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Media advocates for alarmism rather than objectivity

Inhofe says global warming media hearing exposed alarmist media

By US Senate Environment and Public Works

Thursday, December 7, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, said today's hearing about the media and climate change revealed that "Scare tactics should not drive public policy."   The hearing's purpose was to examine the media's presentation of climate science and featured scientists and media experts.

"As the Democrats rush to pass costly carbon cap legislation in the next Congress, today's hearing showed that the so-called ‘scientific consensus' does not exist.  Leading scientists from the U.S. and Australia denounced much of the media for becoming advocates for alarmism rather than objectivity," Senator James Inhofe said.

"I was particularly interested in testimony by Dr. Daniel Schrag of Harvard University, who believes that manmade emissions are driving global warming.  Dr. Schrag said the Kyoto Protocol is not the right approach to take and agreed it would have almost no impact on the climate even if all the nations fully complied," Inhofe added. Currently 13 of the 15 EU nations are failing to meet the requirements of Kyoto.

During his opening remarks, Senator Inhofe stated, "Rather than focus on the hard science of global warming, the media has instead become advocates for hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism." Senator Inhofe cited criticism from believers in manmade global warming who have slammed the media for presenting "a quasi-religious register of doom, death [and] judgment" and compared the media's coverage to the "unreality of Hollywood films."

Scientists testifying at the hearing described how much of the media has over-hyped the coverage of global warming and used scare tactics to garner public attention. Paleoclimate researcher Bob Carter of Australia's James Cook University, who has had over 100 papers published refereed scientific journals, noted that "there is huge uncertainly in every aspect of climate change."

"If you look at the ice core records, you will discover that yes, changes in carbon dioxide are accompanied by changes in temperature, but you will also discover that the change in temperature precedes the change in carbon dioxide by several hundred years to a thousand or so years. Reflect on that. And reflect on when you last heard somebody say that they thought lung cancer caused smoking. Because that is what you are arguing if you argue on the glacial time scale that changes in carbon dioxide cause temperature changes. It is the other way around," Carter testified.

Carter also noted that the media promotes "Couldism, mightism and perhapsism, fueled by computer modeling." 

Carter explained, "If, could, may, might, probably, perhaps, likely, expected, projected ...Wonderful words. So wonderful, in fact, that environmental writers scatter them through their articles on climate change like confetti. The reason is that – in the absence of empirical evidence for damaging human-caused climate change – public attention is best captured by making assertions about "possible" change. And, of course, using the output of computer models in support, virtually any type of climatic hazard can be asserted as a possible future change."

David Deming, a geophysicist from the University of Oklahoma, testified that "Every natural disaster that occurs is now linked [by the media] with global warming, no matter how tenuous or impossible the connection.  As a result, the public has become vastly misinformed on this and other environmental issues."

Dan Gainor of the Business & Media Institute noted that reporters are violating their own code of ethics with their one-sided climate coverage. "It also violates the ethical code of the Society of Professional Journalists which urges the media to ‘Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.' That code calls for reporters to "distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.'" Gainor added.

OPENING STATEMENT BY CHAIRMAN INHOFE

Full Committee Hearing to Examine Climate Change and the Media Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today's hearing is the fourth global warming hearing I have held as Committee chairman.  We will examine the media's role in presenting the science of climate change.  Poorly conceived policy decisions may result from the media's over-hyped reporting. Much of the mainstream media has subverted its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate. We have seen examples of this overwhelmingly one sided reporting by "60 Minutes" reporter Scott Pelley, ABC News's Bill Blakemore, CNN's Miles O'Brien, Time Magazine, the Associated Press and Reuters, to name just a very few outlets.

There are three types of climate research: first, the hard science of global warming by climate scientists, second, the computer modelers, and finally the researchers who study the impacts.

Rather than focus on the hard science of global warming, the media has instead become advocates for hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism – and I'm not the only one who believes this. Here are just two examples of believers in man-made global warming who have been critical of the media.

First, Mike Hulme, the Director of the UK based Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research -- a group that believes humans are the driving force of global warming – chastised the media and environmentalists last month for choosing to use the "language of fear and terror" to scare the public.  Hulme noted that he has found himself "increasingly chastised" by global warming activists because his pubic statements "have not satisfied [the activist] thirst for environmental drama and exaggerated rhetoric."  See:

Second, a report in August 2006 from the UK's Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research also slammed the media presentation of climate science as – and I am quoting again here -- "a quasi-religious register of doom, death, judgment, heaven and hell, using words such as ‘catastrophe', ‘chaos' and ‘havoc.'" The report also compared the media's coverage of global warming to " the unreality of Hollywood films."   

In addition, former NBC Newsman Tom Brokaw's one sided 2006 Discovery Channel global warming documentary was criticized by 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.

The media often fails to distinguish between predictions and what is actually being observed on the Earth today. We know from an April 23, 2006 article in the New York Times by Andrew Revkin, that "few scientists agree with the idea that the recent spate of potent hurricanes, European heat waves, African drought and other weather extremes are, in essence, our fault (a result of manmade emissions.) There is more than enough natural variability in nature to mask a direct connection, [scientists] say."

The New York Times is essentially saying, no recent weather events – including Hurricane Katrina – is because of man-made global warming. Yet most of the media fails to understand this fundamental point and instead focus on global warming computer model projections of the future as if they were proven fact. This is perhaps the easiest scientific area for the media to exaggerate and serve as advocates for alarmism. Climate modelers project all kinds of scary scenarios of the future and the media then erroneously presents these scenarios as a scientifically based.  But these computer models are not hard science. 

Clearly, we cannot today somehow disprove catastrophic predictions of our climate in the year 2100. But if the observations of what is happening today are not consistent with what global warming models predict should occur, than what we do know is that our understanding of the globe is incomplete. The fact is, the biosphere is extremely complex and startling discoveries happen every year. This point was driven home earlier this year when the Journal Nature reported that trees emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Trees are everywhere, yet we didn't even know this most basic fact about our planet.

It is unfortunate that so many are focused on alarmism rather than a responsible path forward on this issue. If your goal is to limit emissions, whether of traditional pollution or CO2, 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's Asia-Pacific Partnership is the right type of approach – it stresses the sharing of new technology among member nations including three of the world's top 10 emitters who are exempt from Kyoto – India, South Korea, and China, which in 2009 will become the world's largest CO2 emitter.  What is disappointing is that the President's program gets more positive press in other countries than it does here.

So the alarmism not just continuing in the media, it's advancing. They are becoming more desperate because former supporters of their views are now changing their position. Former advocates such as David Bellamy, Britain's famed environmental campaigner, and Claude Allegre, a French geophysicist and former Socialist Party Leader who is a member of both the French and U.S. Academies of Science. Allegre now says the cause of warming remains unknown and the alarmism "has become a very lucrative business for some people." In short, their motivation is money. And he's right… its about money.