A Challenge to Journalists Who Cover Global Warming
By Sen. James Inhofe
“Global warming”—just that term evokes many members in this chamber, the media, Hollywood elites and our pop culture to nod their heads and fret about an impending climate disaster.
Recently, advocates of alarmism have grown increasingly desperate to try to convince the public that global warming is the greatest moral issue of our generation. Just last week, the vice president of London’s Royal Society sent a chilling letter to the media encouraging them to stifle the voices of scientists skeptical of climate alarmism.
During the past year, the American people have witnessed an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, linking every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage and cross squarely into global-warming advocacy.
'Hockey Stick' Broken
One of the key aspects that the United Nations, environmental groups and the media have promoted as the “smoking gun” of proof of catastrophic global warming is the so-called “hockey stick” temperature graph by climate scientist Michael Mann and his colleagues.
The “hockey stick” purported to show that temperatures in the Northern hemisphere remained relatively stable over 900 years, then spiked upward in the 20th Century, presumably due to human activity. Mann’s “hockey stick” came under severe scrutiny and was completely and thoroughly broken once and for all in 2006. Several years ago, two Canadian researchers tore apart the statistical foundation for the hockey stick. In 2006, both the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and an independent researcher further refuted the foundation of the “hockey stick.”
The NAS report reaffirmed the existence of the Medieval Warm Period from about 900 AD to 1300 AD and the Little Ice Age from about 1500 AD to 1850 AD. Both of these periods occurred long before the invention of the SUV or human industrial activity could have possibly impacted the Earth’s climate. In fact, scientists believe the Earth was warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings grew crops in Greenland.
End of Little Ice Age
The media have missed the big pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the Earth’s temperatures and mankind’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It is very simplistic to feign horror and say the one degree Fahrenheit temperature increase during the 20th Century means we are all doomed. First of all, the one-degree Fahrenheit rise coincided with the greatest advancement of living standards, life expectancy, food production and human health in the history of our planet. So it is hard to argue that the global warming we experienced in the 20th Century was somehow negative or part of a catastrophic trend.
The climate alarmists and their advocates in the media have continued to ignore the fact that the Little Ice Age, which resulted in harsh winters that froze New York Harbor and caused untold deaths, ended around 1850. So trying to prove man-made global warming by comparing the well-known fact that today’s temperatures are warmer than during the Little Ice Age is akin to comparing summer to winter to show a catastrophic temperature trend.
Alarmists fail to adequately explain why temperatures began warming at the end of the Little Ice Age in about 1850, long before man-made CO2 emissions could have impacted the climate. Then about 1940, just as man-made CO2 emissions rose sharply, the temperatures began a decline that lasted until the 1970s, prompting the media and many scientists to fear a coming ice age.
Kyoto: All Pain, No Gain
I am approached by many in the media and others who ask: “What if you are wrong to doubt the dire global-warming predictions? Will you be able to live with yourself for opposing the Kyoto Protocol?”
My answer is blunt. The history of the modern environmental movement is chock full of predictions of doom that never came true. We have all heard the dire predictions about the threat of overpopulation, resource scarcity, mass starvation and death of our oceans. None of these predictions came true, yet the doomsayers continue to predict a dire environmental future.
It is the global-warming alarmists who should be asked the question: “What if they are correct about man-made catastrophic global warming?” They have come up with no meaningful solution to their supposed climate crisis in the two decades that they have been hyping this issue. If the alarmists truly believe that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are dooming the planet, then they must face up to the fact that symbolism does not solve a supposed climate crisis.
The alarmists freely concede that the Kyoto Protocol, even if fully ratified and complied with, would not have any meaningful impact on global temperatures. Legislation that has been proposed in this chamber would have even less of a temperature effect than Kyoto’s undetectable impact. Global warming alarmists and the media have been praising California for taking action to limit CO2. But this costly feel-good California measure will have no impact on the climate, only the economy.
Symbolism does not solve a climate crisis.
When the history of our era is written, future generations will look back with puzzlement and wonder why we spent so much time and effort on global warming fears and pointless solutions like the Kyoto Protocol.
Climate Change Coverage
Many in the media have taken it upon themselves to drop all pretense of balance on climate change and instead become committed advocates for the issue.
Here is a quote from Newsweek: “There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production—with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.”
A headline in the New York Times: “Climate Changes Endanger World’s Food Output.”
Here is a quote from Time magazine: “As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval.”
All of this sounds very ominous—until you realize that the three quotes I just read were from articles in 1975 editions of Newsweek and the New York Times, and Time in 1974.
They weren’t referring to global warming—they were warning of a coming ice age.
In addition to global cooling fears, Time has also reported on global warming. Here is an example: “[Those] who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right ... weathermen have no doubt that the world, at least for the time being, is growing warmer.”
Before you think that this is just another example of the media’s promoting Vice President Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, you need to know that that quote was from Jan. 2, 1939.
Yes, in 1939. Nine years before Vice President Gore was born and more than three decades before Time began hyping a coming ice age and almost five decades before they returned to hyping global warming.
In 1951, Time pointed to receding permafrost in Russia as proof that the planet was warming.
In 1952, the New York Times noted that the “trump card” of global warming “has been the melting glaciers.”
Flip-Flopping Between Scares
There are many more examples of the media’s and scientists’ flip-flopping between warming and cooling scares. Here is a quote from a New York Times report on fears of an approaching ice age: “Geologists Think the World May be Frozen Up Again.” That sentence appeared more than 100 years ago in the Feb. 24, 1895, edition of the New York Times.
A front-page article in the Oct. 7, 1912, New York Times, just a few months after the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, declared that a prominent professor “Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age.”
The very same day in 1912, the Los Angeles Times ran an article warning that the “Human race will have to fight for its existence against cold.” An Aug. 10, 1923, Washington Post article declared: “Ice Age Coming Here.”
By the 1930s, the media took a break from reporting on the coming ice age and instead switched gears to promoting global warming. “America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776; Temperature Line Records a 25-year Rise” stated an article in the New York Times on March 27, 1933.
The media of yesteryear was also not above injecting large amounts of fear and alarmism into their climate articles.
An Aug. 9, 1923, front-page article in the Chicago Tribune declared: “Scientist Says Arctic Ice Will Wipe Out Canada.” The article quoted a Yale University professor who predicted that large parts of Europe and Asia would be “wiped out” and Switzerland would be “entirely obliterated.”
A Dec. 29, 1974, New York Times article on global cooling reported that climatologists believed “the facts of the present climate change are such that the most optimistic experts would assign near certainty to major crop failure in a decade.”
The article also warned that unless government officials reacted to the coming catastrophe, “mass deaths by starvation and probably in anarchy and violence” would result. In 1975, the New York Times reported that “a major cooling [was] widely considered to be inevitable.” These past predictions of doom have a familiar ring.
Media Coverage in 2006
Has this embarrassing 100-year documented legacy of coverage on what turned out to be trendy climate science theories made the media more skeptical of today’s sensational promoters of global warming?
On Feb. 19, 2006, CBS News’s “60 Minutes” produced a segment on the North Pole. The segment was a completely one-sided report, alleging rapid and unprecedented melting at the polar cap. It even featured correspondent Scott Pelley’s claiming that the ice in Greenland was melting so fast that he barely got off an iceberg before it collapsed into the water. “60 Minutes” failed to inform its viewers of a 2005 study by a scientist named Ola Johannessen and his colleagues showing that the interior of Greenland is gaining ice and mass and that, according to scientists, the Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than today.
On March 19, “60 Minutes” profiled NASA scientist and alarmist James Hansen, who was once again making allegations of being censored by the Bush Administration. In this segment, objectivity and balance were again tossed aside in favor of a one-sided glowing profile of Hansen. The “60 Minutes” segment made no mention of Hansen’s partisan ties to former Vice President Gore or Hansen’s receiving a grant of a quarter of a million dollars from the left-wing Heinz Foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry. There was also no mention of Hansen’s subsequent endorsement of her husband John Kerry for President in 2004.
Why would “60 Minutes” ignore the basic tenets of journalism, which call for objectivity and balance in sourcing, and do such one-sided segments? The answer was provided by correspondent Scott Pelley who told the CBS News website that he justified excluding scientists skeptical of global warming alarmism from his segments because he considers skeptics to be the equivalent of “Holocaust deniers.”
In April, Time devoted an issue to global warming alarmism titled “Be Worried, Be Very Worried.” This is the same Time that first warned of a coming ice age in the 1920s before switching to warning about global warming in the 1930s before switching yet again to promoting the 1970s coming ice age scare.
The April 3 global-warming special report of Time was a prime example of the media’s shortcomings, as the magazine cited partisan left-wing environmental groups with a vested financial interest in hyping alarmism. Time did not make the slightest attempt to balance its reporting with any interviews with scientists skeptical of this alleged climate apocalypse.
The American people should be worried—very worried—of such shoddy journalism.
The Al Gore Movie
In May, our nation was exposed to perhaps one of the slickest science propaganda films of all time: former Vice President Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. In addition to having the backing of Paramount Pictures to market this film, Gore had the full backing of the media, and leading the cheerleading charge was none other than the Associated Press.
On June 27, the AP ran an article by Seth Borenstein that boldly declared “Scientists give two thumbs up to Gore’s movie.” The article quoted only five scientists praising Gore’s science, despite AP’s having contacted more than 100 scientists.
The fact that more than 80% of the scientists contacted by the AP had not even seen the movie or that many scientists have harshly criticized the science presented by Gore did not dissuade the news outlet one bit from its mission to promote Gore’s brand of climate alarmism.
Here is a sampling of some of the errors and misrepresentations made by Gore in An Inconvenient Truth:
• He promoted the now-debunked “hockey stick” temperature chart in an attempt to prove man’s overwhelming impact on the climate.
• He attempted to minimize the significance of the Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice Age.
• He insisted on a link between increased hurricane activity and global warming that most scientists believe does not exist.
• He asserted that today’s Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warmth while ignoring that temperatures in the 1930s were as warm or warmer.
• He claimed the Antarctic was warming and losing ice but failed to note that is true only of a small region and the vast bulk has been cooling and gaining ice.
• He hyped unfounded fears that Greenland’s ice is in danger of disappearing.
• He erroneously claimed that the ice cap on Mt. Kilimanjaro is disappearing due to global warming, even while the region cools and researchers blame the ice loss on local land-use practices.
• He made assertions of a massive future sea-level rise that is way outside any supposed scientific “consensus” and is not supported in even the most alarmist literature.
• He incorrectly implied that a Peruvian glacier’s retreat is due to global warming, while ignoring the fact that the region has been cooling since the 1930s and other glaciers in South America are advancing.
• He blamed global warming for water loss in Africa’s Lake Chad, despite NASA scientists’ concluding that local population and grazing factors are the more likely culprits.
• He inaccurately claimed polar bears are drowning in significant numbers due to melting ice when in fact they are thriving.
• He failed to inform viewers that the 48 scientists who accused President Bush of distorting science were part of a political advocacy group set up to support Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004
Following the promotion of An Inconvenient Truth, the press did not miss a beat as advocates for global warming fears.
ABC News put forth its best effort to secure its standing as an advocate for climate alarmism when the network put out a call for people to submit their anecdotal global-warming horror stories in June for use in a future news segment.
In July, the Discovery Channel presented a documentary on global warming narrated by former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. The program presented only those views of scientists promoting the idea that humans are destroying the Earth’s climate. A Bloomberg News TV review noted, “You’ll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program.”
On July 24, 2006, the Los Angeles Times featured an op-ed by Naomi Oreskes, a social scientist at the University of California San Diego and the author of a 2004 Science magazine study. Oreskes insisted that a review of 928 scientific papers showed there was 100% consensus that global warming was not caused by natural climate variations. This study was also featured in former Vice President Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
However, the analysis in Science excluded nearly 11,000 studies (more than 90% of the papers dealing with global warming), according to a critique by British social scientist Benny Peiser.
Peiser also pointed out that less than 2% of the climate studies in the survey actually endorsed the so-called “consensus view” that human activity is driving global warming, and some of the studies actually opposed that view.
But despite this manufactured “consensus,” the media continued to ignore any attempt to question the orthodoxy of climate alarmism.
Alarmism Leads to Skepticism
It is an inconvenient truth that 2006 has been a year in which major segments of the media have given up on any quest for journalistic balance, fairness and objectivity when it comes to climate change. The media have so relentlessly promoted global-warming fears that a British group called the Institute for Public Policy Research—a left-leaning group—issued a report in 2006 accusing media outlets of engaging in what the group termed “climate porn” in order to attract the public’s attention.
The media endlessly hype studies that purportedly show that global warming could increase mosquito populations, malaria, West Nile Virus, heat waves and hurricanes, threaten the oceans, damage coral reefs, boost poison ivy growth, and damage vineyards and global food crops, to name just a few of the global-warming-linked calamities.
Fortunately, the media’s addiction to so-called “climate porn” has failed to seduce many Americans.
According to a July Pew Research Center Poll, the American public is split about evenly between those who say global warming is due to human activity versus those who believe it’s from natural factors or not happening at all.
In addition, an August Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that most Americans do not attribute the cause of recent severe weather events to global warming, and the portion of Americans who believe global warming is naturally occurring is on the rise.
The American people know when their intelligence is being insulted. They know when they are being used and when they are being duped by the hysterical left.
The American people deserve better from our fourth estate. Breaking the cycles of media hysteria will not be easy since hysteria sells. But I want to challenge the news media to reverse course and report on the objective science of climate change, to stop ignoring legitimate voices in this scientific debate and to stop acting as a vehicle for unsubstantiated hype.
Copyright 2003-2005 : DiscoverTheNetwork.org