Meteorologist Weeps Over Climate Change, Fox News Calls Him a “Sniveling Beta-Male”

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 3 2013 3:25 PM

Meteorologist Weeps Over Climate Change, Fox News Calls Him a “Sniveling Beta-Male”

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

For Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and science writer, the United Nations' latest climate report hit hard. Holthaus, who used to write the Wall Street Journal’s weather column and is now an editor at Quartz, flies frequently and holds a pilot’s license. But after reading the report—which finds humans are contributing more than ever to global warming even as the crisis worsens—he was overcome with grief and remorse.

“I just broke down in tears in boarding area at SFO while on phone with my wife,” he tweeted. “I’ve never cried because of a science report before.” And then he resolved to take action. “I realized, just now: This has to be the last flight I ever take. I’m committing right now to stop flying. It’s not worth the climate.” Holthaus went on to explain his decision, and how he plans to implement it, in a blog post on Quartz.

Advertisement

Reasonable people can take issue with Holthaus’ response to the report, and some did. As the Washington Post chronicled, Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman criticized Holthaus for reacting emotionally rather than dispassionately and analytically. But others supported his resolution, and a few were even inspired to give up flying themselves.

And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there was good old Fox News. On its talk show The Five, one of the nation’s most-watched cable news programs, co-host Greg Gutfeld offered some dispassionate analysis of his own. “Guy’s a kook,” he said of Holthaus. “Someone should tell him that planes are better than driving, as their nitrous oxide causes cooling in the air.”

I'm not sure where Gutfeld came up with the claim that planes are better than driving, but my best guess is that he misunderstood some fascinating recent research on the relative climate impacts of different forms of transportation. In fact, Jens Borken-Kleefeld and others have found that air travel is by far the biggest contributor to warming in the short term, but that its warming effects may be moderated on a 20-year-plus time scale, potentially bringing them more in line with those of gas-guzzling cars. Regardless, both remain far greater contributors to climate change than other modes of travel, no matter how you slice it.

Anyway, Gutfeld wasn’t interested in delving into the science. No, he was interested in delving into Holthaus’ manhood.

“But hey, he says he’s the expert,” Gutfeld went on, warming to his monologue. “In what: beta-male sniveling? Seriously, is there anyone who can verify seeing this dweeb crying at SFO? I’m calling B.S. on this drama queen. This is what dooms environmentalism. Dishonest hysterics who put drama before data. When hysterics talk of getting vasectomies to save the earth, I say, ‘please do.’”

That's right, alpha males don't cry over the destruction of the environment. Alpha males go on Fox News and refer to people they disagree with "dweeb" and "queen." But Gutfeld got one thing right, at least: Dishonest hysterics who put drama before data are part of what dooms environmentalism—and they’re great for ratings, too. Aren’t they, Fox News?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They’re just not ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 16 2014 2:11 PM Spare the Rod What Charles Barkley gets wrong about corporal punishment and black culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.