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Thu Sep 9 2004 Penn and Teller Discount Global Warming and Deforestation
Penn and Teller take on the environment Indybay reporter Charles Slay recently noticed copies of Penn & Teller’s TV series, entitled “Bullshit," which began airing on the Showtime cable television channel in January 2003. Each episode of "Bullshit" sets out to debunk a false claim or pseudoscience, such as, alien abduction, spoon bending and creationism. Then came the chapter on “Environmental Hysteria” on the final DVD. In it, Penn Gillette—the duo member who does all the talking—begins attacking the subject of Global Warming. He states, “no one in the scientific community agrees on global warming, the science is inconclusive and no one knows if global warming is a natural fluctuation or not.” According to Slay, Penn neglects to mention experts such as Climatologist Stephen Schneider, Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry Kendel, and the Union of Concerned Scientists Instead, Penn & Teller present as their expert on global warming, as well as all things environmental, statistician Dr. Bjorn Lomborg of Denmark’s Aarhus University. Lomborg is the author of “The Environmental Skeptic,” a book that suggests, through the use of statistics, that environmentalists have greatly exaggerated the effects of pollution, deforestation, and global warming. Lomborg contends that aside from some localized problems, the environment is actually improving. Penn & Teller forget one important fact about Dr. Lomborg’s work, “The Environmental Skeptic” is a highly controversial book within the scientific community. Judging by the criticisms leveled against Dr. Lomborg’s tome by such prominent scientists as Dr.E.O. Wilson and Dr. Norman Meyers of Oxford University the work is not held in high regard. A scathing review of “The Environmental Skeptic” in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American sheds more light on the subject. To present the other side, Penn and Teller call upon journalist Ross Gelbspan. When Gelbspan makes the statement, “1998 was the hottest year on record,” Gillette cuts him of with the sarcastic refrain, ”so we’ve peaked, now what, an ice age?”
Having “debunked” global warming, Penn & Teller segue into the realm of deforestation. To back themselves up they call upon Patrick Moore. Penn & Teller are quick to point out that Moore was a cofounder of Greenpeace, but they fail to mention he now heads an organization called Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. This is a public relations firm whose clients include, among others, the Canadian Pulp & Paper Association and the National Association of Forest Industries. Mr. Moore states that the environmental movement consists of “elitists and morons” and “every tree that’s cut causes a new one to be planted.”
Just to be fair on the subject Penn & Teller decide to ask forest activist Julia Butterfly Hill what she thinks about the state of our forests. In a brief clip Ms. Hill states, “I would rather not see trees cut down for paper.” Gillette then interjects “What would we print medical textbooks on? And what about all of Picasso’s great artworks?” When Charles Slate interviewed Ms. Hill, she told him, “Penn & Teller just took a clip of me”—they didn’t interview her—“and they presented what they wanted.” He asked Ms. Hill to elaborate on her comment about cutting trees for paper and she gave a statement on using recycled paper and alternative sources of pulp, something Penn & Teller might have used. She pointed out that both of her books were printed on 100% recycled paper—presumably medical textbooks could be, as well. Slay's perspective is that the entire episode of “Bullshit” is an attempt to discredit environmentalists in general and global warming in particular. Penn & Teller make a half-hearted attempt at softening their critique by suggesting environmentalists are “well meaning, but naïve.” “It’s noble to want to save the environment, but …” Penn & Teller ignore important information, and select what suits their preconceived notions. They attack opponents on a personal level and misrepresent and oversimplify their positions. A new season of “Bullshit” has begun on Showtime. Penn and Teller declined Charles Slay's invitation to be interviewed for this article- Read More
Disinfopedia reviews "The Skeptical Environmentalist"

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