Last week, I learned that I had achieved every young musician’s dream–I made a Rolling Stone Top 10 List. Unfortunately, I am no musician and it was no compliment. I was, along with the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, named one of the magazine’s “Global Warming’s Denier Elite.”
“President Obama has vowed to take action to fight global warming,” Rolling Stone says. “Meet the polluters, politicians and propagandists who’ve vowed to stop him.”
Since I’m not a “polluter” (read: productive energy company) or a politician, I guess that makes me a “propagandist denier.”
Here’s the interesting thing, though: I am an outspoken global warming affirmer. I recognize that in the last 150 years the average temperature around the globe has trended upward rather than downward. I recognize that human CO2 emissions make a contribution to warming through the mechanism of the “greenhouse effect.”
Even more interestingly, Rolling Stone cited no evidence of me denying the phenomenon of global warming. Here is their “Denier” summary in its entirety:
President and founder, Center for Industrial Progress
The youthful Epstein tours college campuses debating environmentalists and promoting the benefits of oil and coal to modern society; “Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet” was the title of his April talk at Vassar. Recently he termed the Tesla Model S “a coal car” because “the electricity in an ‘electric car’ must come from somewhere – and that somewhere is usually fossil fuels.” And in April, Epstein told a Canadian oil-industry gathering, “Thank you for producing the lifeblood of civilization.”
This entry cites two lectures and one article; in all three, I explicitly acknowledged the phenomenon of global warming. And if you read the work of the rest of the “deniers,” you’ll find that most if not all of them do, too.
The real point of contention is not whether there is some global warming and whether human beings have some climate impact, but a) whether warming is a problem and b) whether fossil fuel energy should be restricted. My answers are a) “No” and b) “No!” As I explained in the column Rolling Stone cited (but may not have read):
Our cultural discussion on “climate change” fixates on whether or not fossil fuels impact the climate. Of course they do—everything does—but the question that matters is whether it is becoming safer or more dangerous. Here, the data is unambiguous—in the last 80 years, as fossil fuels have increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere from .03% to all of .04%, we have become 50 times less likely to die because of climate-related causes. Give thanks to the proliferation of climate-protection technology (climate control, sturdy homes, weather satellites, drought-relief convoys, modern agriculture), which are made possible by fossil fuels.
And, as I also explained in the column Rolling Stone cited, not only do fossil fuels make us safer from the climate, they dramatically improve human life across the board.
The average life expectancy of a human being without electricity–and there are 1.4 billion in this category–is 48 years old. In the last 30 years, thanks to a tripling or more of electricity production in countries throughout the developing world, mostly using coal, over 2.5 billion people have added 6 years to their life expectancy. Think about someone you love that you lost early, and think about what 6 more years would mean. Now multiply that by 2.5 billion people.
Around the world, hundreds of millions of individuals have gotten their first light-bulb, their first refrigerator, their first year with clean drinking water or a full stomach, their first decent-paying job thanks to coal-based electricity. Without coal, none of that would have been possible. In the US, 30 years ago the average household had 3 electronic devices—today it has 25, overwhelmingly thanks to fossil fuels.
If Rolling Stone has a counter-argument to the economic and environmental case for fossil fuels, let it make it. But to pretend that case doesn’t exist, to pretend that its advocates deny basic scientific facts, is dishonest.
Revealingly, it was a group of “deniers” that alerted Rolling Stone to an embarrassingly crude scientific error in the article–describing a picture of steam rising from a coal plant as “carbon emissions.” When readers pointed out that “carbon dioxide is an invisible gas” the editors changed it to “Aerial view of a coal fired power station” without acknowledging the error or questioning the scientific judgment of the editors who endorsed it.
Why is the political left so eager to smear advocates of fossil fuels with a false label like “denier,” one purposefully chosen to invoke Nazi Holocaust deniers?
To eliminate opposition to their political policies. Rolling Stone, President Obama, and the environmentalist movement seek to pass radical restrictions on fossil fuel energy–the lifeblood of the developed world and the developing world alike–and use ambiguous references to “global warming” as an unlimited justification for action. For example, Rolling Stone’s famous environmentalist writer Bill McKibben, who in the publication declared the fossil fuel industry “Public Enemy Number One,” advocates a 95% ban on fossil fuels.
If the American public knew the truth about fossil fuels’ incomparable benefits and the extent of the left’s anti-fossil-fuel goals, they would rebel–and even more so if the American public knew that most of the left also furiously opposes nuclear power and hydroelectric power, the only practical sources of non-fossil-fuel-power.
So, unable to admit or justify their policy goals, Rolling Stone et al are using a time-tested tactic: smear the opposition as anti-science. Here’s how it works: if you advocate a wildly irrational policy (like opposing all forms of practical energy) claim that it follows from some scientific fact (like global warming)–and then accuse your opponents of denying science.
Knowingly or not, fossil fuel opponents are borrowing this tactic from the very group they liken their opponents to: the Nazis.
Have you ever wondered how the eugenics movement–which led to the horror of forced sterilization in the U.S. and a holocaust in Germany (once “the land of poets and philosophers)–started? A group of statist pseudoscientists falsely argued that these policies followed from the (valid) theory of evolution–and dismissed their opponents as deniers of evolution. (For more on this history, see Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair.)
Nothing should be more sacred to civilization than science–the method of going by all the facts, and only the facts,to reach the truth. And nothing should be more repugnant to civilization than using pseudoscience and smears in the pursuit of political power.
So no more lists of “Global Warming Deniers,” Rolling Stone. But if you make a list of “Fossil Fuel Champions”I’d be honored to be included.