MSNBC's newest host, Hugh Hewitt, has a years-long history of climate denial

››› ››› LISA HYMAS

Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, who recently began hosting a Saturday morning program on MSNBC, has long been a climate denier. Like many prominent conservatives, he does not dispute that some change is happening, but he does deny that there's a robust climate-science consensus that attributes the vast majority of warming to human activity and points to the need for serious action.


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Hewitt has denied that climate change is a serious, human-caused problem

Hewitt in a 2011 blog post: "We don't know" if climate change will be harmful or if humans can do anything about it. In June 2011, Hewitt wrote a post on his blog titled "The GOP and Global Warming" in which he laid out a strategy for Republicans to use when talking about climate change (emphasis in original):

The responsible, conservative answer is to review the controversy over the climate change scandals, the majority opinion --that the planet is warming some but we don't know how much, that humans contribute to the warming, but we don't know by how much, and that we don't know if it will be harmful or if there's anything we can do about it-- and a cautious preference for reducing greenhouse gases but not via a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that cannot work even if it was necessary because the world's biggest emitters aren't buying it nor should they.

[...]

The GOP cannot be captured by the folks who say the planet can't be warming anymore than it can throw in with those who say it is headed towards catastrophe. On this subject, as with so many others, the vast majority of voters want common sense and a declaration that whatever the case, climate change won't be an issue that is allowed to kill jobs or energy production even as the scientific community continues to try and repair its collective reputation and come to a better understanding of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is a form of climate denial that many Republicans have adopted: contending that the science is uncertain, so we don't know whether humans are playing a big role or whether decisive action is warranted. This argument runs contrary to the well-established view of the vast majority of climate scientists. [Wayback Machine/hughhewitt.com, 6/4/11; InsideClimate News, 6/9/17; Skeptical Science, 1/29/17]

Hewitt discounted the past century of temperature rise on his radio show in 2015. From a transcript of the November 2, 2015, edition of The Hugh Hewitt Show:

HUGH HEWITT: I subscribe to the Hayward summary, Steven Hayward, great blogger at Powerline, says the temperature of the Earth’s gone up about one degree over a hundred years. No doubt mankind contributed to some of that. We don’t know how much. No doubt that it’s going to cause some effects. We don’t know what they are.

In fact, as NASA explained, "A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much. In the past, a one- to two-degree drop was all it took to plunge the Earth into the Little Ice Age." Additionally, the National Center for Atmospheric Research notes that the average global temperature has risen more than a degree and a half Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution: "Averaged over all land and ocean surfaces, temperatures warmed roughly 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit (0.85 degrees Celsius) from 1880 to 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." [hughhewitt.com, 11/2/15; NASA, accessed 6/26/17; National Center for Atmospheric Research, accessed 6/26/17]

Hewitt underplayed the importance of warming trends, saying in 2016 that they might be "a real problem over 500 years." Hewitt claimed on his radio program that he was not a climate denier, but he diminished the importance of climate shifts and accused those who advocate for climate action of being overzealous. From the September 7, 2016, edition of The Hugh Hewitt Show

HUGH HEWITT: I'm not a climate denier. Temperature has gone up. Might have some global raising of tidal, water might rise a little bit here and there. Could be a real problem over 500 years. All right. But they're going to say that as a result of that, you can't use Kleenex.

Contrary to Hewitt's claim that climate change might be a problem five centuries from now, there's extensive research documenting that change is already happening. The 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment, a large scientific review produced by hundreds of experts on behalf of the U.S. government, declared, “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” [Media Matters, 9/7/16; National Climate Assessment, 2014]

Hewitt has defended Scott Pruitt and said the EPA chief is "not a climate denier"

Hewitt to Pruitt: "I know you are not a climate denier." When Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was a guest on Hewitt's radio program earlier this month, Hewitt read a quote from a New York Times editorial that called Pruitt a "hard-core climate denier" and then criticized the Times piece. From a transcript of the June 2, 2017, edition of The Hugh Hewitt Show:

HUGH HEWITT: This is invective. I know you are not a climate denier. I know you very well.

But three months earlier, Pruitt had denied a basic tenet of climate science by claiming that carbon dioxide emissions are not "a primary contributor to the global warming that we see." [hughhewitt.com, 6/2/17; Media Matters, 3/9/17]

When Pruitt was nominated, Hewitt defended him against the "climate denier" label. Hewitt praised then-President-elect Donald Trump's choice of Pruitt to lead the EPA in a December 11 opinion piece in the Washington Examiner:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is a brilliant, principled, amiable and effective chief legal officer

[...]

When Trump announced that he was sending Pruitt to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Left alternatively sputtered and swooned. The old "climate denier" saw was immediately applied to Pruitt by the forces of bureaucratic government and their allies in the mainstream media, and the shrill attacks on Pruitt began and haven't let up.

[...]

Pruitt will bring not an attack on climate science to the EPA but a deep regard for the rightful role of an agency that is a creature of statute, not a producer of them. [Washington Examiner, 12/11/16]

Hewitt called for appointing climate conspiracy theorist Rush Limbaugh to a climate commission

Hewitt in an op-ed: Put Rush Limbaugh on a commission to study climate change. In a February 9 Washington Post op-ed, Hewitt suggested that Trump should appoint Limbaugh to a special commission to study climate change. Limbaugh has long been a promoter of some of the most fringe, over-the-top climate science denial and climate-related conspiracy theories. For example, Limbaugh concocted a conspiracy theory that the federal government was overstating Hurricane Matthew’s severity in order to manufacture concern about climate change; claimed that NASA’s announcement that it had found water on Mars was part of a climate change conspiracy; and distorted a study from Duke University, claiming it shows that "there isn't any [global] warming going on." From the Washington Post op-ed:

Imagine, if you will, an August 2017 Post headline: “McChrystal Commission report surprises, energizes and outrages.” The first paragraph reads:

“The much-anticipated and closely guarded final report of the McChrystal Commission on Climate Change released Tuesday shook nearly every interest and player in the capital. The commission, headed by retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and including such luminaries of left and right as Oprah Winfrey and Rush Limbaugh and such captains of industry as Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, kept its work secret and its executive summary short and accessible. President Trump tweeted: “THANK YOU General McChrystal and colleagues. Great work. All must read and think on your report carefully!”

This is a not-yet-established commission, of course, and I don’t know whether the remarkable McChrystal would agree to lead it or if Trump would empanel it. I only know the country needs such a body, just as it needed the National Commission for Social Security Reform more than three decades ago.

[...]

[W]hen it comes to climate change, we don’t know enough about the cost of the premium or the nature of the risk. Thus, a national commission led by men and women of impeccable credentials and also populated with visible and controversial opinion leaders of left and right would serve us well.

[...]

I don’t know who to trust actually on these issues. But I would take very seriously the recommendations of a such a commission ... Diverse, smart non-scientists who are going to listen to the scientists — all of them — and report back on what ought to be done. [​The Washington Post, 2/9/17; Media Matters, 2/10/17]

Hewitt gave Trump a platform for climate denial

Trump declared he was "not a believer in man-made global warming" on Hewitt's radio program in 2015. During an interview on September 21, 2015, Hewitt noted that Trump had not gotten an opportunity to answer a climate change question during a Republican primary debate earlier that month, so Hewitt asked the then-candidate about the issue. Trump's answer was one of his most clear statements of outright climate denial. From a transcript of The Hugh Hewitt Show:

HUGH HEWITT: Do you believe that the temperature of the Earth is increasing? And what would you do if you do believe that, vis-à-vis global climate change?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, first of all, I’m not a believer in global warming. And I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling. I don’t know if you know that or not. They thought the Earth was cooling. Now, it’s global warming. And actually, we’ve had times where the weather wasn’t working out, so they changed it to extreme weather, and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill. But the problem we have, and if you look at our energy costs, and all of the things that we’re doing to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.

Hewitt then concluded the conversation without pushing back against Trump’s climate denial, saying, "You’re still the best interview in America." [hughhewitt.com, 9/21/15; Associated Press, 11/22/15]

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