Media Hot Air on Climate Change
by L. Brent Bozell III
December 4, 1997
If you believe what you hear on network evening news shows, you should by now be in a panic over global warming.
CBS correspondent Scott Pelley has warned that "scientists are already measuring the destruction, from floods in American valleys to vanishing ice on world peaks." You've heard NBC's George Lewis forecasts "wild swings in the weather, from heavy rains to prolonged droughts, ruining crops all over the earth."
ABC's Peter Jennings keeps insisting that runaway global warming is just around the corner, that "it would only take a small increase in the world's overall temperature to change life as we know it" and that pollution "has already changed the world's climate." His ABC colleague Ned Potter predicted that because of global warming, "heat waves will spread across North America, a third of the world's glaciers will melt, flooding coastlines in dozens of countries, [and] tropical diseases will spread, exposing large parts of the U.S. to malaria and dengue fever."
What you don't hear on these shows are things like this, from Dr. Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "A decade of focus on global warming and billions of dollars of research funds have still failed to establish that global warming is a significant problem."
Or this, from astrophysicist S. Fred Singer: "The climate warming over the past 100 years, which occurred mainly before 1940, in no way supports computer models that predict drastic future warming" and "weather satellite observations, independently backed by data from balloon-borne sensors, have shown no global warming trend whatsoever in the past 20 years."
In fact, out of 48 stories on the evening network news about global warming over the past five years (January 1993 through October 1997) only two have bothered to mention the arguments of scientists skeptical of this threat. Even more unbelievable, 41 have never even mentioned that there's a scientific school of thought that finds the global warming theories to be pure rubbish.
Just how significant an omission is this? Numerous polls show that climate scientists are far from convinced that greenhouse warming is a problem. The most recent poll to refute the networks' Chicken Little claims was commissioned by Citizens for a Sound Economy. Its poll of state climatologists found that, by a 44 to 17 percent margin, they believe "recent global warming is a largely natural phenomenon." Nine out of ten agreed that "scientific evidence indicates variations in global temperatures are likely to be naturally occurring and cyclical over very long periods of time." Only 19 percent said "weather events over the last 25 years have been more severe or frequent than other periods" in their states' history, and less than a third of that small percentage attributed such weather to global warming. But you won't hear about this on the "news."
Not every network program is unwilling to question the accuracy of global warming predictions. In a brief but powerful exchange on the November 30 "This Week," the entire debate was put in its proper perspective. Moderator Cokie Roberts began the discussion by pointing out polling data showing many Americans are skeptical of the global warming issue.
Roberts: "What's happened here that Americans no longer are quite so sure that the world is getting warmer?"
George Will: "Maybe they remember the 1970s when there was, as there is today [a scientific consensus] - today there's a scientific consensus, we're told, that the globe is getting warmer, and that the consequences are large and dire. Can I read you something from 20 years ago? New York Times: 'There are many signs pointing to the possibility that the earth may be heading for another ice age.' Science magazine toured 'extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.' Glaciers in Ohio were coming because the earth was cooling. Global Ecology magazine: 'Continued rapid cooling of the earth, approaching the full-blown, ten-thousand-year ice age.'"
Sam Donaldson: "Let's say it's all nonsense and we don't need to cut the emissions of fossil fuels and other things that contribute to global warming. What would happen [if it's true]? Of course, about the time we see it happening, it's too late...Are you willing to take that chance?"
Will: "I'm not willing to spend 80, 100, no-one-knows-how-many billion dollars a year on your hunch."
Let's face it. It makes for some pretty riveting television to echo dire environmentalist dogma about rising temperatures causing floods, droughts, malaria, and general ecological collapse. But this storyline should be reserved for "The X-Files" or the Sci-Fi Network. Journalists, like scientists, are supposed to be skeptics, constantly asking questions. On global warming, their curiosity is absent, blinded by an ideological desire that wants to believe the worst about free enterprise, no matter how unbelievable are the claims.