A new anti-climate leader

Dan Bongino, a climate denier who spread the Texas wind energy lie, is gearing up to take Rush Limbaugh's place today.

Rush Limbaugh’s death in February left a deep hole where some of America’s most influential climate disinformation used to be. That hole will start being filled today, as far-right Fox News pundit Dan Bongino steps in to take Limbaugh’s place.

Bongino, who in 2018 declared his life mission as “owning the libs,” is already an popular purveyor of general disinformation. His Facebook page, The Bongino Report, regularly boosts false claims of election fraud, among other things.

Though the page only has about 135,000 followers, these posts “consistently land among the site’s top posts and outperform mainstream news outlets like The New York Times, CNN and Fox News,” reports Forbes. That’s in part because Facebook’s algorithim rewards misleading content from conservative creators, as Wired reported in March:

According to researchers at the Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University, far-right purveyors of misinformation have by far the highest levels of engagement per follower compared to any other category of news source. Indeed, the researchers found that while left-leaning and centrist publications get much less engagement if they publish misinformation, the relationship is reversed on the far right, where news organizations that regularly publish false material get up to 65 percent more engagement than ones that don’t. 

Bongino is about to be rewarded even further with his new radio show. Though it’s yet unclear exactly how many of the 600 stations that once ran Limbaugh’s show will pick up Bongino’s, the opportunity to pick up some of Limbaugh’s 15 million regular listeners is large. In addition, earlier this month, Fox News also announced that it would start airing a new show on Saturday nights lead by Bongino, called “The Big Saturday Show.” 

Bongino is thus well-positioned to soon become one of the most influential sources of right-wing disinformation in America. Here’s what we can expect on climate front.

Less flagrant denial, more insulting liberals

Bongino is a straight-up climate denier, and for the most part, is not particularly shy about it. “These climate change alarmists have been wrong about just about everything. All their charts have been debunked,” he said on Fox in 2019. “The climate’s been relatively stable. There’s not any evidence that storms are out of control. All this stuff is made up.”

But just like the fossil fuel industry, Bongino’s anti-climate policy talking points lately have moved further away from flagrant denial. Instead, they promote more insidious falsehoods— like that wind energy was a significant contributor to deadly blackouts in Texas following February’s deep freeze, and that liberals were trying to cover it up.

Bongino delved into that subject specifically for a February episode of his podcast, which he began by strongly defending the quality of his own information regarding “What really happened with Texas and the energy system failures there.” “I never want to be first if I don’t have the facts,” he said. “I’m tired of the lies.”

Bongino went on to disparage “These filthy people on the left who can never ever tell the truth,” like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who he called a “sick little turd” for debunking Texas Republican officials’ prolific claims that wind energy was the culprit of Texas’s woes. Bongino did admit that natural gas and nuclear energy failed as well. But he said wind turbines had failed, too, and the only reason liberals were mad that Republicans were pointing it out was because they had to “protect their golden calf.”

He said liberals were taking “advantage of an ongoing tragedy to score cheap political points,” and added: “The hacks at Facebook and soviet fact-checkers will ding this segment because the facts trouble them.”

In reality, the blackouts in Texas were caused not by any particular power source, but by Texas’s failure to prepare for climate change-fueled extreme weather. In order to protect their “golden calf”—fossil fuels—Republican officials publicly sought to place the majority of the blame for Texas’s blackouts on wind reliability. Practically every major news outlet in the country debunked that lie, an attempt to use a tragedy to score political points.

Still, Bongino adopted wholesale the argument made by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which was that the only reason nuclear and gas failed during the deep freeze was because it was trying to make up for the gaps in wind power. Ironically, that editorial was debunked by the journal’s own news section.

Green New Deal-bashing, arguments for human dominion

Here are some other trademark Bongino climate claims that we can expect to proliferate on conservative talk radio and Fox News as his profile continues to rise:

Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see which advertisers are willing to sponsor claims like these. Bongino’s interview with Trump airs at noon EST. So, you know. Right now.

Bonus: Gina McCarthy on HBO

Last night, Axios on HBO aired an exclusive interview with White House domestic climate policy czar Gina McCarthy. It looked very much like the John Kerry interview we covered last week: strategic or wishy-washy, whatever you want to call it. Here were some answers I thought were particularly interesting:

MIKE ALLEN: Isn't the climate emergency immense enough that people should feel pain? Whereas you're sort of saying, "Here's money, here's jobs, and we'll save the planet too." 

GINA MCCARTHY: We've had 22 million jobs that have been empty because of this pandemic. Now is not the time to sit them down and say, "Let's talk about climate. How can you sacrifice?" It's just never going to be a winning strategy.

MIKE ALLEN: Is big oil an ally or an enemy in fighting climate change?

GINA MCCARTHY: Well, fossil fuel companies [spent] a good deal of money early on fighting the idea that climate change was real. I think we even see them recognizing now that the future is different than it used to be and their way of making money is not going to be the same.

MIKE ALLEN: Big banks: ally or enemy in fighting climate change?

GINA MCCARTHY: Well, some have been very good at recognizing that commitments needs to be made. Now, it's time to make good on what they've been saying. But it really actually has to be everybody participating. So you're gonna see some movements on our part to make sure that climate risks are understood and factored into both public and private decision making on the finance side. 

Catch of the Day

Fish is tired after eating so many cicadas.

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