David Barton: ‘What Is It We Think We Are Going to do to Damage the Planet?’

Religious right pseudo-historian David Barton appeared on Glenn Beck’s podcast last weekend, where he dismissed the concerns that young people have about what climate change could mean for the future of the planet. Barton argued that since hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanoes aren’t changing the climate, nothing humanity can do will have any negative impact.

Barton argued that climate change is nothing to worry about because he estimates that the earth experiences roughly 15 to 20 hurricanes and typhoons a year, along with a few hundred tornadoes and a dozen volcanic explosions, without negative repercussions for the environment.

“According to NASA, one hurricane is the equivalent of 10,000 nuclear weapons,” Barton said. “One volcano is 10,000 atomic weapons. So every year, we have got like two million atomic and nuclear weapons going off and the planet still seems to be in pretty good shape, so what is it we think we are going to do to damage the planet?”

“If nature itself has that much destructive [power] and we can’t even tell the difference, what are you kids worried about?” he asked. “I’m not quite sure I understand this.”

It will come as no surprise to learn that Barton appears to be grossly misrepresenting a NASA stat. An article on NASA’s website states that “during its life cycle, a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs.” (Emphasis added.) Energy is obviously very different from the devastating effects of a nuclear bomb, which include blast damage and radiation. Additionally, while hurricanes release their energy over days and weeks through wind and rain, a nuke releases its devastation at once.