Ted Turner: Global Warming Worse Than Iran, Causing Drought

In a recent Web interview with "Foreign Policy" magazine, dated October 2007, which focused on environmental issues, CNN founder Ted Turner claimed that global warming presents a greater danger to the world than Iran. Turner: "Iran does not put us in peril like global warming does." In a September interview with "GQ" magazine, Turner had similarly downplayed the nuclear threat from Iran as he argued that America's nuclear arsenal poses a greater threat to the world: "I'm much more worried about our nuclear arsenal than theirs. Iran, at best, can get a few nuclear weapons. We have tens of thousands." The CNN founder further suggested that global warming is to blame for the drought in the Southeast, and contended that the same Al Gore who refuses to debate scientists on global warming is as "smart as a whip." (Transcript follows)

Early in the interview, Turner was asked how he judged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon compared to Kofi Annan, with the CNN founder gushing that "I think Kofi Annan did a great job." Turner soon expressed optimism that, after the Bush administration had "disappointingly" not done enough to combat climate change, Congress is now pushing more legislation. Turner expressed worry that if nothing is done, there will be "difficult times" in the future, before tying in the current drought in the Southeast. Turner: "In fact, we’re in difficult times right now. Down here in Atlanta, we’re running out of water. We have the worst drought in history in this part of the country. It’s almost unbelievable."

After being asked if he was "frustrated" because he "can't make policies," Turner vowed not to let discouragement get the better of him, and conveyed how seriously he views the environment. Turner: "Whenever I tend to get discouraged, I think of those words and I press on. Failure is not an option here. We're talking about the survival of the human race, as well as all the other critters we share the planet with, the elephants and the pandas and the polar bears."

When asked his view of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Turner praised the former Vice President as "smart as a whip," before bringing up  CNN's "Planet in Peril" miniseries. He then expressed his view that global warming presents a greater "peril" than Iran. Turner: "CNN is running a major series next week entitled "Planet in Peril." It would have been a title that I would have been proud to have when I was there. It's strong language when you say 'in peril.' Iran does not put us in peril like global warming does."

The complete text of the interview dated October 2007 from "Foreign Policy" magazine can be found here. A transcript of notable portions of the interview appear below:

FP: How do you think Ban Ki-moon is doing, compared with his predecessor as U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan?

TT: I think Kofi Annan did a great job, and I think Ban Ki-moon is doing an absolutely magnificent job. We are very, very fortunate to have Ban in there now and [to] have had Kofi Annan for the previous 10 years. We've been very fortunate to have very constructive, creative leadership, because right now, humanity is facing the greatest dangers we have ever faced.

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FP: How do you get the politics of climate change in the United States to the point where a member of Congress from Toledo is scared to vote against, say, a carbon tax or a global cap-and-trade system to replace the Kyoto Protocol? Because we're not there yet, are we?

TT: It's going to be less so now. It's been hard with the [Bush] administration. There are a number of energy bills going through Congress, and I think that Congress is a lot more amenable to listening to suggestions and studying the issues and getting familiar with them. The administration is moving a little bit, but they've always been holding back on this issue, disappointingly. If we end up doing nothing or not enough, we're facing very, very difficult times. In fact, we're in difficult times right now. Down here in Atlanta, we're running out of water. We have the worst drought in history in this part of the country. It's almost unbelievable.

FP: As a philanthropist, does it frustrate you that you can't make policies? Without government, are you just nipping at the margins?

TT: I'm frustrated a lot, but we can't give up and get discouraged. We have to keep pressing on. I was good friends with Captain [Jacques] Cousteau. I told him one time in the Amazon, doing a series down there on [Cousteau's boat] the Calypso, I said, "Captain, I’m kind of discouraged." He said, "Ted, we cannot afford to get discouraged, even if we knew that we were going to lose. Which we don't. What can men of good conscience do but keep trying until the very end?" And whenever I tend to get discouraged, I think of those words and I press on. Failure is not an option here. We’re talking about the survival of the human race, as well as all the other critters we share the planet with—the elephants and the pandas and the polar bears.

FP: What do you think of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize? Does it help the fight against climate change, or does it turn it into more of a partisan issue in the United States?

TT: It’s going to help. Al Gore didn’t get it because he’s a Democrat. He got it because he is a good guy who’s smart as a whip. He sees ahead. And he’s made a great contribution. Every little bit helps. CNN is running a major series next week entitled "Planet in Peril." It would have been a title that I would have been proud to have when I was there. It’s strong language, when you say "in peril." Iran does not put us in peril like global warming does.

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