Return to Transcripts main page


Cold Sparks Climate Skeptics

Aired January 06, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, it's cold enough to turn hot water into snow.



ANNOUNCER: How far below zero does it have to get to cool off the global warming debate? On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Navin Nayak, who wants climate change legislation, and David Kreutzer, who's against it.

This week's historic cold brings out the skeptics. Will it put the climate change debate in the deep freeze? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Van Jones on the left.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, guests on opposite sides of the global warming debate.

On this extraordinary cold evening when Atlanta is colder than Moscow, I want to begin by sharing some inconvenient facts about the theory of global warming.

In 2007, Al Gore and the BBC both shared this prediction: the Arctic would be ice-free by 2013. Last year, ice in the Arctic grew by 60 percent.

As for the alarmist claim that global temperatures would rise for the foreseeable future, temperatures have flat-lined for the past 16 years. The facts are challenging politically-correct theories. There's enough evidence to at least have a serious debate about carbon taxes, destructive regulations and job-killing high-cost energy proposals.

Is it cold enough for you?

JONES: It's about to get hot in here -- I will tell you that -- when we have this debate.

Look, I -- I agree with you that we should have a debate, but we should not be debating whether global warming is real, whether it's caused by humans. Ninety-seven percent of all the peer-reviewed literature says it is. That's the same level of agreement that you got that HIV causes AIDS. And I -- we should be debating what to do about it, not debating whether it's happening.

And tonight in the CROSSFIRE we've got some folks that can help us. We've got Navin Nayak, who's with the League of Conservation Voters. We've also got David Kreutzer, who studies economics and climate change for the Heritage Foundation, one of my favorite --

DAVID KREUTZER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: There we go. We'll send you a pledge card.

JONES: OK. Well, at some point we've got to get you over there.

But look, you and I have been talking about this issue for many years. I don't understand how you can have a position that you've got right now. A lot of people are saying that -- 97 percent, I said -- 97 percent of the peer-reviewed literature in this field says that humans are causing climate change.

Let me show you who does not agree with that. Donald Trump, Professor Donald Trump is on your side of this thing. He says, "This very expensive global warming B.S." -- That's a scientific term -- "has got to stop."

You've got Erick Erickson, Professor Erick Erickson, who says the difference between people who believe in the second coming of Jesus and those who believe in global warming is that Jesus, in fact, will return."

Can you explain to me why you're on the side of Professor Donald Trump, against 97 percent of scientists?

KREUTZER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Happy to do it. Ninety-seven percent, by the way, is a bogus term. They threw out about 97 percent of the literature they're looking at because it didn't say anything.

JONES: Because it wasn't peer-reviewed.

KREUTZER: No, no, no.

JONES: It's peer-reviewed stuff.

KREUTZER: No, no, no. It doesn't matter, because what they agree on is so innocuous that all of what you call deniers agree with it, as well. That the world is getting warmer, all right? And that some of that warming is due to man, maybe a significant amount.

The debate should be over how much warming are we going to have? And even more importantly than that, what is your legislation going to do to combat it? That's the one you can't beat.

JONES: Well, first of all, the legislation that we would like to put forward to do something about it came from your wonderful Heritage Foundation, the cap and trade framework we can talk about. KREUTZER: Oh, yes. I'll be happy to do that.

JONES: Exactly. But honestly, I think that we are in a very serious problem in the United States. You have wacky weather not just here. You've got one cold snap. You've got wacky weather all around the world. You've got a heat wave in our --

KREUTZER: This is science? Wacky is a science?

JONES: I'm trying to come up to your Donald Trump level.

GINGRICH: This is Professor Jones.

KREUTZER: Haven't gotten there yet. Raise it a bit.

JONES: But listen, we have -- we have very severe extreme weather events that are happening even here in the United States. California right now, you've got the ice caps melting on the mountains there. You've got a big heat wave in Australia, Argentina. Wacky weather, dangerous weather all around the world. And I think by the United States not moving aggressively, being held up by folks like you, we're missing a chance to do something about it.

KREUTZER: All right. Let me guide you, not hold you up. All right?

If you look at the science, the science on both sides understand that the trend in hurricanes is flat. We're not having more hurricanes. It has gotten warmer, and we're not having more hurricanes. We're not having more tornadoes. Scientists agree that there's not an increase in drought, in floods, in all these things.

What we have is climate ambulance chasers. They go after -- every time there's an adverse event --

JONES: You see?

KREUTZER: Every time there's an adverse event, you run over and you say, "See, look, this is just what we expect with global warming."

Well, you know what? Global warming says, "This is consistent with our models, and this" -- they have a zillion models that can explain everything except the lack of warming in the past 15 years.

NAVIN NAYAK, LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS: So suddenly -- you'd like to pick the 15-year period suddenly, even though there's been a trend that compares the last 15 years shows that it's been a huge increase in heat -- the last eight of the nine hottest years have been in the last eight years. Right?

KREUTZER: According to some people. That's debatable. But in any event --

NAYAK: At some point this is the problem. Right? This isn't science any more. We're not having a scientific debate. This is politics. Right? When the National Academy of Science, when the IPCC, when 11 countries, National Academy of Sciences, all say it's going to result in more tornadoes, more droughts, more wildfires, all of these things, you're not -- you're not bringing back science. You're bringing back Donald Trump.

KREUTZER: OK, wait. The science we need is just numbers, all right? We've had the warming that you all say is not only man-made but it's significant. And you point to all these things that it's causing. But if you look at the numbers, it's not causing more tornadoes. It's not causing more hurricanes. It's not causing more floods. We've always had floods and hurricanes.

JONES: Think of the Weather Channel. Look at it.

KREUTZER: That's not science. We have numbers. That's what science is.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you a question, though, because it does strike me -- and I know this doesn't fit in the politically correct mantra.

When you look at the patterns, the fact is that, for example, on the Arctic ice, it's come back in a very big way. In Antarctica, you now have this fiasco of the people who went down there to prove the ocean was open -- and then by the way, worried about carbon footprint even though they were in a diesel boat -- who are now trapped in the ice, who've had two different icebreakers come in to try to help them. They're now talking about they're going to do extraordinary things to offset the carbon footprint of all three of these.

I mean, isn't there a point where we should at least have some conversation about the degree to which it may not be as predictable as some of the computer models have suggested?

NAYAK: Absolutely. Every scientific report gives you a range. They're not going to tell you exactly how much it's going to warm. They're not going to say it's going to be a hundred more droughts or a hundred more wildfires. These people aren't seeing into the future. What they're telling you, based on scientific expertise, which I don't believe you have either, is they're showing you a trend. And the trend is not -- I mean, we may be the last four people that are having this debate. And I can tell you other countries are moving forward, actually trying to take action.

GINGRICH: Wait just one second. The head of the German climatology is going to the IPCC meeting this week, because he believes they have been totally misrepresented. And he believes, in fact, that they're not accurate.

I mean, you find a number of places around the world now where they're pretty sophisticated people who are saying we have gone way overboard on these computer models.

JONES: But part of the thing is, even if you take the number that you the just threw out there about that 60 percent, that's a 60 percent rebound in one year from one of the worst numbers that we've had. In other words, you can have a ball bouncing down a hill, and when you see the bounce up, you go, "A-ha, the ball is not going down the hill." This is the kind of stuff, I think, that makes the conversation very difficult. And you know, get in, and then I want --

KREUTZER: Yes, right. You're looking at one spot: the Arctic. We're talking about global warming. If you look at global sea ice, it is at a record because of the huge increase in the Antarctic. There's a decrease in the Arctic and a huge increase in the Antarctic. And of course, I say, well, we have models that explain this, but --

NAYAK: Can I ask what scientific body you quote? Like, give me a body of people who -- This issue has been studied by the largest number of scientists in the world. No issue. No issue has been studied --


NAYAK: Here's what you guys are doing. Here's what you guys are doing. Let me give you the analogy. OK?

KREUTZER: Give me the analogy.

NAYAK: Somebody smoked cigarettes their whole lives, lives until 80 or 90. You would say, just like that one example, hey, cigarettes must be fine for you. Right? Cigarettes must be OK. This guy lived. He smoked cigarettes. It must be OK for you. You're just cherry picking an anecdotal fact.


KREUTZER: -- analogy.

JONES: And I want you to respond, because that's exactly what happened with the science on tobacco. My father died of lung cancer. And for about 40 years they were handpicking science, the tobacco industry, saying, "Look. Look at this. Look at this, it's safe." And turned out it wasn't safe. I'll never get my dad back. I don't want us to lose the planet from the same kind of bad reasoning. How do you respond to that?

KREUTZER: This is exactly the sort of fraud that we're talking about. There's -- this is agreement that there's warming. There's agreement that CO2 is a global warming gas. There's agreement that human activity is increasing that. There's not agreement that we're heading to a catastrophe. That's the thought.

And then we look. We don't have to have denier science or denier math or denier Web sites, you can go to NOAA and look for coverage for sea ice. You can go to NOAA's Web site and look at numbers for sea ice coverage. Go to NOAA's Web site and look at the trend for 20 years. You go to NOAA's Web site and look at the trend for hurricanes. It's flat. That's not mine. That's --

GINGRICH: I'm very happy to debate science.

JONES: Yes, yes. GINGRICH: OK? And I'll give you an example of a large anomaly. Because mine would be, compared to the sun and compared to various patterns of earth behavior, if you look out over time, it is very unlikely that carbon load in the atmosphere is nearly as powerful as these things.

One specific: 11,000 years ago, for reasons we have no understanding of, the Gulf Stream quit. You have 600 years of a little ice age in Europe with glaciers coming down across northern Europe, after 600 years the Gulf Stream started.

I don't know that there's a single climatologist on the planet today who can explain either why it stopped or why it started. Now, if you have things on this scale -- and by the way you're seeing this start up right now on what explaining the last 16 years was, depending on -- oh, yes, you remember there's this thing happening in the Pacific and the ocean and the Atlantic Ocean --

JONES: But there are other factors.

GINGRICH: No, I'm just saying, all of a sudden stuff we didn't even -- some of which we didn't know existed ten years ago are suddenly major factors that have nothing to do with carbon. So isn't it at least fair to say carbon may be a factor and so may solar energy? So may the earth's magnetic field, the tilting of the earth? There are a lot of factors here.

NAYAK: I am a biologist, actually, by training. I don't know, you know, how many -- we're doing this through politics. If nine out of ten doctors came to you and told you your kid was sick, and there's something you should do about it, would you really say, "No, I'm not really sure. I'm going to trust the one doctor who still is -- thinks he's OK and thinks there's some other factor that you don't control that's actually"? No, we're talking about the future of our planet. There's a moral obligation here for us to start acting.

JONES: I agree 100 percent. And so far, we've been talking about today's climate just here in the northern part of the United States.

When we come back, we're going to talk about the climate news you haven't been hearing about from around the world. Next.


JONES: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got Navin Nayak and David Kreutzer.

With record temperatures across the country, low temperatures, they're back. The climate-change skeptics and their junk science. News flash. News flash, folks: one freakish cold snap does not overturn the basic laws of science.

Here's what every seventh grader knows. If you add more greenhouse gases to a system, you will have a hotter system. This increasingly wacky weather is actually a man-made problem, and we need a man-made solution. It's not just about today's extreme cold. It's about extreme weather all around the world.

Parts of Australia right now are hot enough to melt candles. In California, the ice packs are melting while we've got snow like we've never seen in Georgia. The fire season out West is now practically 12 months long.

Something is happening, it's serious, and it is fine for people to pick their senators using politics. They should not pick their science using politics. That's much too dangerous.

So, to you, sir.


JONES: You say that there's agreement that you are not denying the basic science, if you take a beaker and you add greenhouse gases to it, it will get hotter. You're not denying that.


JONES: But you're trying to make the case for some reason -- I don't know why -- that we can take a billion years of carbon stored underground suck it out into our atmosphere over a hundred years and not have catastrophic outcomes?

How can you possibly make that claim?

KREUTZER: Can we do science?


KREUTZER: OK. Here's the science, if you take the CO2 alone and you double it, which is where we're headed for by the end of this century. You double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the science is clear because they can do that in lab. If that's all you do, you get between 1 and 1 1/2 degrees centigrade increase in temperature which is not catastrophe.

All the models to get these horror stories have to have feedback loops, and lots of them.

JONES: Like methane being released, the massive --

KREUTZER: Like methane, and so on, all these sorts of things. That's not seventh grade science and it's not working. The models are all off.


JONES: Methane is 10 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon, that's science. And we know for sure that a ton of methane in the arctic is waiting to be released. So is it your argument that science works for carbon but not for methane?

KREUTZER: No, it works for methane.


KREUTZER: But when it gets warmer there might be more carbon fixing in the bogs than release of carbon. So, that's science. We don't know that.

They need a whole chain of low probability events in order to get the catastrophic warming.

NAYAK: You're just playing roulette, right? This is like -- again, if you're doing it with your own life, that's your choice at some level. This is a planetary decision we're making. We're talking about the future of our children and grandchildren.

Just like our parents and grandparents left us a better planet. We have a responsibility, a moral obligation to actually do something better here. The fact of the matter is that there are solutions that we should be debating. That's --

KREUTZER: I'm happy to do that.

NAYAK: Let me just finish, one quick thing.

Here's -- the only thing that's changed in the last 10 years is the politics. The science has stayed -- has gotten more convincing if anything. The fact that you can sit on a couch eight years ago and talk about, yes, this is real, now we need to do something, along with many other Republican governors around the country who are actually acting on this.

Now, that's what's changed. We're actually backwards having a debate. That's because of the Tea Party. It's because of the fossil fuel industry, because of the money the Koch brothers have put in. The science has gotten more --

KREUTZER: And because there hasn't been any more --


GINGRICH: First of all, there hasn't many warming.

But let me ask you a question for a sec. Assume that we have the capacity to actually decide the planet's temperature, that we could do whatever policies you think could work, what's the right temperature?

NAYAK: For the planet itself?

GINGRICH: For the planet. I mean, it's always amazed me because I'm an amateur paleontologist. I look at -- I've been at the University of Chicago, to the Field Museum in Chicago looking at dinosaurs from the Antarctic. I've also been in Wisconsin looking at the ice sheets -- what's left over from the glacial marine when you had literally a mile-thick ice coming all the way down.

How -- what kind of hubris does it take to say, I know exactly what this planet's temperature ought to be and I'm going to manage it to that effect?

JONES: Well, I'll give you the hubris. This is my hubris, the perfect temperature for the last 10,000 years, where we actually had human civilization, would be nice to stay within that if we can. And there's no reason to think that we can't.

The problem is if we put the foot on the accelerator with this experiment we're doing with the only planet that we know and we're wrong and we wind up cooking the planet. That's a bad outcome, you can't recover from. There are alternatives to using intensive carbon- based fuels, which mean moving in that direction.

GINGRICH: Friend --

NAYAK: Never senator.

GINGRICH: No. Since we talk about science, the age of the dinosaurs was dramatically warmer than this is right now and it didn't cook the planet. In fact, life was fine.

JONES: Life was fine, but not for people --

GINGRICH: The number of people leaving Minnesota this evening to get to the Caribbean versus the people leaving the Caribbean to get to Minnesota would argue that slightly warmer wouldn't be a crisis.

JONES: Hold on a second.


GINGRICH: I am. What's the right temperature?

JONES: First of all, you are somebody who cares an awful lot about animals, about the species.


JONES: You've been a huge champion. Almost all of the major climate scientists say that you can have massive die-off (ph) of many more species than just the ones that you stood for. But for all you can -- you can barely wait to get in here. Let me finish.


KREUTZER: He did that to me on purpose.


JONES: Exactly, that's right.

No, listen, sure, will human beings be able to figure out to survive on many circumstances, yes. But the kind of civilization that we have had, with the kind of agricultural systems that we have had, are in grave danger. And also, you mentioned other species. Other species might do better than we would under the radically changed scenario.

You tell me why you don't like that.

KREUTZER: It's a bait and switch, 97 percent of some subset of scientists agree that we are manmade global warming is what we have seen over the past 1,500 years, all right?

That's uncontroversial and maybe unconvertible. The bait and switch is you say we are heading to catastrophic warming. All the major scientists say we're going to lose -- no, they don't. There are some that say that. There's no consensus on major die-off of both species.

JONES: And you have zero concern about major die-off species. Listen, I will get to this later. I used to work in the White House and I know for sure when you do scenario planning, you've got to be responsible for outcomes like the ones we are talking about. In the White House and in the Pentagon there are no scenarios that don't include significant global warming.

And many of those scenarios are dire from a geopolitical point of view, from biodiversity point of view. And for us to be sitting here, well, maybe -- maybe not is horribly irresponsible.

KREUTZER: We know that there are a lot of bad things that can happen. Some of them very bad with low probability and so on. To pick out one of them, global warming and say that is the one -- that's the challenge of the 21st century -- we don't know what's going to be the biggest challenge of 21st century.

NAYAK: It's like Van picked that out. You got that, right? It's not like I just stood up one morning, this is the issue that has been studied by the largest body of scientists. How do you just turn around and reject --

KREUTZER: I'm not rejecting that.

NAYAK: -- tens of thousands -- no. But if you look at the IPCC report, there are catastrophic -- it may not be species die-off, but there are serious survival concerns around what the planet would be like.

KREUTZER: And they pulled back on the expected temperature increase from the previous study, even though they are more convinced now but it's at lower levels. And since then, more studies have come out squeezing that down even farther.

GINGRICH: Yes, I hate to slow us down.

KREUTZER: Oh, yes.

GINGRICH: This is really a pretty good conversation. But stay here.

Next, the final question for both of our guests. You know, the cold may be on many people's minds. But we're going to switch gears for our "Fireback" question, who will win the BCS championship game tonight between Auburn and Florida State.

I asked for this question. It matters to me. It doesn't matter to them.

Reply now with Auburn or FSU using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.


GINGRICH: We're back with Navin Nayak and David Kreutzer.

Now, it's time for the final question.

And I want to ask you for a second, Navin, I always thought we had an inadequate debate between adaptation and stopping it. And the example that hit me as a historian was, you know, if Gore had come around at 1,400 he would have said to the Dutch, why don't we lower the seat? But it's because it was impractical to lower the seat, the Dutch rolled the dice, which are much more -- if you're a single country, they are much more cost efficient response to the oceans.

I mean, aren't there a lot of adaptations that could be taken, that given the range of what we're seeing for the next century, would actually be less expensive than trying to control the world's carbon economy?

NAYAK: I think the simple answer is that we're smart enough to do both. I actually have the faith in the American people particularly if we allow them to live that we can actually reduce the impacts of climate change. And, yes, unfortunately, there is so much warming that's already going to happen that we do have to deal with mitigation.

But what's happening right now in the U.S. is we are saying, no, no, the problem is not real and, oh, maybe you can do this other things and trying to mitigate a problem that we said doesn't exist.

JONES: Well said, sir.

Now to you.


JONES: Now to you. Look, each decade has been hotter than the one before for the past three decades. We're in a situation now where it looks like good scenario planning would include serious concerns about climate change and in fact the Pentagon almost all of its scenarios, bake in serious climate change. Would you advise the Pentagon not to prepare America for a world of serious climate change?

KREUTZER: Yes, probably not. But here's more importantly. What I would advise not doing is sitting there and staring at the ceiling and twirling your fingers in your hair and saying, what can we do by cutting our energy use? We know that cutting energy use in the U.S., cut it by 80 percent, cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent, cut them by 100 percent, will have negligible impact on global warming. That is agreed by everybody.

GINGRICH: And they'll come back for another day. Thanks to Navin Nayak and David Kreutzer.

Go to Facebook or Twitter to weigh in on our "Fireback" question, who will win the BCS Championship Game tonight between Auburn and Florida state? Right now, 49 percent of you say Auburn, 51 percent say Florida State. It's going to be a close game.

JONES: The debate continues online at, as well on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of "CROSSFIRE."

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.