Media prejudice has become embarrassing!
by US Senator James Inhofe
Senator Inhofe served as chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee for five years. The following speech delivered from the Senate floor on September 25, 2006.
MEDIA COVERAGE IN 2006
Which raises the question: Has this embarrassing 100-year documented legacy of coverage on what turned out to be trendy climate science theories made the media more skeptical of today’s sensational promoters of global warming?
You be the judge.
On February 19th of this year, CBS News’s “60 Minutes” produced a segment on the North Pole. The segment was a completely one-sided report, alleging rapid and unprecedented melting at the polar cap.
It even featured correspondent Scott Pelley claiming that the ice in Greenland was melting so fast, that he barely got off an ice-berg before it collapsed into the water.
“60 Minutes” failed to inform its viewers that a 2005 study by a scientist named Ola Johannessen and his colleagues showing that the interior of Greenland is gaining ice and mass and that according to scientists, the Arctic was warmer in the 1930’s than today.
On March 19th of this year, “60 Minutes” profiled NASA scientist and alarmist James Hansen, who was once again making allegations of being censored by the Bush administration.
In this segment, objectivity and balance were again tossed aside in favor of a one-sided glowing profile of Hansen.
The “60 Minutes” segment made no mention of Hansen’s partisan ties to former Democrat Vice President Al Gore or Hansen’s receiving of a grant of a quarter of a million dollars from the left-wing Heinz Foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry. There was also no mention of Hansen’s subsequent endorsement of her husband John Kerry for President in 2004.
Many in the media dwell on any industry support given to so-called climate skeptics, but the same media completely fail to note Hansen’s huge grant from the left-wing Heinz Foundation.
The foundation’s money originated from the Heinz family ketchup fortune. So it appears that the media makes a distinction between oil money and ketchup money.
“60 Minutes” also did not inform viewers that Hansen appeared to concede in a 2003 issue of Natural Science that the use of “extreme scenarios” to dramatize climate change “may have been appropriate at one time” to drive the public’s attention to the issue.
Why would “60 Minutes” ignore the basic tenets of journalism, which call for objectivity and balance in sourcing, and do such one-sided segments? The answer was provided by correspondent Scott Pelley. Pelley told the CBS News website that he justified excluding scientists skeptical of global warming alarmism from his segments because he considers skeptics to be the equivalent of “Holocaust deniers.”
This year also saw a New York Times reporter write a children’s book entitled” The North Pole Was Here.” The author of the book, New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin, wrote that it may someday be “easier to sail to than stand on” the North Pole in summer. So here we have a very prominent environmental reporter for the New York Times who is promoting aspects of global warming alarmism in a book aimed at children.
TIME MAGAZINE HYPES ALARMISM
In April of this year, Time Magazine devoted an issue to global warming alarmism titled “Be Worried, Be Very Worried.”
This is the same Time Magazine which first warned of a coming ice age in the 1920’s before switching to warning about global warming in the 1930’s before switching yet again to promoting the 1970’s coming ice age scare.
The April 3, 2006 global warming special report of Time Magazine was a prime example of the media’s shortcomings, as the magazine cited partisan left-wing environmental groups with a vested financial interest in hyping alarmism.
“More and More Land is Being Devastated by Drought”
“Earth at the Tipping Point”
“The Climate is Crashing”
Time Magazine did not make the slightest attempt to balance its reporting with any views with scientists skeptical of this alleged climate apocalypse.
I don’t have journalism training, but I dare say calling a bunch of environmental groups with an obvious fund-raising agenda and asking them to make wild speculations on how bad global warming might become, is nothing more than advocacy for their left-wing causes. It is a violation of basic journalistic standards.
To his credit, New York Times reporter Revkin saw fit to criticize Time Magazine for its embarrassing coverage of climate science.
So in the end, Time’s cover story title of “Be Worried, Be Very Worried,” appears to have been apt. The American people should be worried — very worried — of such shoddy journalism.
AL GORE INCONVENIENT TRUTH
In May, our nation was exposed to perhaps one of the slickest science propaganda films of all time: former Vice President Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” In addition to having the backing of Paramount Pictures to market this film, Gore had the full backing of the media, and leading the cheerleading charge was none other than the Associated Press.
On June 27, the Associated Press ran an article by Seth Borenstein that boldly declared “Scientists give two thumbs up to Gore’s movie.” The article quoted only five scientists praising Gore’s science, despite AP’s having contacted over 100 scientists.
The fact that over 80% of the scientists contacted by the AP had not even seen the movie or that many scientists have harshly criticized the science presented by Gore did not dissuade the news outlet one bit from its mission to promote Gore’s brand of climate alarmism.
I am almost at a loss as to how to begin to address the series of errors, misleading science and unfounded speculation that appear in the former Vice President’s film. Here is what Richard Lindzen, a meteorologist from MIT has written about “An Inconvenient Truth.” “A general characteristic of Mr. Gore’s approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.”
What follows is a very brief summary of the science that the former Vice President promotes in either a wrong or misleading way:
- He promoted the now debunked “hockey stick” temperature chart in an attempt to prove man’s overwhelming impact on the climate
- He attempted to minimize the significance of Medieval Warm period and the Little Ice Age
- He insisted on a link between increased hurricane activity and global warming that most sciences believe does not exist.
- He asserted that today’s Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warmth while ignoring that temperatures in the 1930’s were as warm or warmer
- He claimed the Antarctic was warming and losing ice but failed to note, that is only true of a small region and the vast bulk has been cooling and gaining ice.
- He hyped unfounded fears that Greenland’s ice is in danger of disappearing
- He erroneously claimed that ice cap on Mt. Kilimanjaro is disappearing due to global warming, even while the region cools and researchers blame the ice loss on local land-use practices
- He made assertions of massive future sea level rise that is way out side of any supposed scientific “consensus” and is not supported in even the most alarmist literature.
- He incorrectly implied that a Peruvian glacier’s retreat is due to global warming, while ignoring the fact that the region has been cooling since the 1930s and other glaciers in South America are advancing
- He blamed global warming for water loss in Africa’s Lake Chad, despite NASA scientists concluding that local population and grazing factors are the more likely culprits
- He inaccurately claimed polar bears are drowning in significant numbers due to melting ice when in fact they are thriving
- He completely failed to inform viewers that the 48 scientists who accused President Bush of distorting science were part of a political advocacy group set up to support Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004
Now that was just a brief sampling of some of the errors presented in “An Inconvenient Truth.” Imagine how long the list would have been if I had actually seen the movie — there would not be enough time to deliver this speech today.
Following the promotion of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the press did not miss a beat in their role as advocates for global warming fears.
ABC News put forth its best effort to secure its standing as an advocate for climate alarmism when the network put out a call for people to submit their anecdotal global warming horror stories in June for use in a future news segment.
In July, the Discovery Channel presented a documentary on global warming narrated by former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. The program presented only those views of scientists promoting the idea that humans are destroying the earth’s climate.
You don’t have to take my word for the program’s overwhelming bias; a Bloomberg News TV review noted, “You’ll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program” because of its lack of scientific objectivity.
Brokaw also presented climate alarmist James Hansen to viewers as unbiased, failing to note his quarter million dollar grant form the partisan Heinz Foundation or his endorsement of Democrat Presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 and his role promoting former Vice President Gore’s Hollywood movie.
Brokaw, however, did find time to impugn the motives of scientists skeptical of climate alarmism when he featured paid environmental partisan Michael Oppenhimer of the group Environmental Defense accusing skeptics of being bought out by the fossil fuel interests.
The fact remains that political campaign funding by environmental groups to promote climate and environmental alarmism dwarfs spending by the fossil fuel industry by a three-to-one ratio. Environmental special interests, through their 527s, spent over $19 million compared to the $7 million that Oil and Gas spent through PACs in the 2004 election cycle.
I am reminded of a question the media often asks me about how much I have received in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. My unapologetic answer is ‘Not Enough,’ — especially when you consider the millions partisan environmental groups pour into political campaigns.
Continuing with our media analysis: On July 24, 2006 The Los Angeles Times featured an op-ed by Naomi Oreskes, a social scientist at the University of California San Diego and the author of a 2004 Science Magazine study. Oreskes insisted that a review of 928 scientific papers showed there was 100% consensus that global warming was not caused by natural climate variations. This study was also featured in former Vice President Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,”
However, the analysis in Science Magazine excluded nearly 11,000 studies or more than 90 percent of the papers dealing with global warming, according to a critique by British social scientist Benny Peiser.
Peiser also pointed out that less than two percent of the climate studies in the survey actually endorsed the so-called “consensus view” that human activity is driving global warming and some of the studies actually opposed that view.
But despite this manufactured “consensus,” the media continued to ignore any attempt to question the orthodoxy of climate alarmism.
As the dog days of August rolled in, the American people were once again hit with more hot hype regarding global warming, this time from The New York Times op-ed pages. A columnist penned an August 3rd column filled with so many inaccuracies it is a wonder the editor of the Times saw fit to publish it.
For instance, Bob Herbert’s column made dubious claims about polar bears, the snows of Kilimanjaro and he attempted to link this past summer’s heat wave in the US to global warming – something even alarmist James Hansen does not support.
POLAR BEARS LOOK TIRED?
Finally, a September 15, 2006 Reuters News article claimed that polar bears in the Arctic are threatened with extinction by global warming. The article by correspondent Alister Doyle, quoted a visitor to the Arctic who claims he saw two distressed polar bears. According to the Reuters article, the man noted that “one of [the polar bears] looked to be dead and the other one looked to be exhausted.” The article did not state the bears were actually dead or exhausted, rather that they “looked” that way.
Have we really arrived at the point where major news outlets in the US are reduced to analyzing whether or not polar bears in the Arctic appear restful? How does reporting like this get approved for publication by the editors at Reuters? What happened to covering the hard science of this issue?
What was missing from this Reuters news article was the fact that according to biologists who study the animals, polar bears are doing quite well. Biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor from the Arctic government of Nunavut, a territory of Canada, refuted these claims in May when he noted that “Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.”
Sadly, it appears that reporting anecdotes and hearsay as fact, has now replaced the basic tenets of journalism for many media outlets.
ALARMISM HAS LED TO SKEPTICISM
It is an inconvenient truth that so far, 2006 has been a year in which major segments of the media have given up on any quest for journalistic balance, fairness and objectivity when it comes to climate change. The global warming alarmists and their friends in the media have attempted to smear scientists who dare question the premise of man-made catastrophic global warming, and as a result some scientists have seen their reputations and research funding dry up.
The media has so relentlessly promoted global warming fears that a British group called the Institute for Public Policy Research – and this from a left leaning group – issued a report in 2006 accusing media outlets of engaging in what they termed “climate porn” in order to attract the public’s attention.
Bob Carter, a Paleoclimate geologist from James Cook University in Australia has described how the media promotes climate fear:
“Each such alarmist article is larded with words such as ‘if’, ‘might’, ‘could’, ‘probably’, ‘perhaps’, ‘expected’, ‘projected’ or ‘modeled’ – and many involve such deep dreaming, or ignorance of scientific facts and principles, that they are akin to nonsense,” professor Carter concluded in an op-ed in April of this year.
Another example of this relentless hype is the reporting on the seemingly endless number of global warming impact studies which do not even address whether global warming is going to happen. They merely project the impact of potential temperature increases.
The media endlessly hypes studies that purportedly show that global warming could increase mosquito populations, malaria, West Nile Virus, heat waves and hurricanes, threaten the oceans, damage coral reefs, boost poison ivy growth, damage vineyards, and global food crops, to name just a few of the global warming linked calamities. Oddly, according to the media reports, warmer temperatures almost never seem to have any positive effects on plant or animal life or food production.
Fortunately, the media’s addiction to so-called ‘climate porn’ has failed to seduce many Americans.
According to a July Pew Research Center Poll, the American public is split about evenly between those who say global warming is due to human activity versus those who believe it’s from natural factors or not happening at all.
In addition, an August Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that most Americans do not attribute the cause of recent severe weather events to global warming, and the portion of Americans who believe global warming is naturally occurring is on the rise.
Yes — it appears that alarmism has led to skepticism.
The American people know when their intelligence is being insulted. They know when they are being used and when they are being duped by the hysterical left.
The American people deserve better — much better — from our fourth estate. We have a right to expect accuracy and objectivity on climate change coverage. We have a right to expect balance in sourcing and fair analysis from reporters who cover the issue.
Above all, the media must roll back this mantra that there is scientific “consensus” of impending climatic doom as an excuse to ignore recent science. After all, there was a so-called scientific “consensus” that there were nine planets in our solar system until Pluto was recently demoted.
Breaking the cycles of media hysteria will not be easy since hysteria sells — it’s very profitable. But I want to challenge the news media to reverse course and report on the objective science of climate change, to stop ignoring legitimate voices in this scientific debate and to stop acting as a vehicle for unsubstantiated hype.