Nightline co-anchor Bill Weir on Tuesday belatedly celebrated Earth Day by touting a left-wing environmentalist who is pushing for new carbon taxes and opposing the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline. Weir failed to label Bill McKibben as a liberal. Instead, the journalist simply referred to him as an "organizer," an "agitator" and a "lobbyist."
Weir lectured his audience, "So, how does [McKibben] convince a nation of oiloholics to dry out? Well, he organizes and agitates and lobbies for a tax on carbon. He gets arrested for protesting that big new pipeline from Canada and tries to convince colleges to dump their oil company stock." [MP3 audio here.] Unlike Weir, McKibben's own website has no problem with ideological labels. One post begins, "So you’re a progressive and you’ve been sitting on the sidelines of the Keystone XL fight. Sure, you’ve heard about the pipeline but you haven’t yet drawn your sword and taken up the struggle."
Co-anchor Cynthia McFadden began the segment by hyping McKibben's accuracy, insisting that "If anyone in the world of climate science has the right to say 'I told you so,' it may well be Bill McKibben." His predictions apparently include "super-charged storms and drought." (As if those things didn't exist before the industrial age.)
McKibben cited the first Earth Day in 1970 as an example of the continuing struggle. On the subject of predictions and the environmental holiday, the conservative group FreedomWorks put together a list of bogus prophecies made at the first Earth Day:
"Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." — Harvard biologist George Wald
"[By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s." — Paul Ehrlich
"In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half." — Life magazine
Of course, Weir wasn't interested in those predictions, just in pushing a liberal, high tax agenda.
The co-anchor only managed a single question in opposition to the green agenda. He wondered what McKibben would say to those who would argue: "We also need the Keystone XL pipeline because our economy depends on it and people in emerging markets need to eat."
A transcript of the April 23 segment can be found below:
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: If anyone in the world of climate science has the right to say "I told you so," it may well be Bill McKibben. One of the nation's leading environmentalists, McKibben has been writing about global warming for almost 25 years. And now, some of his predictions have come to pass: Super-charged storms and drought and a disappearing arctic all brought on by the highest temperatures in recorded history. So, for Earth Day, he sat down with my co-anchor Bill Weir for a look at the state of the planet by the numbers.
BILL WEIR: There are just three numbers. But taken together, they represent a startling new equation for life on this planet as we know it. The first number is two, as in two degrees Celsius.
BILL MCKIBBEN (Environmentalist, Founder 350.org): That's how much the world's leaders and governments have agreed we could let the temperature raise and maybe get away with it.
WEIR: At the last climate summit in Copenhagen, that was literally the only thing everyone could agree on. The U.S., China, Russia, Europe, even the oil-rich Arab Emirates all signed onto the belief that if the planet warms by more than two degrees, the human race is screwed. Now, even the CEO of Exxon finally admits that pumping carbon into the air warms the planet.
REX TILLERSON: I'm not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere is going to have an impact, it will have a warming impact.
WEIR: So the big question is how much can we burn and stay within those two degrees. Well, scientists believe it's around 565 gigatons or 565 billion tons.
MCKIBBEN: Which sounds like a lot. A billion tons of something is a lot. But at the rate we're burning carbon now, we blow past that in about 14 years. So, that's a bad number.
WEIR: But the last number is new and even scarier. It is how much carbon fuel the world has in reserve. How much it could burn without looking for anymore. A team of analyst in Britain poured over all the financial reports of all the world's fossil fuel countries and they realized we're already sitting on nearly 2800 gigatons.
MCKIBBEN: Five and a half times as much as the most conservative government thinks would be safe to burn. But, they're going to burn it.
WEIR: So, how does he convince a nation of oiloholics to dry out? [Onscreen: Picture of McKibben giving a speech, wearing a "Stop Keystone XL t-shirt.] Well, he organizes and agitates and lobbies for a tax on carbon. He gets arrested for protesting that big new pipeline from Canada and tries to convince colleges to dump their oil company stock. So, to somebody who says, it's a very common political phrase, "we need an all-of-the-above" strategy. We need, sure, clean energy, solar panels, but we also need the Keystone XL pipeline because our economy depends on it and people in emerging markets need to eat." To that you'd say?
MCKIBBEN: Well, to that I'd say, we gotta change because our economy depends on changing. If we get global warming get out of hand, the effects on our economy are equivalent to World War I, World War II and the Great Depression combined. We look back on the first Earth Day in 1970. They think 20 million Americans were in the street. One in ten of the current population then. That's the kind of movement we're going to need if we're going to stand up to the power of this industry and make the change that we need.
-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.