Environmental Defense Fund Report Documents Limbaugh's Errors

November 29, 1994
(November 29, 1994—Washington, D.C.) The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today released The Way Things Really Are: Debunking Rush Limbaugh On The Environment, a report analyzing some of the many scientific inaccuracies in the books The Way Things Ought To Be and See, I Told You So, written by radio and television personality Rush Limbaugh. The study corrects Limbaugh’s claims in three areas: Ozone depletion, climate change, and old growth forests.

“Limbaugh’s environmental opinions have more in common with science fiction than with science fact,” said EDF senior scientist Michael Oppenheimer. “His claim that impending global climate change is not real and that ozone depletion is a hoax flies in the face of conclusions reached by the World Meteorological Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and thousands of scientists around the world.”

“The conservative Reagan and Bush Administrations were once skeptical about ozone depletion and climate change too, but based on the facts they signed treaties addressing these problems,” said Oppenheimer. “Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that these problems don’t exist insults the intelligence of his listeners, viewers, and readers.”

“Limbaugh’s views on the spotted owl and forests are disconnected from scientific reality,” said David Wilcove, an EDF ecologist. “He ignores hard evidence that the owl is in danger of extinction and misinterprets the studies he cites. His habitually misleading and erroneous assertions combined with the use of discredited and outdated studies make Limbaugh’s point of view virtually irrelevant to any informed discussion of the environment.”

“Limbaugh is correct on one point,” said Oppenheimer. “These issues are confusing and difficult to communicate. Unfortunately, it is Limbaugh himself that is causing a great deal of this confusion through his continued distortion of science.”

The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading, national, NY-based nonprofit organization, represents 250,000 members. EDF links science, economics, and law to create innovative, economically viable solutions to today’s environmental problems.


RUSH FICTION: “Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines spewed forth more than 1,000 times the amount of ozone-depleting chemicals in one eruption than all the fluorocarbons manufactured by wicked, diabolical and insensitive corporations in history…”

SCIENTIFIC FACT: Cumulatively speaking, Pinatubo’s impact on the ozone layer has been about 50 times less than that of CFC’s. Volcanoes emit two sorts of ozone-depleting compounds: hydrochloric acid (amounts measured in the stratosphere were largely unchanged by the Pinatubo eruption) and sulfur dioxide (converted in the stratosphere into tiny particles which act in combination with chlorine from man-made CFC’s. This temporarily increased the rate of ozone depletion by several percentage points during 1992 and 1993). Nearly all the chemicals emitted by Pinatubo have already washed out of the stratosphere, unlike CFC’s, which remain for as long as a century.

RUSH FICTION: Limbaugh claims environmental “prophets of doom” have exaggerated the problem of ozone depletion, suggesting that it has been limited to “occasional reduced levels of ozone over Antarctica.”

SCIENTIFIC FACT: Substantially reduced levels of ozone have been measured over most of the globe, including N. America, Europe, and elsewhere. Scientists have observed a thinning of the ozone layer at all latitudes outside the tropics. By 1991, the depletion over N. America averaged nearly 5%. Since 1991, ozone depletion has further intensified. The most recent World Meteorological Organization assessment confirms that “the weight of scientific evidence” points to CFC’s and related compounds as the chief cause of global depletion.

RUSH FICTION: “Algore’s (sic) book is full of calculated disinformation. For instance, he claims that 98% of scientists believe global warming is taking place. However a Gallup poll of scientists involved in global climate research shows that 53% do not believe that global warming has occurred, 30% say they don’t know, and only 17% are devotees of this dubious theory.”

SCIENTIFIC FACT: These numbers, apparently from a George Will column of 3 September 1992, are supposed to show the findings of a Gallup poll taken in late 1991 to ascertain the opinions of research scientists concerning global warming. Nowhere in the actual poll results are there figures that resemble those cited by Will or Limbaugh. Instead, the poll found a substantial majority of the scientists polled, 66%, believed that human-induced global warming was already occurring. Only 10% disagreed, and the remainder were undecided.

RUSH FICTION: “A fact you never hear the environmentalist wacko crowd acknowledge is that 96% of the so-called `greenhouse’ gases are not created by man, but by nature.”

SCIENTIFIC FACT: The greenhouse effect is, by and large, a natural phenomenon, produced by gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor that have warmed the Earth for eons, enabling its climate to support life. However, in nature these gases usually remain in balance, leading to a stable climate, while the greenhouse gases added by humans over the last 200 years have accumulated to the point that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, for example, is now more than 25% above what it had been for the previous 10,000 years. The scientific consensus is that the accumulation of CO2 and other gases due to human activity will alter the climate substantially, warming the globe by three to eight degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.

RUSH FICTION: “It reminds me of the researchers who recently ventured into the forests of California. Do you know what they found? No, not Algore. They found spotted owls. It seems the place is teeming with spotted owls -even though they’re supposed to be an endangered species.”

SCIENTIFIC FACT: Fewer than 2,000 pairs of the Northern spotted owl are thought to survive in California forests—a number that could hardly be described as “teeming”. More importantly, at a meeting of experts called by the U.S. government in December 1993 at Fort Collins, Colorado, virtually every biologist who presented data concluded that the total numbers of the owl are still in decline, and the population loss rate appears to be accelerating.