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Limbaugh to NY Times environment reporter Revkin: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself?”

By Joe Romm on October 20, 2009 at 5:42 pm

"Limbaugh to NY Times environment reporter Revkin: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself?”"

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From today’s The Rush Limbaugh Show (via Media Matters):

LIMBAUGH: I think these militant environmentalists, these wackos, have so much in common with the jihad guys. Let me explain this. What do the jihad guys do? The jihad guys go to families under their control and they convince these families to strap explosives on who? Not them. On their kids. Grab your 3-year-old, grab your 4-year-old, grab your 6-year-old, and we’re gonna strap explosives on there, and then we’re going to send you on a bus, or we’re going to send you to a shopping center, and we’re gonna tell you when to pull the trigger, and you’re gonna blow up, and you’re gonna blow up everybody around you, and you’re gonna head up to wherever you’re going, 73 virgins are gonna be there. The little 3- or 4-year-old doesn’t have the presence of mind, so what about you? If it’s so great up there, why don’t you go? Why don’t you strap explosives on you — and their parents don’t have the guts to tell the jihad guys, “You do it! Why do you want my kid to go blow himself up?” The jihad guys will just shoot ‘em, ’cause the jihad guys have to maintain control.

The environmentalist wackos are the same way. This guy from The New York Times, if he really thinks that humanity is destroying the planet, humanity is destroying the climate, that human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth — Andrew Revkin. Mr. Revkin, why don’t you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?

Yes, one of the few remaining intellectual leaders in the conservative movement — whose views dominate conservative discourse because few if any conservative politicians will publicly disagree with him — has just told the lead climate reporter for the New York Times to commit suicide.  Who among the deniers and delayers will have the courage to denounce Limbaugh here?

What incited Limbaugh?  Here is Revkin’s NYT blog today (emphasis added by MM):

More children equal more carbon dioxide emissions. And recent research has resulted in  renewed coverage of the notion that one of the cheapest ways to curb emissions in coming decades would be to provide access to birth control for tens of millions of women around the world who say they desire it. A study by researchers at the London School of Economics and commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust came to the following conclusion:

Contraception is ‘Greenest’ Technology

U.N. data suggest that meeting unmet need for family planning would reduce unintended births by 72 per cent, reducing projected world population in 2050 by half a billion to 8.64 billion. Between 2010 and 2050 12 billion fewer “people-years” would be lived — 326 billion against 338 billion under current projections. The 34 gigatons of CO2 saved in this way would cost $220 billion – roughly $7 a ton [metric tons]. However, the same CO2 saving would cost over $1 trillion if low-carbon technologies were used. (Here’s a link to a pdf of the report.)

I recently raised the question of whether this means we’ll soon see a market in baby-avoidance carbon credits similar to efforts to sell  CO2 credits for avoiding deforestation. This is purely a thought experiment, not a proposal. But the issue is one that is rarely discussed in climate treaty talks or in debates over United States climate legislation. If anything, the population-climate question is more pressing in the United States than in developing countries, given the high per-capita carbon dioxide emissions here and the  rate of population growth. If giving women a way to limit family size is such a cheap win for emissions, why isn’t it in the mix?

Let me make three points.

  1. First, I would not have written the post Revkin did for reasons I have explained before and don’t intend to repeat — see “Consumption dwarfs population as main global warming threat“).  For all the reasons discussed in that post, this blog is not going to focus on population.  I have more than enough to write about on the policies and strategies that must be enacted if we are to have a chance at preserving a livable climate “” even assuming I knew of and believed in viable, high-impact population-related strategies, which I don’t.
  2. Second, relatedly, the 34 Gt of CO2 over 40 years Revkin cites sounds like a lot but remember we’re currently at about 30 Gt CO2 per year.  The condensed stabilization wedges I analyze (major mitigation efforts spread over 40-years rather than Princeton’s 50 years), save 20 Gt carbon (73 Gt of CO2) through 2050.  Nearly half a wedge could be significant, but then again if we do the wedges we must to achieve 450 ppm (let alone 350) then CO2 per capita will drop very, very sharply and the likely CO2 savings from population efforts will also be dramatically reduced — see “How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution.”
  3. Third, Limbaugh’s remarks are far beyond the pale even for his brand of extremism.   Urging another human being to commit suicide is grotesque.

Comments are welcome as always, but please be more civil than Limbaugh.

Revkin responds here.

Related Posts:

More children equal more carbon dioxide emissions. And recent research has resulted in  renewed coverage of the notion that one of the cheapest ways to curb emissions in coming decades would be to provide access to birth control for tens of millions of women around the world who say they desire it. A study by researchers at the London School of Economics and commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust came to the following conclusion:

Contraception is ‘Greenest’ Technology

U.N. data suggest that meeting unmet need for family planning would reduce unintended births by 72 per cent, reducing projected world population in 2050 by half a billion to 8.64 billion. Between 2010 and 2050 12 billion fewer “people-years” would be lived – 326 billion against 338 billion under current projections. The 34 gigatons of CO2 saved in this way would cost $220 billion – roughly $7 a ton [metric tons]. However, the same CO2 saving would cost over $1trillion if low-carbon technologies were used. (Here’s a link to a pdf of the report.)

I recently raised the question of whether this means we’ll soon see a market in baby-avoidance carbon credits similar to efforts to sell  CO2 credits for avoiding deforestation. This is purely a thought experiment, not a proposal. But the issue is one that is rarely discussed in climate treaty talks or in debates over United States climate legislation. If anything, the population-climate question is more pressing in the United States than in developing countries, given the high per-capita carbon dioxide emissions here and the  rate of population growth. If giving women a way to limit family size is such a cheap win for emissions, why isn’t it in the mix?

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Nathan Myhrvold jumps the shark — and jumps ship on Levitt and Dubner (on their blog!) asserting: “Geoengineering is proposed only as a last resort to try to reduce or cope with the even greater harms of global warming! … The point of the chapter in SuperFreakonomics is that geoengineering might be good insurance in case we dont get global warming under control.” Did he even read the book?

28 Responses to Limbaugh to NY Times environment reporter Revkin: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself?”

  1. Dennis says:

    “please be more civil than Limbaugh.” It would take quite an effort not to.

  2. Can’t – cough – talk – cough – cigar smoke. Cough, cough.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    I would like to suggest to readers of this site that we all take a moment or three to consider the ridiculous asymmetry of our current situation. Specifically, if Joe or any other blogger on “our” side had suggested that someone like, say, US Senator James Inhofe or the CEO of some fossil fuel company “help the planet by dying”, the blowback would immense, immediate, and relentless–as it should be.

    But Limbaugh, with his (ahem) colorful history of “look at me” outrageous comments gets a slap on the wrist from some blogs and the mainstream media will (I’m guessing) completely ignore it as if he did nothing more out of line than suggest Revkin was lying.

    How the heck did we get into this position, and how do we get out of it???

  4. Richard Brenne says:

    Revkin could reply: “What, the suicide of my paper and entire industry isn’t enough for you?”

  5. Canada Guy says:

    Free speech has its limits. How much longer are we going to tolerate these deniers that are threatening the lives of millions by preventing real action on climate change?

    Maybe we need to consider other options:

    http://selfdestructivebastards.blogspot.com/2009/09/flat-earth-society-ain-so-bad.html

  6. Gail says:

    Here’s a recent version of Fred Pearce’s article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327271.700-population-overconsumption-is-the-real-problem.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news and a similar smack-down by George Monbiot here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/sep/28/population-growth-super-rich

    I do agree with JoeR’s analysis in his earlier post he linked to; and the above articles about the overpopulation canard – having said that, I signed on as a supporter here!

    http://www.vhemt.org/aboutvhemt.htm

  7. …one of the few remaining intellectual leaders in the conservative movement…

    You are far too kind. I am sorry but I cannot use intellectual and Limbaugh in the same sentence.

  8. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Looks like Roger has stepped up to the plate :)

  9. Leif says:

    With so many of the life support systems of earth currently stretched to the maximum and beyond as we speak, providing adequate family planing should be on the top of the list in is own right. Food, water, health care, housing, ecosystems, political systems and more are all taxed to the point of failure and the thought accommodating half again as many people in 50 years just is not going to happen in my view. A case in point. Saudi Arabia has been feeding its 30 million population by irrigated water pumped from it’s fossil water aquifer. This aquifer is projected to be depleted by 2016 at which point the whole country will be importing it’s grains. This is not an isolated case as pointed out by Lester Brown in his book Plan B 4.0. Global climatic disruption add to all of these problems as we non-deniers know full well. I say to the likes of Limbaugh: Even the bottom of a sh*t house is utopia to some life forms, perhaps your progeny will be able to look at a pile of excrement and sigh, “this is indeed heaven on earth.” Personally I am rooting for somewhat better.
    Sorry Joe, It is hard to be civil to these folks. Feel free to strike this if you like.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    What Scott A. Mandia just wrote!

  11. mike roddy says:

    Canada Guy, it’s not “people” who are denying global warming, it’s fossil fuel companies and their employees, along with a few others like railroads (for coal), timber, and utility interests. It’s the whole sordid story behind the nonsensical statements of the deniers. The odd Libertarian is a small part of this.

    Limbaugh makes this pretty obvious, since he is really just one of their employees, along with most of our Congressmen.

    He thrives on the attention he’s getting over this. Let’s just see him for what he is: a pathetic excuse for a man.

  12. jorleh says:

    If this Limbaugh is a member of some party, you said GOP, the party is lost.

    Never read even a retarded politician (after some in Europe decades ago) to let such rubbish out of his mouth. Dirty there?

  13. Florifulgurator says:

    What Leif said is exactly the point.
    And almost nobody seems to get it.
    Alas, reducing suffering by limiting population is not what most religious leaders want. E.g. what the pope told the Africans about condoms is imho incitement to genosuicide (by AIDS and hunger).

  14. Lewis says:

    Comments like Mr. Limbaugh’s indicate to me they have lost the debate. He has no arguments left. One might be generous and just take the comment as “Go away Mr. Revkin,” which says to me he can’t even come up with a personal attack.

    All he has is rhetoric to fan the fires of the faithful.

    Perhaps Mr. Limbaugh has as much in common with the “jihad guys” as he attributes to Mr. Revkin?

  15. Elmo says:

    Consumption can be seen as a function of population size so reducing population growth would be expected to reduce the growth of consumption (Other Things Being Equal).
    When you add in the observed increase in consumption as economies grow, reducing population makes even more sense.

  16. Dano says:

    First of all, I wish Progressives could organize in such a way to give an outrage campaign – conducted just like a ululating conservatarian RushBot would do – over this incident. I won’t hold my breath.

    Second, we know Rush and his bots have nothing but outrage and spittle. Let us remember this fact and highlight it (but not to the ideologues, who won’t care or get it).

    Third, it is true that a small, high-consuming population exploits lots of resources. It is also true that a large, low-consuming population may use less resources than high-consumers. But the second population does not describe our planet. Our planet is populated with Homo sapiens, the overwhelming fraction of whom want to consume resources at an increasing rate. I – and no one else either – have no idea how to get most people to be happy with less. Come now. This consumption thing is a non-starter here on the ground.

    Best,

    D

  17. Leif says:

    Elmo, # 14: The problem with just reducing population size is manifested by the American way of life. We in the USA have a carbon footprint of about 5 to 10 times that of a developing country. One of us equals 10 of them. And they justify-ably aspire to a better lifestyle! In my view we have a moral obligation to develop an enviable lifestyle that is sustainable and export THAT. Then we can rest…

  18. Leland Palmer says:

    Mr. Limbaugh is a paid propagandist.

    Similar to a lawyer, if argument A fails, he just goes on to argument B.

    So, most of his output is of the form “yadda, yadda, yadda, therefore whatever argument I’m getting paid to make is correct, and people that oppose these arguments are bad”. The people who support doing something about global warming will always be villains to Limbaugh.

    Rush Limbaugh’s last contract was for 400 million dollars, from his employer Clear Channel. At the same time Clear Channel is paying Limbaugh 400 million dollars for an eight year contract, they are laying off thousands of other employees:

    Clear Channel’s fall from business grace remains epic in its proportions. In 10 years time the company has gone from dominating a flourishing radio industry to a corporation that now teeters on the brink. (Clear Channel stock traded for $90 a share in 2000. When the radio company went private last year, pre-crash, the stock was already down in the $30s.) Lots of over-extended, debt-ridden media conglomerates are struggling through today’s deep economic recession, but few face a future quite as perilous as the one staring back at the San Antonio radio giant.

    And yet Clear Channel’s most famous employee, Rush Limbaugh, remains oblivious to it all. I sometimes wonder what Limbaugh thinks when he reads about the not-so-slow-motion collapse of his radio employer while lounging in his 24,000-square-foot Florida estate or motoring in his $450,000 car to the airport to ride in his $54 million jet. Does Limbaugh feel bad? Does he feel a little guilty? And does he ever think about giving some of his riches back so that thousands of radio colleagues wouldn’t have to be bounced to the curb?

    And I wonder what those pink-slipped Clear Channel employees — some of whom spent decades working for the company — think about Limbaugh as they’re ordered out the station door and onto “the beach.” (That’s radio-speak for unemployment.)

    I wonder about Limbaugh and the thousands of his laid-off Clear Channel colleagues, because the dichotomy is striking: Last July, just months before the radio economy went into free-fall, Limbaugh’s bosses at Clear Channel, who enjoy deep ties to Texas Republicans and who have been at the forefront of promoting right-wing radio, rewarded the turbo-talker with the biggest contract in terrestrial radio history. The contract included an eye-popping 40 percent raise over his already gargantuan pay, despite the fact it’s doubtful any other radio competitors could have even matched Limbaugh’s old pay scale.

    The astronomical worth of Limbaugh’s eight-year pact: $400 million. The amount of money Clear Channel execs have been trying to scrimp and save this year as they lay off thousands from the struggling company: $400 million. Ironic, don’t you think?

    Executives at Clear Channel apparently have deep ties to the Texas Republican party, and especially to the Bush family:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Clear_Channel_Communications#Bush_Connections

    Bush Connections

    “The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks. … When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel’s chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university’s endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.” [7],

    “In addition, Hicks steered a controversial scheme to use the University of Texas’ $13 billion endowment for private investment. Among the beneficiaries were the Carlyle Group, the arms investment firm tied to both George Bush Snr and the bin Laden family, and George W Bush’s controversial Harken Oil drilling project in Bahrain.”[8]

    ….

    Executives

    With 2006 pay:

    * Lowry Mays (L. Lowry Mays), Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, $4,910,040[5]
    * Mark P. Mays, President and Chief Operating Officer, $9,311,996[6]
    * Randall T. Mays, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, $9,282,382[7]

  19. Pete says:

    It’s probably a worthless task to try to get into a dialogue with Limbaugh, but I’d just like to point out that Rush claims (that Revkin claims, to be accurate) “human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth.”

    I doubt Revkin would consider our current existence as particularly “natural,” at least when compared with a lower-carbon lifestyle. Maybe for Rush, spewing pollution is the only natural existence, but I don’t think this so true for humans in general.

  20. Zac says:

    All,

    Although a dialogue with Mr. Limbaugh may be inpossible, it is possible to reach Clear Channel. I just wrote the Clear Channel Communications/Media person to voice my displeasure. I suspect the more e-mails she receives, the merrier at Clear Channel HQ.

    Zac

  21. David Lewis says:

    India keeps bringing up, and US commentators apparently can’t hear, the issue of per capita emissions. They’ve repeatedly said they will limit their emissions, per capita, to whatever the developed countries achieve, per capita. This is easy for them to say, as their per capita emissions are so low, but their bluff will have to be called one day.

    Joe can state categorically that population isn’t going to be part of the discussion here, but we should keep in mind that it was central to many in the developing world’s concern in the negotiations leading to Kyoto, it is a central to the UN “sustainable development” concept, and population issues remain central as Copenhagen approaches.

    [JR: Others can discuss it. I've explained my position.]

    When I analyzed this year’s G8 summit for instance, I had to bring population figures into it. The G8 said it would cut its emissions 80% by 2050 if the developing world would make the rest of the effort so global emissions are cut by 50%, the offer was rejected, and US commentators, such as the Pew Institute, or the NY Times, seemed mystified. The NYTimes editorialized that it “not immediately clear” why the developing world rejected this.

    Taking population and what India has repeatedly said about per capita emission rights into account, it became crystal clear to me: my rough calculations showed that the offer meant each G8 citizen in 2050 would have the right to emit 2.5 tonnes of CO2 while each developing world citizen would be restricted to 1.45 tonnes. Would Americans accept it if China and India demanded that each American in 2050 must accept the right to emit less per capita than them?

    So population is central to the debate. If we are to speak of stabilizing the atmosphere at some distant time, we must be considering stabilizing the global population at minimum. I think it will be necessary to reduce it.

    One way to negotiate on climate with the developing world, I think, is to acknowledge the effort China has made with its population, and penalize India for its failure to deal with it.

    The G8, or however you want to define the developed world, could grant, for negotiating purposes, that it has an historic responsibility in using up the planetary capacity because of its free use of the atmosphere as a garbage dump on its way to becoming rich, but it could insist that India must accept that it has not done anything effective to limit its population, and that China has done so only recently.

  22. Bill Paisley says:

    Sounds like a great idea to me.

  23. Lauren says:

    You may have covered this before but I’m a fairly new reader to your blog, and I have to ask: why are you so set against considering population?

    I do get #16′s point that it’s unseemly for Americans to criticize a birthrate of 4-6 per women in Sub-Saharan Africa considering their per capita carbon footprint is 5-10% of ours. BUT, given the obscenely high carbon footprint of your average American, if you are an American who is concerned about climate change, shouldn’t you consider limiting the number of children you have? It seems to me that this is going to have a much bigger impact than any lifestyle changes — a family of 3 that lives in a biggish house and long commutes with fuel-inefficient cars is probably going to still have a smaller carbon footprint than a family of 4 who lives in a small house and takes public transportation, when you consider the 2nd child’s entire life, and their children.

    I mean, hopefully by 2050 we’ll be able to get the vast majority of our energy from non-carbon sources, but just in case that doesn’t happen? Wouldn’t you want to try to do your part to limit the number of Americans roaming the Earth?

    [JR: I have blogged on this. I'd ask you to read the posted link.]

  24. Leland Palmer says:

    With bio-energy plus carbon capture and storage, we could actually beat India at it’s own game, and do so in a cost effective manner:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-energy_with_carbon_capture_and_storage

    What we need to do is nationalize the coal fired power plants, and convert them en masse and ASAP to carbon negative bio-energy with CCS power plants, then deep inject the resulting CO2 into deep saline aquifers and deep basalt deposits for storage or in situ mineral carbonation.

    Doing so would make us into an effectively carbon neutral society, or close to it, and might even take us over the line into carbon negative status.

    Most coal fired power plants are located on rivers or lakes, for cooling water. Such rivers and lakes constitute natural transport networks, to transport biomass or bio-char produced anywhere higher in elevation than the power plant on that watershed to the power plant in question.

    We should seize the coal fired power plants, convert them to BECCS, and immediately start planting massive biomass plantations upstream of the power plants on the rivers or lakes that provide cooling water to the power plants.

    Also, the carbon contained in the biomass could be economically transported to the power plants from further away in the form of biochar, which should be 100% substitutable for coal in the power plants. Power plants on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Columbia, or Missouri rivers (among many others), or located on the Great Lakes could therefore economically receive barges of biomass or biochar from hundreds of miles upstream on those rivers.

    I think I agree with Joe, about population, by the way. It’s not a population problem, it’s a technological problem, in which 280 million Americans produce about 20 tons of carbon emissions per capita per year.

    The best population growth containment is the demographic transition, IMO, in which affluent societies transform themselves into low birthrate, low death rate societies, voluntarily. We need an alternative technological path to affluence, IMO.

    The good news is that such an alternative (low or negative carbon) technological path to affluence can easily and cheaply be achieved.

    The bad news is that our public policy is being skewed by paid propagandists like Limbaugh, whose distortions distract and divert our leaders from finding that alternative low or negative carbon technological path. The other bad news is that our financial elites, unknown to the vast majority of the public, have become parasitic, and are willing to pay for such propaganda.

    Perhaps the Chinese will lead instead.

    We can hope for this, I guess.

  25. SecularAnimist says:

    The so-called “conservative movement” in America today is not really a political or ideological movement any more. It is an entertainment demographic.

    The only real content of the fake, phony pseudo-ideology of the Ditto-Heads is hatred of “liberals”. They just LOVE to hate “liberals”. It gives them a thrill. And Rush Limbaugh has become rich by feeding this audience the entertainment that they crave, namely an endless stream of vicious hate speech against “liberals”.

    Limbaugh’s remark about Revkin is just more of the same. It has nothing to do with global warming, or population, or even with Revkin or Revkin’s article, really. It has everything to do with the thrill of hatred that a bunch of weak-minded, ignorant, mean-spirited Ditto-Heads enjoy when Rush Limbaugh bombastically spews idiotic hate speech about some “liberal”.

    Intellectual leader? Please. Limbaugh is about as much of an “intellectual leader” as Don Rickles.

  26. Gangster31 says:

    Short-term disease outbreaks and water restrictions during droughts have demonstrated that we can no longer take our drinking water for granted. ,

  27. Stephen Watson says:

    Pretty much the entire media is part of the corporate establishment. I’m sure this is even more the case in the USA than over here in the UK. Consequently, media reliant on lucrative advertising from oil companies, car companies, pharmaceutical companies, airlines and all the other purveyors of the ‘essentials’ of modern life to make them viable economic entities are unlikely to support threats to that income. Responding to climate change in real, effective and meaningful ways is about the biggest threat to that income you can imagine and consequently there is either a minimal or else a schizophrenic response to the issue. Consequently Rush Limbaugh (who thankfully we’re spared over here) can get away with outrageous statements and experience little backlash. Less potently, but in a similar vein, politicians over here were recently interviewed before COP15 on the BBC and made ridiculous statements which go unchallenged even by ‘hard nosed’ BBC interviewers on their flagship Radio news programme.

    This analysis from the excellent MediaLens starkly highlights the problem:

    http://www.medialens.org/alerts/05/051213_insane_society_climate_change.php