Last year, when President Bush appeared skeptical of the liberal orthodoxy about global warming - i.e., it's real, it's our fault, and punishing cutbacks in U.S. economic activity are the only way to prevent a climate catastrophe - the news media pushed the notion that he was either a dunce or the corrupt pawn of special interests.
"President Bush insisted today that he was not caving in to big money contributors, big-time lobbyists, and overall industry pressure when he broke a campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, but the air was thick today with accusations from people who believe that's exactly what happened," Dan Rather smarmily insinuated on the March 14, 2001 CBS Evening News.
The networks had no problem hitting Bush from the left when he had a conservative position on global warming. But now that Bush's EPA has joined with liberals who say climate change is real and is caused by human activity, none of the networks even hinted at the wide array of scientists who still reject that premise. Instead, ABC, CBS and NBC last night gave airtime to critics who expressed disappointment that the administration had not slid further into the extremist camp.
NBC used loaded language to indicate that Team Bush was late in accepting the reality of the liberal view. "For the first time, this White House acknowledges human activity is responsible for greenhouse gases, and the problem poses some threats to this country's future," NBC's Tom Brokaw argued last night. "A dramatic shift, the Bush administration concedes it is mostly a man-made problem from pollution," correspondent Robert Hager echoed a few moments later.
Hager revealed that the EPA report included the view that warming could have positive repercussions, including lower heating bills and longer growing seasons, but CBS and ABC skipped over those inconvenient paragraphs. ABC's Terry Moran said it painted "the starkest picture yet" of the allegedly dire consequences of unchecked warming, while CBS's Bill Plante predicted "heat waves, widespread drought, rising sea levels and coastal erosion."
Plante lamented the lack of tough new regulations: "The report offers no new ideas beyond the President's plan to reduce greenhouse gases over the next decade through market incentives. Instead, it calls for adapting to the changing climate." Moran said the proposals amounted to telling Americans to "get used to it....The President has proposed some tax incentives and other things to reduce the intensity of global emissions, but that's not enough, say environmentalists." NBC's Hager showed Harvard University's Michael McElroy who slammed Bush from the left: "It's like being an alcoholic. So now you finally have found out that you have a drinking problem, but you're not prepared to give up the booze. You simply would like other people to do it for you."
CBS's Plante was the only correspondent who included a conservative criticism, a quote from former oil executive Bill O'Keefe that the EPA report is based on faulty science. (NBC included the fact that Rush Limbaugh had criticized Bush but didn't reveal the substance of Limbaugh's comment.)
A petition signed by 17,000 scientists protests the climate models that are being used to push for draconian new rules such as the Kyoto treaty, and many well-credentialed experts stepped forward yesterday to chastise the EPA report (see box). But ABC, CBS and NBC excluded all of these experts from their biased climate news. - Brent Baker and Rich Noyes