Of course, for readers that are used to traditional journalism, blogging can also be off-putting because of the combative language that is one of its hallmarks. The climate-middle debate is the second kerfuffle to erupt on Dot Earth. Last week, Revkin posted an item about a new study that analyzes how global warming can exacerbate health problems in the developing world. The same day, Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado and another eminent personality in the climate debate, attacked Revkin for “fudging” the discussion of global warming response. Pielke has long criticized those who justify mitigation and adaptation measures by pegging climate to poverty and disease. In his opinion, “Africa’s vulnerabilities for the most part have absolutely nothing to do with Western use of energy or carbon emissions.”

Like Roberts, Pielke rebuts Revkin with legitimate points that merit deep and sustained conversation. But, leaving aside for the moment who has the better argument, the fact that Dot Earth has provided an extremely prominent medium for that conversation is interesting enough. Reacting to Pielke, Dr. Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the lead author of the study that Revkin wrote about, posted a defense of his work (in the comments section). This multiplicity of voices and perspectives is what makes blogging so appealing. And this is especially true in the climate-change arena, where even with reliable science some value judgments will ultimately have to be made.

Again, it is not that Dot Earth is so unique. There are plenty of other climate and environment-oriented Web sites out there with equally erudite readerships. To see Revkin introduce one at The New York Times is heartening, though, and hopefully, having such a blog in the mainstream press will make this discussion more accessible for readers who still have trouble seeing the roses for the thorns.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.