Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
Latest posts by Jim Lakely (see all)
Global warming alarmist Andy Dessler, a professor at Texas A&M University, was caught misrepresenting U.S. carbon dioxide data during a November 9 Public Radio International debate on “To the Point” with Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor.
The news hook for the story was the American Geophysical Union (AGU) announcing on November 8 a campaign to discredit global warming skeptics and resist congressional inquiries into climate research scandals.
You can listen to or download the remarkable debate on the player above. (It was Heartland’s James Taylor vs. three opponents, of course … four, if you count the host. And James wiped the floor with them.) In the next graph begins the quick background, and then I’ll share my notes of the appearance below the fold. I encourage you to listen to it. The rudeness of Mr. Dessler and the near hysterical America-scolding of Guardian “reporter” John Vidal is amazing to behold. (Again, you can get a detailed account from my notes below the fold if you prefer reading over listening.)
Anyway, after Taylor stated that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have declined since the year 2000, Dessler aggressively criticized Taylor, asserting that Taylor was either deliberately spreading misinformation or had absolutely no knowledge of the facts. Dessler claimed, instead, that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have been skyrocketing in recent years.
Given a chance to respond, Taylor pointed to EPA data showing a decline in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions since the year 2000, and invited listeners to look up the data for themselves. Dessler again aggressively criticized Taylor, saying U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are rising dramatically.
Yet, according to EPA data, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions totaled 5,977 teragrams in 2000. As of 2008, emissions had fallen to 5,921 teragrams, according to EPA figures. Emissions fell by another 7 percent in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (official EPA data for the year 2009 have yet to be released). According to EIA, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have fallen an average of roughly 1 percent per year since the year 2000.
Taylor had this response, which Heartland put out earlier this week:
“It was not surprising, given his prior misrepresentations about global warming, that Andy Dessler would cavalierly assert that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are skyrocketing when in fact they are declining. Activists such as Dessler frequently lie about the facts when they think nobody will call them on it. What was surprising was that Dessler would publicly and aggressively accuse me of lying about the data when he either knew that I was right or was himself ignorant of these critically important facts,” Taylor explained.
“When I said U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have declined since the year 2000, I spoke the truth, whether Dessler liked the truth or not,” said Taylor. “Dessler owes me an apology after falsely and repeatedly accusing me, in front of a national audience, of lying about the data.”
“Dessler had already lost all credibility among knowledgeable listeners when he asserted that only about 10 climate scientists in the world disagreed with his alarmist global warming assertions. On that count, however, we can give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he simply lacks the diligence to read the scientific literature,” said Taylor.
Here follows a blow-by-blow account of the 28-minute interview, with occasional commentary by me [in brackets] where appropriate and in obviously separate paragraphs elsewhere.
Before the audio kicks in, host Warren Olney describes those who don’t believe the globe is at the edge of catastrophe as “climate change deniers.” Olney then brings on liberal columnist Ron Brownstein of Atlantic Media to express how shocked and disturbed he is by the fact that nearly all the GOP candidates running for U.S. Senate thought the science on global warming was not settled. It’s “a unique move in this party” to not only “dispute the policy but to fundamentally reject the science” that everyone knows is settled, Brownstein said.
The writer went on to say even “Australia’s conservative party” accepts the idea that the earth is warming dangerously and man is to blame. [NOTE: I was in Australia last month and spoke with a leader of Australia’s Liberal Party (their “conservatives”), and that claim is simply not true.]
Brownstein was also aghast that in California, Republican Senate Candidate Carly Fiorina said out loud that “the science is unsettled.” This led Brownstein to assert that “denying the science has become a litmus test for Republican candidates” because he could hardly imagine Fiorina saying that in the board room of the company she once led, HP. [I’d say that is more reflective of the closed-mindedness and brainwashing of most elites on corporate boards than it is about Fiorina or climate science.]
At this point, I’m wondering if ClimateGate is ever going to be mentioned. A blatant conspiracy to cook the books and silence all dissenters might have something to do with a healthy bit of skepticism among politicians asked to turn over our economies to these same folks.
Brownstein wrapped up by claiming the energy industry in this country craves an Obama-driven energy rationing scheme because they want “regulatory certainty.” [Mark it down. This is a rare time you’ll hear a liberal urging the government to give corporate industries what they want. And, for the record, some in the industry want it because they’ve figured out a way to make money off the scam regardless. Voters, however, who would pay artificially inflated energy prices are a little less … er … warm to the idea.]
Next up was a pollster from Gallup who said his outfit has measured “decreasing concern or agreement” that global warming is a problem. “That’s confounding to many,” he said. It’s been a “clear drop-off.”
How to account for this? The pollster notes … SURPRISE! Other scientists have done research saying climate change or global warming is not going to turn out as bad as previously thought. Oh, and public opinion is weakening on global warming because of “the continual critique of global warming from conservatives and conservative media. …There’s been a lot of attacks from the right.”
[At this point, I rose from my chair and took a bow on behalf of The Heartland Institute and the hundreds of brave “dissenting” scientists we’ve featured at our five climate conferences. Here’s a bit from our latest in Sydney, Australia.]
It was at this point that the pollster mentioned the ClimateGate scandal. “That got into the discussion,” he said. [No thanks, of course, to America’s MSM.] And, with that passing mention, talk of the scandal would exit the stage for the rest of the show.
Next up was Andy Dessler, the co-star of this post. He stated with “absolute certainty that it is a fact” global warming is happening. “Essentially, no one for whom credibility matters” disputes that, he said. [And James Taylor, in fact, did not dispute this fact.]
Now we get to the comedy portion of the KCRW program. Dessler asserted, plainly and without a hint of hedging that, quote: “Humans have now taken control of the climate,” adding there is a “lack of competing hypotheses.” Furthermore, “because we are in control of the climate … we can control the evolution of future climate.”
That is very good to know. As a new Chicagoan — a transplant after five years in Southern California — I’d like to place an order for a Mediterranean Climate in the Midwest. Let’s all lounge in new sunny uplands, where one can golf all year round and the crops grow tall and lush. Canada can do with what is now Illinois’ weather. I expect all you Masters of the Universe to get on that, pronto!
Dessler admitted that there is a lot of “uncertainty” about what the future of the climate holds — immediately contradicting his previous “master of the universe” statement. But, by and large, “there is a chance that future warming will be very bad.” Let’s not play Russian Roulette with the planet, he pleaded.
Time to cue up our hero, James Taylor — whom the host at least introduced as a “skeptic,” and not a “denier.” [Perhaps even he was spooked by Dessler’s amazing opening segment in which, apparently, not a sparrow falls on Earth without global bureaucrats there to catch it — if only they are properly funded.]
James is a sensible fellow, so he says he “doesn’t agree with” Dessler’s opening statements. The planet may be warming, but many renowned scientists are disputing the link between global temperatures and CO2 emissions — of which man is responsible for some … volcanos keep weighing in. Taylor cited Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar and Stellar Physics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He says solar activity is a stronger link to global temperature fluctuations than CO2.
Taylor said theories about what is responsible for a climate that is always changing abound, but “the best available science says it’s not a crisis.” At this point, Olney has found his skepticism (reserved, naturally, for the one guest who does not toe the alarmist line). He asked Taylor: How do you arrive at “best available science”?
Taylor responded by bringing up Willie Soon again, as well as Roy Spencer. [Both have been presenters at Heartland climate conferences.] Taylor added that the historical climate record shows that over just the last 10,000 years, the Earth has been warmer than it is today. So, the current warming trend is not necessarily bad or unprecedented.
Olney now throws it back to Dessler asking, in essence: “What about these guys Soon and Spencer?
“Let me put it this way,” Dessler said. “If you take a subset of people who know something about atmospheric science. … there are maybe 10 skeptical scientists” in the world. Dessler added that Taylor was going through “thousands of studies” and “carefully cherry picked” a couple that agree with him. Dessler then lamented that people listening in the car could not grab their laptops and “look it up.” [Alas, when they got home, they could.]
Taylor, who had his honesty and honor questioned on live national radio, responded with a calm right cross on Dessler’s chin. He noted the fact that The Heartland Institute hosts annual conferences that have featured hundreds of scientists who speak to these issues. Where are they from? Places like Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, NOAA, NASA etc.
Dessler responded by saying: “The kind of people who go to the Heartland conference … most of them are not atmosphereic scientists.” [I encourage all who would believe Dessler to go to Heartland’s website, scroll down a bit, look down the right column and click to find our summaries of the conferences. You can then judge the veracity of that declaration for yourself.]
It’s a proud moment to note, at this point, that Heartland’s conferences — which are largely ignored by the MSM despite yeoman’s attempts on our part to gain coverage — are nonetheless not ignored by the likes of Dessler. As they say, a stuck pig will squeal the loudest.
Not only that, but Dessler is apparently a reader of Heartland’s Environment & Climate News, because he noted that Taylor had an article saying most of the folks the alarmist side of this debate trot out to declare “consensus” are not qualified atmospheric scientists. Again, the stuck-pig theory applies as Dessler followed up by saying the “same standard disqualifies nearly everyone who shows up at Heartland’s conferences.”
The host then asked Taylor if he was a scientist. [It’s the inevitable “Who the heck are you to weigh in on such a scientific matter!” question that always seems to go one way. Does anyone besides filmmaker Phelim McAleer pester Al Gore with that question?] Taylor replied with the truth: He’s not a scientist. But he works with them every day and will let the scientists and the institutions where they conduct research and teach speak for themselves.
Oh, and Taylor adds for good measure: “To say there are only a dozen or so scientists who are skeptical is just not true.” Look at the roster of the Heartland conferences, Taylor said, “you’ll see dozens of climate scientists who are eminently qualified to discuss the issue.”
Olney then asked Taylor what policies he worries the alarmists would impose. Taylor responded that if there isn’t a crisis, then there is no justification for global restrictions on the use of energy. “I agree that the planet is warming, but I disagree that we need to take drastic action,” he said.
Then comes the expected “Who funds Heartland” question — something few reporters ask the alarmist side of the debate. Again, Taylor simply stated the facts — which obliterate the notion the skeptic side, let alone Heartland, is funded by Big Oil. For the record, in 2008 [the latest date where this data is available on our website] Heartland received 57 percent of its income from foundations, 27 percent from corporations, and 16 percent from individuals. No corporate donor gave more than 5 percent of its annual budget.
Finally, it’s time for a challenging question to Dessler [if you can call it that]. What’s with this “rapid response team” you’re associated with through the American Geophysical Union (AGU)? [Get ready for some howlers.]
You see, said Dessler, folks like him “get rewarded for advancing science, not for talking to radio” other media and politicians. “There is no benefit for getting your neck out there in the debate of climate change,” he said. [Really? Then some folks need to call Al Gore and complain about not enough fame and fortune trickling down to them. Dessler also admitted, in passing, that he gets funding from the federal government. Kind of blows up the whole “it doesn’t pay to talk to politicians” meme, eh?]
Dessler added that he’s doing what he’s doing out of a “self imposed feeling of responsibility to society” and he and the rest of his fellow travelers at AGU are putting themselves out there … [howler alert!] … because scientists who say the planet is at peril “aren’t available to speak.”
Let that sink in for a minute. I’ll wait … OK.
An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar. Al Gore and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) won the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” School children are taught that every time their parents fill up the gas tank, a polar bear dies. Americans are assaulted daily by public service announcements urging us to “go green” to “save the planet.” Scores of American corporations pitch in with the guilt trip — and also announce their “green” initiatives so people can buy their products with a clear conscience. Our federal government has outlawed toilets that flush more than 1.5 gallons of water. The ordinary, warm-glow incandescent light bulb will be contraband in a few years. NBC has a “green week” every year in which we’re hectored to get with the “change the way you live” program while watching their shows, and the network even hammers you over the head with the message in the scripts. Shall I go on? OK, I will.
For about two decades, the MSM has been peddling Dessler’s line in countless cover stories in the news magazines, special sections of newspapers (which created whole new beats to cover only the alarmist side of the debate), features on broadcast and cable networks. (CNN’s was called “Planet in Peril”.) Hollywood has pitched in with movies like The Day After Tomorrow and concerts to “raise awareness” of the “crisis” like Live Earth — not to mention fundraising like mad for alarmist outfits like the Sierra Club.
Who was it, exactly, who gave all those reporters the “expert commentary” they needed to fill out their pages and programs? It wasn’t guys like James Taylor or Willie Soon or Richard Lindzen or Roy Spencer. It was guys like Dessler, who now absurdly claim that his side of the argument has been ignored because scientists are too busy to answer calls from reporters.
In truth, it’s only been in the last few months (due to the unavoidable ClimateGate scandal that the British press rightly reported, with the US press grudgingly picking up very late) that the monopoly of commentary is being broken. And that is even still only spotty. It is still a struggle to get Heartland’s climate experts quoted in the MSM, though we try hard every day. And here, on this radio show, Dessler has the nerve to complain that he has to share air time with the likes of James Taylor. “Skeptics are always available” to the press, he said. True. But we’d like a return phone call from the MSM more often. Dessler is living in quite the dream world.
Anyway, back to the narrative of the radio debate …
Dessler said it was a shame that reporters were including the views of non-alarmist climate scientists because “regardless of what James Taylor says, by far the majority of scientists agree with me.” There is “only a dozen who don’t … (we want to help reporters) get the truth out there.”
On a bit of a roll with his rant, Dessler then downgraded the “skeptic” side to which Heartland gives a forum from about “a dozen” to just “four or five experts,” and reporters need to “recognize how few skeptics there are out there in reality.”
Dessler added: “Democracy is at stake here. We need to have the best science. … Scientists don’t have magic answers for economic risk and climate risk. The debate should not be on, well, the climate is not really warming or its natural. That’s been settled.”
I want to note here that Dessler was always assuming bad faith on the part of Taylor, and projecting cynical motives. Illustrative was how he said he “can see why James Taylor is doing this. …It’s a strategy to draw the debate into gridlock, and it’s a very effective one.”
To sum up: He’s aghast that “the world” has an “enormous appetite” to make the “political change” necessary to correct the certain and impending climate catastrophe, but Americans — especially those in “the Midwest” (Read: idiots in flyover country) — stubbornly won’t get on board.
Oh, and people in the developing world “cannot predict weather anymore.” The man-caused global warming is literally changing (for the worse) the lives of poor people in Africa and Asia. [Bad America. Get over to the naughty step and wise up! Destroy your economy for the sake of the children, or out of global embarrassment … or something.]
To which I say: Bollocks.
And here we get to the “lying” portion of the program — the part where Dessler said Taylor was “misrepresenting” the CO2 data of the last decade. Taylor said that America could eliminate all of our CO2 emissions overnight, “but the growth in China alone in 10 years would overwhelm that” — making our economic destruction irrelevant. Taylor added that we need a solution that goes beyond Americans “punishing ourselves.”
Vidal retorts: You are effectively in the eyes of the rest of the world saying “our economy is not negotiable … [and] the rest of the world can go hang.” (Well … yes. The national economy of China or India is not negotiable to the Chinese or Indians either. Same for Europe.)
Taylor responds by saying: “Europe may be talking the talk, but we’ve walked the walk.” He backs this up by noting, again, that even without adhering to the Kyoto Treaty’s mandates, US emissions are falling while Europe’s is rising. For good measure, Taylor stuck it in the eye of Vidal by making fun of “paper agreements” and mentioning the inconvenient fact that “Europe is outsourcing their emissions to China.”
Here Dessler to piles on in the gang-tackle by saying Taylor “is completely wrong. It’s misinformation like this that really drives the debate downward.” Then it’s time for a little class warfare/national guilt: “As far as the physics go, all countries need to pitch in. The US needs to take the lead. We’ve gotten rich … by burning fossil fuels, so it’s our responsibility to take the first step.”
Vidal was asked about the upcoming UN global climate conference in Cancun: The rest of the world will be committing to cuts, he said, so the US government had better get it’s act together and start ignoring all those dolts in the Midwest. [I think he’s not a fan of the Tea Party movement.] “This is not going to go away no matter how much America wants to put its head in the ground. …The rest of the world will go ahead and America will have to catch up.”
OK. I believe Americans will take being insulted by the John Vidals of the world as a trade-off.
The host then asked Taylor to address the scenario Vidal posed: The world agreeing to restrict their economies through mandated CO2 reductions on a piece of paper and America being forced to “catch up.”
Taylor responded by saying America doesn’t have to catch up. It’s already ahead of the game. He urged listeners to Google EPA and CO2 emissions for proof. Then it was time for Taylor to give Dessler a dressing down on national radio:
“Andy Dessler is speaking about something he has no knowledge of. Otherwise he would know the truth and recognize it. And his assertions about CO2 emissions in the US are about as reliable as his assertion that there is only a dozen or so scientists that disagree with him. Your listeners can do the research for themselves and see that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
The host then gave Dessler the chance to respond, and he chose to insult Taylor’s intelligence and integrity. Dessler (again) suggested that Taylor is either misrepresenting the facts, or is ignorant of them — not knowing the difference between two sets of data:
“What is going down (in the US) is what they call emissions intensity, which is emissions per unit GDP. I don’t know if James Taylor doesn’t understand the difference between those, or he does and he’s trying to mislead people.”
Dessler then again asserted the false notion that total CO2 emissions have been going up.
Here ends my notes and asides, typed furiously while listening to an engaging and (hopefully repeated) real debate on climate science on publicly funded radio in the United States.