TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger: Doubting Global Warming is Like Believing the Earth is Flat

If you deny global warming, you are on par with those who believe the Earth is flat or the moon landing never happened, at least, according to Jeffrey Kluger, TIME Magazine senior editor for science and technology. Kluger appeared on Saturday’s CBS This Morning to discuss the recent trend toward warmer weather.

Co-host Jim Axelrod asked Kluger if the record-setting temperatures of the past year would finally end the debate among scientists over global warming. Kluger responded by slamming those who question manmade climate change: “Well, I think of the folks who are the climate deniers as the flat Earthers and the people who say the moon landings never happened.”  [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

This is an absurd comparison. Those who believed the Earth was flat have been proven wrong beyond the shadow of a doubt. The authenticity of the moon landing is also beyond question. But there are plenty of legitimate doubts about global warming, particularly a) to what extent if any human action causes it and b) if there's any course of action that could effectively halt it or reverse it. As the MRC has reported before, more than 1,000 scientists are on record as dissenting from the “consensus” on global warming.

Not only are climate change doubters crazy, according to Kluger, but they should be relegated to the proverbial kids’ table: “At some point, the body of scientific knowledge becomes so overwhelming that if you're denying it you're sort of willfully excluding yourself from the big people’s table where the conversations take place.” In conclusion, the doubters have lost the argument: “I do think that that argument that this is a hoax, that this is ginned up, that’s really been demolished.”

So how can we fight climate change, Mr. Kluger? Well, lucky for us, we have a president who knows exactly what to do:

The things that the president was describing and has described in the first four years of his administration are the things that we know work. Converting, slowly if it has to be, to renewables, wind, solar. For a while, nuclear and even shale gas can play a big part in this. The kinds of things the president has had to do in order to sidestep a somewhat recalcitrant Congress, like raising fuel efficiency standards. These things work as well.

How good to know that Obama can simply sidestep that pesky Congress, which refuses to buy into the global warming panic. Of course, “the things that we know work” will likely be very costly to implement and inefficient, so they will not work for consumers and, worse, could present economic hardship for countless Americans in an already sluggish economy.

Below is a transcript of the segment:


JIM AXELROD: And joining us now is Jeffrey Kluger, the TIME magazine senior editor for science and technology. Jeffrey, thanks for being with us.

JEFFREY KLUGER (Senior Editor, TIME Magazine): Thanks for having me.

JIM AXELROD: So as we look back at the year that was, are we talking about a new normal when it comes to weather, this extreme climate stuff?

JEFFREY KLUGER: Well, certainly the-- the last decade or-- or so suggests that. Of the top ten warming years on record, nine have been in the 2000s. And the one that is not in the 2000s is 1998. So this is all part of a cluster of years. The record-setting temperature months around the world have increased five-fold in the last forty years. They`re now-- we`re now having five record-setting months for every one we used to have before. And Katrina-type events are turning out to be twice as likely in years with warming as in other years. So there certainly seems to be a link.

JIM AXELROD: But what kind of evidence are we seeing that-- what-- what we`re in the middle of right now is not just a cycle but that it is some sort of permanent shift?

JEFFREY KLUGER: Well, and this is something that comes up a lot. We must distinguish between weather and climate. And weather is the short-term event--a day, a week, a month, even a year. Climate is these large thematic changes. Keep in mind, forty years ago, climatologists were telling us that the carbon density in the atmosphere, pre-Industrial Revolution, was two hundred and eighty parts per minute-- two hundred and eighty parts per million.

REBECCA JARVIS: Mm-Hm.

JEFFREY KLUGER: They warned us when we get to three fifty, we`ll be in a heck of a lot of trouble. We`re now at three ninety-four, and all of the dangers, all of the changes that they had been predicting have happened on schedule. If your doctor told you forty years ago that if you don`t take certain precautions you were going to get sick in certain ways and certain sequences. And it happened, you`d say, she knew what she was talking about.

REBECCA JARVIS: If you don`t take Lipitor, your cholesterol is going to five hundred.

JEFFREY KLUGER: Exactly, that`s right

REBECCA JARVIS: The president talked about this in his inaugural address. And I wonder when you have the rest of the world - Japan, for example, its nuclear reactor went down a few years ago because of the tsunami. Now they're having to use more fossil fuels. China, growing at a mega clip. How much can the United States really do if we were going to bring things back, how much could we do to change the world picture?

JEFFREY KLUGER: Well, let's keep in mind a very important detail, is that we have about 3 percent of the world's population and yet we produce 24 to 25 percent of the carbon output. So we are the gorilla in the room if we're going to make a change. The things that the president was describing and has described in the first four years of his administration are the things that we know work. Converting, slowly if it has to be, to renewables, wind, solar. For a while, nuclear and even shale gas can play a big part in this. The kinds of things the president has had to do in order to sidestep a somewhat recalcitrant Congress, like raising fuel efficiency standards. These things work as well. It's a little bit like, as you say, cholesterol. We know what the solutions are. We just have to be willing to embrace them.

JIM AXELROD: Are we likely to see with these fluctuations any further dispute among the scientific community that what we're dealing with is a result of global warming?

JEFFREY KLUGER: Well, I think of the folks who are the climate deniers as the flat Earthers and the people who say the moon landings never happened. At some point, the body of scientific knowledge becomes so overwhelming that if you're denying it you're sort of willfully excluding yourself from the big people’s table where the conversations take place, and I do think that that argument that this is a hoax, that this is ginned up, that’s really been demolished.     

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.