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Opinion: Say it ain't so, Joe

GlobalPost columnist Michael Moran recalls his brush with the climate change thought police.

Demonstrators hold signs and banners as they march to the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2009. (Bob Strong/Reuters)

NEW YORK — Last December, having recently led the creation of a multimedia look at climate change for the Council on Foreign Relations (Crisis Guide: Climate Change), I got an email from a CFR colleague alerting me to a post in a well known climate blog, “Climate Progress.”

The post, written by a guy named “Joe” for the Center on American Progress, seized upon the fact that in the nearly four hours of video interviews, hundreds of documents and thousands of words of analytical and explanatory writing in the guide, we had included a link to a speech by James Inhofe, a noted climate change “denier,” as a footnote.

The post, published in typical blog faction without the benefit of any reporting, said in part:

“I am asking all Climate Progress readers to start an email campaign to Richard Haas, President, Council on Foreign Relations, E-mail: Please feel free to post your emails as comments.]

I was worried the media would be duped by Inhofe’s repackaged disinformation. Turns out the first to bite was the Council on Foreign Relations, widely (though it would seem, incorrectly) viewed as an uber-credible, centrist organization.

They have a list of what they claim are 'Essential Documents: Vital Primary sources underpinning the foreign policy debate.' Yes, you guessed it, the latest addition is 'U.S. Senate Minority Report: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims Scientists Continue to Debunk “Consensus” in 2008.'”

Besides the fact that he misspelled the name of my boss at the time, Richard Haass, and led dozens of other misguided souls to shoot similarly misspelled emails to Haass, Joe the blogger didn’t bother to look at the piece of content he was attacking, which was a documentary about the dangers of inaction on climate change, nor was he willing, even after I called him on his mistake, to reconsider his position. To Joe the blogger — Joe the Protector of Truth — the fact that anyone would dare to republish claims that run counter to his own view of the truth was the point. The fact that I totally disagreed with Inhofe, too, was irrelevant to him.

Objectivity didn’t seem to ring a bell, either. Nor the idea that, in the upper chamber of the American Congress, where the Bill of Rights was fashioned, linking to the transcript of a speech by a U.S. senator was not a crime. Another irrelevant fact: That this document was one of more than 40 such documents, and the only one that represented the views of “climate change deniers.”

So the day unfolded with one nasty email after another directed at my boss, at me, and at some of the world’s leading scholars of climate change — all of whom support the idea of taking serious steps to address it. I was shocked, naïf that I am, to learn later that day that “Joe” was Joe Romm, a former undersecretary of energy in the Clinton administration, and a guy with a Ph.D. from MIT (but apparently, no pedigree in either journalism or spelling).