Joe Rogan, one of the most influential podcasters in the country, has been at the center of numerous climate-related controversies in recent years, including hosting climate skeptics and pushing a debunked conspiracy theory about wildfires. Recently, activists called on Spotify – which exclusively broadcasts Rogan’s podcast – to take action against his COVID-19 misinformation. On January 25, Rogan hosted conservative malcontent Jordan Peterson, who spent nearly an hour incoherently attacking climate science and promoting climate change denial.
Peterson – who became a far-right darling for his outré takes on issues such as gender identity, gender relations, and racial equity – appears to be expanding his brand of right-wing contrarianism to include climate skepticism. Although he has espoused denialist views in the past, his appearance on Rogan gave him long stretches of time to share his rambling and incongruous views on climate issues.
For an example of the level of discourse, at one point during the podcast, Peterson asserted that solar power killed more people than nuclear energy because of the “unintended consequences” of rooftop accidents.
Peterson also suggested that climate models – which have been remarkably accurate in predicting the climate impacts we are now experiencing – are useless, saying, “There’s no such thing as climate,” and the “models aren’t right” because they “cannot model everything,” a typical claim of climate skeptics, which is demonstrably false.
Peterson’s irresponsible and reckless comments on climate science and clean energy come in the wake of a year that saw blistering heat waves that killed hundreds of people in the U.S. and Canada, destructive wildfires, droughts that triggered the first ever water shortage in the country’s largest reservoir, and Hurricane Ida, which pummeled the South and unleashed “catastrophic” rains across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region.
The window for meaningful climate action is rapidly closing. The rapid warming detailed in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report represents a “code red” for humanity, according to the United Nations. Each degree of additional warming poses increasingly existential risks for humanity in terms of public health, economic well-being, and social cohesion. Staving off climate change’s worst consequences will require rapid decarbonization and an immediate transition to renewable energy. Considering that the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action, the time to act is now.
By providing a platform to climate deniers and skeptics like Jordan Peterson and Michael Shellenberger, a climate contrarian who appeared on the podcast last October, Rogan is unwittingly aiding the fossil fuel industry with its multibillion-dollar campaign to erode the public consensus on climate change, greenwash major emitters, and thwart climate action. Despite this effort, poll after poll finds that the majority of Americans, which likely includes many of Rogan’s listeners, want the government to take climate action. Instead of giving climate deniers and skeptics a platform to encourage inaction, Rogan would do better hosting climate scientists and activists who can speak to the need for collective action to address the existential crisis of our lifetime.