(Bloomberg) -- The biggest podcast in the world became a venue this week for what climate scientists see as classic disinformation about the widely used forecasts that ground the response to global warming.
It started Monday with Joe Rogan’s interview of prominent Canadian psychologist and author Jordan Peterson for the Spotify podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” thats among the biggest with audiences. “There’s no such thing as climate, right?” Peterson said, before addressing a familiar criticism at climate scientists: “Your models are based on a set number of variables. So that means you’ve reduced the variables — which are everything — to that set. But how did you decide which set of variables to include in the equation if it’s about everything?”
That is a common, and debunked, argument used by those trying to undermine the basic methods of climate forecast and policy. The “Climategate” email scandal of more than a decade ago, in which skeptics claimed that the science attesting to manmade global warming had been falsified, also focused on the work of climate modeling.
Rogan didn’t challenge Peterson on his assertions. But some climate scientists, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, eventually took to social media to do so.
Guys, for the love of everything holy, please, please, have somebody on who knows what the heck a climate model is!!! @joerogan https://t.co/VQ8GmH4vvE— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) January 26, 2022
Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, an Oakland., Calif.-based environmental research group, pointed out that climate models since the 1970s have been accurate at predicting temperature increases.
For what its worth, we have been projecting future warming since the first climate models in the late 1960s/early 1970s. We can look back to see how well they have performed. It turns out our models generally did a good job: https://t.co/xxi1BgiDO0 pic.twitter.com/Ehan82kHFc— Dr. Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) January 26, 2022
In an interview, Hausfather said this wasn’t the first time someone like Peterson, who isn’t a climate scientist, had used the show “as a venue to cast doubt on well-established science.” A previous Rogan interview with Randall Carlson also included what Hausfather considered misinformation.
Other episodes of the show have featured well-regarded climate communicators. Rogan hosted journalist David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth, and gave him a generous amount of time to discuss his research on the potential catastrophic implications of a warming planet.
Rogan’s office did not return an emailed request asking for comment.
With roughly 11 million downloads daily, “The Joe Rogan Experience” has an outsized reach—reaching a far lager audience than someone like Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, who draws a little more than 4 million nightly viewers. Rogan has already drawn criticism for spreading misinformation about Covid-19 on his show, and in response he has said that he’s not anti-vaccine and wasn’t presenting himself as an expert: “I’m not a respected source of information even for me. But I at least try to be honest about what I’m saying.”
Katherine Hayhoe, chief scientist with the Nature Conservancy, doesn’t see such a disclaimers as a useful way to account for the consequences of airing misinformation. “He likes to flirt with contrarian ideas and give the microphone to contrarian ideas,” Hayhoe said in an interview. “But when you are dealing with issues that directly affect the health and the well-being of real people like Covid and climate change, we know that that misinformation actually leads people to make decisions that impact their lives — or in case of climate change, the future of civilization. So that’s what’s at risk.”
The focus on Rogan’s show intensified during the week after the musician Neil Young asked Spotify Technology SA to pull his music because of Rogan’s show. The company is removing Young’s music from the streaming service.
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