Unintentional auto-satire


in Politics, Rants, Science, The environment

For a while, I was planning to simply ignore these videos, produced by the ‘Competitive Enterprise Institute,’ but they have now been sent to me enough times to indicate that this hopelessly disingenuous message is getting out. Let’s go through them, one by one:


Nobody in their right mind denies that carbon dioxide is “essential to life” or that “we breathe it out.” What any competent scientist will tell you is that releasing masses of it affects the way in which the atmosphere deals with the radiant energy from the sun. Higher concentrations of gasses of certain kinds (CO2, methane, etc) in the atmosphere cause the planet to absorb and retain more solar energy. That raises the mean global temperature and reduces the ratio of frozen to liquid water on earth. CO2 isn’t a pollutant, in the toxic sense, but it does affect how the earth is affected by the sun.

Regarding the issue of whether fuels that emit CO2 have “freed us from a world of backbreaking labour,” they probably have. That said, that doesn’t mean they are the only way we can avoid such suffering, nor does it mean that such alleviation comes without a cost.


Producing two scientific papers that show that specific ice sheets are growing or increasing in density doesn’t mean that the world overall isn’t experiencing global warming. While there is plenty of dispute about how bad global warming would be and how much it would cost to stop, to deny that it is happening on the basis of such a flimsy argument is worse than irresponsible.

It’s almost astonishing that anyone would be driven to respond to such absolute malarky. Likewise, I can’t believe that anyone who participated in the creation of these videos did so with genuine intent. They are absurd at the level of the “Amendment Song” from The Simpsons or many Monty Python sketches. If such things actually have the power to shape public opinion, we are in even worse shape than I thought.

Do you think these people are on crack? Whether you do or don’t, send an email to Myron Ebell, their Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy. It seems that messages to him need to go through this email address.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous May 23, 2006 at 1:33 am

Apparently, these yahoos don’t restrict themselves to absurd videos about climate change. Take a look at a video on firearms produced by a related project.

Milan May 23, 2006 at 1:39 am

“Free rock with every purchase?”

I am beginning to suspect that this whole thing is a grand parody of the incoherent right. Like we can only hope that Ann Coulter is, for instance.

R.K. May 23, 2006 at 1:27 am

Regarding Myron Ebell:

The fact that he includes the following in his bio probably means he is a hopeless case:

Among numerous recognitions, Greenpeace featured Mr. Ebell and three of his CEI colleagues in “A Field Guide to Climate Criminals” distributed at the UN climate meeting in Montreal in December 2005. Rolling Stone magazine in its November 17, 2005 issue named Mr. Ebell one of six “Misleaders” on global warming in a special feature, along with President Bush, Senator James Inhofe, and Michael Crichton. In November 2004 as a result of a BBC Radio interview, seven members of the British House of Commons from all three major parties introduced a motion to censure Mr. Ebell “in the strongest possible terms.” In its May 22, 2004 special Issues and Answers issue, National Journal profiled Mr. Ebell as one of ten people who would lead the global warming debate during the next presidential administration. The Clean Air Trust in March 2001 named Mr. Ebell its “Villain of the Month” for his role in convincing the Bush Administration not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

I just hope the man hasn’t had the chance to raise any children.

kerrie May 23, 2006 at 8:00 am

Hahahaha, yeah I’ve wondered that about Ann Coulter myself.

Anonymous May 23, 2006 at 9:55 am

Some Coulter quotes:

“The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man’s dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it’s yours. That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars — that’s the Biblical view”

“It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 except Goldwater in ’64 the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted”

“Perhaps we could put aside our national, ongoing, post-9/11 Muslim butt-kissing contest and get on with the business at hand: Bombing Syria back to the stone age and then permanently disarming Iran.”

What a lady.

sasha May 23, 2006 at 3:19 pm

well, one of my favorite questions when faced with BS in this quantity is who constitutes “us”? The first time this little referrentless-pronoun appears in in the context of those who have been freed from backbreaking labour – so the consumer and upper classes of the first/industrialized/most wasteful world then? But I would argue from the beginning that the problem is a few benefitting at the expense of the many, i.e. that only “us” has benefitted.

What proportion of our global society has to be omitted from backbreaking labour for that to be a consideration when it comes to whether or not we ought to heat the whole blue marble up and sacrifice the occasional island chain if we must?

Alena Prazak May 23, 2006 at 3:24 pm

It is not the bible, but our own sense of entitlement and greed that pushes us to the limits of consumerism and waste. Our supposed ” nature-lovers” power around North Vancouver in monster SUV’s and live in houses that use up enough energy to supply a small village. Ironically, any country would do the same, given the opportunity.

B May 23, 2006 at 5:07 pm

Sasha makes an excellent point. The culture of ‘us’ defined by these commercials is an exceedingly narrow-minded one.

I know Milan has linked this Carl Sagan piece before, but I think it says it best.

R.K. May 23, 2006 at 1:48 pm

It’s only fair to note that the connection between the firearms video above and the Competitive Enterprise Institute is quite tangential.

One of their projects, called Bureaucrash includes a favourable review of it. They didn’t make it, but they do say that it “promotes just the right attitude to ownership of firearms and personal protection.” I suppose that’s “if you’re threatened and the police are on the way, don’t hide or barricade yourself in a room – shoot the threatener several dozen times with a huge machine gun.”

tristan.laing May 23, 2006 at 11:06 pm

“any country would do the same, given the oppertunity”

Maybe, but this assumes that “oppertunity” doesn’t mean just the means/resources/cash, but also the Western concept of being as “for us”. The Bible is certainly the text which most widely and effectivly spread this mode of thought, which originates with Plato and Aristotle’s prioritization of teche over physis, and is first realized by Nietzsche when he called being a value for the value positing will to power which is the essence of [Western] man.

Alena Prazak May 24, 2006 at 1:27 am

Sorry, but I don’t understand what “teche over physis” means. As far as I understand, Jesus rejected entitlement and focus on one self, certainly more than Mohammed did.

Milan February 14, 2007 at 4:10 pm

Christopher Horner, a climate change denier from the American Enterprise Institute, was on the Daily Show today.

Milan February 14, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Here is a working link to that video

This is actually a pretty disappointing session. They shouldn’t give air time to people of this sort.

Milan June 8, 2007 at 10:47 am

WHEN the notion of global warming first seeped into public consciousness in the 1980s, business took a dim view of it. Admitting that human activity was changing the climate would involve accepting some responsibility, which was likely to mean coughing up cash. So, in 1989, shortly after the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body set up under UN auspices to establish a scientific consensus on the issue, the big carbon emitters set up the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). It cast doubt on the science and campaigned against greenhouse-gas reductions.

The GCC folded in 2002. Its line of argument enjoyed a final flowering last year, in a startlingly inane television commercial put out by the business-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). It showed pictures of trees (breathing in carbon dioxide) and a happy little girl blowing dandelion seeds (breathing out carbon dioxide). The punchline was: “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution; we call it life.”


. March 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Current links:



Milan October 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Over at Sightline Daily, there is some information on a new absurd climate change denier ad. Apparently, the transcript is:

“Congress is considering a law that would classify carbon dioxide as pollution. This will cost us jobs. There is no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant. In fact, higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the earth’s ecosystems and would support more plant and animal life. Please take action. Contact your senator and congressman today and remind them CO2 is not pollution and more CO2 results in a greener earth. Go to CO2isgreen.com, because we all need CO2.”

It’s astonishing that there are advertising firms and organizations sleazy enough to put out something so blatantly misleading. The ads are running in Montana and New Mexico.

Milan October 2, 2009 at 12:40 pm

More on this, from The Guardian

“The advert is ripe for spoofing. It’s certainly tempting to laugh it off. (For extra merriment, visit the “CO2 is green” website and read the “Why do people believe these myths?” section: “They have been misinformed by people that benefit financially from propagating the myth.” Oh, the irony.)

But the advert is also a juddering reminder there are still powerful, influential forces straining every last sinew and dollar they possess to deny that rising CO2 levels are a problem. That such efforts should so easily be traced back to oil industry operatives is not wholly surprising, but sobering nonetheless.”

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: