See, references make a thing look academic. They lend an aura of truthiness to a publication. Truthiness is a Colbert neologism very apt to pop-sci: truthiness is the feeling of truth, as opposed to the presence of it.
Hell, I once wrote a parody paper that appeared to support Breatharianism's absurd claims by showing an entirely bogus mechanism for human photosynthesis. Given an eyeball test by graduate biochemists, it fooled half of them; it fooled everyone non-scientific who wasn't aware of the Breatharians and their dangerous silliness. Part of the effect of the paper was the liberal splashing of references, some solid and obvious, some utterly made up, some Pythonesque.
Nobody checks. They see references and grunt "ah, s'academical, all very truthy."
Which leaves a tricky problem: how can you tell which pop-sci titles are credible, and which are Von Daniken-esqe ravings? I'm not sure you can, not reliably: the general reader might look for a particular imprint or name (BBC / Attenborough, say) as sound, but that's reputation and reputation is more damn truthiness, just truthiness over time. Academic credentials for the author? Not always relevant (see Monckton et al) and not always solid (plenty of academics 'go emeritus').
How then to lift the solid science above the dreck? Especially when policy decisions, and votes, are hinged on perception of that science? Watching Lomberg influence climate policy is like watching Richard 'face on Mars' Hoagland influence space policy, but climate policy actually matters.