Facts Frozen Out: Network News and Global Warming

Disaster Awaits

frozen4Not only did the networks report unquestioningly that humans were warming the planet, but they were certain that such warming would lead to disaster. Only two of the 48 global warming stories pointed out that some scientists believe warming would be a boon to human health and well-being. The other stories assumed warming would be bad. Scientists "predict that global warming would add to the infectious disease problem worldwide," claimed ABC's George Strait, on the January 16, 1996 World News Tonight. "As temperature areas become more tropical, diseases such as malaria could spread."

On the October 7, 1997 Nightly News, NBC correspondent George Lewis predicted that warming would lead to "wild swings in the weather, from heavy rains to prolonged droughts, ruining crops all over earth." He also ran a computer animation from an environmental group which "shows how a three-foot rise [in sea levels] would flood New York City, cause some of the Florida Keys to disappear, and expand San Francisco Bay all the way into California's Central Valley." At ABC, correspondent Ned Potter told January 4, 1996 viewers of World News Tonight that "scientists say if [temperatures] keep going up as they have, heat waves will spread across North America, a third of the world's glaciers will melt, flooding coastlines in dozens of countries, tropical diseases will spread, exposing large parts of the U.S. to malaria and dengue fever." CBS correspondent Scott Pelley, on the October 22, 1997 CBS Evening News, said, "Scientists are already measuring the destruction, from floods in American valleys to vanishing ice on world peaks...In fact, it is happening all around the world -- the earth's glaciers have been receding at an increasing pace over the last 100 years."

frozen5Dr. Singer, again, dispels these claims. "Judging from the climate record of the last 3,000 years of human history, climate consequences of a greenhouse warming should be generally beneficial," he wrote in a recent Science & Environmental Policy Project report. "One would expect severe weather to be less frequent because of (calculated) reduced equator-to-pole temperature gradients. In fact, the frequency and intensity of hurricanes have decreased over the past 50 years, although the reason for this is not known." Dr. Singer also suggests that fears about rising sea levels are overblown, because "new research indicates that increased ocean evaporation [due to warming] would lead to more rain -- and therefore to more ice accumulation in the polar regions. As such, sea levels may actually drop." Patrick Michaels, also a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, points out that most of the warming of the globe would occur during winter in the coldest air masses. "Warming up the planet's coldest air masses clearly creates little harm," argues Michaels in a June 30, 1997 Washington Post column, "because no plant or animal can feel the difference between -40 degrees and -35 degrees." He further writes: "All totaled, the effects of winter warming and little summer change lengthens the growing season, costs less energy and is, in general, hard to label as a big negative."