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'Once and For All' Lasts Just 72 Hours

     Forget that a veteran government meteorologist told the NBC “Nightly News” that global warming has nothing to do with the warm winter in the Northeast. According to that network’s chief science reporter Robert Bazell, he might as well have said the Earth is flat.


    On the January 5 “Nightly News,” anchor Brian Williams asked Dennis Feltgen of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration to answer “once and for all” what caused warm weather in the Northeast.


    “It’s not global warming at all, Brian. It is El Nino, El Nino, El Nino,” insisted Feltgen, whom Williams introduced as a forecaster with more than 30 years experience.


    But Feltgen’s expertise was not the final word. Just three days later, Williams borrowed from radio legend Paul Harvey to insist the viewer needed to know the “rest of the story.”


     “NBC News chief science correspondent talked to experts who say there is a relationship between the strange El Nino winter and global warming,” and “there will be a lot more where that comes from,” Williams insisted as he introduced Bazell’s January 8 report.


    Bazell’s report excluded any scientists skeptical of global warming’s role in the current weather patterns in the Northeast – like Feltgen, who had supposedly answered that question “once and for all” on the same program a few days earlier.


     Instead, Bazell gave air time to a Stanford professor who seemed to have a vendetta against the automobile.


    “Whatever the natural causes are, they’re riding on top of the warming trend that’s been induced by humans using the atmosphere as a free place to dump our tailpipe waste,” complained the university’s Stephen Schneider.


     So why the rapid change in NBC’s coverage in just 72 hours? Bazell may have given readers of an NBC Web log a clue when he detailed his own views in a posting last June.


     “I used to be a global warming doubter,” the UC Berkeley biochemistry graduate wrote in his June 22, 2006, posting to “The Daily Nightly,” the official blog for NBC’s evening newscast. “A lot of powerful interests do not want to believe the world is getting warmer due to human activity,” Bazell scoffed, chalking up skeptics as pawns of corporate interests.


     “There will be doubters about today’s report. There will always be a scientist to say the Earth is flat,” the correspondent complained in his blog post. Bazell offered a similar “flat earth” snark in an exchange with Williams a few days after his blog post, Fortune magazine’s Adam Lashinsky reported.