Earth Day Special: The Media's Top 25 Worst Environmental Quotes
This Sunday marks the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day and for 25 of those years the MRC has documented the liberal media’s role in advancing the left’s green agenda. From fretting about overpopulation to scaring viewers about global warming, for over 25 years the media have championed the capitalism-killing agenda of the modern environmentalist movement.
So sacrosanct the liberal media believes its mission to be, that they haven’t even bothered to hide their bias. CNN’s environmental editor Barbara Pyle, as quoted in the July 1990 issue of American Spectator, actually bragged: “I do have an axe to grind...I want to be the little subversive person in television.” Time magazine’s science editor Charles Alexander, at a September 16, 1989 global warming conference, confessed: “I would freely admit on this issue we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy.”
That advocacy has been on full display as reporters and anchors have gone overboard in scaring their audience about the perils of our effect on the Earth, from overpopulation to global warming. In its January 2, 1989 “Planet of the Year” Time magazine’s editors warned: “Unless the growth in the world population is slowed, it will be impossible to make serious progression on any environmental issue.” Two years later, in an ad for its “Lost Tribes, Lost Knowledge” issue that appeared in the April 27, 1992 Sports Illustrated, Time magazine again warned: “Nature has a cure for everything, except the spread of Western civilization.”
Perhaps the media’s most popular scare tactic has been the specter of global warming. CNN’s Don Harrison, on the August 1, 1989 primetime special Climate in Crisis, hyped: “Global warming could mean economic upheaval. It could bring suffering. It could bring starvation.” Narrator Roy Scheider, in a ten-part PBS documentary aired in 1990 starkly intoned: “The environmental revolution has made us understand where we humans are taking the Earth: Towards a world poisoned by pollution.”
The forecasts coming from the media have been apocalyptic. Reporter Mark Phillips, on the January 16, 1990 CBS Evening News predicted that if nothing was done, global warming “would turn much of the planet into a desert.” On the January 11, 1990 Today show, it wasn’t arid land to be feared, but rather too much water as ecologist Paul Ehrlich predicted: “The Supreme Court would be flooded. You could tie your boat to the Washington Monument.”
Sixteen years later the Today show was still in the outlandish prediction business, as on the May 24, 2006 Today show, then co-anchor Katie Couric prompted former Vice President Al Gore, “What do you see happening in 15 to 20 years or even 50 years if nothing changes?...Even Manhattan would be in deep water?” Gore responded: “Yes, in fact the World Trade Center Memorial site would be underwater.”
Of course being a lead spokesman for the global warming hysteria movement meant Gore was elevated to almost deific status by the liberal media. Former Time reporter Margaret Carlson, on the October 13, 2007 Bloomberg TV’s Political Capital, deemed him a “prophet.” However, if any critic dared to express skepticism they were trashed. In his magazine’s special Earth Day, 2000 issue Time’s Michael Lemonick dismissed: “Only a handful of the most doctrinaire die-hards still dispute the idea that human activity is heating up the planet.” The cover of the August 13, 2007 Newsweek denounced the “well-funded naysayers who still reject the overwhelming evidence of climate change. Inside the denial machine.” NBC’s Anne Thompson, on the August 16, 2007 Nightly News, mocked: “Deniers are confusing the issue and delaying solutions...The scientific debate is no longer over society’s role in global warming. It is now a matter of degrees.” CNN’s Miles O’Brien, on the October 12, 2007 Newsroom, went as far as to cast global warming skeptics as “dead enders.”
When e-mails surfaced, during the ClimateGate scandal, that showed science was being perverted to advance a hoax, the liberal media leapt to the movement’s defense. ABC’s Clayton Sandell, on the December 6, 2009 World News, assured viewers “the science is solid, according to a vast majority of researchers.” NBC’s Anne Thompson, on the December 7, 2009 Nightly News huffed: “It doesn’t matter what’s in those e-mails - the Earth is changing.” Wyatt Andrews, on the December 9, 2009 CBS Evening News, scoffed: “ClimateGate is a sideshow.”
The same disgust the media exhibited against those bringing reason to the ClimateGate debate was also brought against conservatives attempting to scale back overly-burdensome regulations. When the GOP controlled Congress attempted to do just that in 1995, the late Peter Jennings, called it “the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years.” NBC’s Roger O’Neil, in a July 28, 1995 Nightly News story on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, feared: “if the plants and animals can’t survive, what future is there for the human species?” On the August 5, 1995 edition of CNN’s Capital Gang, Time’s Margaret Carlson complained: “This is deregulation madness! We’re gonna have dirty water, dirty air.”
The following collection of 25 quotes represents the worst of the media’s environmental pandering culled from the MRC’s archive:
25. Billions of Lives At Risk
“Will Billions Die from Global Warming?”
— ABC’s on-screen graphic from the January 31, 2007 Good Morning America.
24. Who Needs Tanks, When You’ve Got the EPA?
“And yet, Congresswoman Schneider, in 1989, fiscal 1989 as we say in America, the Environmental Protection Agency got $5.1 billion dollars and the Defense Department got $290 billion dollars. What’s that tell us about our priorities?”
— ABC anchor Peter Jennings on the September 12, 1989 Capital to Capital special “The Environment: Crisis In the Global Village.”
23. $6 a Gallon Gas Will Save the Earth!
“You’re also looking at a [global warming] solution here in Europe: smaller vehicles, more energy efficient, many which use diesel fuel which is more efficient. And the price of gas here is $6 a gallon to discourage guzzling. A lot of big ideas and innovations coming out of Europe.”
— ABC’s Chris Cuomo reporting from Paris for Earth Day, April 20, 2007 Good Morning America.
22. If We All Died Would the Earth Even ‘Miss Us?’
Co-host Matt Lauer: “The book is called The World Without Us, and it asks the question what would happen to planet Earth if human beings were to suddenly disappear....And really it’s all about trying to figure out how long it would take nature to reclaim what we’ve created.”
Co-host Meredith Vieira: “The mess.”
Lauer: “How long it would take nature to fix the mess we’ve made?...Would the Earth miss us at all? How long would it take for it to fix the problems we created?”
— NBC’s Today, September 4, 2007.
21. Someone Get the Statue of Liberty a Life Preserver Before She Floats Away!
Tom Brokaw: “About 10 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by ice, most of that in the polar regions. But if enough of that ice melts, the seas will rise dramatically and the results will be calamitous....If this worst-case scenario should occur, in the coming centuries New York could be abandoned, its famous landmarks lost to the sea.”
Dr. James Hansen, Goddard Institute for Space Studies: “Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Miami -- they would all be under water.”
— From Brokaw’s two-hour Discovery Channel special, Global Warming: What You Need to Know, excerpt shown on the July 15, 2006 NBC Nightly News.
20. Earth to George W. Bush: You Make Me Sick!
“No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth....Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us....Something has gone grievously wrong. That something is global warming....It’s undeniable that the White House’s environmental record — from the abandonment of Kyoto to the President’s [George W. Bush] broken campaign pledge to control carbon output to the relaxation of emission standards — has been dismal.”
— Time’s Jeffrey Kluger in the magazine’s April 3, 2006 global warming cover story: “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.”
19. Big Oil Caused Hurricane Katrina
“The hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming....Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue....As the pace of climate change accelerates, many researchers fear we have already entered a period of irreversible runaway climate change.”
— Former Washington Post and Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan in an August 30, 2005 Boston Globe op-ed.
18. When You Fill Up Your Tank, You’re ‘Fighting Science’
“ExxonMobil - I think this is a real group of bad guys, considering that they have funded all the anti-global-warming propaganda out there in the world. And Bush is just not going to go against guys like that. They are bad, bad guys, because of what they are doing in fighting the science of global warming.”
— New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in an interview published in Rolling Stone, October 17, 2002.
17. Put Down That Hairspray Can or Else We’ll All Be Riding Camels to Work!
“If nothing is done to reverse ozone damage, scientists predict hundreds of millions of skin cancer cases in the U.S. alone, not to mention increased global warming that would turn much of the planet into a desert.”
— Reporter Mark Phillips on the January 16, 1990 CBS Evening News.
16. ‘Radical’ Republicans Could Kill Off Snail Darters, Owls, Even You!
“The noises coming from [Rep. Sonny] Bono and many of his fellow Republican signers of House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract with America’ signal a radical shift in Congress’s attitude toward environmental issues -- a shift that may bode ill for the health of snail darters, spotted owls, and even the human species.”
— Time reporter Dick Thompson in a February 27, 1995 story headlined “Congressional Chain-Saw Massacre: If Speaker Newt Gingrich gets his way, the laws protecting air, water and wildlife may be endangered.”
15. GOP’s Full ‘Frontal Assault’ on the Environment
“Next week on ABC’s World News Tonight, a series of reports about our environment which will tell you precisely what the new [Republican] Congress has in mind: the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years. Is this what the country wants?”
— Peter Jennings in an ABC promo during the July 9, 1995 This Week with David Brinkley.
14. Earth Would Be Okay It Weren’t for Us Pesky Humans
“Ultimately, no problem may be more threatening to the Earth’s environment than the proliferation of the human species.”
— Anastasia Toufexis, “Overpopulation: Too Many Mouths,” article in Time’s special “Planet of the Year” edition, January 2, 1989.
13. Ronald Reagan = Earth Day Buzzkill
“The missteps, poor efforts and setbacks brought on by the Reagan years have made this a more sober Earth Day. The task seems larger now.”
— Today co-host Bryant Gumbel, April 20, 1990.
12. Heed the Words of the ‘Prophet’ Al Gore
“You know, Bob, you’d still be holding your breath and kicking your feet if what had happened to Al Gore in Florida had happened to you. He rose above a great injustice....He became a prophet on an issue that is crucially important to the world.”
— Ex-Time reporter Margaret Carlson to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bob Novak on Bloomberg TV’s Political Capital, October 13, 2007.
11. Climate Change a Greater Threat Than USSR’s Nukes
“Despite the danger that climate change poses, the resources currently devoted to studying this problem -- and combating it -- are inconsequential compared with the trillions spent during the Cold War. Twenty years from now, we may wonder how we could have miscalculated which threat represented the greater peril.”
— Time contributor Eugene Linden, September 4, 2000.
10. Ted Koppel to Global Warming Skeptics: The Earth is Round!
Karen Kerrigan, Small Business Survival Committee: “To say that the science is conclusive...is actually bunk.”
Host Ted Koppel: “I was just going to make the observation that there are still some people who believe in the Flat Earth Society, too, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.”
— Exchange on the December 9, 1997 Nightline.
9. Call in the Climate Cops!
“Put an international tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases....Find a way to put the brakes on the world’s spiraling population, which will otherwise double by the year 2050....Give the United Nations broad powers to create an environmental police force for the planet.”
— Time list of “What They Should Do But Won’t” at the United Nations “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, June 1, 1992.
8. Matt Lauer: Let’s Face It, There’s ‘Too Many of Us’
“Today, life on Earth is disappearing faster than the days when dinosaurs breathed their last, but for a very different reason....Us homo sapiens are turning out to be as destructive a force as any asteroid. Earth’s intricate web of ecosystems thrived for millions of years as natural paradises, until we came along, paved paradise, and put up a parking lot. Our assault on nature is killing off the very things we depend on for our own lives....The stark reality is that there are simply too many of us, and we consume way too much, especially here at home....It will take a massive global effort to make things right, but the solutions are not a secret: control population, recycle, reduce consumption, develop green technologies.”
— NBC’s Matt Lauer hosting Countdown to Doomsday, a two-hour June 14, 2006 Sci-Fi Channel special.
7. New York City: Iceberg Capital of the World
Bryant Gumbel: “At the risk of starting an argument, are you a believer in global warming?”
Mark McEwen: “Absolutely.”
Jane Clayson: “Of course.”
Julie Chen: “Yeah.”
Gumbel: “So am I....And you wonder what it’s gonna take. I mean, is it gonna take some kind of a real catastrophe? I mean, does an iceberg have to come floating down the Hudson before somebody stands up and goes, ‘Oh, yeah’?”
— Exchange during CBS Early Show’s co-op time at 7:25 am on April 18, 2001.
6. Meredith Vieira Freaks Out: ‘Are We All Gonna Die?’
“So I’m running in the park on Saturday, in shorts, thinking this [warm weather] is great, but are we all gonna die? You know? I can’t, I can’t figure this out.”
— Co-host Meredith Vieira talking about global warming on NBC’s Today, January 8, 2007.
5. One Day ‘You Could Tie Your Boat to the Washington Monument’
“There is an even greater threat that scientists can only speculate about. As global temperatures rise, they may cause the massive West Antarctic ice sheet to slip more rapidly. Then we’ll be facing a sea-level rise not of one to three feet in a century, but of 10 or 20 feet in a much shorter time. The Supreme Court would be flooded. You could tie your boat to the Washington Monument. Storm surges would make the Capitol unusable. For Today, Paul Ehrlich in Washington, DC, on the future shoreline of Chesapeake Bay.”
— Ecologist Paul Ehrlich reporting for the January 11, 1990 Today show.
4. PBS Hires the Guy from ‘Jaws’ to Scare You About Global Warming
Actor Roy Scheider: “Earth Day appealed to every one.”
Children singing: “Oil drops are falling on their heads/And that surely means that soon they will all be dead.”...
Scheider: “The environmental revolution has made us understand where we humans are taking the Earth. Towards a world poisoned by pollution. Towards an atmosphere disrupted by greenhouse warming and losing its protective layer of ozone. Towards rivers, oceans and beaches made unusable by sewage and toxic waste. Towards unmanageable piles of garbage filled with the squandered resources of the planet. Towards a population of 10 billion in 60 years, twice as many as today. With the prospect of feeding those billions from farmland eroded toward the breaking point. It will be a world in which wild things have no room to live. A world in which forests have disappeared. Only the environmental revolution can save the planet from this fate.”
— Actor Roy Scheider narrating ten-part PBS series Race to Save the Planet aired from October 7 to 11, 1990.
3. Too Bad Obama Cut NASA’s Budget
“Could global warming one day force us into space to live?”
— ABC’s Sam Champion teasing an upcoming segment on Good Morning America, February 8, 2008.
2. Ted Turner: We’re All Going to Be Eating Each Other!
“Not doing it [fighting global warming] will be catastrophic. We’ll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years, and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals. Civilization will have broken down.”
— CNN founder Ted Turner on PBS’s Charlie Rose, April 1, 2008.
1. Save the Earth, Stop Breathing!
“It’s a morbid observation, but if everyone on earth just stopped breathing for an hour, the greenhouse effect would no longer be a problem.”
— Newsweek Senior Writer Jerry Adler, December 31, 1990 issue.
- Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Geoffrey Dickens on Twitter.