Casaubon's Book

Mother Jones notes that in private interviews, Glenn Beck, fiery loon of the right, privately seems to believe in anthropogenic climate change.

Last week he mocked climate scientists for being “alarmists” who believe that “we’re all going to die in a fiery flood.” Not long ago he touted the global warming chapter of his An Inconvenient Book as “kryptonite against your Gore-worshipping psycho friends.” And in May 2007 he hosted an hour-long television special, Exposed: The Climate of Fear, featuring an all-star lineup of climate change denialists and promising the “other side of the climate debate that you don’t hear anywhere.” Beck was also, of course, the driving force behind the successful right-wing push last year to bring down Obama’s green jobs guru, Van Jones.

But an interview with Beck in USA Weekend revealed that his private views on climate are very different from those he espouses on his day job. In fact, Beck appears not only to be convinced that global warming is real, but that it’s a genuine problem:

“You’d be an idiot not to notice the temperature change,” he said. He also says there’s a legit case that global warming has, at least in part, been caused by mankind.

The article also says that Beck has felt compelled to “buy a home with a ‘green’ design and using energy-saving products

I think this is more compelling evidence for the proposition that many of the people who are most invested in discrediting climate science are intellectually dishonest, doing it for political or economic gain, rather than out of sincere conviction. We’ve seen similar admissions made by energy company execs who are funding climate denial at the same time they accept the science.

I think most of the ordinary people who believe them are genuinely misled by the claims being made and confused by complext material. As I’ve written, I can sometimes get along better with someone who believes that we can’t go on as we are but who doesn’t believe in climate change than many people who accept climate change but believe the solutions are someone else’s problems. But at the leadership level, I think the evidence for profound intellectual dishonesty is quite compelling – far more compelling than the grounds for criticizing climate science.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Don
    February 25, 2010

    NPR ran an interesting report recently about the social and psychological motivations for accepting or rejecting climate science: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124008307

  2. #2 Brad K.
    February 25, 2010

    Sharon,

    I am *not* a Warmer. I do believe that the so-called science that posits global warming is suspect, and mostly bought and paid for, with results predictable according to the money spent. I do believe that massive deforestation, as happened when North America was “settled” – that is, stripped of transcontinental old growth forest – as Europe was, as Brazil has been doing for decades in the Amazon Basin and Asia is doing now, all contribute significantly to climate instability.

    Because warmers ignore the vastly larger contributions of wetlands and natural fauna to green house gases, and ignore the unpredictable volcanic contributions, I am much less convinced about that part of the argument.

    I understand both NASA and the Army released reports, not popular among Warmers, that other planets in the solar system have been warming – implying an extraterrestrial energy change impacting the Earth, that this instability might be an act of “nature” after all.

    I recall that the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) labeled the 1950s the mildest decade on record. It makes sense that decades other than the 1950s be less mild, less stable. That, following WWII and some seriously profligate expenditures of fossil fuels.

    I find damning the comparison a couple of years ago, between the modest and energy-efficient Texas home President George W. Bush lives in, vs. the energy-hungry edifice Al Gore enjoys – who actually believes what, as evidenced by their life choices? That is mostly politics, but does cast a shadow on everything Al “I invented the Internet, so believe what I say” Gore has to say.

    I don’t know if the climate is warming or not. I do observe that it is less stable; I do believe deforestation, and likely road building and urbanization, contribute to unhappy consequences. I doubt that the current body of science-for-pay results will ever convince me.

    I don’t have any trouble disbelieving Warming science, while still remaining unresolved about the premise. The snake oil salesman may state something true, but I still would be foolish to buy the product.

    I recall that the concern over the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer fell out of the news, when DuPont got the UN to enforce the world to change from the old, nasty, expiring-patent Freon to DuPont’s newly patented replacement. Poof. New patent, no ozone hole issue. Problem solved. I see parallels between then and now, with the Ozone Hole issue and Warming, in the politics and cash flow, the agitation and angst.

    Peak Oil, as I might have mentioned, does convince me. And I see many of the same concerns for mitigations that Warmers tout – except cap and tax – as serving either or both ends.

  3. #3 steve
    February 25, 2010

    Sharon;

    I appreciate your posts and thoughts. You have challenged my deep seated opinions a time or two.

    Frankly, I do not know enough about global warming to know if it is real, imagined, natural, man-made, or if we can do anything about it anyway. But as a rule, I do not believe the sky is falling.

    With that shaky basis as a soap box, I still have to remark that the benefits from recycling, becoming ‘green’er, reducing oil usage, reducing our carbon footprint, and sustainability in general are laudable goals.

    I would argue that a large part of the general population understands my frame of reference, in the sense that we, as a society, don’t know what we are doing, where we are going, and we certainly do not have any easy answers.

    So, I guess my question to the rest of us is: Why not?

    If we clean up our act, where is the loss?

    Thanks.

  4. #4 Globle Warren Terrism
    February 25, 2010

    Think back fifty years ago, when practically everything out there said smoking cigarettes was good for you.

    Ask yourself if the pro-smoking side were motivated by genuine conviction, or simple greed. And ask yourself why the anti-smoking message was so muted. You don’t suspect the press of greed, do you? Certainly they would not put profit ahead of truth!

  5. #5 Ambitwistor
    February 25, 2010

    Brad,

    There are serious problems with your claims.

    “Because warmers ignore the vastly larger contributions of wetlands and natural fauna to green house gases, and ignore the unpredictable volcanic contributions, I am much less convinced about that part of the argument.”

    Climate scientists do not ignore natural emissions of greenhouse gases, nor do they ignore volcanic emissions.

    Natural sources of CO2, for example, are larger than human sources of CO2. But this misses the point. During the current interglacial, before humans, natural sources and sinks were in relative balance, so that atmospheric CO2 concentrations were fairly stable. With the addition of fossil carbon by humans, net sources now outweigh net sinks: natural sinks absorb about 1/2 of what humans emit, leaving the other 1/2 to accumulate in the atmosphere. Even though the human emissions are still smaller than the total natural emissions, the net imbalance caused by humans is what is responsible for almost all of the ~35% increase in atmospheric CO2 since the Industrial Revolution.

    As for volcanoes, they produce a temporary (~few year) cooling effect due to sulfate and dust aerosols, and this is well studied (e.g., Mt. Pinatubo). They produce negligible warming from greenhouse gases in comparison to human emissions.

    “I understand both NASA and the Army released reports, not popular among Warmers, that other planets in the solar system have been warming – implying an extraterrestrial energy change impacting the Earth,”

    I don’t know about the Army, NASA never released any such report. Individual NASA scientists have published studies of climate change on other planets and moons. And those scientists, if you Google the studies, are careful to discuss the likely causes of those changes, which do not include “an extraterrestrial energy change impacting the Earth”. For example, Martian climate changes are attributed by NASA scientists to changes in surface albedo from dust storms; Jupiter has had its equator warm but poles cool due to internal reorganization of its atmospheric circulation; Pluto has warmed because it is near its perihelion (cloest approach to the Sun). Not all planets and moons show warming, and of the ones that do, none of them are consistent in timing or magnitude with a common source, such as altered solar output. For that matter, we can observe solar output directly and through sunspot proxies, and its time series behavior is not compatible with the observed climate changes on Earth or other planets.

    “I find damning the comparison a couple of years ago, [...]”

    I shouldn’t have to point out that Al Gore’s life decisions have nothing to do with the scientific evidence for climate change.

    “I doubt that the current body of science-for-pay results will ever convince me.”

    Ah, the good old “scientists are in it for the money, therefore I can automatically dismiss arbitrarily large amounts of evidence” cognitive filter. How convenient. I’m sure you similarly disbelieve all of, say, semiconductor physics, because they’re all out to make a buck off of it.

  6. #6 Sharon Astyk
    February 25, 2010

    The idea that because scientists are paid they are all corrupt is just silly – almost all scientists through all of human history, with a few exceptions, have been paid. By that reasoning, one wouldn’t believe in the germ theory of disease.

    Virtually none of the things you say are true, or they are misprisions – I don’t think you understand the science at all, from the grounds you give for disbelief.

    Sharon

  7. #7 Sonrisa
    February 25, 2010

    I think some of the denial is based in fear. It’s much easier to find reasons not to believe than it is to take action. Not to mention the fact that it’s pretty scary stuff. Personally, I was working toward self sufficiency long before I had even heard about climate change, peak oil, etc. Living with less by choice probably made it easier for me to swallow. Here’s the thing that gets me, even if climate change is not caused by humans, even if it is totally made up, you would have to be blind to not see that we are making the world unlivable…What? (cough) Smog is bad for you? (cough, cough) I thought they just put it there for dramatic affect;p! Everything we do is killing US, not just the cute cuddly animals. Seems a little silly to me.

  8. #8 dewey
    February 25, 2010

    Nice response, Ambitwistor. Additionally, the ozone hole does in fact still exist, and will for decades, both because we continue to produce pollution that destroys upper-atmosphere ozone and because the CFCs that we have already released will remain in the atmosphere for decades. The ozone hole gets no press now because (a) we believe that we have fixed the problem, which is not yet wholly true, and (b) we have other impending problems that we have as yet done nothing to remediate. There is very solid scientific evidence that CFCs destroy ozone, and that having an ozone layer is protective against solar radiation. Had the world assumed that the science was an evil anti-Amurrican hoax and continued to dump and dump and dump CFCs until influential people from latitudes with a high concentration of wealth noticed that they couldn’t leave the house without sunscreen, the whole biosphere would have been pretty well hosed.

  9. #9 Mal Adapted
    February 25, 2010

    So, Brad K: do you still think Beck is telling it like it is, even though Beck himself doesn’t think so?

  10. #10 Clark
    February 25, 2010

    While I agree with the general idea you are giving I think one ought be careful. After all one can believe in global warming while simultaneously believing that most of the popular arguments for it in the press or popular culture are alarmist or just plain bad. We mock denialists who appeal to the cold weather snap in the east as evidence against global warming. But a few years ago when there was hot weather there were lots of global warming believers raising that as evidence or raising particular hurricanes.

    Likewise one can believe in global warming while simultaneously thinking that due to China and India there is no chance of stopping it and that attempts to do so by the United States are both doomed to failure and will also have a huge negative economic impact. So one can be consistent there.

    What is more dangerous, intellectually, are those who accept global warming but also think attempts to control it are futile and counterproductive and who thus use denialist rhetoric as a Machivillian attempt to halt legislation.

  11. #11 musubk
    February 25, 2010

    Brad K:

    I do believe that the so-called science that posits global warming is suspect, and mostly bought and paid for, with results predictable according to the money spent.

    Rather than trying to pass off a vague conspiracy, why don’t you tell us who, exactly, you think is getting rich off this stuff? Because it certainly isn’t the climate scientists. In fact, they have been silenced by administration (under Bush Jr, for example) and lost funding due to publicizing politically inconvenient research.
    The simple fact is there is more money and fame in it for any scientist who can disprove AGW. In science, you don’t make a name for yourself by backing what everyone else already believes…

    Because warmers ignore the vastly larger contributions of wetlands and natural fauna to green house gases

    Nonsense. Carbon-based GHG contributions via plants and animals is ‘fast cycle’, the carbon they put into the atmosphere was taken out last year. It’s called the food chain. The carbon we put into the atmosphere is ‘slow cycle’, it took millions of years to go into its sinks and once released it will be in the atmosphere for quite some time. Effectively, fast cycle carbon emissions are carbon-neutral while slow cycle emissions aren’t.
    And don’t even try going for the ‘water vapor is a greenhouse gas too’ angle. Water vapor is a function of temperature, not the other way around. If there’s too much water vapor in the air it rains, if there’s too little it evaporates.
    And this is all ignoring the fact that the amount of greenhouse warming due to the known amounts of GHG’s pumped into the atmosphere by human activity is calculable by basic principles, and matches Earth’s observed energy imbalance…

    I understand both NASA and the Army released reports, not popular among Warmers, that other planets in the solar system have been warming – implying an extraterrestrial energy change impacting the Earth

    More nonsense. Of the 60 or so bodies in the solar system, only a couple show warming, and they are known to be seasonal effects. The vast majority of bodies show no warming trend, and a few even show a cooling trend. This effectively rules out an extraterrestrial source because an extraterrestrial source would affect all bodies proportionally. Plus the only feasible extraterrestrial forcing is the Sun, and it’s been monitored directly by the Max Planck Institute for some 40 years now to have steady irradience.

    I recall that the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) labeled the 1950s the mildest decade on record. It makes sense that decades other than the 1950s be less mild, less stable.

    This has almost nothing to do with a warming trend. The whole point of statistical analysis is to minimize the impact of statistical deviations.

    I find damning the comparison a couple of years ago, between the modest and energy-efficient Texas home President George W. Bush lives in, vs. the energy-hungry edifice Al Gore enjoys – who actually believes what, as evidenced by their life choices? That is mostly politics, but does cast a shadow on everything Al “I invented the Internet, so believe what I say” Gore has to say.

    Saying that it’s just politics and that it’s the ‘most damning’ thing you know of in the same breath is a level of cognitive dissonance I don’t even know how to address.

    I recall that the concern over the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer fell out of the news, when DuPont got the UN to enforce the world to change from the old, nasty, expiring-patent Freon to DuPont’s newly patented replacement. Poof. New patent, no ozone hole issue. Problem solved. I see parallels between then and now

    Lol, you’re quite confused, aren’t you? The reason you don’t hear any more about the ozone hole is because we phased out CFC’s and fixed the problem. I mean, c’mon man, you said that yourself! But somehow you follow ‘they said CFC’s were messing up our ozone layer, so we stopped emitting so many CFC’s, and now our ozone layer is okay’ with ‘therefore they were wrong and this all fits in my crazy conspiracy theory.’ Yes, nobody talks about the ozone hole anymore. We cut out the CFC’s. Problem solved. That was the idea.

  12. #12 musubk
    February 25, 2010

    clark:

    Likewise one can believe in global warming while simultaneously thinking that due to China and India there is no chance of stopping it and that attempts to do so by the United States are both doomed to failure and will also have a huge negative economic impact. So one can be consistent there.

    That’s certainly a coherent view, but it’s too defeatist to make sense to any but the worst nihilist. The ‘negative economic impact’ part is just a red herring, since, if you accept what the science is telling us, doing nothing will have a far worse impact. So this view basically comes down to ‘fuck it, I’m not even gonna try.’ At the risk of sounding sappy, you fail 100% of the time you don’t try.

    Additionally, I would argue that we have a moral imperative to try to do what we can even if we’re totally sure it won’t have any effect simply because it’s the right thing to do.

  13. #13 Cecelia
    February 26, 2010

    slightly off topic but I hope you have some thoughts on this – given how crummy last summer was for us gardeners what with all the rain – and given that all that moisture is obviously still with us now (all this snow) – I suspect we can look forward to another wet summer. Have you any suggestions for summer growing in a wetter cooler climate than we usually have? I am thinking that root crops and the usual coolw eather crops like broccoli and cauliflower etc might deserve more space and successive plantings if we can anticipate the same sort of weather in the northeast this summer that we had lasty summer. Any thoughts?

  14. #14 cornish_k8
    February 26, 2010

    I can’t understand all the fuss. Yes we, and scientists, want a scientific proof of climate change but there will always be some scientists who dispute it. You just can’t have a 100% scientific proof of something like this.

    The proof we do have is empirical, the very obvious changes taking place all over. Melting icecaps, tundra and glaciers, droughts, floods, extreme weather etc.

    Scientists just love arguing about the theory, its up to non-scientists to take action. I just wish they would get on with it.

  15. #15 Dunc
    February 26, 2010

    Have you any suggestions for summer growing in a wetter cooler climate than we usually have?

    Runner beans like plenty of rain – I had a truly absurd crop last year.

  16. #16 Deen
    February 26, 2010

    In Clive Hamilton’s five-part series on climate change denial he argues quite convincingly that climate change denial is mostly a matter of political ideology. AGW has been successfully associated by PR campaigns with supposed left-wing elitist plots to take over the world. Now belief in AGW is just one of those things that will identify you as One of Them, instead of One of Us, like abortion or gay rights. It fully explains why Glenn Beck happily attacks climate science on his show, even if he may agree with it in private. It is expected of him to assert his loyalty to the group in this way.

    @Sonrisa

    I think some of the denial is based in fear.

    In my experience, climate denialists tend to be free-market absolutists. After all, if climate change is real, and caused by humans, this would be one of the biggest failures of the free market ever. Much easier to just deny climate change than to change your entire world view.

  17. #17 Paul
    February 26, 2010

    You know, they also don’t talk so much about smog in LA or dangerous levels of lead in our cities’ air anymore. I wonder if Brad can figure those puzzlers for us.
    I have to admit, there was so much nonsense in his comment that I was sure sure it was snark.

  18. #18 Aaron Huertas
    February 26, 2010

    I was shocked to read this, too. But the article itself is meant to be contrarian. Perhaps the interviewer dragged this out of him after multiple lines of questioning. In any case, Beck’s program is a huge source of disinformation and unnecessary animosity toward climate scientists.

    He and Limbaugh have said many times they view themselves as entertainers rather than reporters. It is unfortunate they don’t take themselves or their “journalistic” responsibility more seriously.

    Aaron Huertas
    Press Secretary
    Union of Concerned Scientists