You know this guy. He’s fueled by beer and conspiracy theories. His favorite hobbies include sending chain-letters to your work email and laughing raucously at his own jokes, and he’s been waiting all year to talk to you about a certain birth certificate. The dinner table is his soapbox; family is his captive audience; and holidays are the main event.
If you’re lucky, he only shows up for Christmas and on your Facebook feed. You desperately avoid him, but his theories are so outrageous that you can’t hide your utter disbelief.
Climate change deniers have a lot in common with your crazy uncle. When they open their mouths, sometimes all you can do is laugh. But with the ink dry on the United Nation’s historic global climate agreement, it’s more obvious than ever that they've lost their so-called debate. That, of course, won’t stop them from saying something outlandish. So, just in time for the holidays with your crazy uncle, here’s our list of some of the craziest things climate deniers have said.
"The climate change argument is absolute crap.”
- Tony Abbott, former prime minister of Australia
Just like your crazy uncle, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is known for having a way with words. Well-known for less-than-enlightened views on climate during his short time in office, Abbott was ousted by his own party in September 2015.
Climate change is real. Just ask 97 percent of climate scientists. As HBO host John Oliver put it, “You don’t need people’s opinions on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking: Which number is bigger: 15 or five? Or do owls exist? Or are there hats?” But just as surely as your crazy uncle is to deny basic facts this holiday season, so too do climate deniers like Tony Abbott.
- Rush Limbaugh, talk radio host
Full quote: “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 summer time 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."
Well, there you have it. One of the greatest scientific and moral challenges of the modern world, and the entire time climatologists never figured out that it could just be attributed to swapping servants (what?) for central air back in the 1970s. We’re not even sure your crazy uncle could come up with an explanation this elaborate.
The truth is, about half the carbon pollution from humans has actually entered the atmosphere after 1979. It's no surprise the world is warming up a lot faster since then. We’re putting thousands of times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere now than we were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and that's why the planet is warming up so much faster now than it did from 1880 to 1979. There’s only one conclusion: man-made carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels is overwhelmingly responsible for the global warming we’re experiencing today.
Which leads us to wonder: what interesting theories does Rush Limbaugh have for melting Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, and increased rates of wildfire and drought? The world never needs to know.
“It’s snowing, not warming.”
- Rupert Murdoch, media mogul
Full quote: “Back in [the] US. What happened to global warming? London, D.C, [and] New York seem like [a] new ice age! [The] Rockies too.”
We get the feeling Rupert Murdoch is not a snow bunny (we know he’s not a scientist). This is a favorite quip of climate deniers everywhere: Any time we have to pull on a parka, they say the science behind global warming is knocked out cold.
Murdoch owns too many media outlets to mention, but one of the more notable is Fox News. Back in 2009, one of the network’s top editors ordered journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”
The reality? Murdoch (and Fox News) deliberately misconstrues a short-term, local event (weather) for a long-term planet-wide trend (global warming). In this case of the quote above, it was the much-hyped polar vortex, but there have been plenty of others. Plus, just as the total amount of snow has declined in parts of the world over recent decades (especially in the Northern Hemisphere), there have also been an increasing number of very heavy storms, including heavy snowstorms. A warmer climate increases evaporation, drawing moisture both from the oceans and the land. When that increased atmospheric moisture feeds into a storm, it can make the storm really, really big. The result is less snow overall as global temperatures increase, but more extreme snowstorms.
At least Murdoch hasn’t brought a snowball to Senate, but someone’s crazy uncle did.
“Carbon pollution is actually good for us.”
- David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries
Full quote: “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food.”
The idea that dirty power plants are good for actual plants has a certain poetry to it, but unfortunately it’s the kind that usually appears only in preteen diaries.
While plants do need carbon dioxide to support photosynthesis, carbon dioxide levels are just one factor in their growth. Plus, more isn’t always better (you’d never say floods were a great way to water crops, after all). As carbon dioxide levels rise and climate change increases, any potential benefits are expected to be negated by consequences like more drought and heat stress. In fact, according to a recent report, global food shortages will become an incredible three times more likely as a result of climate change.
Furthermore, David Koch is no poet; he’s the executive vice president of Koch Industries, one of the world’s most powerful multinational conglomerates with significant activities in oil and gas, and an annual revenue near $115 billion. He has a very expensive stake in making sure public opinion on the science of climate change is split by doubt. Luckily for all of us, most crazy uncles don’t have billions of dollars at their disposal.
Climate denial is going out of style. Retweet if you wish it would disappear altogether. pic.twitter.com/cTWecc1j5Z— Climate Reality (@ClimateReality) October 8, 2015
“You can’t check your e-mail today because the wind isn’t blowing.”
- Roger Bezdek, energy company consultant
Climate deniers are often not big fans of energy from wind and they just don’t see the light when it comes to solar power. But when you’re working on behalf of some of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world, you probably won’t be inclined to endorse renewable energy. Expecting anything else would be like asking your crazy uncle to stop yelling at the TV – completely unreasonable.
What critics of renewable energy don’t understand is that electricity systems operate as grids — networks of transmission lines that draw power from several sources across a region and then redistribute that power. In other words, there’s often no telling whether the electricity powering your computer at this moment is coming from a coal plant in Missouri or a wind farm in Minnesota. Electricity grids are designed to handle variability in both demand and supply because there is no such thing as a “perfectly reliable” form of energy. This is why your house won’t automatically go dark if that coal plant in Missouri gets knocked out by a big thunderstorm or if the wind around that Minnesota wind farm slows down.
Meanwhile, the Earth receives more energy from the sun in a single hour than the planet uses in a year. We’re designing smarter grids that make it easier than ever to manage different forms of electricity, creating increasingly better batteries to store it, and improving the efficiency of our buildings and machines to use less of it in the first place. Which means there is no reason not so see more and more cities go 100-percent renewable energy like Aspen, Colorado or Greensburg, Kansas.
“It’s the UN trying to achieve world domination.”
- Peter Ferrara, senior fellow for budget and energy policy, the Heartland Institute
Full quote: "The United Nations loves [climate change] because it inspires fantasies of the UN growing up to be a world government, with real government powers of global taxation, spending and regulation, all “to save the planet.” Scientists who go along with the cause are rewarded not only with praise for their worthy social conscience, but also with altogether billions in hard, cold cash (government and environmental grants), for their cooperation in helping to play the 'useful idiots.' "
We saved the best for last. According to the Heartland Institute, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must be a modern-day, imperialistic evil genius who craves a new world order. We have to say, this sounds a lot more like a Marvel comic plot than reality, but points for creativity.
The first part of this claim is too absurd to address reasonably, but the second part – that scientists are paid substantially to support pseudoscience – has some truth to it. The problem is, climate deniers are the ones earning a living from producing junk science. There is well-documented and abundant evidence that proves academics and scientists have been paid by fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Peabody Energy to deny the reality of climate change. Most recently, Greenpeace exposed deniers for hire in academia by posing as fossil fuel representatives willing to pay for publications promoting false benefits of fossil fuel production.
Help Us Fight Climate Denial
You may not be able to keep your crazy uncle quiet this holiday season, but you can help us keep a lid on powerful climate deniers across the globe. We’ve made incredible progress this year for climate action, but just two of the deniers on this list (Rupert Murdoch and David Koch) together have a net worth of over $55 billion and aren’t afraid to spend it. It’s plain to see – our fight to accelerate the global shift to clean energy isn’t over yet.
You can help with a gift to The Climate Reality Project. With your support, we’ll train messengers to spread climate hope and solutions in over 100 nations, inspire activists online and in the streets, and build a prosperous future powered by clean energy. Make your donation today!