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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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October 1997


Still Missing Climate Data
Network Global Warming Stories Ignore Science Angles

The first traces of balance made their way into network stories about alleged climate change as, early this month, the Clinton administration began the public relations campaign leading up to the U.N. climate change conference in Kyoto, Japan in December.

Network reporters finally included in their stories an acknowledgment that some scientists are skeptical of the claim that human actions are affecting the climate. But they still aren’t actually mentioning the data that makes many scientists global-warming skeptics.

Network stories about global warming still contain apocalyptic elements. NBC’s George Lewis, on the October 7 Nightly News, was the most frightened. Lewis predicted "wild swings in the weather, from heavy rains to prolonged droughts, ruining crops all over earth."

He ran a computer animation from an environmental group which "shows how a three foot rise 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." And he ended his story with the Clinton administration’s claim that "there is the threat of global misery if we keep doing business as usual."

Over at ABC, Peter Jennings was a little less hysterical. He reported, on the October 1 World News Tonight, that "there was a big effort by the President today to have the country understand that if man doesn’t stop tampering with the environment, the change in climate could well lead to a world in which we have a very unpredictable situation." He also charged that pollution "has already changed the world’s climate."

And CBS weatherman Craig Allen, on the October 1 This Morning, said climate change would "have tremendous economic and social impacts, if we have to change our way of thinking and our way of living."

But, in a new twist, these warnings were coupled with acknowledgments that not all experts are concerned. NBC Nightly News went the farthest toward balance. After Lewis’ harrowing segment, Tom Brokaw ran an "In Their Own Words" segment in which Hoover Institution fellow Thomas Moore argued that global warming, by extending growing seasons and aiding public health (people in warmer climates live longer), would be a boon to the United States.

ABC’s John Donvan admitted that "some scientists say that the proof is not there," while CBS This Morning anchor Jane Robelot pointed out that "there are global warming skeptics."

This is more balance than there has been in global warming reporting in the past, but this month’s reports omitted the actual arguments of scientists who do not fear climate change.

These scientists argue that the temperature increases over the past 120 years have been within the normal variation over the previous thousands of years; that most of the warming over the past 100 years occurred before the large increase in CO2 emissions after World War Two; that between 1945 and 1978, as CO2 emissions increased nine percent, the earth cooled .2 degrees Celsius; that according to satellite data, the earth has also actually cooled .09 degrees Celsius over the past 18 years; and that as computer models have improved over the last few years, they have also forecast increasingly lower temperature hikes over the next century (currently down to one-to-two degrees Celsius compared to 3.3 degrees Celsius in 1990.)

According to Dr. Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "A decade of focus on global warming and billions of dollars of research funds have still failed to establish that global warming is a significant problem."

Only by including these arguments — as well as those of strong believers in climate change — can network reporters give their viewers a balanced account of the real global-warming debate.


Rich Noyes


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