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Climate Change Misinformer of the Year…

Climate Change Misinformer of the Year…

Is Rush Limbaugh, according to Media Matters who did a good job of compiling his climate change denying quotes throughout the years. What are Limbaugh’s qualifications for pounding the radio air waves with his opinions about what he calls the climate change hoax? Nothing – he has no training in science, and dropped out of college. Neither of these facts means his opinions on climate change must be bogus, but he is a prominent radio talk show host who reaches millions of people regularly, so it only seems reasonable he should have some degree of scientific knowledge or at least an appreciation for science in general, but he doesn’t seem to at all.  For example, he doesn’t have real scientists with verifiable academic credentials come on his show and debate climate change topics – rather he is a one-man band broadcasting his opinions and making up folksy analogies to support his positions, such as this one:

“I have a theory about global warming and why people think it’s real. Go back 30, 40 years when there was much less air conditioning in the country. When you didn’t have air conditioning and you left the house, it may in fact have gotten a little cooler out there, because sometimes houses become hot boxes. Especially if you’re on the second or third floor of a house in the summertime and all you’ve got is open windows and maybe a window fan. Or you have some servant standing there fanning you with a piece of paper. When you walked outside, no big deal, it’s still hot as hell. Now, 30, 40 years later, all this air conditioning, and it’s a huge difference when you go outside. When you go outside now, my golly, is it hot. Oh. Global warming! It’s all about the baseline you’re using for comparison.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/26/11] (Source: Media Matters)

So he blames air conditioning as a reason for why people believe climate change is, or could be real?? Notice there is no scientific approach to determining the plausibility of climate change with him – he merely conjures a very common scenario (home air conditioning) and calls it a theory,  in order for the creation of doubt within the audience. Then at the end he throws in one scientific term – baseline, as if he just measured something concrete and therefore proved climate change is a dubious effect. The true baseline used by real researchers with doctorates in their fields, is not personal anecdotes about walking out of one’s air-conditioned house during summer several decades ago vs. exiting an air-conditioned home today during summer.

Of course, his audience also is likely not aware of how real scientific research is conducted, so they relate more to the home air conditioning scenario, which is something they experience directly, and seems much more tangible and believable than giant sheets of ice in the Arctic they have never seen personally melting and falling off into an ocean they have never visited. Telling personal stories and believing in them, no matter how fictional, is far, far easier and requires zero formal training, study design, hypothesis creation, painstaking measurement, very complex analysis, years of study, verification, publication, re-testing by other scientists and so forth.

So he makes up silly but personal stories that are emotionally appealing and reassuring to non-scientists to oversimplify and muddy the waters for an audience who doesn’t know any better. It isn’t just climate change that is the main topic though – much more is at stake, because according to the deniers humans are not responsible for global climate change or virtually any other damage to the environment, to other species or even to our own health.

In economics climate change qualifies as a negative externality, an effect on society that is negative from our own actions. Government is often seen as the enforcer of making companies accept or internalize those externalities, but we see in someone like Limbaugh, someone who denies the existence of a particular aspect of reality, at the same time bashing the government as untrustworthy so his main message is that nothing ever needs to change.

If you look at the message carrier though, as someone who is overweight to the point of unhealthiness, smokes cigars frequently, suffered from prescription drug addiction, and so forth we can see denying reality and protesting against change, don’t work on the level of personal health or community health. In other words, it is much easier to be out of touch with reality because doing so requires no effort, and no thought. That a propagandist for unhealthiness can be so successful commercially is revealing, and yet predictable.

Image Credit: U.S. Government, National Science Foundation (NSF)

 

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27 comments

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5:35PM PST on Jan 11, 2012

We need to change the atrocity of letting the world be run by complete and utter MORONS!!!

8:45AM PST on Dec 24, 2011

Oops, I meant to say that why and for how long are debatable but the "what", the fact that change of some sort is happening, is clear. Sorry.

8:44AM PST on Dec 24, 2011

Given what I said earlier, if Mr. Limbaugh cannot read a thermometer or a rain gauge, maybe he needs to go back to school. SOMETHING is happening to the weather. What, for how long, and why may be debatable, but the "what" is clear.

That being the case, it behooves us to take a look at ALL proposed solutions to the factual situation from the standpoint of economic cost, time frame for operation, and probably economic impact. If we assume that lives endangered by climate can be saved with adequate resources, then we CAN reduce the discussion to an economic one reasonably well unless one cares to introduce some sort of a quasi-religious component. The freeze-in-the-dark groups are, I believe, trying to do just that, by dismissing alternative ideas as unthinkable or unworkable. But it's time to stop that kind of nonsense and look at any solution that will give desired results.

Geoengineering? What the heck do you call man-made global warming, if you believe in that? If that's not geoengineering I don't know what is. So what's the beef about using technology as a solution? Luddite thinking has no place in a modern scientific debate.

8:32AM PST on Dec 24, 2011

Ad hominem arguments add nothing to the debate either. If you're going to fault another's debating technique, you might want to pay attention to your own. In the recent history of this debate, it is undeniable that "facts" have been fabricated and that contrary opinions have been suppressed.

The unanimity among climatologists is, in fact, more of an artifact of the incestuous nature of the selection processes of their researches and publications than anything else. For a process that is based entirely on statistical models, results recently show surprisingly little real variation in outcome, leading me as a statistician to suspect that there MIGHT just be result of adjustment of model parameters to produce "acceptable" results rather than of any independent verification of findings. In simple terms, you as a climatologist had damned well better come up with the same answers that all the rest of "us" do, or your papers are not going to get published and your research is not going to get funded not welcomed at Universities.

Meteorologists, who regularly work with the outputs of models incomparably more complex than the climatological models that nevertheless can only make accurate predictions for a few days to maybe a couple of weeks, tend to be understandably somewhat more skeptical about the accuracy of these long range forecasts.

On the other hand, it is certain that some change in weather patterns is occurring. We might debate what causes it, or how, but

1:20PM PST on Dec 21, 2011

As Al Franken said, Limbaugh is a big fat idiot!

2:44AM PST on Dec 21, 2011

Thanks.

2:41AM PST on Dec 21, 2011

Thanks.

11:02PM PST on Dec 20, 2011

He's a RepubliCON backed by BIG BIZ, BIG MONEY and the CHRISTIAN RIGHT WING. They are the power structure in America. BIG BIZ must deny global warming so they can MAKE MORE MONEY. We need to get off OIL for the sake of the earth but BIG BIZ, i.e. BIG OIL is determined to suck every last drop of oil out of the earth with no thought of the future of our children or grandchildren. They will POLLUTE until we ALL DIE IN OUR OWN EXCREMENT. The population is exploding at an alarming rate. We regular Americans don't want war with the middle east, we never did. The rich people who run our country are doing this to us and we have no control. We are all pawns at the mercy of our leaders. All this religious crap that has been perpetrated on all of us is all POLITICS to make us FIGHT EACH OTHER. It's all a scam and it's all about money and power. Rush Limbaugh IS a liar
and a traitor.

10:03PM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Lots of that going around. With Google and Yahoo and other search engines, ordinary Joes have become experts like these about subjects they dont know anything about and feel free to comment on scientific, social, political, religious matters as if they were the authority.

5:52PM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Rush is an idiot and a TRAITOR!!!

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