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
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.