Warming Hype: 'Will Billions Die?' and 'Could Destroy Earth?' --2/1/2007
2. Only NBC's Gregory Recalls Biden's Indian Insult or Plagiarism
Over on NBC's Today, co-host Matt Lauer warned of "a controversy in Washington over what literally could be the end of the world as we know it. Did the Bush administration freeze out scientists trying to sound the alarm on global warming?"
CNN's Larry King Live on Wednesday night featured a panel under the on-screen heading: "Could Global Warming Destroy Earth?" Though the panel was dominated by left-wingers who endorse Al Gore's calls for drastic government action to curb human-caused warming, CNN, unlike the other networks, included one scientist, Robert Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT, who doesn't buy into the "consensus." Last July, he penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, "Don't Believe the Hype: Al Gore is wrong. There's no 'consensus' on global warming." An excerpt:
....Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template -- namely, shrill alarmism. To believe it requires that one ignore the truly inconvenient facts. To take the issue of rising sea levels, these include: that the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940; that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average. A likely result of all this is increased pressure pushing ice off the coastal perimeter of that country, which is depicted so ominously in Mr. Gore's movie. In the absence of factual context, these images are perhaps dire or alarming.
They are less so otherwise. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why....
A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse. Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended -- at least not in terms of the actual science.
A clearer claim as to what debate has ended is provided by the environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook. He concludes that the scientific community now agrees that significant warming is occurring, and that there is clear evidence of human influences on the climate system. This is still a most peculiar claim. At some level, it has never been widely contested. Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998.
There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas -- albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected.
Given that we do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change, this task is currently impossible. Nevertheless there has been a persistent effort to suggest otherwise, and with surprising impact. Thus, although the conflicted state of the affair was accurately presented in the 1996 text of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the infamous "summary for policy makers" reported ambiguously that "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." This sufficed as the smoking gun for Kyoto....
Even more recently, the Climate Change Science Program, the Bush administration's coordinating agency for global-warming research, declared it had found "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system." This, for Mr. Easterbrook, meant: "Case closed." What exactly was this evidence? The models imply that greenhouse warming should impact atmospheric temperatures more than surface temperatures, and yet satellite data showed no warming in the atmosphere since 1979. The report showed that selective corrections to the atmospheric data could lead to some warming, thus reducing the conflict between observations and models descriptions of what greenhouse warming should look like. That, to me, means the case is still very much open.
So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.
First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists -- especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.
Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce -- if we're lucky.
END of Excerpt
For Lindzen's piece in full: www.opinionjournal.com
None of that caution made it into the media hype of the past few days as documented in the January 31 CyberAlert: tp://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2007/cyb20070131.asp
# ABC's Good Morning America, January 31. The MRC's Scott Whitlock took down the segment with this warning on screen: "Will Billions Die from Global Warming? New Details on Thirst and Hunger." Billions? Could that be a slight exaggeration?
Co-host Robin Roberts began the segment, which aired at 7:14am, by reminding Americans just how subjective Sam Champion is on the subject of global warming:
Mitchell's story largely matched her piece that aired on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, as detailed in the January 31 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
On Today, with "Melting Point, Waking Up to Global Warming" on screen, Mitchell began: "Mounting ice caps are having a dramatic impact in Antarctica."
The ABC and CBS evening newscasts on Wednesday night carried full stories on the racially-tinged remarks by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but only NBC's David Gregory reminded viewers of how Biden "has made indelicate remarks before." In an interview with the New York Observer published Wednesday, Biden said of competing candidate Barack Obama: "You got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
In his piece, which led the January 31 NBC Nightly News, Gregory recalled: "Biden, who admits he has a tendency to bloviate, has made indelicate remarks before. Last year speaking about Indian-Americans:" Viewers saw video from C-SPAN, of Biden in a crowd, dated June 17, 2006: "You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent." Gregory then noted: "Biden's first presidential run twenty years ago was undone after evidence emerged that he plagiarized a speech from a British politician, Neil Kinnock."
[This item was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Over on ABC's World News, Jake Tapper uniquely played a soundbite from the right critical of Biden, an audio clip of Rush Limbaugh from his radio show: "See folks, this is the problem for the libs. Once they get off script they expose their idiocy, they expose their prejudice."
Gloria Borger handled the CBS Evening News report.
-- Brent Baker