Farewell Tucker Carlson, climate change denier whose claims never stacked up | Temperature Check
As appears to be almost compulsory for high-profile, rightwing television presenters, Fox News’ recently departed prime-time host Tucker Carlson is a climate science denier.
Carlson would preach regularly to his nightly audience of more than 3 million viewers about how concerns over climate change were like a religion, and that “the entire theory [of human-caused climate] is absurd”.
In 2020 with fierce wildfires burning in the country’s west, Carlson rejected links between the fires and global heating, saying that to Democrats “climate change is like systemic racism in the sky. You can’t see it, but rest assured it’s everywhere and it’s deadly.”
Last month, Carlson said while “the climate is changing now” humans hadn’t caused it. Even then, he said, climate change was a “mixed blessing” with upsides and downsides.
Just before we go on, let’s just put a marker down there on the scale of denial on show.
Carlson’s position contradicts every major scientific academy on the planet, and more than half a century of detailed study, observation and experimentation.
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In last month’s 13-minute diatribe, Carlson told viewers they shouldn’t trust climate change experts, rattling through a laundry list of claimed errors from scientists in the past.
Let’s check on a few of them.
Carlson said “the world’s most famous climate change expert, Greta Thunberg” had recently deleted a tweet that said a scientist had claimed climate change would “wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years”.
Leaving aside that Thunberg isn’t a climate scientist, she did delete a tweet earlier this year that she posted in 2018 when she was 15. That tweet linked to an article with the headline “Top climate scientist: humans will go extinct if we don’t fix climate change by 2023”.
But as factcheckers at Snopes and Associated Press have both pointed out, the article it linked to didn’t say humanity would vanish by 2023. The scientist quoted in the article told AP the headline was “a total distortion of what I said”.
Next, Carlson quoted several articles and headlines from the 1970s that warned the world was heading for an ice age.
“But by the early 1980s, when the ice didn’t arrive, the expert decided the problem wasn’t too much cold. It was too much heat. It was global warming,” said Carlson.
Climate science deniers like to reach for newspaper cuttings from the 1970s that warned of a coming ice age to suggest scientists might be wrong now about global heating.
But a review of scientific papers between 1965 and 1979 found that of 71 studies on the trajectory of future global temperatures, just seven thought the world would cool, with 44 projecting warming (with 20 papers neutral).
So despite the existence of some news reports, the consensus among scientists even in the 1970s was that the world would warm. And it has.
Carlson also showed a clip of an interview with famed astrophysicist and science presenter Neil deGrasse Tyson “saying that by 2014, the Statue of Liberty will soon be underwater”.
Actually, no. The clip used by Carlson was from 2014, not a prediction of what would happen soon after. DeGrasse Tyson wasn’t predicting anything, but rather illustrating how high sea levels could eventually rise if the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland melted.
Carlson credited the Competitive Enterprise Institute for the “research” on past predictions – an organisation with a long history promoting climate science denial while accepting donations from fossil fuel companies and conservative foundations.
Dr John Cook, an expert on climate science denial at the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change at the University of Melbourne, said: “One of the most common techniques in climate misinformation is trying to erode public trust in climate science through personal attacks and straw man arguments.
“The hypocrisy is that inconsistencies and failed predictions from climate deniers – of which there are many – are studiously ignored.”
Defence gone woke?
The Sky News Australia host Chris Kenny was deeply worried this week that the government’s defence strategic review mentioned climate change.
“This is an important document. It should be hard-nosed and clear,” said Kenny. “Our defence posture is no place for virtue signalling and woke nonsense.
“But yes, you guessed it, this document includes a section on climate change, declaring it as a national security issue.”
But discussion of climate change in government defence documents is nothing new and goes back well before conservatives came up with the nondescript catch-all phrase “woke” for anything that upsets them.
A 2009 Rudd government defence white paper discussed climate change extensively. The Gillard government’s national security strategy said climate change “may contribute to instability and tension around the globe”.
A 2013 defence white paper warned armed forces needed to “be prepared for some of the consequences of global climate system changes, such as potentially increased demands for the Australian Defence Force to undertake humanitarian and disaster relief responses both domestically and across the region”.
In a 2021 report to the US National Security Council, the famously-woke US Department of Defense wrote that climate change was “reshaping the geostrategic, operational, and tactical environments with significant implications for US national security and defense”.
Robert Glasser, the head of the Climate and Security Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the suggestion the latest review was “no place” for climate change was “wrong and ill-informed”.
“It’s just not controversial and it’s well accepted across our closest allies,” he said.