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Baaaa-dum. It only took two musical notes to set the mood and terrify viewers watching the movie "Jaws" in 1975. Today it only takes two words: global warming.
Global warming, or climate change due to a phantom menace called carbon dioxide, is more frightening to many than aliens, evil robots and mad scientists. Why? Because this villain, according to Al Gore, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the TV networks, is the real thing - not a science fiction foe.
On May 24, it will have been five years since "movie star" Gore tried to scare the world into making massive societal changes with his error-filled documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." After all, global warming has already caused glaciers to melt around the world, caused polar bears to drown and resulted in more severe storms including Hurricane Katrina, or so Gore claimed in his 2006 film.
Gore, the "darling of Hollywood" and a "full-time environmentalist" according to network reporters, turned global warming fearmongering into a Hollywood hit, making nearly $50 million worldwide, according to BoxOfficeMojo.
Watching the broadcast networks, you'd think there were very few people who disagree with the claims Gore, "An Inconvenient Truth" and the IPCC have made. But Climate Depot has compiled a lengthy list of more than 1,000 scientists who dissent in some way from those claims.
Despite that, network reporters have taken "environmental evangelist" Gore's movie as gospel for the last five years, excluding criticism of the science of his film nearly 98 percent of the time (266 out of 272 stories). Some journalists breathlessly wondered if it was too late to conquer climate change. In dialogue fit for an end-of-the-world summer blockbuster, ABC's Bill Weir interrogated one skeptic asking, "Isn't it a moral imperative as a public servant to err on the side of planetary survival?"
The Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute analyzed morning and evening broadcast network news mentions of Al Gore on the issue of climate change and mentions of "An Inconvenient Truth" between May 11, 2006, shortly before the film's release, and April 30, 2011.
BMI found that in addition to mostly ignoring scientific criticism, Gore's point of view went unopposed in more than 80 percent (222 of 272) of those stories. Clearly the networks accepted his May 24, 2006, claim that "the debate's over."
NBC was the worst of the three news networks, not only in its one-sided coverage of Gore and his movie, but because NBC Universal revealed its pro-Gore bias on many of its networks (Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, Sundance Channel and Universal HD) by actually partnering with the "film star" for his Live Earth concerts around the world. It aired 18 hours of live coverage on Bravo alone. NBC Universal devoted 75 hours to the Live Earth events, only a fraction of which was captured in this study of network news reports.
Apocalypse Al Gets Network Attention, But His Faulty Science Gets Little Criticism
Like a man standing on a street corner with a sign that reads "The End is Near," Gore has pushed his view of catastrophic climate change throughout his career, but he gained a lot more traction with the public when his slideshow got the Hollywood treatment.
Pictures of furious crashing waves, glaciers calving and New Orleans homes surrounded by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Katrina were all interposed with images of power lines, smog covered cities and smokestacks. In the hands of filmmakers, lacking context and with an ominous orchestral score, each snapshot became the terrifying handiwork of an invisible villain as frightening as any asteroid, 50-foot woman or giant-sized havok-wreaking primate.
Gore's rhetoric in the movie and his TV interviews on global warming, made it sound like "Armageddon." In 2006 he warned that there was only 10 years to act, and the broadcast media reacted like it would be apocalypse now if nothing is done to stop manmade global warming.
In 98 percent of their reporting on Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth," the networks offered no scientific criticism or contradiction. So viewers might be surprised to learn that many of the claims presented as fact in the so-called documentary have been labeled as "errors," exaggerations or distortions.
The very day his movie opened in theaters, Gore told NBC's Katie Couric sea levels would rise 20 feet or more worldwide by 2010, the polar ice caps would melt and the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa will become deserts if nothing is done.
Couric did her part, not as a journalist, but as a fan accepting what "the summer's most unlikely movie star" had to say on May 24, 2006. At one point during the interview, Couric did mention the existence of those with other views, saying "People on the other side of the debate say, yes, it's getting warmer but the Earth's average temperature has done this before. We may have something to do with it, but it hasn't warmed that much and it's not going to have catastrophic consequences any time soon."
But once Gore replied, "There's really not a debate. The debate's over,' and blamed oil and coal companies for "pretending there is a debate," Couric fell in line as if she'd been hypnotized. Shortly thereafter Couric declared, "Where there is disagreement among scientists is not IF, but WHEN we may see drastic environmental changes across the globe. Al Gore says the clock is ticking."
Christopher Booker, a journalist and commentator with The Telegraph (UK), quoted sea level scientist Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner calling Gore's predicted 20-foot sea level rise "the greatest lie ever told." Mörner is the former chairman of the International Commission on Sea Level Change and studied sea levels across the globe for 35 years. He said "the sea is not rising" and that any rise this century would "not be more than 10 cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10 cm."
As for Gore's claim that there isn't a debate, he's wrong. More than 1,000 scientists are on record dissenting from the so-called "consensus." U.S. government atmospheric scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said, "It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don't buy into anthropogenic [manmade] global warming."
Many of those non-consensus scientists will be gathered in Washington, D.C. June 30 and July 1, 2011 for Heartland Institute's 6th Annual International Conference on Climate Change.
Couric should have spoken to some of those "on the other side of the debate" to learn about the many "distortions" in Gore's film. Meteorologists as diverse as CNN's Rob Marciano and Chad Myers, to NOAA's Goldenberg, to WLUC-TV's Karl Bohnak in Michigan's Upper Peninsula have criticized the movie.
Bohnak wrote May 5, 2009, "For years as a broadcast meteorologist, I kept silent about the issue of 'global warming.' Declaring skepticism labeled you (and still does) as an anti-environmentalist. After former VP Gore's movie hit the big screen, I could remain silent no more. 'An Inconvenient Truth' was filled with so many gross distortions and outright scientific misrepresentations; I felt it was my obligation to speak out."
What were some of those "distortions"? Here are just a few:
- Marciano said in October 2007 that "there are definitely some inaccuracies," in the film and specifically explained "global warming does not conclusively cause stronger hurricanes like we've seen." Gore played up a supposed link between the two in his film, showing pictures of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
- In a National Review article, CEI's Iain Murray pointed out 25 problems with Gore's movie including the way he incorrectly portrayed the relationship between CO2 and temperature, the reason for melting snow on Kilimanjaro (hint: not global warming), the reason for receding glaciers and the false claim that 2005 was the hottest year on record. Overall Murray said the movie "exaggerates the evidence."
- Lord Christopher Monckton supplied his own list of 35 "errors" from the film including the prediction of 20 foot sea level rise because of melting in Antarctica or Greenland, the claim that the Pacific islands are drowning because of already rising seas, that Lake Chad dried up because of global warming and that polar bears are dying because they have to swim so far to find ice. It turned out that the four dead polar bears in the study had referenced actually died in "an exceptional storm."
- A 2008 study found that Gore's movie "exaggerated sea level rise" according to The Telegraph (UK). That study, published in Science magazine, concluded that "a rise in sea level between 0.8 and 2 meters is much more likely."
Charles S. Opalek wrote an entire book called "A Convenient Fabrication" dissecting "An Inconvenient Truth" and supplying information that refutes many of its claims.
The Truth about Gore's Mentor, the Man He Portrayed As a Jedi of Global Warming Science
Gore wasn't only exaggerating the science of global warming; he even left out context when discussing his mentor Roger Revelle, a scientist who taught at Harvard, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UCSD.
The claims Gore makes about Revelle early in his film ignored valuable information. Yes, Gore studied under Revelle who was researching a possible connection between carbon dioxide and global warming. Gore portrayed Revelle as his Obi-Wan, inspiring him and starting him down the path to warn people of the global warming threat.
But according to John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel and weatherman at KUSI a TV station in San Diego, Calif., late in life Revelle "was having second thoughts" about the CO2-warming connection and "expressed strong doubts" in 1991 in the scientific publication Cosmos. Gore even dismissed Revelle's reversal as senility, according to Coleman. Something Gore failed to mention in his film.
"I have learned that in 1991, Roger Revelle made what was his final speech … at the Bohemian Grove in Northern California. There he apologized for his research, for sending so many people in the wrong direction on global warming, and he worried about the political fallout from the UN IPCC and Al Gore," Coleman said in a broadcast on KUSI 9 News.
Nets Ignore Climate Scandal and British Ruling against 'An Inconvenient Truth'
After having given so much praise to Gore and his film, the networks refused to thoroughly report information that might have turned some viewers into skeptics.
In October 2007, the High Court of London ruled that there were "nine significant errors" in the film and decided that the film's "apocalyptic vision" was "politically partisan and not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change," according to The Times (UK).
That ruling was a huge blow to the credibility of the message espoused by Gore and his movie, but the networks chose not to mention it in the bulk of their stories about the former vice president and "An Inconvenient Truth."
In fact, only one story BMI analyzed in this study mentioned the British ruling. That was the Oct. 12, 2007, "Early Show" on CBS. That morning, Richard Roth simply said, "Gore's high-profile campaign to protect the planet, his concerts for the climate and his Academy Award-winning film 'An Inconvenient Truth' have drawn criticism as well as praise. Just this week, a judge in Britain ruled the film needs a warning label saying it's not all fact, if it's shown in British schools."
Fifty-two words was all the networks could muster about the ruling against the film that helped win Gore and Oscar and a Nobel Prize.
Roth then went on to talk about Gore's response to winning the Nobel Prize and his pledge to donate his prize to a "bipartisan group." He failed to point out that the group Gore planned to donate to, was in fact a nonprofit he had founded in 2006.
The British ruling against Gore's movie should have gotten more attention from the networks, but an even bigger scandal actually involving climate scientists also got the (nearly) silent treatment from the networks.
ClimateGate started Nov. 20, 2009, after someone leaked thousands of emails from a well-known British climate science group: University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The emails were full of startling admissions like this: "We can't account for the lack of warming at the moment." BMI found then that the networks reacted with silence for 13 straight days, and then began defending the accused climate scientists.
The ClimateGate incident was barely mentioned at all in the Gore or "An Inconvenient Truth" reports.
'Genius' Gore Gets Oscar and Nobel, Networks Cheer 'Comeback,' Push Gore to Run for President
All those scientific inaccuracies couldn't get in the way of Hollywood's adoration for Gore, culminating in an Academy Award February 2007. Similarly, the international community awarded Gore the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change.
The networks were delighted. NBC's Meredith Vieira's adoration was on display Feb. 27, 2007, when she said: "I'm watching the Oscars on Sunday, and Gore is definitely the coolest guy in the room."
"Now he looks like a genius when it comes to global warming," Jim Vandehei of Politico told CBS "Early Show" viewers on Oct. 12, 2007, after Gore was awarded a joint Nobel along with the IPCC.
The next day, CBS's John Blackstone called the Nobel "a remarkable comeback," on the Oct. 13, 2007, "Early Show." He then touted a poll that put the alarmist-in-chief third in a presidential race "without even being a candidate."
In the same report Maggie Rodriguez called Gore "the comeback kid." But Mike Allen of Politico told the CBS reporters that "Gore's been vindicated, he's been validated." As for the presidency, Allen said, "He doesn't need to be a mere politician now."
The networks have had plenty of kind words for Gore since "An Inconvenient Truth." He's been called a "high-profile champion" of the environment, the "star of an Oscar-winning documentary," "golden boy of the Oscars" and the "darling of Hollywood" just to name a few.
It seems Hollywood wasn't alone in fawning over "Al Gore, superstar." Networks anchors and reporters were so thrilled at the almost-president's comeback that they couldn't wait for him to decide to run for president again. When Gore refused, they clung to the hope that he would take an Obama appointment of some kind.
NBC's Anne Thompson called the prospect of Gore running for president "tantalizing" on Oct. 12, 2007, but she admitted "few expect [it] to happen."
Her colleague John Yang had high praise for Gore's appeal on May 18, 2008: "Some believe Al Gore would be the perfect choice, a mix of the rock star appeal of Barack Obama and the political experience and money-raising muscle of Hillary Clinton ..."
Over at CBS Harry Smith couldn't wait for Gore to join the race. On "The Early Show" on May 30, 2007, after a lengthy interview about Gore's book "An Assault on Reason" Smith concluded by bringing up speculation about a run for presidency. Smith even tried to pin a "Gore '08" campaign button on him. When he declined, Smith settled for holding it up on Gore's lapel to "see what it looks like."
Katie Couric, who had left NBC to helm CBS "Evening News" in 2006, asked Gore if he would accept the VP or some other position in an Obama administration. After Gore said he "would not take a formal position in any administration," Couric pressed, "So you can't see yourself being, say, an environmental czar, helping to shape environmental policy or energy policy in a new administration?"
Sam Donaldson of ABC even suggested in April 2010 that Gore should be nominated for the Supreme Court. "I think he might make a very good justice," Donaldson said.
Climate Change Alarmism Has Been Media Pattern for Years
The Business & Media Institute has been reporting on alarmist news coverage on climate change for years.
In 2006, BMI published a Special Report called Fire and Ice that exposed the liberal news media's climate hype going back 100 years, switching between the threat of global warming and the next ice age.
That same year, the networks as well as CNN celebrated the "funny, vulnerable, disarming, self effacing" Al Gore's efforts as an actor, author, dancer and comedian in a month-long lovefest.
Another Special Report - Global Warming Censored - was released in 2008. BMI found that the three broadcast networks clearly accepted Gore's claim that the "debate's over," and only included non-consensus viewpoints 20 percent of the time. In the stories BMI analyzed for that report, global warming proponents outnumbered dissenters by nearly 13 to 1.
In 2010, BMI examined the networks' coverage of the ClimateGate scandal - when thousands of leaked emails and files from a major climate science group called global warming science into question. In that case, the broadcast networks barely made a peep - ignoring the scandal for 13 days, then defending alarmist scientists against accusations of "fraud" and "deception."
It has now been five years since Gore's cinematic call to arms against global warming, and half of the 10 years he said we had left to do something about the problem are gone.
Despite the networks news' constant bombardment of stories on the threat of climate change, their promotion of Gore and his allies and the proliferation of reports telling viewers how to go green, it appears scandals such as ClimateGate have impacted public opinion.
In 2006, Gallup found that 38 percent of Americans thought global warming was "generally exaggerated." In 2010, just a few months after ClimateGate the number had jumped by 10 percent. Only a narrow majority of the public blame human pollution for temperature changes (52 percent), according to the 2011 Gallup poll on environmental issues.
The media have continued to claim that the planet it warming, it is mankind's fault and something must be done. Yet, Germany's Der Spiegel reported in late 2009 that "Climatologists [were] baffled by Global Warming Time-Out." They explained that "global warming appears to have stalled," noting that global temperatures "increased by an average of 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.25 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1970s to the late 1990s," but "could come to a standstill this year."
The same Dr. Mörner who criticized Gore's predictions of rising sea levels recently made his own prediction about global temperatures. A May 7, 2011 post on a climate website called SolarCycle25, said that Mörner's research about solar influences on the Earth indicated that there could be a "new Little Ice Age over the Arctic and NW Europe" by midcentury.
That hasn't been the story the media have been telling these five years. For those interested in hearing the other side of the climate debate, the one that the networks have consistently ignored or maligned; The Heartland Institute will be holding its Sixth International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, D.C. June 30 and July 1. The theme of the conference will be "Restoring the Scientific Method."
- Don't just take Gore's word for it: Al Gore is certainly a passionate activist, but he isn't a scientist. The networks shouldn't take his interpretation of global warming science as truth. Rather, they should be skeptical because of his very real political agenda.
- Include both sides: The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics states journalists should "Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant." It is the media's job to inform the public, not persuade them by leaving out alternative viewpoints. Particularly, networks should give skeptical scientists the opportunity to share their findings - just as they include scientists who say manmade global warming is going to devastate the planet.
- Recognize that advocacy is not reporting: The SPJ Code of Ethics also says to: "Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context."
The Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute analyzed all ABC, CBS and NBC morning ("Good Morning America," "The Early Show" and "Today") and evening show ("World News," "Evening News" and "Nightly News") stories and briefs mentioning Al Gore and climate change issues or mentioning the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" between May 11, 2006, and April 30, 2011. One CBS story had audio gaps making it impossible to grade, so that story did not counted at all.
Political and personal stories (Al and Tipper Gore's separation, sexual assault allegations against Gore which were later dismissed, Gore's son's arrest, etc) were only included in the study if the issue of Gore's work on climate change was reference in the story. By that measure, most political and personal reports were excluded.