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Williams Attributes Drop in Warming Credence to 'People Less Sensitive to Environment'

NBC's Brian Williams allocated a few seconds Thursday night to how a new Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey discovered the percent of Americans who, in his words, "believe there's solid evidence of global warming...has dropped off significantly" while "the number of people who say they don't believe in climate change at all has doubled in that time." (If it's a scientific issue, what does "belief" have to do with it?)

But instead of crediting Americans for recognizing the media-fueled case global warming is a threat has been undermined by reality since global temperatures have not risen an iota since 1998, Williams attributed the change to how "in a down economy, people are less sensitive to the environment."

Or at least less sensitive to NBC's hysteria. Just a month ago, on the September 20 Nightly News, Lester Holt set up a typically panicked story on how "a new study warns rapidly melting ice in Greenland could result in a colossal rise in ocean levels." Reporter Anne Thompson ominously warned: "For thousands of years...the Earth's climate has endured changes, but slowly enough to allow humans to adapt. Now, change is picking up speed."

Really? As BBC weather presenter and climate correspondent Paul Hudson wrote on October 9, "the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998." Indeed, "for the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures."

And, in an anecdote that certainly would have been blown into a big mainstream media story if the temperature had been a record high, this past Saturday's Washington Post reported:

Something happened in Washington on Friday that had not occurred in 138 years of weather history: For the first time since the National Weather Service began compiling daily data here, the high temperature for Oct. 16 was below 50 degrees.

The short item from Williams on the Thursday, October 22 NBC Nightly News:

Evidence tonight that a major opinion poll has picked up on a major change on a big issue. For the past three years, over 70 percent of Americans have told pollsters from the Pew Research organization they believe there's solid evidence of global warming. This year, however, that number has dropped off significantly. Now just 57 percent say they believe it. The number of people who say they don't believe in climate change at all has doubled in that time. One theory offered today: in a down economy, people are less sensitive to the environment.

The Pew poll, "Fewer Americans See Solid Evidence of Global Warming," determined:

There has been a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. And fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem - 35% say that today, down from 44% in April 2008.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that 57% think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71% said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.

Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36% say that currently, down from 47% last year.

"No solid evidence" of global warming has jumped from 17 percent in 2006 to 33 percent this year, while "not a problem" has increased from 9 to 17 percent.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center