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Media Help Sell Mass Extinction Scare

     Claims that global warming will cause mass extinction by 2050 were received with uniformly sympathetic coverage by media outlets. Newspapers in Britain, Canada and the United States featured stories trumpeting a studys dire warnings even before its official publication in the journal Nature and well before any analysis of its merits by the scientific community.

     An expert on global warming, Pat Michaels of the Cato Institute, states: Obviously, there is a lot to criticize in this paper. What is surprising is that something with such inconsistencies and unrealistic assumptions made it unscathed through the review process in such a prestigious journal as Nature. The studys methodology can only lead to a reduced number of speciesa growing number of extinctions[because] climate change is the sole driver of biodiversity in the calculation made by its authors, Michaels says. He adds this damning observation: [The authors] calculate percentage species extinctions for a variety of future climate scenarios. One, with a lower limit of 0.8 degrees Celsius of warming in the next 50 years, produces an extinction of roughly 20% of the sampled species. This results in a convenient Reality Check. Surface temperatures indeed have risen this amount in the last 100 years; but there is absolutely NO evidence for massive climate-related extinctions.

     Natures readers may be capable, as Michaels puts it, of picking that up. The media, however, reach individuals depending on journalists for sound information with which to judge the seriousness of the threat. They received commentary like this by CNNs Hala Gorani on January 8: A study led by a team of scientists from eight countries has come to the conclusion that one million species and plants will be extinct from the face of the earth in the next 50 years because of global warming and rising temperatures. Apparently even the most catastrophic worst-case scenario environmentalists probably got it right. That same day CNNs Sharon Collins announced: The few degrees of temperature rise predicted for the next 50 years, the study authors believe, could spell the eventual demise of a million species. Now while theres some disagreement on how bad the warming will be and how much of it can be blamed on human influences, most researchers say were in for big changessome beneficial, some potentially ruinous. There was not a word in either segment from scientists critical of the extinction hypothesis, much less the threat of global warming.

     Extinction made the front page of January 8ths Washington Post. The same day the New York Times featured an article by James Gorman under the headline: Scientists Predict Widespread Extinction by Global Warming. While noting that one of the papers authors admits Theres a huge amount of uncertainty, Gorman left readers with little doubt: Although the results [of the analysis] vary widely, Dr. [Chris D.] Thomas said, even the most conservative estimates show that global warming, which he and most scientists attribute to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the burning of fossil fuels, presents a very serious risk to huge numbers of species.

     Those behind this study are clearly among the most radical of scientists. As reported by The Independent, Professor Chris Thomas, a conservation biologist from Leeds University who led the research team, said only the immediate switch to green technologies and the active removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere could avert ecological disaster.

     The medias extinction coverage did not advance public understanding of the scientific realities concerning climate change, but has served the agenda of those bent on imposing a costly and onerous political solution to a dubious problem. A responsible media must provide equal coverage of those arguing that, while there is great uncertainty regarding global warming, there is no doubt whatever that the remedy offered by these scientists will have very dire consequences.