Writing on his blog last fall, the NYT’s Paul Krugman remarked, “I trust Joe Romm on Climate.” I agree with Mr. Krugman: when it comes to climate change — whether you are interested in either the science or the politics — Joe Romm’s Climate Progress blog is the single best source of information on the web. He’s blunt, extremely knowledgeable and solutions-oriented, a rare combination of attributes that leave him particularly well-suited to cover the scientific and political context of climate and energy policy.
For nearly four years now Romm has taken to Climate Progress each day to provide context on the latest political developments, explain the science in a clear and compelling way, outline the clean energy technologies we need to deploy in order to avert the worst-case scenarios and forcefully correct the status quo media. If someone had asked me six months ago what they should read to quickly develop an understanding of climate change and what humanity must do to survive, I would have told them to read Climate Progress. But now there is a better option. Mr Romm’s new book, Straight Up: America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on the Status Quo Media, Politicians and Clean Energy Solutions, brings together some of his best blogging over the years in an easy-to-read and incredibly useful format. The book is one of those rare and wonderful examples of a situation in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. By pulling together the very best content from the blog and thoughtfully organizing it in a logical way, the book achieves a cohesiveness that a collection of blog posts can not. When someone asks me the same question today I tell them to read Straight Up first and then read Climate Progress daily in order to keep up.
So why do I (and Paul Krugman, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, etc.) trust Joe Romm on climate change? Put simply, he’s been there. In the Clinton administration he served as acting assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the Department of Energy. In this capacity, working with the top scientists and researchers in the United States, he helped develop the climate technology strategy for the nation. He’s also served as a top adviser on the issue to major corporations and leading foundations, attacking the problem from a variety of angles.
The most compelling aspect of Romm’s writing, for me at least, is the directness with which he explains the problems we face. As he writes in the introduction to Straight Up, he “joined the new media because the old media have failed us.” The failure of the status quo media to adequately cover the story of the century has left millions of Americans confused and uninformed about the scope of the problem. Mr. Romm’s solution has been to take the message directly to the people, plainly and forcefully. Here he is addressing the the massive crowd at the 2010 Earth Day celebration on the national mall:
And make no mistake, we are in a fight. A fight with extremists who want a very different world than we do. We fight to preserve clean air and clean water for our children. They fight to preserve profits for polluters.
Another thing that makes Mr. Romm’s writing on climate change and energy policy so valuable is his comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter. One challenge I’ve had as a blogger writing on similar issues is keeping up with the barrage of information available on the subject and the myriad lenses through which it can be viewed. In Straight Up, Romm employs a wealth of knowledge about science, politics, technology, economics and communications to explore the issue in a comprehensive manner. While many writers fall into the trap of relying too heavily on one particular lens, Romm jumps back and forth between them, giving the reader a deeper understanding than would otherwise be possible.
Finally, Mr. Romm’s writing on climate change is distinguished by his emphasis on solutions. While he describes the extent of our problems (climate change, resource depletion, air and water pollution) with clarity and in great detail, he almost always returns to solutions. This, I believe, is the fundamental insight of Mr. Romm’s work. We face a political problem, not a technological one. The clean energy solutions to our climate and energy problems are already at our disposal. While technological advancements will play a key role in the transition to a sustainable society, we already have a combination of technologies we can and must deploy immediately. There is no magic bullet technology that will save us, but there are dozens of core climate solutions that, deployed collectively, can do the job. While many who write about the issue never get beyond explaining the scope of the problem, Romm tells us in the clearest language possible how we will get from where we are now to where we need to be. I hope we’re listening.