Climate Change Semi-Denial

By Bill Maher

Last month on Real Time, Margaret Hoover advanced the theory that nothing we do about reducing our carbon emissions will have any real effect on global temperature changes over the next 20 years. And a small but well-funded portion of the Internet let out a tiny cheer. Because on a night while New York and New Jersey were underwater and still struggling to dig themselves out, someone, someone had the guts to stand up for bullshit.

What's interesting is the small industry devoted to propping up this latest incarnation of climate change skeptics. These people don't claim to be climate change deniers. Or even "global warming skeptics." They're only skeptical of climate change scientists, they say. Man-made climate change is real; it's just woefully overstated by the browbeaten scientific community and the hysterical media. They'll tell you how even if we totally eliminated our carbon footprint, it would only slow the rate of temperature rise by less than .1 degree over the next 50 years. They write reasonable papers and blog posts about how, for instance, everyone talks about the decrease of arctic ice, but that nobody talks about the dramatic increase in Antarctic ice. It's not so bad, they say, and even if it is, we can't change it too much.

And yes, you guessed it, they are a teensy tiny part of the scientific community and they get all their money from the fossil fuel industry.

Hoover's information likely comes from guys like Patrick J. Michaels and Chip Knappenberger. They are both climate scientists, they've written papers together, and they both hold titles over at the Cato Institute (founded, yes, by Charles Koch). Michaels runs a consultancy group called "New Hope Environmental Services," and serves as editor of the of the blog "World Climate Report -- The Web's Longest-Running Climate Change Blog." Chip writes for it, too.

The client and funder lists for these very concerned-sounding enterprises are often hard to find, because, as Michaels said in an affidavit, “large companies are understandably adverse to negative publicity." But we know, for instance, that New Hope Environmental Services has done some of its great work for fossil-fuel based power companies like Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association and Intermountain Rural Electric Association.

The insidious thing about guys like Michaels and Knappenberg is that they're masters of Not Getting Pinned Down. They keep a hand in and write scholarly papers in peer-reviewed journals, in which they seem to agree with the basics of climate science. And then they turn around on their blogs and in their congressional testimonies, and cherry-pick data and bash other people's work in a manner that produces the results that oil and coal and "free market" warriors want: A hodgepodge of "reasonable" reasons why we don't need to change what we're doing. They're the new generation of climate-change deniers -- "Climate change agreers and confusers." And they're winning.