Fight Stupidity Now!

by Richard T. Stuebi

As a big sports fan, I’ve become an enthusiastic listener of Mad Dog Radio on Sirius, enjoying the rantings and ravings of both hosts and callers alike. It’s quite an eyehole (or earhole) into an interesting segment of Americana.

Unfortunately, one disconcerting aspect about this segment is reflected by the advertisers that choose to send their messages to this audience. Advertisers include such products and services of dubious veracity as the Hollywood Cookie Diet, the California Psychic Hotline, and water vapor cigarettes.

Clearly, the demographic of the Mad Dog Radio listening audience is such that discriminating intelligence is not its hallmark characteristic.

To this apparently intellectually-challenged audience, an organization called the Institute of Policy Innovation has begun to run a 30-second soundbite called “Is the Earth Actually Cooling?”, narrated by Dr. Merrill Matthews. Dr. Matthews, whose stated credentials are in health care policy (in contrast to climatology, a more useful background for someone who’s going to opine on this topic), alleges – without substantiation, other than the offhand comment that unnamed “Russian scientists” are increasingly convinced – that the evidence is now suggesting that the earth is “on the verge of a mini-Ice Age”, rather than warming. He closes with the following cheap shot:

“ But at least all those global warming scolds may leave the rest of us alone allowing them to fly around in their private jets openly and guilt free.”

This dreck I find very annoying and insulting. By affiliation with its fellow advertisers, I put the Institute of Policy Innovation right alongside the California Psychic Hotline in terms of credibility. However, to an audience inclined to believe that psychics can provide good personal advice, no doubt Dr. Matthews’ asinine and unsupportable message is compelling to many.

This is not to say that cleantech advocates don’t also offer up their share of absurdities. As an example, I can’t tell you how fatigued I’ve become with “green job” mantras, almost implying that such jobs can be created by whim or fiat. No, they can’t: jobs (at least, good long-term non-governmental ones) are created only after economic opportunities for profit- and wealth-creation emerge. Instead of focusing on creating green jobs, the debate should be about creating a healthy market environment within which employers can/will hire people to pursue those economic opportunities.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I want people in key positions affecting my life – such as my doctors, for example – to be both smart and educated in their disciplines. Why don’t more of us insist that those who are debating our political and social futures, on key issues such as climate change and the future green economy, also be among the most intelligent and well-informed?

More of us need to take a stand: fight stupidity now!

Our future increasingly depends on wise choices in a complex world. We cannot abide those who pollute airwaves with misleading or erroneous statements on critical civic topics — especially to listeners whose judgment on matters more important than sports is probably not highly refined, but who nevertheless vote and otherwise make their voices heard in the political arena.

As the Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at the Cleveland Foundation, Richard T. Stuebi is on loan to NorTech as a founding Principal in its advanced energy initiative. He is also a Managing Director at Early Stage Partners, and is the founder of NextWave Energy.

3 replies
  1. Tom Giovanetti
    Tom Giovanetti says:

    Hey, thanks for covering our work!First, you might be interested to know that we don't target our paid commentaries to the channels you mentioned. We target 2 channels, but Sirius/XM reserves the right to run our spots on other channels at their discretion to fill space.Second, if you do follow climate change issues, you must know that informed skepticism about the climate crisis is growing, not shrinking.And third, it might surprise you to know that IPI is very pro-green tech. We just don't think you need to exaggerate a crisis in order to promote green tech.

  2. Richard Stuebi
    Richard Stuebi says:

    Tom,I question your assertion that "informed skepticism about the climate crisis is growing". Rather than offering my thoughts on your opinion, I asked a colleague very well versed in climate science to respond. Here is what he said:"I don’t think that there is more informed climate skepticism out there. One of the more 'serious' attempts would be the NIPCC report :http://www.nipccreport.org/"I certainly haven’t read the whole thing (haven’t read the whole IPCC either), but I did look through some of the key sections to see what kinds of arguments they were making. I quickly tired of reading it. It was the same old skeptic tactics of:-focusing on a few outlying data while ignoring the big evidence-presenting arguments and data that seem very impressive to laypeople but are easily debunked by experts"The only critical position I have seen that I might call 'informed' is the one that admits that climate change is real but asserts that we will be able to adapt to it relatively easily. This argument has a few merits. First, it doesn’t try to deny well established climate change science. It also responds to the statements of some environmental groups that have an unfortunate tendency to hype some of the impacts in their (otherwise well placed) zeal. The lower end climate change projections may not be too painful, there may be a few 'winners' (midlatitudes or northerly agriculture) and some impacts may be easier to adapt to than to prevent by mitigation. I think there are several related flaws in the argument, however. First, it is a developed country perspective. It ignores that it will be difficult for many species to adapt, perhaps leading to the extinction of many. Second, it will also be difficult for developing countries. What should Bangladesh do about sea level rise? Third, it ignores the (maybe) small but real possibility of severe/catastrophic climate change with bad damages, even to developed countries.I actually don’t see this (slightly) 'informed' position very often. More often, I see the same old skeptic tactics as always that try to deny the science. Of course, during this time of national debate, you see these old tactics more frequently. Because they can sound persuasive to non-experts, it might lead some to conclude that 'informed climate skepticism is growing'. I don’t think any climate experts would agree with this statement, however."Richard

  3. Jerry Dycus
    Jerry Dycus says:

    I see little informed about IPI. I'd bet they are oil, coal or other business back propaganda group. Where do they get their money? They should be ashamed of themselves.The 'Cooling' is based on one data point, the high temp in 98 or 99 that was very high because of a very strong El-nino that yr. If any other yr is taken or any 10 yr running average, we are rising in temp.Here is how to do this better. We can have a stimulus that costs almost nothing to the taxpayer, in fact paid a lot by Iran, Russia, oil dictators while cutting CO2!!How is start up loans for RE companies and energy eff ones. Let most anyone with a good business plan through the SBA get start up loans to build or install home, small business size windgenerators, solar CSP unit, CHP, small lightweight, aero 3 wheel EV's, etc. Then loans to buy, install, etc these.Loans for home, building eff upgrades from windows, insulation, etc are next. This would put construction, material workers back to work.All these can be paid for in energy savings in 5 yrs so no new income costs either. This will create about 3 million jobs directly and probably 6 million indirectly of people supporting them.Next is a fossil fuel tax to pay their full cost of the direct, indirect subsidies we already pay in our income tax, health care, etc. it's time those who make, benefit from those costs to pay them It should be a $1.50/gal on oil and about double the price of coal.But you say a tax will kill the economy. Not if it's put in over 2 yrs at 4% each month and loans given to buy more eff cars, etc to cut people's costs. Switching trucks, semi's to NG is very cost effective now being under 50% of the cost of diesel/gasoline. This can in 5 yrs cut imported oil needs.The beauty of this is oil, coal will drop in price making Iran, Russia, oil dictators pay most of the oil tax, coal is only 25% of your electric bill so it won't go up much.But new, more eff cars, trucks, EV's, PHEV's and mass transit will create more new jobs too.The fossil fuel tax revenue, 1/3 would go to a tax cut so those people paying it have the extra money needed if they continue to use the same amount or better, use less and have extra income, the more likely outcome. 1/3 to to help switching to more eff cars, trucks, homes, buildings and 1/3 to balance the budget fossil fuels have been a large part in making.So this program would have a net increase of about 8-10 million jobs of both direct and supporting those who have the new jobs, solve our imported oil problem, let us leave the Persian gulf between the 2 are about $1T/yr in a few yrs if we don't, stop subsidizing our enemies, oil/coal corporations and balance the budget. All at little cost to the gov, in fact get rid of our debt on our children and make our country strong again.Or we will be broke, at war, our enemies strong and we will be weak. To me it's the only real patriotic way to go.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!