Complete Society

Ideas and strategies for a sustainable world

Superfreakonomics and the Commonwealth Club

After reading weeks of criticism and debunking of Superfreakonomics by some of the leading figures in climate change conversation, I was disappointed to find that the Commonwealth Club was highlighting the authors with their own book publicity event.

So, some Presidio classmates and I put together a petition and letter to the Club inviting them to take a stand, not on the science of geoengineering, but on the integrity of the book. Essentially, on a topic this important, students in sustainability programs and prominent public forums should hold such authors to a high standard and make sure distortions and misrepresentations don’t pollute the conversation.

Here is the email we sent to the Commonwealth Club today as well as the text of the petition.

Dear Commonwealth Club,

Many in the Presidio Graduate School community were disappointed to hear that the Commonwealth Club would be featuring the authors of Superfreakonomics as part of their book publicity tour. The attached petition and signature comments detail why we feel that the Club should not highlight this book without explicit acknowledgment of its flaws and the widely publicized repudiation by their main scientific sources on climate change.

We believe climate change is the critical issue of our time. As a school dedicated to learning and discussion about sustainability, we welcome diverse opinions, but also take a stand for integrity in the public discourse. Conversation should be based on an honest representation of science and the work of experts.

We know the Commonwealth Club shares our dedication to honest conversation and we invite you to use this opportunity to take a stand for truth on this vitally important topic.

Sincerely,

Forty-four members of the Presidio Graduate School community

PETITION
As students of business and public administration at the Presidio Graduate School, we
passionately believe in the integrity of public discourse and the urgency of the climate change
crisis facing our society.  We have the utmost respect for the Commonwealth Club, its mission,
and its recognition of the crisis with its Climate One initiative.  In that spirit, we strongly urge you
to reconsider your event featuring the authors of Superfreakonomics.

The book’s chapter on climate change can at best be described as “contrarian” and at worst,
dangerous misinformation.  Experts with the highest credentials have thoroughly debunked this
chapter, including a Nobelist stating that there are factual errors “on every page”.  That being
said, we understand that this may be considered acceptable public debate and a discourse that
the Club would like to bring forward.

However, we believe the Club should not endorse a blatant violation of journalistic integrity. 
Beyond a healthy disagreement on how to address climate change, the authors have in fact
misrepresented and distorted the statements and work of the expert sources their position relies
upon.  Most importantly, their main scientific source has publicly repudiated this chapter and its
interpretation of his work.   

This shows that the authors did not intend to constructively add to the public discourse, but
instead deliberately distorted scientific truth to further their own profits.  We assert that the
Commonwealth Club, an organization founded to seek and disseminate truth, should not be a
party to this effort.  By featuring only the authors in this event, the Club is conferring credibility
and validating the integrity of their work.  

Climate change is too important and the expected audience of this book is too large for us to
allow such self-serving distortions to pollute the conversation.

Given that it is likely too late to remove the authors from the agenda of next week’s event, we
recommend that the Commonwealth Club invite and give equal billing to an additional speaker
to challenge the authors.  

We believe that this action is necessary for the Commonwealth Club to remain truly objective
and maintain its strong stand on truth and integrity in the public discourse.

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November 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment