Thomas Friedman on CNN: ClimateGate an 'Idiot Debate,' 'Nonsense'

Wolf Blitzer, CNN Anchor; & Thomas Friedman, New York Times Columnist | NewsBusters.orgThomas Friedman of the New York Times dismissed the ClimateGate scandal during an interview on Thursday’s Situation Room on CNN, labeling it “nonsense” and an “idiot debate.” Anchor Wolf Blitzer only pressed Friedman slightly when he repeated his call for a “price on carbon that would trigger mass innovation in green technology,” meaning a large surtax on fossil fuels.

Blitzer raised ClimateGate during the second half of his interview with Friedman: “Let’s talk about ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ and global warming; this conference that’s under way in Copenhagen right now. The release of these e-mails, what’s called ‘ClimateGate,’ how much damage does that do to those who say man does have this significant role in global warming and this whole debate takes a new twist as a result of that?”

The New York Times columnist immediately played the “denier” card, and pointed to his favorite country, China, as an example of a society that wasn’t paying any attention to the scandal:

FRIEDMAN: Well, clearly, the skeptics and deniers are saying to use these e-mails to say all the research is wrong. Let’s see, all the research, from all the research centers in the world, built up over 50 years, is wrong? Because a couple of climate scientists talking to each other in private- you know, based on statements that they probably wished they had rephrased- sorry, Wolf, I don’t buy it....I’m disappointed with the language they [the scientists who wrote the leaked ClimateGate e-mails] used...But I’m not focused on them. Wolf. I’m focused on the fact that we know for the last 1,000 years- okay, that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has stayed steady. We also know since the Industrial Revolution, it suddenly spiked, and with that spike, [there] has been a spike in global average temperatures. We know that, okay. We know that for multiple sources.
And, by the way, Wolf, you know who’s not debating this nonsense at all? China. China’s not debating this at all. They know their glaciers are melting. They know something’s happening. And you know what they’re trying to do? They’re trying to clean our clock in solar, wind, [unintelligible], because they know it’s happening. They’re not caught up in this idiot debate, and that’s where we should be.

Later in the interview, the CNN anchor asked about President Obama’s involvement with the climate change interview: “Obama, from your perspective, talks a good game, but is he doing enough?” Friedman replied, “ I think he is off to a very good start. I still think we need to have a price on carbon that would trigger mass innovation in green technology.” Blitzer interrupted with a reasonable follow-up question: “Can the U.S. economy afford that right now?” His guest answered, “Well, can we afford $5, $6 [a] gallon gasoline? Because that’s where we’re headed if we don’t do anything else.”

Less than a week earlier, Friedman was on CNN’s Campbell Brown program on December 3, and made many of the same talking points on climate change that he did during his interview with Blitzer.

The transcript of the relevant portion of the interview, starting at the 31 minutes past the 4 pm Eastern hour mark:

BLITZER: Let’s talk about ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ and global warming; this conference that’s under way in Copenhagen right now. The release of these e-mails, what’s called ‘ClimateGate,’ how much damage does that do to those who say man does have this significant role in global warming and this whole debate takes a new twist as a result of that?

FRIEDMAN: Well, clearly, the skeptics and deniers are saying to use these e-mails to say all the research is wrong. Let’s see, all the research, from all the research centers in the world, built up over 50 years, is wrong? Because a couple of climate scientists talking to each other in private- you know, based on statements that they probably wished they had rephrased- sorry, Wolf, I don’t buy it. The fact is-

BLITZER: But you yourself wrote in your column the other day that-

FRIEDMAN: Oh, I’m disappointed- yeah.

BLITZER: They should have- shouldn’t done it, those scientists.

FRIEDMAN: I’m disappointed with the language they used, and I’m sure if they could redo it now, if they knew they were speaking in public, they would write it differently. But I’m not focused on them. Wolf. I’m focused on the fact that we know for the last 1,000 years- okay, that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has stayed steady. We also know since the Industrial Revolution, it suddenly spiked, and with that spike, [there] has been a spike in global average temperatures. We know that, okay. We know that for multiple sources.

And, by the way, Wolf, you know who’s not debating this nonsense at all? China. China’s not debating this at all. They know their glaciers are melting. They know something’s happening. And you know what they’re trying to do? They’re trying to clean our clock in solar, wind, [unintelligible], because they know it’s happening. They’re not caught up in this idiot debate, and that’s where we should be.

BLITZER: But you say ‘idiot debate’ because the former vice president, Al Gore- he refers to those who question global warming as ‘global warming deniers,’ as if they’re- you know, Holocaust deniers, if you will,

FRIEDMAN: Right.

BLITZER: And they really have no place at the table. Do these scientists who are skeptics have a place at the table?

FRIEDMAN Wolf, absolutely. What they need to do is put forward a counter-thesis to the vast body of scientific research that says basically the greenhouse blanket around the Earth is getting thicker with greenhouse gases, it’s trapping more heat, [and] it’s going to raise average temperatures. What we don’t know- what we do know is exactly how fast that will happen, when the red lines will come, what the climate might do to naturally balance. We don’t know any of that, Wolf. But you know what I do- when I face a problem that is irreversible- the gas stays there for a long time, Wolf- when I face a problem that’s irreversible and has a potentially catastrophic outcome- you know what I do, Wolf? I buy insurance. That’s what the whole climate strategy is about- what those of us care about climate change is about- is, let’s buy a little insurance, because if we’re right, okay, we are really headed for trouble.

BLITZER: Obama, from your perspective, talks a good game, but is he doing enough?

FRIEDMAN: I think he is off to a very good start. I still think we need to have a price on carbon that would trigger mass innovation in green technology-

BLITZER: Can the U.S. economy afford that right now?

FRIEDMAN: Well, can we afford $5, $6 [a] gallon gasoline? Because that’s where we’re headed if we don’t do anything else.

BLITZER: So you have no doubt about any of this?

FRIEDMAN: I have no doubt that we need to do something. I have many- I don’t know any better than anybody else what- exactly when, you know, the problem might hit. It’s all about the odds, Wolf. It’s all about the odds. When I heard the odds were 90%, if I smoked, I’d get cancer- I said, you know what? I don’t think that’s a very good idea. Well, the world is smoking now. We don’t know when, how it will hit- what could counterbalance, but I’d like to buy insurance when I see a problem like that.

BLTIZER: Gore speaks of five, ten, fifteen years before those polar ice caps melt. Are you with him on that?

FRIEDMAN: I have no idea. I’m not a climate scientist. All I know is this, Wolf: the world is enveloped in a greenhouse blanket. We know that’s what regulates the climate and the weather on Earth so it makes it habitable. We’re making that thicker with greenhouse gases. As we do, we’ll trap more heat. As we trap more heat, average temperatures will rise and more ice will melt. When? How fast? I don’t really know. All I know is if that reaches an irreversible process that ends in catastrophe, we are a bad biological experiment, and therefore, Wolf, I’d like to buy a little insurance.

BLITZER: Insurance is always good. Thanks very much, Tom Friedman, for coming in. The book is entitled, ‘Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America.’ It was a huge bestseller [in] hardcover. It is now out in paperback. I’m sure it will be a big bestseller as well. Thanks very much.

FRIEDMAN: Appreciate it- thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center