“Rush Limbaugh, more than any other individual, is responsible for shifting conservative opinion to deny the existence of global warming.”

 -John K. Wilson, author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason.

Climate denier, and fatally, tobacco denier, Rush Limbaugh, died this week from lung cancer.
Yeah, made me think back to that time I talked to him.

Some time later in the nineties, maybe ’97?
I had been following climate science for 20 years, and Jim Hansen’s work since 1981, and I understood, in a rudimentary way, what the mainstream science was telling us.
Scientists, as of 1995, had detected a “discernible” human influence warming the planet.
Hansen’s model had accurately predicted the planetary response from the Mt Pinabubo eruption, a major validation of the (by today’s standards) primitive climate models Hansen relied upon. Still lots to discuss, but it looked like this mechanism was real, and the process was happening.
I knew, as someone that grew up outside, on snow and water, that things were certainly changing in my upper-midwest neck of the woods.

On that particular day, Friends of the Earth had published a full page ad about climate change in USAToday, with a speculative “weather map” for the 2020s. It depicted a heat wave with a shocking temperature of 124 F in California.
(This past summer the temperature hit 130 in the desert, and an insane 110 F in LA, near the ocean.

Ridiculing the ad, Limbaugh launched into a climate denial rant, listing the most popular nonsense memes that we are all familiar with. And anyway, he said, even the most extreme eco-nuts were only talking about a few degrees rise in global temps, so obviously this ad was just more over-the-top scare tactics, he fumed.
Taking a breath, he invited “any environmentalist out there who can defend or explain this, to call in. I want to talk to you.”

Hunched over my keyboard, and listening as I struggled to nudge along a barely-alive communication business – I took up the challenge, and – incredibly – got through.
A voice asked me if I was indeed, the environmentalist Rush was asking for – I assured him that was me.
“Hold on for Rush” the voice said.

A few minutes went by, while I took some deep breaths and stretched.
Suddenly, the familiar voice was on the line.
“Ok, we have Peter from Midland, Michigan. Are you a greenie? an enviro?”

“Well, I often wear sandals, I hug trees when I’m climbing them, but not, you know, in a weird way.
And I’ve been known to order the tofu in my veggie stir fry.”
That was good enough.
“Alright, so explain this ad to me. The claim is made here that in the 2020s, we’ll see temperatures of 124 degrees Fahrenheit – but even Al Gore says the planet is only warming by a degree or so. So this is more scare tactics, right?”

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