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Jon Stewart's Oddly Uneducated Views on Climate Change

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It's been a strange week or so for Jon Stewart (who I should admit up front I admire and think of as one of our finest investigative journalists).

First, Stewart interviewed Steven Levitt, co-author of SuperFreakonomics, the book that takes all the old climate skeptic arguments and trots them out like they're new and shiny. (Really, the book is disastrous on the science front ... but it's actually even worse as an economic argument since they completely ignore all the massive benefits of decoupling our economy from carbon and fossil fuels -- security, health, savings, etc).

He gives Levitt an unreal pass and laments "how angry people are" and the "secular religion" of climate change. Question: Why is acceptance of vast scientific agreement of a large-scale problem -- and searching for solutions in the most economic way -- portrayed as some emotional reaction?

And why is someone who's normally so critical of vested interests and hidden agendas so unaware of where these really dangerous ideas -- that climate change isn't so bad and is easily fixable -- are coming from (and who's paying for them)?. Stewart comments that Levitt is not denying the science -- but if Stewart had read the criticisms of blogger Joe Romm, the Economist, the Union of Concerned Scientists, (or even my post), he would've understood that the scientists Levitt cites are completely disavowing his interpretation and that their arguments are completely unsupported by facts. Levitt and Dubner are absolutely denying the dominant scientific perspective, and even weirder for an economist, ignoring the economics.

So, last night Stewart interviewed Al Gore and it was a really strange interview. He kept pushing Gore on why there isn't a simple, single solution to the problem. Where's the cheaper alternative and the hover cars, he asked. As if we power our lives currently with only one solution. Of course the solutions to the entire power supply for our economy and lives will be somewhat complicated to change. Gore was trying to say that we do have all the technologies, but we just need the political will to enact them (perhaps oversimplifying the issues, but directionally correct). But Stewart kept acting put out that it won't be as simple as switching from buggies to cars, as he says -- which, by the way, wasn't so simple either. Steward always half jokes, but he's usually far more educated about what he's commenting on.

It's worrisome when someone usually so careful to do his research seems to know so little about a large, important topic that is reshaping global economies and our lives. It just highlights what a large communication challenge we face.

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