has said that he uses speech to text software and essentially dictates many of his posts–and it shows. He can write 4,000 word posts on topics that quite frankly don’t deserve that much space, and the quality of his writing suffers in the process. But the end result is that he covers almost as much ground as Morano does on Climate Depot.
Because both are nakedly political, they can and are real cheerleaders for their cause, and tough on opponents. Romm’s real advantage is that he also passionately covers green technology, where his scientific background confers a real advantage over almost all bloggers. I’ve been trying to cover green technology over at my space, and I have to say Romm is doing a better job. So far…
It is instructive to recall that Morano and Romm had a televised debate that lasted about ten minutes last year. Morano (in my opinion) won the debate, because he was able to frame the discussion on his terms. Had it been purely about science, Romm would have slaughtered him, but (and this is where my personal prejudice kicks in) Romm seemed to feel that his scientific background would translate into superiority in talking about politics and policies, and his arrogance cost him. I say it’s instructive because that dynamic actually carries over into both their weblogs. Romm seems arrogant–if you don’t call him Dr. Romm, he’ll let you know that he is. Morano seems focussed–he seems very much to have a game plan and to know what he needs to do for his team to win.
Neither weblog depends very much on commenters, and neither has a blogroll. (Kind of violating every principle of Web 2.0 strategy, and succeeding hugely anyhow. Life’s not fair.)
Recent posts on Joe Romm’s Climate Progress:
1. Chamber of Commerce Shuffles Its Board In Wake of Departures (repost of article covering changes in membership of Chamber of Commerce due to differing opinions on climate change.)
2. Energy and Climate Change News for April 19th; Obama Wants Senate to Tackle Climate Bill; East Asia and China can halt CO2 emissions growth; Global warming reduces grain output in India
3. Buy my new book, “Straight Up” (Because his previous book didn’t outsell Steve Mosher’s and mine. /sarc)
4. The most unintentionally ironic ad of 2010: Coal front group compares mining coal to fighting in a war zone
5. TV weathercasters know which way the wind blows (reporting poll showing more than half of weathercasters believe in climate change)
6. Denis Hayes explains why you should come to the “largest climate rally ever” on the DC Mall April 25 (Promoting Earth Day, where he will be attending.)
7. What are your favorite climate and energy metaphors and jokes?
8. Growth year for solar energy creates 17,000 new jobs despite harsh recession
9. Carpe Diem on Earth Day: Using executive authority to boost investments, create jobs, and save oil
10: The first book review of “Straight Up”
Recent posts on Marc Morano’s Climate Depot:
1. Next Eco-Scare already?! Greens now claim there is ‘serious shortage’ of air pollution! ‘Cleaner air could speed global warming…The world is running short on air pollution!’
2. Scientist: Missing Heat Hides From Climate Scientists: ‘Climate science cannot claim to understand what is going to happen to Earth’s climate’
3. EPA Contest Seeks Videos Promoting Government Regulations
4. Iranian Cleric: Promiscuous Women Cause Earthquakes
5. Sen. Inhofe Sees Only 26 Votes For Climate Bill
6. Italian Senate Calls For Re-Assessment of Climate Policy
7. UN IPCC Reliance on Grey Literature 30 Times Greater Than UK Threshold
8. Environmentalists Condemn Gore For Taking Cash For Water Campaign From Chemical Firm
9. Wacky Media: NPR and CNN Worry That Global Warming May Have Caused Iceland’s Volcano
I use both sites routinely to stay abreast of the news agenda on climate issues. As long as readers are aware of the biases of both bloggers, I would recommend them to others.
As you can see from the headlines listed here, Climate Depot can seem like a tabloid paper (like I’m one to talk–my commentary is surrounded by headlines about aliens, death rays and similar absurdities). My biggest substantive criticism of Morano’s editorial choices is that he will sometimes link to stories that are so obviously wrong that he should know better. But… as long as it advances the cause.
If Romm stuck to science and green technology, both he and his audience would be better served. However, he wants to be a policy mover and shaker, and he clearly doesn’t have the chops for it. He will not negotiate with anyone who differs from him in the slightest. He routinely slams Roger Pielke Jr., for example, when Pielke is such a natural ally that any person wanting to win the policy fights involved in climate change would be falling all over himself to find a way to make common cause with him. (Pielke very much believes that climate change is real, has a strong anthropogenic component, and needs to be addressed. However, they disagree on policy to prevent, adapt and mitigate. So, in Romm’s mind, Pielke must burn.)
Romm also thinks he’s moving the media agenda. In an affectation that is unintentionally humorous, he often issues instructions to journalists on his posts, and he will post on how people should communicate about science–and these posts are really lame.
Again, remember that I have fought long and hard with Romm on several occasions–go see his site and make up your own mind. As for the rest, for Americans, Democrats and Republicans can either find opinions to their liking or spy on the opposition at these two sites. More importantly, if they were time starved and could only look at two sites on a daily basis, then (like yesterday’s comparison of Deltoid and The Air Vent), they would get a good overall view of how climate change is affecting policy–and vice versa.