Role of media spin in global warming debate
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.
I am going to speak today about the most media-hyped environmental issue of all time, global warming. I have spoken more about global warming than any other politician in Washington today. My speech will be a bit different from the previous seven floor speeches, as I focus not only on the science, but on the media’s coverage of climate change.
Global Warming—just that term evokes many members in this chamber, the media, Hollywood elites and our pop culture to nod their heads and fret about an impending climate disaster. As the senator who has spent more time speaking about the facts regarding global warming, I want to address some of the recent media coverage of global warming and Hollywood’s involvement in the issue. And of course I will also discuss former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods. From 1895 until the 1930’s the media peddled a coming ice age.
From the late 1920’s until the 1960’s they warned of global warming. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s they warned us again of a coming ice age. This makes modern global warming the fourth estate’s fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years.
Recently, advocates of alarmism have grown increasingly desperate to try to convince the public that global warming is the greatest moral issue of our generation. Last year, the vice president of London’s Royal Society sent a chilling letter to the media encouraging them to stifle the voices of scientists skeptical of climate alarmism.
During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, which link every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage and instead crossed squarely into global warming advocacy.
SUMMARY OF LATEST DEVELOPMENTS OF MANMADE GLOBAL WARMING HOCKEY STICK
First, I would like to summarize some of the recent developments in the controversy over whether or not humans have created a climate catastrophe. One of the key aspects that the United Nations, environmental groups and the media have promoted as the “smoking gun” of proof of catastrophic global warming is the so-called ‘hockey stick’ temperature graph by climate scientist Michael Mann and his colleagues.
This graph purported to show that temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere remained relatively stable over 900 years, then spiked upward in the 20th century presumably due to human activity. Mann, who also co-publishes a global warming propaganda blog reportedly set up with the help of an environmental group, had his “Hockey Stick” come under severe scrutiny.
The “hockey stick” was completely and thoroughly broken once and for all in 2006. Several years ago, two Canadian researchers tore apart the statistical foundation for the hockey stick. In 2006, both the National Academy of Sciences and an independent researcher further refuted the foundation of the “hockey stick.”
The National Academy of Sciences report reaffirmed the existence of the Medieval Warm Period from about 900 AD to 1300 AD and the Little Ice Age from about 1500 to 1850. Both of these periods occurred long before the invention of the SUV or human industrial activity could have possibly impacted the Earth’s climate. In fact, scientists believe the Earth was warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings grew crops in Greenland.
Climate alarmists have been attempting to erase the inconvenient Medieval Warm Period from the Earth’s climate history for at least a decade. David Deming, an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Geosciences, can testify first hand about this effort. Dr. Deming was welcomed into the close-knit group of global warming believers after he published a paper in 1995 that noted some warming in the 20th century. Deming says he was subsequently contacted by a prominent global warming alarmist and told point blank “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.” When the “Hockey Stick” first appeared in 1998, it did just that.
END OF LITTLE ICE AGE MEANS WARMING
The media have missed the big pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the Earth’s temperatures and mankind’s carbon dioxide (C02) emissions. It is very simplistic to feign horror and say the one degree Fahrenheit temperature increase during the 20th century means we are all doomed. First of all, the one degree Fahrenheit rise coincided with the greatest advancement of living standards, life expectancy, food production and human health in the history of our planet. So it is hard to argue that the global warming we experienced in the 20th century was somehow negative or part of a catastrophic trend.
Second, what the climate alarmists and their advocates in the media have continued to ignore is the fact that the Little Ice Age, which resulted in harsh winters which froze New York Harbor and caused untold deaths, ended about 1850. So trying to prove man-made global warming by comparing the well-known fact that today’s temperatures are warmer than during the Little Ice Age is akin to comparing summer to winter to show a catastrophic temperature trend.
In addition, something that the media almost never addresses are the holes in the theory that C02 has been the driving force in global warming. Alarmists fail to adequately explain why temperatures began warming at the end of the Little Ice Age in about 1850, long before man-made CO2 emissions could have impacted the climate. Then about 1940, just as man-made CO2 emissions rose sharply, the temperatures began a decline that lasted until the 1970’s, prompting the media and many scientists to fear a coming ice age.
Let me repeat, temperatures got colder after C02 emissions exploded. If C02 is the driving force of global climate change, why do so many in the media ignore the many skeptical scientists who cite these rather obvious inconvenient truths?
My skeptical views on man-made catastrophic global warming have only strengthened as new science comes in. There have been recent findings in peer-reviewed literature over the last few years showing that the Antarctic is getting colder and the ice is growing and a new study in Geophysical Research Letters found that the sun was responsible for 50% of 20th century warming.
Recently, many scientists, including a leading member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, predicted long-term global cooling may be on the horizon due to a projected decrease in the sun’s output.
A letter sent to the Canadian Prime Minister on April 6 of this year by 60 prominent scientists who question the basis for climate alarmism, clearly explains the current state of scientific knowledge on global warming.
The 60 scientists wrote:
“If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary.” The letter also noted:
“‘Climate change is real’ is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes occur all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural ‘noise.’”
COMPUTER MODELS THREATEN EARTH
One of the ways alarmists have pounded this mantra of “consensus” on global warming into our pop culture is through the use of computer models which project future calamity. But the science is simply not there to place so much faith in scary computer model scenarios which extrapolate the current and projected buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and conclude that the planet faces certain doom.
Dr. Vincent Gray, a research scientist and a 2001 reviewer with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted, “The effects of aerosols, and their uncertainties, are such as to nullify completely the reliability of any of the climate models.”
Earlier this year, the director of the International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks Alaska, testified to Congress that highly publicized climate models showing a disappearing Arctic were nothing more than “science fiction.”
In fact, after years of hearing about the computer generated scary scenarios about the future of our planet, I now believe that the greatest climate threat we face may be coming from alarmist computer models.
This threat is originating from the software installed on the hard drives of the publicity and grant seeking climate modelers.
It is long past the time for us to separate climate change fact from hysteria.
KYOTO: ECONOMIC PAIN FOR NO CLIMATE GAIN
One final point on the science of climate change: I am approached by many in the media and others who ask, “What if you are wrong to doubt the dire global warming predictions? Will you be able to live with yourself for opposing the Kyoto Protocol?”
My answer is blunt. The history of the modern environmental movement is chock full of predictions of doom that never came true. We have all heard the dire predictions about the threat of overpopulation, resource scarcity, mass starvation, and the projected death of our oceans. None of these predictions came true, yet it never stopped the doomsayers from continuing to predict a dire environmental future.
The more the eco-doomsayers’ predictions fail, the more the eco-doomsayers predict.
These failed predictions are just one reason I respect the serious scientists out there today debunking the latest scaremongering on climate change. Scientists like MIT’s Richard Lindzen, former Colorado State climatologist Roger Pielke, Sr., the University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer and John Christy, Virginia State Climatologist Patrick Michaels, Colorado State University’s William Gray, atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Oregon State climatologist George Taylor and astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, to name a few.
But more importantly, it is the global warming alarmists who should be asked the question — “What if they are correct about man-made catastrophic global warming?” — because they have come up with no meaningful solution to their supposed climate crisis in the two decades that they have been hyping this issue.
If the alarmists truly believe that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are dooming the planet, then they must face up to the fact that symbolism does not solve a supposed climate crisis.
The alarmists freely concede that the Kyoto Protocol, even if fully ratified and complied with, would not have any meaningful impact on global temperatures. And keep in mind that Kyoto is not even close to being complied with by many of the nations that ratified it, including 13 of the EU-15 nations that are not going to meet their emission reduction promises.
Many of the nations that ratified Kyoto are now realizing what I have been saying all along: The Kyoto Protocol is a lot of economic pain for no climate gain.
Legislation that has been proposed in this chamber would have even less of a temperature effect than Kyoto’s undetectable impact. And more recently, global warming alarmists and the media have been praising California for taking action to limit C02. But here again: This costly feel-good California measure, which is actually far less severe than Kyoto, will have no impact on the climate — only the economy.
Symbolism does not solve a climate crisis.
In addition, we now have many environmentalists and Hollywood celebrities, like Laurie David, who have been advocating measures like changing standard light bulbs in your home to fluorescents to help avert global warming. Changing to more energy-efficient light bulbs is a fine thing to do, but to somehow imply we can avert a climate disaster by these actions is absurd.
Once again, symbolism does not solve a climate crisis.
But this symbolism may be hiding a dark side. While greenhouse gas limiting proposals may cost the industrialized West trillions of dollars, it is the effect on the developing world’s poor that is being lost in this debate.
The Kyoto Protocol’s post 2012 agenda which mandates that the developing world be subjected to restrictions on greenhouse gases could have the potential to severely restrict development in regions of the world like Africa, Asia and South America — where some of the Earth’s most energy-deprived people currently reside.
Expanding basic necessities like running water and electricity in the developing world are seen by many in the green movement as a threat to the planet’s health that must be avoided.
Energy poverty equals a life of back-breaking poverty and premature death.
If we allow scientifically unfounded fears of global warming to influence policy makers to restrict future energy production and the creation of basic infrastructure in the developing world — billions of people will continue to suffer.
Last week my committee heard testimony from Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, who was once a committed left-wing environmentalist until he realized that so much of what that movement preached was based on bad science. Lomborg wrote a book called “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and has organized some of the world’s top Nobel Laureates to form the 2004 “Copenhagen Consensus” which ranked the world’s most pressing problems.
And guess what?
They placed global warming at the bottom of the list in terms of our planet’s priorities. The “Copenhagen Consensus” found that the most important priorities of our planet included: combating disease, stopping malaria, securing clean water, and building infrastructure to help lift the developing nations out of poverty. I have made many trips to Africa, and once you see the devastating poverty that has a grip on that continent, you quickly realize that fears about global warming are severely misguided.
I firmly believe that when the history of our era is written, future generations will look back with puzzlement and wonder why we spent so much time and effort on global warming fears and pointless solutions like the Kyoto Protocol.
French President Jacques Chirac provided the key clue as to why so many in the international community still revere the Kyoto Protocol, who in 2000 said Kyoto represents “the first component of an authentic global governance.”
Furthermore, if your goal is to limit C02 emissions, the only effective way to go about it is the use of cleaner, more efficient technologies that will meet the energy demands of this century and beyond.
The Bush administration and my Environment and Public Works Committee have been engaged in these efforts as we work to expand nuclear power and promote the Asia-Pacific Partnership. This partnership stresses the sharing of new technology among member nations including three of the world’s top 10 emitters — China, India and South Korea — all of whom are exempt from Kyoto.
MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE:
Many in the media, as I noted earlier, have taken it upon themselves to drop all pretense of balance on global warming and instead become committed advocates for the issue.
Here is a quote from Newsweek magazine:
“There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production– with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth.”
A headline in the New York Times reads: “Climate Changes Endanger World’s Food Output.” Here is a quote from Time Magazine:
“As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval.”
All of this sounds very ominous. That is, until you realize that the three quotes I just read were from articles in 1975 editions of Newsweek Magazine and The New York Times, and Time Magazine in 1974.
They weren’t referring to global warming; they were warning of a coming ice age.
Let me repeat, all three of those quotes were published in the 1970’s and warned of a coming ice age.
In addition to global cooling fears, Time Magazine has also reported on global warming. Here is an example:
“[Those] who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right… weathermen have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer.”
Before you think that this is just another example of the media promoting Vice President Gore’s movie, you need to know that the quote I just read you from Time Magazine was not a recent quote; it was from January 2, 1939.
Yes, in 1939. Nine years before Vice President Gore was born and over three decades before Time Magazine began hyping a coming ice age and almost five decades before they returned to hyping global warming.
Time Magazine in 1951 pointed to receding permafrost in Russia as proof that the planet was warming.
In 1952, the New York Times noted that the “trump card” of global warming “has been the melting glaciers.”
BUT MEDIA COULD NOT DECIDE BETWEEN WARMING OR COOLING SCARES
There are many more examples of the media and scientists flip-flopping between warming and cooling scares.
Here is a quote from the New York Times reporting on fears of an approaching ice age.
“Geologists Think the World May be Frozen Up Again.”
That sentence appeared over 100 years ago in the February 24, 1895 edition of the New York Times.
Let me repeat. 1895, not 1995.
A front page article in the October 7, 1912 New York Times, just a few months after the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, declared that a prominent professor “Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age.”
The very same day in 1912, the Los Angeles Times ran an article warning that the “Human race will have to fight for its existence against cold.” An August 10, 1923 Washington Post article declared: “Ice Age Coming Here.”
By the 1930’s, the media took a break from reporting on the coming ice age and instead switched gears to promoting global warming:
“America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776; Temperature Line Records a 25-year Rise” stated an article in the New York Times on March 27, 1933. The media of yesteryear was also not above injecting large amounts of fear and alarmism into their climate articles.
An August 9, 1923 front-page article in the Chicago Tribune declared:
“Scientist Says Arctic Ice Will Wipe Out Canada.” The article quoted a Yale University professor who predicted that large parts of Europe and Asia would be “wiped out” and Switzerland would be “entirely obliterated.”
A December 29, 1974 New York Times article on global cooling reported that climatologists believed “the facts of the present climate change are such that the most optimistic experts would assign near certainty to major crop failure in a decade.”
The article also warned that unless government officials reacted to the coming catastrophe, “mass deaths by starvation and probably in anarchy and violence” would result. In 1975, the New York Times reported that “A major cooling [was] widely considered to be inevitable.” These past predictions of doom have a familiar ring, don’t they? They sound strikingly similar to our modern media promotion of former Vice president’s brand of climate alarmism.
After more than a century of alternating between global cooling and warming, one would think that this media history would serve a cautionary tale for today’s voices in the media and scientific community who are promoting yet another round of eco-doom.
Much of the 100-year media history on climate change that I have documented here today can be found in a publication titled “Fire and Ice” from the Business and Media Institute.