The Times Follows the Aftermath of Climate-Gate in Britain
Thursday's A1 story from London by environmental reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal was headlined "Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britains." Who is to blame? "Right-leaning newspapers," for one.
Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?
Nowhere has this shift in public opinion been more striking than in Britain, where climate change was until this year such a popular priority that in 2008 Parliament enshrined targets for emissions cuts as national law. But since then, the country has evolved into a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated.
A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that "climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade," down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.
Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media's intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.
Two independent reviews later found no evidence that the East Anglia researchers had actively distorted climate data, but heavy press coverage had already left an impression that the scientists had schemed to repress data. Then there was the unusually cold winter in Northern Europe and the United States, which may have reinforced a perception that the Earth was not warming. (Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a United States agency, show that globally, this winter was the fifth warmest in history.)
Rosenthal detailed the push-back by believers in the theory of global warming as a man-made and harmful phenomenon, then pinned an ideological label on other news organs more open to debate on the issue than the New York Times:
It is unclear whether such actions are enough to win back a segment of the public that has eagerly consumed a series of revelations that were published prominently in right-leaning newspapers like The Times of London and The Telegraph and then repeated around the world.
In January, for example, The Times chastised the United Nations climate panel for an errant and unsupported projection that glaciers in the Himalayas could disappear by 2035. The United Nations ultimately apologized for including the estimate, which was mentioned in passing within a 3,000-page report in 2007.
The Times has never identified itself in a news story as a "left-leaning newspaper."
And this scary speech suppression of German newspapers didn't overly concern Rosenthal:
Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, successfully demanded in February that some German newspapers remove misleading articles from their Web sites. But such reports have become so common that he "wouldn't bother" to pursue most cases now, he added.
The Times would be in little danger of such censorship - its coverage of the global warming (led until this year by Andrew Revkin) has been sufficiently alarmist for the climate change pushers.
In December 2009, Rosenthal saw utter catastrophe in the alleged "disappearance" of glaciers from the Andes mountain range over Bolivia:
A World Bank report concluded last year that climate change would eliminate many glaciers in the Andes within 20 years, threatening the existence of nearly 100 million people.
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