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Skeptics Frozen Out of Warming Debate

Will Media's Earth Day Extravaganza Include Any Dissent from the Environmental Establishment?

Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day. The '70s environmentalists running this year's multi-national greenfest have chosen global climate change as their marquee issue - and anyone who doubts this "crisis" warrants further government intervention in the economy risks ridicule by the Hollywood and media elites.

"After decades of rancorous debate, only a handful of the most doctrinaire die-hards still dispute the idea that human activity is heating up the planet," declared Time's Michael Lemonick in a special Earth Day issue. "What will it take for us to get serious about saving our environment?" asked his colleague, Eugene Linden. "When will environmentalism move from being a philosophy promoted by a passionate minority to a way of life that governs mainstream behavior and policy?"

It's not as if the media haven't tried to hurry that moment, as they regularly bury evidence that casts doubt on arguments that radical restrictions on economic activity are required to forestall disaster.

Improving Forecasts - The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has twice lowered its median estimate of future warming, from an original guess of 5.7 F ten years ago, to 4.7 F in 1992 to 3.6 F in 1995. Testifying before Congress last year, climatologist Patrick Michaels said observed temperatures have been "considerably smaller than they were originally forecast to be," and he argued that moderate warming could be more beneficial than harmful.

Yet for years, many in the media have wanted to jump from the science of global warming to its politics. "The Earth is getting warmer all the time," argued ABC's Peter Jennings on January 4, 1996, "in part because the United States has not been practicing what it has been preaching."

Faulty Models - On January 13, a National Academy of Sciences panel reported that while the Earth's surface has warmed by about 1.0 F this century, satellites have detected no atmospheric warming. "This gap between surface temperatures and atmospheric temperatures calls the predictive accuracy of the models [used to project future warming] into serious question," wrote Ronald Bailey, editor of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Earth Report 2000.

Most journalists ignored the contradiction. Natalie Pawelski, host of CNN's Earth Matters, instead characterized it as "a blow to global warming naysayers. A panel of the National Academy of Sciences has concluded that global warming is happening and has accelerated in the last 20 years."

Earth in the Balance? - The media are already hyping the Earth Day re-release of Al Gore's 1992 environmental tome. In it, the Vice President wrote "global warming is no longer a distant threat," and he reaffirmed his support for the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which calls for cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions of developed nations. But Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, wrote last year that "the Kyoto Protocol, while economically harmful, would be ineffective in reducing the calculated temperature increase."

The MRC's Free Market Project found that more than 80 percent of global warming stories on the networks' evening newscasts from 1993-1997 pretended that skeptical climate scientists didn't even exist. Will those who argue that the evidence on global warming doesn't support major changes in economic policy finally get their turn this Earth Day, or will they once again be frozen out of the coverage? - Rich Noyes, Director of MRC's Free Market Project