In a rant described by one scientist as “either incredibly ignorant” or “intentionally misleading,” Fox News host Greg Gutfeld denied deforestation and distorted climate science.
Gutfeld Becomes A Deforestation Denier
Gutfeld Falsely Claims We Plant More Trees Than We Cut Down. During the April 23 edition of The Five, Gutfeld said “we also have to be aware that for every tree that we cut down, we plant seven more. And in the northern hemisphere, the -- the actual forest growth has more than surpassed what's happening in Brazil.” He later added, “We now have more trees than we did before.” [Fox News, The Five, 4/23/12]
In Fact, The Globe Is Losing Forests The Size Of Costa Rica Every Year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment found that while the global rate of deforestation has declined, the net change in global forest area is still a loss the size of Costa Rica every year:
Deforestation - mainly the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land - shows signs of decreasing in several countries but continues at a high rate in others. Around 13 million hectares of forest were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year in the last decade compared to 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. Both Brazil and Indonesia, which had the highest net loss of forest in the 1990s, have significantly reduced their rate of loss, while in Australia, severe drought and forest fires have exacerbated the loss of forest since 2000.
Afforestation and natural expansion of forest in some countries and regions have reduced the net loss of forest areas significantly at the global level. The net change in forest area in the period 2000-2010 is estimated at -5.2 million hectares per year (an area about the size of Costa Rica), down from -8.3 million hectares per year in the period 1990-2000.
The following map from the FAO report shows that while some temperate and boreal forests in the northern hemisphere are growing, those gains do not make up for the loss of tropical forests:
[FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment, 2010]
Forests Serve As Critical 'Carbon Sink,' Absorbing One Third Of Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels. The New York Times reported last summer:
According to a study published online on Thursday by the journal Science, the world's forests absorb 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, or about one-third of the carbon dioxide released through the burning of fossil fuels.
The lead author, Yude Pan, a research forester at the Forest Service, describes the study as the most comprehensive analysis of the global carbon budget to date. It shows that forests are a far more significant carbon sink than previously thought. At the same time, the report emphasizes the devastating effects of tropical deforestation and the need to protect trees that perform an enormous global service. [New York Times, 7/15/11]
Gutfeld Tries To Disappear Americans' Huge Carbon Footprint
Gutfeld Claims “Americans Produce Very, Very Little CO2.” Gutfeld said, “We have to remember that Americans produce very, very little CO2. The numbers are like .0002 percent of the air. You know who produces more CO2? Termites produce 2-1/2 times amounts of CO2”. [Fox News, The Five, 4/23/12]
U.S. Has Emitted Far More CO2 Than Any Other Country. Between 1850 and 2007, the U.S. emitted 339 trillion tons of CO2. China came in second with 106 trillion tons. [The Guardian, 4/21/11]
U.S. Per Capita CO2 Emissions Second Only To Australia. The U.S. emitted more CO2 than any other country aside from China in 2010. On a per capita basis, Americans emitted more CO2 than any other country aside from Australia in 2010. [European Commission Joint Research Centre, September 2011]
Increase In CO2 -- Not Size Of Emissions Relative To “The Air” -- Is What Matters. As the Congressional Research Service explained, the release of CO2 from fossil fuel use causes the otherwise balanced carbon cycle to overflow into the atmosphere:
If humans add only a small amount of CO2 to the atmosphere each year, why is that contribution important to global climate change? The answer is that the oceans, vegetation, and soils do not take up carbon released from human activities quickly enough to prevent CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere from increasing. Humans tap the huge pool of fossil carbon for energy, and affect the global carbon cycle by transferring fossil carbon--which took millions of years to accumulate underground--into the atmosphere over a relatively short time span. As a result, the atmosphere contains approximately 35% more CO2 today than prior to the beginning of the industrial revolution. As the CO2 concentration grows it increases the degree to which the atmosphere traps incoming radiation from the sun, which further warms the planet. [Congressional Research Service, 2/18/09]
Gutfeld's Comparison To Termites Is Spurious -- Their Emissions Are Part Of Natural Carbon Cycle. Responding to Gutfeld's comments, Dr. John Abraham of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team said “he is either incredibly ignorant or is intentionally misleading.” Abraham explained that unlike greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, termite emissions are part of “a closed and natural cycle”:
[I]t is true that termites produce a lot of carbon dioxide because, well... they eat wood. So, in truth they are not “producing” carbon dioxide. They are transforming carbon that was in solid wood to airborne carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide was previously in the air, it got absorbed by the tree, and then is released during decay. It is a closed and natural cycle. It is sort of like saying “decaying leaves produce more carbon dioxide than humans” without acknowledging that the leaves took in carbon dioxide just a few months earlier. [Email to Media Matters, 4/24/12]
Gutfeld Contradicted By Decades Of Research On Cause Of Warming
Gutfeld Claims Climate Change “Ain't Coming From Us. And It's Not Having An Effect.” Gutfled said, “And you know, the heat capacity of the ocean is 1,000 times what humans do. It ain't coming from us. And it's not having an effect.” [Fox News, The Five, 4/23/12]
National Research Council: “Many Lines Of Evidence Support The Conclusion” That Human Activities Are Driving Most Of Recent Warming. In a comprehensive 2010 assessment of the state of climate change science, the National Research Council explained how scientists came to the conclusion that human activities are driving most of the observed warming in recent decades:
Many lines of evidence support the conclusion that most of the observed warming since the start of the 20th century, and especially over the last several decades, can be attributed to human activities, including the following:
1. Earth's surface temperature has clearly risen over the past 100 years, at the same time that human activities have resulted in sharp increases in CO2 and other GHGs.
2. Both the basic physics of the greenhouse effect and more detailed calculations dictate that increases in atmospheric GHGs should lead to warming of Earth's surface and lower atmosphere.
3. The vertical pattern of observed warming--with warming in the bottom-most layer of the atmosphere and cooling immediately above--is consistent with warming caused by GHG increases and inconsistent with other possible causes (see below).
4. Detailed simulations with state-of-the-art computer-based models of the climate system are only able to reproduce the observed warming trend and patterns when human-induced GHG emissions are included.
In addition, other possible causes of the observed warming have been rigorously evaluated:
5. As described above, the climate system varies naturally on a wide range of time scales, but a rigorous statistical evaluation of observed climate trends, supported by analyses with climate models, indicates that the observed warming, especially the warming since the late 1970s, cannot be attributed to natural variations.
6. Satellite measurements conclusively show that solar output has not increased over the past 30 years, so an increase in energy from the Sun cannot be responsible for recent warming. There is evidence that some of the warming observed during the first few decades of the 20th century may have been caused by a slight uptick in solar output, although this conclusion is much less certain.
7. Direct measurements likewise show that the number of cosmic rays, which some scientists have posited might influence cloud formation and hence climate, have neither declined nor increased during the last 30 years. Moreover, a plausible mechanism by which cosmic rays might influence climate has not been demonstrated. [National Research Council, 2010]
NASA: “Global Climate Change Has Already Had Observable Effects On The Environment.” From a NASA document on the effects of climate change:
Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.
Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occuring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.
Below are some of the regional impacts of global change forecast by the IPCC:
- North America: Decreasing snowpack in the western mountains; 5-20 percent increase in yields of rain-fed agriculture in some regions; increased frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves in cities that currently experience them.
- Latin America: Gradual replacement of tropical forest by savannah in eastern Amazonia; risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction in many tropical areas; significant changes in water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation.
- Europe: Increased risk of inland flash floods; more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion from storms and sea level rise; glacial retreat in mountainous areas; reduced snow cover and winter tourism; extensive species losses; reductions of crop productivity in southern Europe.
- Africa: By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress; yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent in some regions by 2020; agricultural production, including access to food, may be severely compromised.
- Asia: Freshwater availability projected to decrease in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia by the 2050s; coastal areas will be at risk due to increased flooding; death rate from disease associated with floods and droughts expected to rise in some regions. [NASA, accessed 4/26/12]