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Chuck Todd's 'Daily Show' Comments Got It Wrong on the Climate Debate

Last night Chuck Todd went on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” and was asked about his announcement on a recent episode of “Meet the Press,” (which was devoted entirely to climate change), to bar guests who dispute climate alarmism. I think we at the Competitive Enterprise Institute may have spurred the question.

Earlier this week, CEI launched a campaign challenging the decision with full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post (see the ads at cei.org/NBCclimatedebate). You can see Todd’s exchange with Noah below by skipping to the 8:45 mark.

Todd responded with ad hominem insults rather than addressing why he only had guests like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). Bloomberg spends millions of dollars pushing a tax and regulation agenda and has gone so far that he funds “Special Assistant Attorneys General” to “advance[e] progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions” while Curbelo was a Republican lawmaker who sponsored carbon tax legislation before losing re-election.

The essence of Todd’s answer was this: “I didn’t invite anybody who didn’t believe in the moon landing, and I also didn’t invite anybody who was a flat earther.”  In Chuck Todd’s world, anyone who doesn’t go along with radical and alarmist climate policies could not possibly have something to say on the topic. Well, how about Harrison Schmitt, a Ph.D. scientist-astronaut who walked on the moon and who also opposes climate alarmism?  He is not a flat earther, but I’m guessing he’s also not allowed in Chuck Todd’s debate club where everyone is committed to a single point of view.

The debate is not whether there are changes in the global climate—we agree that the Earth is warming and that humans have a role in it. The central debate is on the wisdom of imposing costly policies with very real, very large economic and human effects in the name of halting climate change. A real debate would also address climate campaigners’ reliance on overheated models and inflated emission scenarios, and their refusal to acknowledge that the long-term indicators of human health and well-being are strongly positive. For example, despite a four-fold increase in global population since the 1920s, the number of people who die from climate-related disasters has decreased by almost 99 percent.   

What we at CEI argue for is a focus on real-world data and an honest accounting of the damage that a regime of energy suppression would have on the well-being of regular people, both at home and around the world. While there are risks and costs that result from climate change, the policies designed to deal with climate change also have risks and costs. In our view, the costs of climate policies are much larger, more certain, and more immediate then the predicted costs of long-term climate change. Perhaps most important for the public debate—and an area where we’d like to see the media play a more critical role—are the unexplored costs that result from ceding decisions on energy use to people who pretend to hold all the information.

To his credit, host Trevor Noah pressed Chuck Todd on the central question of why he wouldn’t allow a debate on the proper response to climate change. Unfortunately, Todd got it all wrong with a narrow focus on increasingly centralized economic planning and limitations on energy use.

While it may make for an amusing sound bite for a comedy show’s audience, Todd’s absurd comparison to the moon landing and reliance on the charged term “denier” betrays a lack of confidence in the ability of the climate alarmists to win the debate.

In polling reported this week by—you guessed it—NBC News, 68 percent of Americans polled said they would not be willing to pay even $10 a month to fund the kind of “solutions” routinely proposed by Todd’s recent guests. The majority of Americans who feel this way should obviously not expect a call to appear on “Meet the Press,” but they nonetheless deserve an honest explanation of the laws and regulations alarmists are trying to enact, which could cost us all trillions of dollars. Only people who doubt their own ability to persuade others demand a platform where dissent is forbidden. The American people deserve—and should demand—better, both from the news media and their elected leaders.

At CEI, we’re ready to talk about the trade-offs of various policy proposals any time that Chuck Todd would like to come over. The results of the recent poll reported by NBC News suggests his viewers are ready to listen.