Please be warned: I am about to type out a deeply cursed sentence. In a new episode of his podcast, Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson talked at length about climate change in an exchange that makes Rogan’s recent anti-vax content seem scientifically sound enough to win a Nobel Prize.
Rogan and Peterson waxed on about climate for a good 30 minutes at the beginning of the four-hour-plus (!) episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, which was released Tuesday. I listened to the whole thing and it made me want to self-immolate. I’ll spare you all the bulk of the exchange because I would like you to continue to exist in a less flammable state, but I feel obligated to share the stupidest parts here, so you can share in my pain.
Rogan starts the exchange by mentioning he’s reading a book about climate change, which he describes as “intense” and “requiring a lot of thinking” and that he’s looking into criticisms of climate science from “both sides” (uh, that’s not… a thing). “The climate change one is a weird one,” he concludes.
Peterson responds with some of the most pure, unadulterated nonsense I’ve heard in some time:
PETERSON: Well, that’s ‘cause there’s no such thing as climate. Right? “Climate” and “everything” are the same word, and that’s what bothers me about the climate change types. It’s like, this is something that bothers me about it, technically. It’s like, climate is about everything. Okay. But your models aren’t based on everything. Your models are based on a set number of variables. So that means you’ve reduced the variables, which are everything, to that set. Well how did you decide which set of variables to include in the equation, if it’s about everything? That’s not just a criticism, that’s like, if it’s about everything, your models aren’t right. Because your models do not and cannot model everything.
ROGAN: What do you mean by everything?
PETERSON: That’s what people who talk about the climate apocalypse claim, in some sense. We have to change everything! It’s like, everything, eh? The same with the word environment. That word means so much that it doesn’t mean anything. … What’s the difference between the environment and everything? There’s no difference.
For the next several minutes, as they continue this frankly bonkers conversation with all the seriousness of libertarian college students at debate club, Peterson also claimed that climate models are untrustworthy because of errors he said “compound over time,” which means, apparently, the models are “all errors.” Trying to predict what’s going to happen with the climate, he said, is analogous to trying to “predict how your life goes.” He also said that poor people are the real reason for climate change (??); that solar power is more deadly than nuclear because people fall off roofs during installation (???); and that fracking hasn’t polluted any water supplies (????).
I feel it’s also important to note that while Rogan was sporting a T-shirt for this interview, Peterson went for a bow tie like some sort of fancy marionette getting ready for prom. This doesn’t necessarily speak to his level of expertise (or, more accurately, lack thereof), but it did make watching the video of their conversation extra surreal.
I could use a bunch of space explaining how climate models work and how scientists work to correct for errors in their projections. I could point to the oft-repeated phrase “all models are wrong but some are useful” to succinctly underscore this point. I could re-emphasize how the body of scientific work on climate is incredibly sound on what is likely to happen within the next few decades. I could spend time explaining why the scientific definitions of “the environment” doesn’t necessarily mean “everything,” as well as how it is the world’s richest—not the world’s poorest—are driving environmental destruction.
But it’s really not worth anyone’s time to engage with “I just took a bong hit for the first time”-style talking points from a dude whose head is filled with an empty swampland of his own self-importance. This is a man who has advocated for only eating meat so it’s not like science is his strong suit anyways. Wasting time engaging in discussions with bad faith actors instead of pushing action is part of what got us into this mess in the first place.
Unfortunately, people like Peterson are some of Rogan’s favorites to platform, and this interview underlines the true issues with his “I-like-to-hear-both-sides” approach. Despite Peterson having absolutely no official expertise in climate change or science whatsoever, Rogan makes basically zero effort to question any of these wild assertions or correct course when Peterson begins pulling in the parable of the ant and the grasshopper as well as 1930s Weimar Germany to talk about why climate models suck (??????).
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, because Rogan’s last “climate” guest was a guy who thinks the world goes through cyclical stages of changing climate. His bio reads that he is “a master builder and architectural designer, teacher, geometrician, geomythologist, geological explorer and renegade scholar.” Weirdly, Rogan hasn’t had any actual scientists on his show recently to talk about climate change. But yes, both sides. Sure.
Anyway, 11 million people on average listen to each episode of this podcast. Incredible!!!!