“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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I’ve been reading an advance copy of Mike Mann’s new book, The New Climate War, which will be out in January.

Anyone wishing to have as up-to-date summary of the battle over climate as possible, could hardly do better than this book. Dr. Mann’s narrative is urgent, insightful, and accurate, and I know that because I’ve been following closely nearly every step of the story as he tells it.

Dr. Mann has been one of my key mentors on all aspects of climate science, and with his long time, hard-won experience (see below) as a target for climate deniers of all stripes, he has the perspective to bring the big picture into sharp focus.

Public Affairs Books:

A renowned climate scientist shows how fossil fuel companies have waged a thirty-year campaign to deflect blame and responsibility and delay action on climate change, and offers a battle plan for how we can save the planet. 

Recycle. Fly less. Eat less meat. These are some of the ways that we’ve been told can slow climate change. But the inordinate emphasis on individual behavior is the result of a marketing campaign that has succeeded in placing the responsibility for fixing climate change squarely on the shoulders of individuals.
Fossil fuel companies have followed the example of other industries deflecting blame (think “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”) or greenwashing (think of the beverage industry’s “Crying Indian” commercials of the 1970s). Meanwhile, they’ve blocked efforts to regulate or price carbon emissions, run PR campaigns aimed at discrediting viable alternatives, and have abdicated their responsibility in fixing the problem they’ve created. The result has been disastrous for our planet.
In The New Climate War, Mann argues that all is not lost. He draws the battle lines between the people and the polluters-fossil fuel companies, right-wing plutocrats, and petrostates. And he outlines a plan for forcing our governments and corporations to wake up and make real change, including:

  • a common-sense, attainable approach to carbon pricing- and a revision of the well-intentioned but flawed currently proposed version of the Green New Deal;
  • allowing renewable energy to compete fairly against fossil fuels
  • debunking the false narratives and arguments that have worked their way into the climate debate and driven a wedge between even those who support climate change solutions
  • combatting climate doomism and despair-mongering 

With immensely powerful vested interests aligned in defense of the fossil fuel status quo, the societal tipping point won’t happen without the active participation of citizens everywhere aiding in the collective push forward. This book will reach, inform, and enable citizens everywhere to join this battle for our planet.

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Pope Francis’ visit to the US catalyzed the growing sense across the country, and across the globe, that climate change is, above all, a moral issue.

More and more scientists have realized that speaking to this moral dimension is far more persuasive than speaking the language of science and fact, as compelling as those are.  Most people simply respond better to an issue that is framed in moral terms.

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The emerging story of what Exxon knew, and when they knew it, shows that the differences have never really been about the science questions – even the major oil companies knew the basic science truths 4 decades ago.  They simply made a moral decision that the lives of the next ten thousand generations of human beings were not as important as their own profits, and we are now witnessing the early impacts of that decision.