Take that, Dennis Miller; Climate Change is Real and Dangerous

I have a bone to pick with comic Dennis Miller. We all know about his famous shift to the political right after the September 11 attacks. Although I can remember an interview in which he said it went back further, to when he used to hear liberals complain about Mayor Rudolph Giuliani´s law and order policies (which involved a lot of cutting corners with constitutional rights and civil liberties), and Miller said he tended to side with Rudi.

But global warming is not a partisan political issue, however much some people want to make it one. It is science. And it is very dangerous, as a new US government report demonstrates. I can laugh at someone making fun of liberals and liberal positions. But Miller´s schtick on climate change just makes me want to throw my shoe at the television. His standard line is that he doesn´t trust the history of climate record-keeping, since it started when people still had to go out in the winter to the outhouse to relieve themselves. I´ve noticed that he gets fewer and fewer laughs with this stupid ´joke,´except before Vegas audiences who are apparently disproportionately full of rightwingers who don´t let their moral puritanism stand in the way of a good time.

Miller is of course simply incorrect that people in the late 19th century could not make precise scientific measurements of temperature.

Miller is a voice a lot of people listen to, and with that kind of visibility comes responsibility. Take a science course, Dennis. Or at least watch a video What you are doing is not funny.

The world has heated up significantly in the past three decades, with the past ten years being the hottest on record. So says the US National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration´s yearly ´State of the Climate´ report. (There is a difference between climate and weather. Over-all global warming can occur even if there are very cold days and snowstorms. In fact, climate change can cause some places to get colder even if the earth´s average surface temperature increases. Planets are complex things. But understanding an upward over all graph should not be so hard.)

The report is here and the beginning of the executive summary goes like this:

* June 2010 was the fourth consecutive warmest month on record (March, April, and May 2010 were also the warmest on record). This was the 304th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below-average temperature was February 1985.
* It was the warmest April–June (three-month period) on record for the global land and ocean temperature and the land-only temperature. The three-month period was the second warmest for the world’s oceans, behind 1998…

That item about the world´s oceans is concerning. Apparently the oceans have been absorbing a lot of the extra heat being kept on earth by the carbon dioxide curtain that lets sunlight and its heat in, but traps it once here.

In turn, the warming oceans may be killing off marine algae.

Marine algae produce half of all the oxygen we breathe, and little fish eat them, and the big fish eat the little fish, and we eat the big fish. Killing off the marine algae is a big step toward killing off the planet, and we´re almost half way there to finishing this crucial species off.

Mr. Miller should note that the above report appeared in Canada´s National Post, a right wing newspaper. Reality doesn´t have a political party, and nor does the human species, and nor do the infants of the next generations, to whom we a bequeathing a cosmic cesspool.

25 Responses

  1. Maybe you ran across this little explication of what might be behind the Manufactured Reality that Miller and others profit from:

    The State of America? Hysteria

    In which the writer offers,

    Back in the early 1970s — an era whose tumult we yet may come to regard as benign — social scientists here and in Britain coined the term “moral panic” to describe what can happen when groups of people are seized by an exaggerated fear that other people or communal forces threaten their values or way of life. The scholars described those who promoted the panic’s spread as “moral entrepreneurs” — a term that takes on a deep resonance when you consider the commentators and politicians who have attached themselves, and their interests, to the “tea party” and its attendant movements.

    In the midst of moral panic, inchoate indignation stands in for reason; accusation and denunciation supplant dialogue and argument; history and facts are rendered malleable, merely adjuncts of the moral entrepreneur’s — or should we say provocateur’s — rhetorical will. As we now also see, a self-interested mass media with an economic stake in the theatricality of raised and angry voices can transmit moral panic like a pathogen.

    Looking around the United States in the summer of 2010, hysterical moral panic seems an apt description of our fevered political condition.

    Maybe “immoral panic” might be a better label, or something else that does not occur to me right this minute.

    The Tammy Faye-John Hagee-Mullah Omar effect, which of course is spreading like wildfire across the planet as our Surging New Global Economy crashes into our tribal sense of sanctification.

    ‘Course, this just reminds me of stuff composed by medical people describing their symptoms and sensations as they lie dying. For the benefit and illumination of those to follow.

  2. Thanks for this — it’s gone so far beyond comedy, beyond politics, beyond left or right or sideways.

    We are clearly killing ourselves — and not just via the climate. Our toxic waste is now found in all flesh and blood and bone, from the Arctic to the Antarctic; our never-to-biodegrade plastic is gyring in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and further; not only are we overfishing the oceans, we’re overextracting everything in our rush to consume.

    But that’s a little much for Miller to grasp — he’s looking for cheesy, easy snark. But as we try to demonstrate (see any of the links above), one can make fun of what humans are doing to ourselves while still acknowledging the science.

    I certainly can’t school Miller on funny — he made me howl, in the old days — but I could school him on the consequences of human myopia any old time.

  3. “Comic Dennis Miller?” Sorry Professor but, you are wrong. Demagogue resting on past laurels maybe. From his days on SNL. Miller drank the lunatic fringe koolaid and the rest is a sad history. Miller would be a ‘performance demogogue’.

  4. The fundamental problem, to be a bit inflammatory, is with democracy, or this idea that The People are able to govern themselves wisely.

    Or at least its worth considering how people in general have knees that jerk widely to what’s in front of them, and don’t have the concentration or education to appreciate and act on the deeper complexity of things. The situation is aggravated as time goes on because the impact of what man does has increasingly less tolerance for error. No longer is it safe to view our backyards as trashdumps (many rural Americas have traditionally treated them that way), and a slash and burn mentality is simply not sustainable. Yet, this is the mindset in the country, and even more so in the world generally.

    I think you’ll find most Americans are beginning to view the BP disaster “over” because the clean-up crews are no longer finding oil on the beaches; those 5600 pelicans were a shame, but we’ll recover. Its only the superficial they can respond to, and it will be a pure abstraction and intellectual irrelevance when they are told the shrimp eaten beach-side is flown in from Thailand; It’ll take 3-4 years for the destruction of the gulf tuna hatchery to show up in the store price, and you can bet BP lawyers will argue they were involved. And as long as there’s a clean beach to walk on in 3 years, this will all be ancient history.

    Ditto for climate change and any other issue you name. The reality of our policies in Afpak, for example, are driven by the need to assauge such mentalities. When Joe Biden’s take on area policy alternatives are arguably far more practical, realistic and economical, they simply do not square with domestic US politics. Meaning the need for Obama to do all these half-baked things in foreign policy to gain no-neck support for watered-down health care reform . And while we go through all these gyrations in South Asia, Mexico, a true foreign affairs/national security issue, melts down: talk about a country that really should be treated with the importance of a 51rst state when it comes to its impact on us in a myriad of ways.
    As the man said, we has met the enemy…….

  5. You may be the genius, but Miller is the one whose opinion is more credible and newsworthy.

    • The notion that one can state a celebrity’s comments on anything are, prima facie, credible or newsworthy is convicting testimony that America’s collective wisdom has now been completely extinguished.

      The need for hero worship is this culture is truly stupefying. There is argument to be made that America’s are now the most ignorant nation on the planet.

  6. I wanted to email this article to a nephew but I could not figure out how to do it.

    • Click on the ‘share/save’ button and then on ’email’.

      Or, you could just highlight the text, right click, choose ‘copy’, and then paste the text into an email.

      cheers Juan

  7. Thank you for pointing out the responsibility that comes with visibility when it comes to a real danger like the global warming. I am affraid that Dennis Miller doesn’t in fact understand the threat behind it. I am going to stop watching him alltogether to avoid scraching a nice shoe or the associated damage to the TV screen by the heel.

  8. Dr. Cole,
    Could you look into the Costa Rica thing? I know I mentioned this the other day. Usually you write about the Mideast but this was not about the Mideast and I would like to hear from someone reliable about this thing with Costa Rica. Is it just a leftwing version of the right wing nuts’ U.N. black helicopters or is there something to it?

    Yes Dennis Miller is a fool and no longer the least bit funny.


  9. I’m Canadian .
    How dare you call the National Post a right wing newspaper !
    Newspapers are in the news business , and (sometimes) turn a profit .
    The thing has lost money on every copy since it began .
    The National Post was created by a right wing extremist named Conrad Black .
    A convicted felon in the USA , he recently made the news when he was granted bail pending an appeal and/or re-trial .

    In my neighbourhood , when the National Post lowered its’ price to 10 cents , it still didn’t sell many copies .

    If the National Socialist Post is a newspaper ,
    Fox News is fair and balanced .

    • Since you mentioned “fracking”, did you know that it is one of the ways in which we are destroying the planet? It is a technique used now to extract more natural gas and oil, but it also poisons our water supplies. Double whammy.

  10. It’s just so refreshing to read “reality-based” critical thought. Kudos to you Dr. Cole. Fan since I discovered your website 2+ years ago.


  11. Soon we will all be forced to deal with techological reciprocity. Each “advance” in technology must be balanced with the new hazards and costs it presents. As the world’s population grows the balance to be struck becomes more and more unstable.

    Luddite will not be a derogatory term much longer.

  12. Miller is so lame. He tries to come off sounding intellectual but he’s really just Pat Boone with a goatie.

  13. Lot’s of comics have embraced right wing thought: e.g., Carrot Top, Drew Carey, Larry Miller, etc.

    The thing to remember is that they are only comics.

  14. Talk of global warming is cheap if we don’t identify the root cause: the fact that the Earth has more people than can be supported at current levels of consumption. Dennis Miller’s climate change denialism is surely is an insignificant part of the problem. The real danger, consumerism, is illustrated by the recent wedding of the daughter of America’s Secretary of State. As is amply illustrated by this wedding, Americans are consumers par excellence and cause more environmental degradation than any other society on Earth. The solution does not lie in howling at the moon about climate change or screaming that the sky is falling as a result. We need to do something about our seemingly insatiable desire for stuff.

  15. Dennis Miller has his head up where the sun does not shine on many issues. Does not form his conclusions based on facts

  16. Simple. Ideology trumps reality. When you believe business must not be regulated, any problem that requires business regulation to solve must be phony.

  17. Miller got his big paycheck, and then he became a right-wing absolutist. No surprise. Bill Cosby got many big paychecks and went to the right little by little – in the early ’70s he was hosting documentaries about racism in Hollywood, and bailing out the production of the wonderfully inflammatory “Sweet Sweeback’s Badass Song.”

    I guess I could speculate about the speed at which persons of various backgrounds sell out, but what matters is what’s in right-wing ideology for entertainers: I’m rich, you’re all inferior to me, but as long as you’re my whorish yes-man, I will reassure you that you’re better than those whiny troublemakers who complain about all the goodies that you consume to make your whore life endurable (which is good for Wall Street, which makes me even richer). If a bully and his hangers-on laugh while they pull down a smart kid’s pants, I guess that must be humor.

    Meanwhile, thank God for Chris Rock, whose documentary “Good Hair” I just watched. His brand of humor remains observational, not denigrating, and he shows great restraint in depicting the paradox that a hair-care industry that supports black jobs and businesses is in fact reliant on dangerous chemicals and exploiting religious women in India. Actually, in taking extra time from his touring career as he found he had to follow the story wherever it went, he did what corporate journalists are supposed to do, but don’t.

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