You may have heard that the Amherst College Republicans have invited Patrick Moore, a man who (contrary to what the Amherst website claims) did NOT found Greenpeace, to give a talk called “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout,” promoting his book of the same name. If you’ve read Isa Goldberg’s post on our site, you also know that he’s a buffoon with a penchant for lying, distortion and misinformation.
What you might not know is that the AAS gave the College Republicans $3,000 to bring this lovely fellow to campus, which is kind of a lot of money (to put it in perspective, the wildly popular WAMH concert held on Saturday only cost $2,500). I decided that if we planned on spending that much to bring this guy to talk, it would be worthwhile use of my time to document the event for those too busy to attend what promises to be an unmitigated shit-show (sort of like what the climate will be like if we don’t do anything to stop global warming). As such, I’ll be live-blogging this talk for as long as it goes on, or at least until I can’t take it anymore. Make sure to check back on this page for frequent updates and witty comments from yours truly.
7:56pm: Just arrived in the Red Room, there are tons of people here–the room is almost at capacity. I guess a lot of people are pumped for the coming spectacle (although a little bird told me that a lot of them might not be here for too much longer…).
8:01pm: The event has just started–Dr. Moore has just taken the podium. He’s thanking the College Republicans and the audience for bringing him for the school. Dr. Moore says, “I’m basically a social liberal and a political conservative.” He believes in free enterprise and marijuana legalization, among other things.
8:02pm: The speaker is creating a lot of feedback, which seems to be throwing Dr. Moore off his game. He’s decided to turn off the mic and just use his booming voice to tell us why he dropped out of Greenpeace.
8:04pm: Moore was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in a remote town which didn’t have any roads until he was 16. He says this instilled in him a deep love of nature, which he pursued by studying ecology in university.
8:06pm: In 1971, he and other Greenpeace activists sailed a boat to Alaska to protest hydrogen testing by the US government, giving Greenpeace one of its first big victories after the US government declared an end to hydrogen bomb testing shortly later.
8:08pm: He also helped save whales from Soviet whaling boats in the late 1970s, proving his environment and anti-Communist credentials in one fell swoop. Sweet.
8:10pm: Honestly, this is pretty boring right now. He’s mostly just talking about his time with Greenpeace and his transition from a “politics of confrontation” to a “politics of solutions.”
8:11pm: As if he just heard my complaint, Moore has started making things interesting. He says, “Greenpeace lost its humanitarian perspective and drifted into a belief that humans are the enemies of the earth,” which was “a bit too much like original sin” for him, causing him to leave.
8:12pm: AND DR. MOORE has now just told his first lie of the night. He claims that Greenpeace called for a “global chlorine ban” in the 1980s. This is more or less totally false: Greenpeace called for limits on dioxin emissions and bans on DDT and a few other chlorine-based chemicals, but never a total chlorine ban.
8:16pm: And his second lie: He tried to rebut Greenpeace’s claim that he was not a founder of the organization by showing a screenshot of the Greenpeace website from 2007 that purportedly lists him as a founder. Of course, if you actually read the screenshot, it says he was a co-founder of the “Save the Aleutian Islands Committee” in 1970, which is not the same thing as Greenpeace. I guess he thinks we don’t know how to read…?
8:17pm: Now he’s talked about how “trees grow in a factory called the forest, by renewable energy,” as opposed to other building materials like concrete and steel. That’s cool, but I’m not sure why that’s relevant. I guess he thinks all environmentalists are opposed to forest management?
8:19pm: Okay, I get what he’s doing now–apparently a Greenpeace spokesperson misrepresented an IPCC report that called for forest management strategies that would increase forest stocks worldwide.
8:24pm: And now comes the climate change denying. Of course, he should probably disclose the fact that he gets paid thousands of dollars by the fossil fuel industry to say stuff like this.
8:25pm: Tired of his shit, 75 percent of the crowd just walked out. He’s not really happy. He just compared them to the Taliban, which is actually hilarious.
8:28pm: He’s also quoting Michael Crichton–as in the guy who wrote the highly scientific Jurassic Park novels–to support climate change denialism. What the fuck.
8:29pm: It’s really quiet now, but there are a bunch of protest signs left behind by the students who walked out, saying things like “The Debate Is Over” and “Climate Change Denial is Dangerous.” The College Republicans have also started removing some of the signs.
8:31pm: Now he’s arguing that since it was warmer when the dinosaurs were around, so I guess global warming isn’t real. Maybe if it keeps getting warmer the dinosaurs will come back…who knows? It sounds about as likely as his claim that climate change isn’t a scientific fact.
8:34pm: Oh, wow. He just claimed that because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–the UN’s panel of climate scientists who study the issue of climate change–did not attribute warming in the beginning of the 20th century to human causes, they must be wrong to attribute warming in the second half of the century to humans. That’s almost as crazy as claiming that because humans didn’t cause warming during the time of the dinosaurs, they must not be responsible for warming now.
8:38pm: Now he’s talking about sea ice, showing graphs that purport to show that sea ice has slightly increased. Unfortunately for him, he’s totally misinterpreting the data, as these guys helpfully explain.
8:41pm: Now he’s saying that rising sea levels don’t matter, because the Dutch have 20 percent of their country below sea level. That makes sense, I guess…
8:44pm: Now, for another round of Dr. Moore vs. the scientific consensus, let’s hear what he has to say about hurricanes: He says it’s false to claim that climate change will lead to an increase in hurricane activity, because there has been no increase in hurricane activity attribute to climate change so far. He’s half-right, but why don’t we listen to real scientists instead?
8:46pm: According to Dr. Moore, because C02 is good for plant growth, it must not cause global warming. Sort of like how the fact that you need water to live means that you are immune from drowning. Oh wait.
8:50pm: If we ban fossil fuels, “half the people on the planet will be dead within a year, and there won’t be trees left on earth,” claims Dr. Moore. I’d love to see his source for that claim. Then again, this guy gets paid by oil companies to say stuff like this, so I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised that he’s a fan of their products.
8:52pm: Now he’s talking about how great nuclear energy is. I wonder why he’s not disclosing the fact that he gets paid by nuclear energy companies as well.
8:56pm: Moore is claiming that wind and solar could never even conceivably replace fossil fuels as a source of energy. Of course, as with nearly everything else he’s said, scientists who have spent years studying the subject vehemently disagree.
9:00pm: Dr. Moore does not respect Greenpeace because they don’t use row-boats to protest off-shore oil platforms. Okay then.
9:03pm: Oooooh, this is fun. Moore just compared the Alberta Tar Sands to “cleaning the oil out of the sand.” He claims that the environmental impact of the tars sands is minimal because the oil companies are required to return all of the land to productive use. What he doesn’t tell you is that less than .15 percent of the land used for oil mining has been restored to productive use.
9:06pm: Moore is concluding his presentation (thank god!) by talking about GMO crops. I don’t really know enough about the subject to intelligently respond to his claims (which can be summarized as “GMO crops are great”), but this NPR article looks like a good summary of the controversy.
9:10pm: Regardless of the controversy, it’s pretty fucking absurd that he just called opposing GMO crops “a crime against humanity.”
9:13pm: Moore is also claiming that farmers in the Philippines did not attack and destroy fields of GMO rice, because apparently some of the photos show people with tattoos. This again, is a lie, per the New York Times.
9:16pm: He’s still going on about this stupid golden rice thing, claiming that a scientist was unjustly criticized for allegedly violating ethics procedures by giving the rice to Chinese children without properly notifying their parents. Again, I don’t know enough to evaluate his claim one way or another, but NPR has a good article on the ethics controversy that might help you reach your own conclusions.
9:22pm: Now he’s showing screenshots from environmental extremist websites that compares Monsanto (a major manufacturer of GMO crops) to the Nazis, apparently as evidence that all environmentalists are crazy. Ironically, however, the next slide is a photo of him and his family holding a sign accusing Greenpeace of “crimes against humanity.” What the fuck?!
9:24pm: Now it’s time for questions from the audience! An environmental scientist (whose name I didn’t catch) has asked him to apologize for calling the students who left “Taliban.” He declined, because apparently “the Taliban were good at first.” That’s right, he just said “the Taliban were good at first.”
9:26pm: He adds, “I kind of hope they’re insulted…because someone needs to wake them up!” Now the professor is just eviscerating him for his complete lack of knowledge around climate science: “Your interpretation of climate science is at best childish.” Moore responds, criticizing the professor for using “fancy scientific terms.”
9:28pm: A student has just asked them to please end the exchange. It didn’t really work. Moore is just showing pictures of graphs, which seems besides the point since his interpretation of the data is really what’s at stake.
9:32pm: Another climate expert is asking questions now. He goes by Dave, but I think he probably has a last name and a PhD. as well. He asked him about a graph showing atmospheric levels of C02 over the past 600 million years, pointing out that it comes from the same kind of computer model that Moore disparaged elsewhere in his presentation.
9:34pm: It’s pretty funny to watch the exchange, since Dave obviously knows what he’s talking about–directly citing sources and offering detailed explanations for different aspects of what he’s saying–while Moore is just kind of blankly staring at the guy with his mouth hanging open.
9:37pm: “You should have a big lecture and tell everyone about this,” Moore now says, clearly getting tired of being corrected. He also just said, “the ocean isn’t getting more acidic; it’s getting less basic,” which suggests a hilariously low level of scientific literacy.
9:41pm: I just asked Moore why so many scientists believe in the hypothesis that human activity is a major cause of climate change. He claims “there isn’t a conspiracy, but there is a broad convergence of interests around promoting the global warming narrative.” Because there aren’t any economic interests (such as oil companies) that would have a stake in denying climate change. Oh wait…
9:47pm: The nice man sitting next to me has just kindly informed me that not everything you read on the internet is true. Thanks, dude!
9:50pm: Moore’s new argument against stopping global warming: “Why wouldn’t we want to be on an ice-free planet?”
9:54pm: Now he’s saying the Russians don’t believe in global warming, so shit, I guess it must not be happening.
9:55pm: A student in the audience asks why he should believe in Moore’s theory instead of the scientific consensus. Moore says he shouldn’t, which is just about the only honest thing he’s said all night.
9:56pm: Now he’s saying “climate science” is a made-up discipline. Um, okay.
10:00pm: A geochemist in the audience is taking Moore to task for relying on a “scientific consensus” for his support for GMO crops while rejecting it for global warming. Word.
10:03pm: She also points out that ocean temperature readings show a pretty consistent trend of warming, contrary to Moore’s claim based on satellite data, which is generally speaking less accurate.
10:08pm: It’s been pretty boring for the past few minutes, but he just made the craziest statement of the night: “92 percent of corn farmers in Iowa don’t believe in global warming, and they should know, since they’re outside all the time, unlike most scientists.”
10:10pm: A couple of students just apologized for their classmates’ “rude behavior,” referring to the walk-out. Moore greatly appreciates their support.
10:12pm: The event is pretty much over, but Dave is responding to an audience member who expressed some skepticism about the scientific consensus on climate change. Moore is glaring at him sooooo hard; he looks like he might actually start shooting lasers out of his eyes.
10:18pm: It’s still dragging on, but it’s pretty clear that the conversation isn’t going anywhere. Amherst College Republicans president Robert Lucido is pacing nervously waiting for the event to end.
10:22pm: The debate now has become hung up on why the IPCC did not attribute an increase in global temperatures between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries to human carbon emissions, while attributing a similar increase in the second half of the century to carbon emissions. Moore says it’s illogical to make this claim; Dave points out that measurements before the mid-twentieth century took into account far fewer factors, meaning that we can’t make accurate predictions for time-periods before then.
10:30pm: I’m signing off, since pretty much everyone else has left, but I’ll end with this: Moore pretty consistently made claims that lacked any basis in what you and I might call reality, and consistently refused to listen to claims made by the climate experts in attendance, suggesting that his concern was less with defending the truth than it was with promoting a well-funded agenda that flies in the face of scientific evidence. Sounds like $3,000 well spent.