Times columnist Thomas Friedman was chewing the scenery in a Wednesday discussion of global warming on CNN's Amanpour show. He trashed Sen. James Inhofe for demanding an investigation into U.N. climate science, suggesting Inhofe needs to be investigated: "I'd love to see all the e-mails between his office and various coal and oil companies over the last 20 years....we'll let citizens and voters decide where the real science is."
Friedman also invoked Dick Cheney, oddly comparing Iraqi WMD to climate change: "I mean, I'm a Dick Cheney guy on this. I'm with Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney said, if there's a 1 percent chance that Iraq has a nuclear weapon, we need to take that on. Well, if there's a 1 percent chance on climate change, just like Cheney said - I'm with Cheney - we need to prepare for it."
Friedman appeared on CNN alongside leftist NASA scientist James Hansen - who insisted that cap-and-trade was for wimps, when we needed a massive carbon tax - and in a surprising nod to balance, Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. Amanpour began by asking about Inhofe's call for an investigation:
JAMES HANSEN: Yeah, well, I'd love to have an investigation, which should include Senator Inhofe, who's one of the most well-oiled, coal-fired politicians in Washington. He's very well funded to protect the fossil fuel industry, but he was elected to support the people.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask - I see Thomas Friedman, who's done a lot of work and writing, as everybody knows, on this climate debate. You just laughed when Jim Hansen described the U.S. senator in that way. What is going on here? Is there really a question about whether scientists have been illegally cooking the books?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, just to pick up where Jim Hansen left off, Christiane, Senator Inhofe wants an investigation. I'm for an investigation. I'd love to see all the e-mails between his office and various coal and oil companies over the last 20 years. So I bet Jim Hansen would be very happy to lay all his - I won't speak for him - but lay his documentation and research on the table, and we'll let Senator Inhofe lay all his e-mails on the table going back and forth between oil and coal companies, and we'll let citizens and voters decide where the real science is.
Friedman insisted that the errors and scientific manipulations exposed in the last few months are minor, and he energetically denied they matter:
AMANPOUR: Is the problem that the climate change camp never acknowledges any mistakes? Is that a problem?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, what you talked about the IPCC report, as Jim did, Christiane, you're talking about a report that includes, you know, thousands of pages and input from several thousand scientists. That there's one or two mistakes in there, I'm shocked. I'm devastated. And what the critics have done is seize on a small mistake and say, because that is wrong, everything's wrong.
After lecturing about the basics of how climate change is happening, Friedman concluded:
FRIEDMAN: But what we do know is this, Christiane, and this is really important. We know the gases we put up there stay there for like 3,000 years. In other words, they're irreversible. And we know that the chances of them producing possibly catastrophic climate change, some may say, is 90 percent, 80 percent, but it's not 0 percent.
FRIEDMAN: Whenever I see something - whenever I see something that is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, I buy insurance. That's what this is all about.
After a break, Amanpour played a clip of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders comparing climate-change deniers to the people who found no threat in Hitler:
SANDERS: The reason that this debate is so important is that it reminds me in some ways of the debate taking place in this country and around the world in the late 1930s. And during that period, with Nazism and fascism growing, a real danger to the United States and democratic countries all over the world, there were people in this Congress, in the British parliament, saying, "Don't worry. Hitler is not real. It'll disappear. We don't have to be prepared to take it on."
Amanpour simply called that "pretty stark," not a smear. Friedman didn't denounce Sanders in any way, and Amanpour never called for him to repudiate it.
AMANPOUR: That was a pretty stark statement from the lawmaker there, Sanders, in Congress, Tom. That was a pretty stark statement. What has to happen to give an irrefutable look to everybody around the world of the actual science of what's going on? Why isn't it - why isn't there some compendium of scientific fact out there?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, all of these climate studies are based on models. And they look at the past, how things developed, and they project into the future. And so no one can say exactly where it's going to go, but we are on one of those paths, Christiane; we just don't know which one.
Now, what I would simply say is this. If we listen to the climate change scientists, like Dr. Hansen, and we prepare for climate change, but climate change doesn't happen, what happens? Well, let's see. We have a cleaner air, cleaner environment. We have a more energy-independent economy, new industries, and global respect.
Let's see now. If we listen to Jim Inhofe, the climate deniers, and we don't get ready for climate change and climate change comes, we're a bad biological experiment. So, like, which part of the sentence don't you understand?
I mean, I'm a Dick Cheney guy on this. I'm with Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney said, if there's a 1 percent chance that Iraq has a nuclear weapon, we need to take that on. Well, if there's a 1 percent chance on climate change, just like Cheney said - I'm with Cheney - we need to prepare for it.
Friedman also aggressively called Inhofe "flat-out stupid" for mocking greenhouse alarmists with an igloo during the recent D.C. blizzard:
AMANPOUR: All right. Let me put up this video, then, of what everybody probably has seen already, and that is the igloo that was created by Senator Inhofe and his family, basically saying that the snow in Washington, D.C., negates the idea of global warming. So, Bjorn Lomborg...
FRIEDMAN: Christiane, can I say one thing about the igloo? That is flat-out stupid. In the same week that that igloo was being built, it was raining in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, on the - on the downhill ski rack. In Jerusalem, I believe it was 96 degrees one day. And my friend and stock broker in Maine was playing golf that day, OK? So the fact that it snowed in Washington tells you nothing.
AMANPOUR: But what it does tell you is that there are very clever ways of that camp using the media...
FRIEDMAN: There are clever ways of making people stupid, yes.
It also wouldn't be a Friedman appearance without gratuitous praise for communist China's environmental policies. "China this year, I believe, will become the world's leading manufacturer of solar panels, and the reason that solar panel prices have fallen dramatically in China is not just because of research - Bjorn's absolutely right about that, research is necessary - but what brings the price of your iPod down from $500 to $100 is mass manufacturing based on deployment here and now."
Hansen agreed that China had a better energy policy, and then he insisted the alarmists at the UN's Intergovermental Panel of Climate Change are actually "very conservative" in their forecasts:
AMANPOUR: And you, the climate scientist, do you have to change what you do? Because the "scare the pants off" brigade has resulted in a lot of skeptics around.
HANSEN: Let me - let me correct that. The scientists have been conservative. IPCC was very conservative. All the new data comes in shows that we were too conservative. Greenland and West Antarctica are beginning to shed ice twice as fast as they were five years go. So, no, we have not been exaggerating the story at all.
But even Hansen admitted the estimates of the speed of melting in the Himalayas were exaggerated.