#18) INTERVIEW WITH MARC MORANO: PART II – Naming Names (Bill McKibben, Exxon Mobil, George Monbiot, Al Gore, John Kerry, Joe Romm, Dan Weiss, Robert Murtha, Mike Mann, Ed Begley, Jr., Andy Revkin, and Ralph Cicerone)
March 4th, 2010
Two weeks ago I interviewed Mike Mann, one of the climate scientists who has been at the middle of the Climategate story. Here I interview Marc Morano (whom I introduced on Monday with video clips of his television debates). In both cases I recorded about an hour of discussion, edited it down, then let them review the draft. In both cases they were sufficiently content with what I sent and made almost no changes.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WANTED
As I said at the beginning of creating The Benshi, this is not a blog and there are no comments sections. However, for this and the Mike Mann interview, I am definitely interested in your thoughts. Which means I encourage everyone to send me an email at info AT randyolsonproductions DOT com with any commentary. I will do my best to absorb all of it and synthesize the overall feedback probably next week. Which means you’re welcome to send me all the foul language you want — the only people who will see it will be the people in our group. But more importantly, feel free to send detailed critiques of what either of them said. Think of it as a different sort of moderated discussion. And I’ll try my best to be reasonably fair in summarizing the feedback, as I’ve tried to be with these interviews.
RO: Last year you were profiled in The New York Times, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone selected you as one of their “17 Climate Killers” and specificially called you, “The Drudge of Denial.” Now environmental activist/author Bill McKibben last week called you “a gifted political operative” in a column on the environmental blog The Grist. What did you think of that?
MM: Very nice of him. I’ve featured him on Climate Depot before because of his message at Cophenhagen — he said he regretted voting for President Obama, which goes in line with what we’ve been saying at Climate Depot, the idea that President Obama is nothing more than “George W. Obama.” He’s kept the same international criteria that George Bush did, which is to say that he’s kept total gridlock in the U.S. from ever agreeing to any kind of climate treaty. Bill McKibben is actually pretty shrewd when it comes to this. The problem is he goes off of the deep end. He is such a deeply-rooted believer in a coming catastrophe that I think it clouds his judgement at times.
RO: Okay, so let’s start with this — do you have doubts about President Obama’s birth certificate?
MM: [laughter] Do you mean am I a “birther”? Not in the least.
RO: Would you vote for Sarah Palin for president?
MM: [laughter] Why would it matter who I would vote for? I don’t think it’s relevant, but I would say this, for people who think I’m this big G.O.P. operative, I’ve only voted for two Republican presidential candidates since I became of legal age to vote in 1988.
RO: Are you an anti-evolutionist?
MM: Haha, not at all. In fact, you know it’s not an issue. The implication of your question is that somehow the skeptics are aligned with creationists. In all my years of dealing with Senator Inhofe the subject of creationism and evolution never even came up. Someone even did an analysis of it in our scientists report, and I think they may have only found one or two creationists out of 700-some names.
RO: So who funds you?
MM: Who funds me? About eighty-five percent or so private donations, and the rest of it is corporate. All I can say is when you bring up funding, it’s laughable. People will try to pin Exxon Mobil as funding climate skeptics. They gave to my parent company, which is “Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow” only until 2006. And what’s shocking about that is Exxon Mobil has been accused by the Union of Concerned Scientists of giving ONLY sixteen to nineteen million dollars to groups skeptical of global warming over two decades. Keep in mind one USDA farm grant looking into how farm odors contribute to global warming, one grant, exceeded all the money Exxon Mobil has ever been accused of giving by its harshest critic!
DEBATING GLOBAL WARMING
RO: Who’s been your toughest debating opponent so far?
MM: Probably George Monbiot. We were on BBC Radio, it was a last minute surprise, and the moderator allowed both of us to go after each other, without the typical “Okay stop.” One of the worst things a moderator can do by the way is allow the other side to lob a series of attacks, and then stop the other side from answering and ask a series of pre-planned questions, which is unfortunately what a lot of organizations like ABC do. But this BBC radio interview was in Copenhagen at the end of the Copenhagen summit; Monbiot and I got into a real a verbal fist-a-cuffs, and what was so impressive was that almost everything I said he picked up on and came back on me, and then I was able to come back on him. But unfortunately because it was BBC 2 radio or something, I was not able to get the audio. If anyone reading this has found it on the internet, please let me know.
MM: You’ll notice I never claim victory in debates, I don’t like to do that. I give credit to Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress because in the last interview on ABC News Now, he really went at it and essentially set the agenda which I was very happy with. When the spokesmen for the “environmental alarm” set the agenda it gives me a chance to go through one-by-one all of their talking points. Contrary to what most debaters would say, “seize the agenda,” and “use your talking points,” and “frame it in the way you want,” I’m actually very content in those types of debates to allow them to seize the agenda and frame it, because they’re typically going to do the laundry list of talking points. And I specialize in going through those one-by-one.
Like one of their favorites — they love to say, “Every single scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Meteorological Society, they all agree, they all agree!” They always do that, leaving out the fact that surveys of the actual rank-and-file scientists showing vastly, radically different story. In the case of the American Meteorological Society, they always leave out the fact that it was a governing body of two dozen scientists that signed off on that, with no vote from the members, and with massive blow-back. All I can say is they insult your intelligence when they cite this long litany of governing boards that have agreed with it. They don’t look at the actual survey of rank-and-file members — they don’t look at the actual people.
HOPE VERSUS FEAR
RO: Okay, so we know clearly what you’re against in all this stuff.
MM: Oh no, you’re making me be positive.
RO: Exactly! What are you for?! What could you tell a group of little kids to get them inspired?
MM: I’m for being against things!
RO: Haha nice.
MM: Okay very good question. I’m for a “rational energy debate.” When I debated Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress I summed it up by saying first of all global warming, according to Robert Giegengack at the University of Pennsylvania, a geologist, is not even in the top ten environmental issues. And if you look at it beyond that, Americans rank global warming dead last; 8 out of 8 environmental issues.
So what I’m for is a “rational energy debate” and that is almost impossible to have when you have a U.N. and the IPCC, which started in 1988, and Gore as a national spokesman. And you have media led by ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and previously CNN, the recession has really improved CNN’s reporting on climate issues, they got rid of Miles O’Brien, they got rid of some of their alarmist reporters, all these cut-backs have really done a radical improvement in balance. CNN now has panels on global warming with more skeptics than warmists. So CNN has come a long way and we have nothing but the recession to thank for that. Same with the Weather Channel, the cut-backs got rid of Heidi Cullen, and we’ve seen it across the board, environmental journalism has improved dramatically with these cut-backs and the loss of these activist reporters, people like Dykstra from CNN. The fact that he’s actually gone from CNN means they can finally do balanced reporting. So your question was…? [laughter]
RO: [laughter] The question was still… what would you say to little kids, say a group of fourth or fifth graders to get them inspired on life in general.
MM: Okay, I would say fear-mongering has to be out of the equation, and I would say you have to look at our environmental success, especially in the United States, talking radically improving air and water quality, while at the same time growing population and economic growth. And we also have to look at across the board the real environmental issues that we can solve, whether it’s clean air, clean water. We’ve come a long way even in forestry practice. And if you look at even tropical rain forests now, there’s been some estimates that for every acre of rain forest cut, fifty are growing back, people are leaving the jungle, we’re finding out that development and modern civilization isn’t the “environmental boogie man” that they are being taught in school.
So the positive way to look at it is modernism and economic growth can coincide with a clean healthy environment. And if you look at it, the least developed nations have some of the worst environmental problems. And if you go even deeper to like the mud-huts in Africa, I’ve been to Kenya on a safari for a U.N. conference back in 2006, you see people burning dung and other wood products in these little closed in huts. Studies show cancer rates and the respiratory problems from breathing that in. Beyond that eco-fears have prevented the wide use of DDT in these countries, so there have been deaths of many people that could have been prevented by modern pesticides.
So, again, you can’t look at the world as development is evil and development is contrary to the environment. And the bottom line is the positive message that I would send is we have learned so much about the environment and how to make it sustainable, to use a nice green term, that we should reject fear-mongering and have a rational debate. And I think that is what the great benefit of Climategate and all these U.S. scandals are and I think it’s going to be very hard for these fear-mongers to gain a foothold on the American public again, and I think that is a victory for science.
RO: You generally refer to Al Gore as an “alarmist,” saying he is trying to raise people’s fears of global warming. But let me ask you this – over the past decade, who has been the biggest fear-monger, George W. Bush or Al Gore?
MM: Well, I’ll say this — there’s many ways in which you will find me angry at Republicans: George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom Ridge. I am angry to this day — there was a point where the critics of the Bush administration were correct, they were using the war on terror to scare people to gin up support for their policies, you know homeland security and other things that would never have passed without the fear. You could say the environmentalists are doing the same thing. And I think that kind of thing is happening on both sides. You’re not going to find me being a rah rah go President George Bush, war on terror kind-of-guy. Though I think there is a serious battle to be fought there. I was disgusted by some of the tactics that were used during those heyday years of 2002-2004.
RO: Okay, but still, who do you think is the bigger fear monger?
MM: I still think Al Gore on the scale of things is a bigger fear-monger because George Bush’s war on terror was based on a real threat, and still is. In contrast, Al Gore picked up a message that was started in the 80’s in terms of wide spread use, and really not until 1988 with James Hansen’s testimony to congress and the formation of the IPCC. Gore took it to such an extreme and targeted it to school children, and it’s great now to see open calls to have his movie banned in the U.K. for schools, and let’s hope that makes it across the “great pond” to the U.S.
JOHN KERRY & THE SWIFT BOAT VETERANS
RO: Would you like to debate Al Gore?
MM: [laughter] I would love to, but I realize that’s not going to happen. I would settle for being called on by John Kerry for a public committee hearing, that would be my dream opportunity. John Kerry makes the most laughable scientific claims. One of the things he likes to do is appeal to authority. He’s called the U.N. the “gold standard,” he says it’s above reproach. He’s claimed that there are no peer-reviewed papers rebutting global warming. So someone like him is just a giant pompous balloon waiting to be popped. And that would be my dream testimony to go up before his committee. I’ll try to find a Republican either dumb enough or smart enough to put me up on the panel.
RO: Speaking of John Kerry, didn’t you play a part in the “Swift Boat Veterans” campaign a few years ago?
MM: Yes, I proudly did so. In fact that’s a good lesson of where John Kerry, the Climategate scientists, and the U.N. failed P.R.-wise. I was the first to report that the Swift-boaters were forming. That was in May of 2004. It ended up on the Drudge Report. I got an exclusive. I talked to John O’Neil and his people right before they broke the story. I also did a whole series of interviews on it, I interviewed John Kerry, interviewed many of his old Vietnam Swift Boat veterans, I did a whole series of stories on that throughout the 2004 campaign. And I knew this was a huge story, even up to the convention where Kerry stood up and saluted the audience.
I told radio interviewers at that time, during Kerry’s acceptance speech, I said this is going to backfire as the Swift Boat Veterans are about to launch this huge campaign against him. Kerry hadn’t responded. He ended up with months of silence. It took away any chance he had at election. And he learned his lesson too late.
It’s the same thing with Climategate. This whole thing breaks and everyone essentially was silent. No active campaign to try to defend what Climategate revealed or what it meant to the U.N. Same with Rajendra Pachauri, he allowed himself to be defined by his critics. And now he finally comes out and tries to swing but it’s too late. The headlines today, the U.N. scientists coming out and saying that basically Pachauri is a disgrace, and that this is a “rotting carcass” of the U.N. IPCC. A “worthless carcass” is actually what he called it. And I have a picture of vultures feeding on a dead animal.
RO: This sounds like you’re talking about the mistake of letting others frame the issue.
MM: Yes, exactly, the bottom line is that they allowed their critics to define them, they didn’t even give themselves a chance, and now they come back late and try to battle back. And the most shocking allegation of this whole thing yet is Al Gore’s silence. Here is the de facto leader of the American global warming movement, it might even be international. He is the face of global warming and he’s been silent. Where is Al Gore? Either Al Gore thinks this thing is going to blow over, or he thinks himself incapable of defending the movement at this point. Either one is shocking.
RO: But just to set the record straight, you are proud of the role you played with the Swift Boat Veterans story, even though it helped to destroy the presidential campaign of John Kerry?
MM: Absolutely. It was the people he served with making these allegations against him which the mainstream media ignored at the time. I was a reporter, so I wasn’t an advocate — I was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. I think that you can argue that John Kerry will dispute what they say, but at the time that we were reporting it, John Kerry was not disputing what they said, and some of their allegations proved dead-on accurate, while other allegations proved a little debatable. But at the time it was a perfectly legitimate issue – it wasn’t anything new to question a presidential candidate’s war record — they did it for the first president Bush. It was implied that he bailed out of an airplane in WWII too soon, allowing his copilot to die. Ronald Reagan was ridiculed for being in Hollywood during WWII. So it was standard practice, but oh, when you question John Kerry’s war record, that just wasn’t right at all.
As a matter-of-fact when I went after John Murtha, who’s now just recently departed, I was on CNN with Howard Kurtz. I said the media should be thanking me for checking John Murtha’s record in Vietnam, because without me, no one would be doing it, and that’s just the thing, the media needs the new media, and so it’s making them better. And so the declining ratings of the newscasts, the failing newspapers, doesn’t mean people aren’t still getting news, it means they are getting a more diverse form of news. And I think that’s better for everyone, including the world of science.
CLIMATEGATE AND MIKE MANN
RO: Let’s move to the recent story about stolen emails of climate researchers. Why was it named “Climategate?” Doesn’t that sound a little bit like “Watergate,” which was a criminal act?
MM: Among my circle of skeptics, within 3 or 4 days after the story broke, we actually had open emails about what would be the best name. I never really liked “Climategate” — every scandal has that moniker of “gate,” whether it’s “whitewater-gate” or you name it, across the board. It’s a lazy label, and so we were trying to come up with alternatives, but at the time when we were trying to do that, the name stuck. And other people are trying to make “warmist-gate” or other names like that. But it wasn’t my first choice of a name, but at the same time people recognize that when you add “gate” to something that something doesn’t smell right. So that aspect of it works.
RO: Let me ask you on another front here, the term “fraud” is pretty much the most serious accusation that can be made against a scientist. It’s rare that it should ever emerge in the world of science, and when it does it is normally dealt with quickly. Throughout Mike Mann’s career there has never been one hint of dishonesty or fraud suggested by anyone in the science world, yet there has been a barrage of such allegations from non-scientists. He has been cleared not just by the Penn State investigation but by the National Academy of Science. Do you think he’s a dishonest person, and do you think he continues to deserve the allegations spoken against him?
MM: I definitely think he continues to deserve allegations.
RO: Then why did the Penn State investigation clear him?
MM: On three counts they cleared him. On a fourth they referred it to further investigation, and if you look at it, people are saying they weren’t qualified to do it, they didn’t call in anyone. I think they called in Gerald North — a committed warmist. You know you’re not going to get an independent investigation when you do that. If you look at the other people who are involved in that, it was not truly independent, some people called it a “whitewash,” but even that “whitewash,” if you want to call it that in quotes, still didn’t clear him on all four counts. They need to investigate one count further. You mentioned the National Academy of Science clearing Michael Mann thoroughly. I would challenge you on that. I was in the Senate at the time, I met with Mr. North and Kurt Cuffey in private meetings in the Senate before they released that report. All that report essentially said was that it was unsupportable to go back as far as Michael Mann did. They said it was essentially plausible otherwise, but it didn’t turn into any kind of scientific proof.
RO: Okay but why don’t any of these accusations come from within the academic science world?
MM: Well, there was a political correctness, basically, for lack of another word. They do all these studies — global warming impact on butterflies and frogs — then they go through and put in all the caveats in these peer-reviewed studies. “What would happen if the temperature degree would rise x in this number of years? Well this would affect butterflies in this way or this way.” So finally you have a paper that says global warming might do this and this if this and this occurs. But the media and the university will get the press release and they’ll turn it into “Global Warming Spells Doom for Frogs! Massive Effect on Butterflies by 2025!” But what I’m saying is that the scientists allow this through their silence. And they’ll allow these sorts of manipulations of their work.
CELEBRITIES AND JOURNALISTS
RO: There are literally hundreds of celebrities on the global warming bandwagon. Are they all mis-informed? And why don’t you have any celebrities on the skeptics side?
MM: Whenever you’re talking about political activism it’s always hard to find celebrity spokespersons who go against the politically correct cause of the day. It’s just that simple. I can count them on one hand — it used to be Charlton Heston, Tom Selleck, Michael Crichton, Dennis Miller, and of course you have Pat Sajak, uh.. I’m kind of smiling here, but I’m giving you some of the big names.
Hollywood celebrities have this elitism — they go to an issue that is politically correct and they jump on it. But what you haven’t noticed lately — there hasn’t been a lot of activity by Hollywood Celebrities on global warming. Ed Begley Jr. is probably the leader on that — I actually respect him that he is willing to get out there and debate people. He walks the walk, he lives the way he preaches others to live, he does it voluntarily. A far cry from Al Gore, or what other celebrity environmentalists, like Harrison Ford who took a jet to get a cheeseburger, and he’s now facing a potential attacks from his fellow environmentalists for being a hypocrite.
MM: I think he’s a very fair-minded journalist. He’s clearly in the warmists’ camp, but journalistic ethics says he has to be a fair reporter, and he does very good reporting. But I wish with Climategate he would get the same bug that the U.K. media got. I think the stage is set for him to create the U.S. version of what the U.K. has done over the past month.
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SCIENCE
RO: Are you suspicious of the National Academy of Sciences?
MM: I think the National Academy of Sciences is a part of fulfilling the grand political narrative that is man-made Global Warming. Just look at the words of Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s clear there’s just a political narrative they had to fulfill, and people aren’t buying it. So when you say, “Am I suspicious of the National Academy of Sciences?” The bottom-line is it’s a scientific organization, you are subject to the scientific-political establishment for your day, and it’s no doubt that global warming was the political establishment of our day when it comes to science. So you are going to have all the scientific governing bodies, when it comes into government funding, government relations, all tied into that same movement, and that’s why it’s so offensive, we knew it was a political narrative first and a scientific movement second.
RO: Last question. So you don’t feel that you’re anti-science?
MM: Not at all. I think that if anything at all I see myself as a champion of science and I think I’m being vindicated as we speak here. When it comes to global warming, I think this has been the biggest breath of fresh air, to watch the U.N. IPCC process collapse. And that is a victory for science. And any role I play in that, I do it proudly, and I do it with a pro-science stance.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WANTED
As I said at the start, please send your thoughts and comments to me at: info AT randyolsonproductions DOT com. I will present a summary of all the feedback, probably next week.