Sure, everyone knows National Review Online‘s climate blog is a must-not-read.

But now the NRO‘s media critic Kevin D. Williamson has exploded (imploded?) over, of all things, my recent Salon piece, “What will make Obama a great president.” He headlines his post: “Head-Clutching Buffoonery: Salon, Romm, and Kyoto” but then hypocritically criticizes the mild sub-head Salon used:

I hate these headlines:

The U.S. Must Become a Leader in Global Warming Solutions

No argument. No nothing. Just MUST! MUST!

Now remember, this guy is the media critic. So presumably he understands that you can’t actually put your entire argument into your headline. My piece certainly explains why the U.S. must become a leader in global warming solutions. But here is where Williamson completely jumps the shark because at the end of his piece he writes:

I have no bone to pick with the climate science.

Seriously. I know you are asking how somebody who doesn’t dispute climate science got a job at National Review would criticize a sub-head saying that we must become a leader in climate solutions.

Let’s be clear : If you have no bone to pick with the climate science (i.e. the regular reviews and synthesis of the scientific literature by the IPCC), then you presumably must endorse the IPCC’s target of 450 ppm, which means some $40 trillion in cleantech investment is needed by mid-century.

So it is transparently obvious that we must become a leader in global warming solutions. Duh! I’d say that the entire piece was mostly “Duh” stuff if you have no bone to pick with the climate science. But not Williamson, who continues his final paragraph:

But the fact that the science is solid does not mean that the political conclusions extracted from it are solid — science isn’t politics, politics isn’t science. And it certainly doesn’t justify this kind of hysterical, end-is-near raving. Romm’s language is the language of religious fundamentalism.

I can understand someone who doesn’t accept the science disagreeing with me, but all I try to do in this blog and elsewhere is extend the inevitable ramifications of climate science to other areas, like politics and energy. Yes, the implications of the science to all aspects of society are staggering, but they all flow naturally from the 2°C target.

Before looking at some other “duh” statements I make that Williamson attacks, I do feel obliged to point out once more what the head of the IPCC said when releasing the final IPCC synthesis report in 2007:

If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.

Yeah, he’s another hysterical, end-is-near raver — handpicked by the Bush administration because they thought his predecessor, Bob Watson, was an alarmist. I have said it before and I will say it again: It’s not politics that make scientists alarmed, it is the science. Or consider some of the opening lines from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2008 [PDF]:

It is not an exaggeration to claim that the future of human prosperity depends on how successfully we tackle the two central energy challenges facing us today: securing the supply of reliable and affordable energy; and effecting a rapid transformation to a low-carbon, efficient and environmentally benign system of energy supply. What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution

When the normally staid IEA hits the panic button, it is time for everybody to wake up for god’s sake!

But Williamson hates the headline “The U.S. Must Become a Leader in Global Warming Solutions.” As you can tell, he doesn’t really read much in this area. What other hysterical, head-clutching buffoonery does he complain about?

Yet for all his talents, Obama can’t move the immovable conservatives in Congress. [KDW: He returns to these “conservatives” several times. The vote against the Kyoto treaty in 1997 was 95-0. The Clinton administration opposed Kyoto. That’s stretching the definition of “conservative.”]

Williamson doesn’t follow climate closely nor did he read my piece closely. I wasn’t talking about Kyoto. That was over a decade ago. I was talking about a domestic climate agreement today and an international climate treaty today. Those are uniformly opposed by conservatives but would no doubt garner support from the vast majority of progressives. If Williamson is unaware of how things have changed in the past 10 years and how isolated his fellow conservatives now are on the issue, he isn’t much of a media critic.

He can’t deliver the 67 Senate votes needed to approve any international treaty [KDW: Are there non-international treaties?]

Seriously. Try googling “international treaty” in quotes. I get 866,000 hits. It is simply usage too standard even for a right-wing media critic to nitpick. And, of course, we had treaties with the Native Americans — but I suppose those don’t count to conservatives. Heck, if we want to nitpick, then Williamson should know that

  1. It is the “Kyoto Protocol,” not Kyoto Treaty.
  2. The Senate never voted against Kyoto. It was never brought up.
  3. The vote Williamson referring to was on the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, a sense of the Senate months before Kyoto was even negotiated.
  4. The Clinton administration did not “oppose” Kyoto. They/we helped negotiate the Protocol. They simply never submitted the treaty for ratification, knowing it would fail.

So Williamson doesn’t really know much about this subject, he doesn’t follow media coverage in this area, and he doesn’t appear to understand the nature of media criticism. Still, he does have a lot of random over-the-top opinions to go with his over-the-top rhetoric.

The stunning revelation of an ozone hole drove … [KDW: Long detour into ozone-layer discussion, with plenty of “stunning revelation”-level rhetoric.]

It was certainly stunning to scientists and policymakers, and hence the public and media. KDW apparently has a shorter-term memory than the media he covers. And how the world dealt with the previous global atmospheric environmental crisis is hardly a detour in a discussion of how the world might deal with the next one.

OK, you get the picture. KDW apparently finds so little fault in the media’s lame coverage of pretty much every major issue that he has resorted to complaining about whether “international treaty” is redundant.

Future historians will inevitably judge all 21st-century presidents as failures if the world doesn’t stop catastrophic global warming … [KDW: Predicting the weather 100 years out is questionable enough; predicting the opinions of historians in the future’s future — historians of what happens a century from now — is just not intellectually credible.]

Classic conservative claptrap — nobody is trying to predict the weather 100 years from now. It’s the climate I am projecting “if the world doesn’t stop catastrophic global warming.” The science makes clear how horrific such are the consequences of such failure — KDW might have might read the link I had in my piece, “Desperate times, desperate scientists,” which discusses what the IPCC says on the matter (and why they are certainly underestimating likely impacts). And that in turn makes the statement about future historians more than intellectually credible — it is a near certainty.

I can’t fault KDW for not understanding the full societal implications of the science — frankly I don’t meet more than two people in 100 who do. Indeed, if KDW fully understood the science he claims to find no fault with, he’d pretty much have to give up his NRO position and focus his media criticism at Planet Gore and other deniers.

But I can fault KDW for the libelous, ill-informed rhetoric he uses. He should know better, but he doesn’t. Like most conservatives.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.