Sunday, October 18, 2009


From the way the chapter in Superfreakonomics dealing with global warming is being fisked, Steven Levitt's reputation as an academic appears headed for a steep fall. Levitt has promised a detailed defence, so we'll wait to see how this one plays itself out. In the meantime, here are some links:

[Update: Extended excerpts from that chapter may be found here, while a low-quality pdf of that entire chapter is here. This post has lots more links.]

  1. Paul Krugman: Superfreakonomics on Climate: Part 1, Weitzman in Context. From the second post:

    Levitt now says that the chapter wasn’t meant to lend credibility to global warming denial — but when you open your chapter by giving major play to the false claim that scientists used to predict global cooling, you have in effect taken the denier side. The only way I can reconcile what Levitt says now with that reality is that he and Dubner didn’t do their homework — not only that they didn’t check out the global cooling stuff, the stuff about solar panels, and all the other errors people have been pointing out, but that they didn’t even look into the debate sufficiently to realize what company they were placing themselves in.

    And that’s not acceptable. This is a serious issue. We’re not talking about the ethics of sumo wrestling here; we’re talking, quite possibly, about the fate of civilization. It’s not a place to play snarky, contrarian games.

  2. Climate Progress: Error-riddled Superfreaknomics -- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

  3. William Connolley stops after finding the first 10 errors in the chapter.

  4. Tim Lambert: Why everything in Superfreakonomics about global warming is wrong.

  5. Matt Yglesias: Journalistic malpractice from Levitt and Dubner, Dubner digs the hole deeper.

  6. Ezra Klein: The shoddy statistics of Superfreakonomics.

See also Felix Salmon who uses an example from the first book to suggest that "the Freakonomists have a history of misrepresenting environmental science."