NRO is celebrating Rush Limbaugh’s 20 years of excellence in broadcasting today (and don’t miss Roy Spencer, the official climatologist of the EIB network, over on the homepage), so it seems fitting to dust off the Nightline debate between Rush and our founding father, Al Gore — who, at the time, was mere Senator Gore, the author of Earth in the Balance, long before his elevation to the high priesthood of the Green Church.
Rush actually replayed the debate recently, so this transcript has the benefit of Rush then and now. Note that, even then, Gore was claiming a monolithic scientific consensus about impending environmental catastrophe, and Rush was calling shenanigans on him even then. Note, too, that Gore was making doomsday-lite predictions (An ozone hole is opening over North America! [And then the sky will fall!!]) that were soon falsified.
RUSH: In 1992, Nightline, Ted Koppel says to Algore, “Joining us is Senator Al Gore, whose new book is [Earth in the Lurch] Earth in the Balance. Rush Limbaugh, whose syndicated radio show is heard across the country. There is, Senator Gore, a growing feeling — and I don’t want to say it represents anything representing a majority yet, but a growing feeling — that sometimes the environmentalists are putting the spotted owl and the snail darter ahead of human beings.”
ALGORE: We now face a global ecological crisis that is more serious than anything human civilization has ever faced, and there’s a problem of scale here. To discuss, uh, the friction in the passage and implementation of some of the laws on the local environment — and to weigh at the same time that against this unprecedented global crisis — I think presents a — a problem of scale. When you talk about military matters, you talk about local conflicts, regional theaters of action, and strategic conflicts, same with the environment. You’ve got local environmental problems; regional problems, like acid rain. Now we’ve got a whole new category of global or strategic problems, which include the hole in the ozone layer — which now could appear above the United States — global climate change, the destruction of the rain forests at a rate that means they’ll be totally gone in another few decades unless we stop, the pollution of the oceans and the atmosphere, and the like. These represent brand-new challenges that call for a new kind of response.
RUSH: Now, remember, this is 16 years ago: 1992. Koppel then said to me, “Rush, I’ve listened to you many afternoons, as you know. You tend to — I don’t want to say you dismiss all these issues, but at least you dismiss them as having been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
RUSH 1992: There is no ozone hole above the United States and if we want to get into a detailed discussion of ozone depletion we can, but I think, Ted, that there is not a crisis. See, this is the problem I have. I don’t think the earth is fragile. I don’t think the ecology is fragilely balanced and I think that the doomsday industry that is typified by members of the Hollywood acting community who say, “We’ve only got ten years left to save our planet, we’ve gotta act now,” there’s no way, if what these people say is true, that we could solve these problems in ten years anyway. It’s budget time in Washington; NASA is being cut, and I think that this fright and doom scenario is designed to frighten people. Everything in this country today seems to be crisis. I can’t do anything without having to face it as a crisis. We don’t have any time to think about it. There are as many scientists, maybe even more on the opposite side of all of these doomsday predictions, and I think that –
ALGORE: That’s not true.
RUSH 1992: Oh, yes, there are!
RUSH: (laughing) It’s not true. Yes, it is. Here Gore then continues.
ALGORE: Rush did identify, I think, the key point of disagreement early in his first response, and that is the question of whether or not the earth is fragile. Are we as human beings now capable of doing serious damage to the global environment? That’s really the key difference between the –
RUSH 1992: Do you think we are?
ALGORE: Yes, I think so. I think for three reasons, Rush. I think three things have changed — in our lifetimes, incidentally. Number one: The population explosion now adds the entire population of China every ten years. Number two: We’ve got new technologies we never had before like chlorofluorocarbons, which magnify our impact on the earth. Just as nuclear weapons transformed warfare, these thousands of new technologies that magnify our ability to exploit the earth, change our relationship to the earth.
RUSH: Next, Koppel said, “Rush Limbaugh, we’ve both run into politicians during our careers who know how to fake it on an issue. I don’t know anybody on Capitol Hill who is more knowledgeable on the subject of environment than Algore. You have to take seriously what he says.”
RUSH 1992: The environmental movement as fueled by the militants who lead it, I think, is the new home of socialism. I think it is. They’ve adopted a constituency here which can’t speak — that is trees and rocks and so forth — and can’t reject the so-called help and concern that the advocates are giving it, and gives them a stage from which to constantly launch attacks at capitalism. If you listen to what Senator Gore said, it is manmade products which are causing the ozone completion. Yet Mt. Pinatubo has put 570 times the amount of chlorine into the atmospheric in one eruption than all of manmade chlorofluorocarbons in one year; and the ultraviolet radiation measured on this country’s surface since 1974 has shown no increase whatsoever. And if there’s ozone depletion going on, you’re going to have UV radiation levels going way up, and they simply aren’t. The sun makes ozone, and there’s an ozone hole in the Antarctic Circle and the Arctic Circle simply because the sun is below the horizon for a portion of the year.
RUSH: Koppel finally says, “I’ll tell you what, gentlemen, we’re down to our last 45 seconds. So a closing thought from you, Senator Gore. We just heard from Rush Limbaugh.”
ALGORE: Well, there’s a classic experiment in science, Ted, about a frog that’s dropped in a pot of boiling water and jumps right out. When the same frog is put in a pot of lukewarm water that’s slowly brought to a boil it just sits there until it’s rescued. A frog’s nervous system needs a sudden jolt to get the connection. We’re like that frog! We’re getting the signals of ecological devastation around the world, but we’re still dead in the water. The ozone hole is threatening to open up above North America –
RUSH: Never did.
ALGORE: — above Kennebunkport –
RUSH: It never did!
ALGORE: — and still we’re not reacting.
ALGORE: The American people want to see us take this problem seriously and do something about it.
KOPPEL: All right, Senator Gore. I thank you very much, Rush, you’ll have three hours –
RUSH 1992: There’s no ozone depletion, there’s no crisis. Thanks, Ted.