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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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November 1998


See No Dissent, Hear No Dissent
Newspapers Pretend Scientists Skeptical of Climate-Change Theories Don't Exist

With delegates from around the world meeting in Buenos Aires early this month for a new round of climate-change treaty negotiations, reporters resumed their ongoing campaign of convincing Americans that global warming is serious problem.

A search of the Nexis database shows that there were ten news stories about the conference during the first eleven days of November in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. The unquestioned premise behind all ten stories was that science supports catastrophic global-warming theories. Not one report included a quote from either a scientist who questions such theories, or from any opponent of global-warming policies who wasnít from industry or Congress.

Environmental groups, on the other hand, were quoted liberally. Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust, Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, Christopher Flavin of the Worldwatch Institute, Adam Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund all made appearances in the major papers. New York Times reporter John H. Cushman Jr. even quoted John Passacantando, executive director of Ozone Action, as saying, "In my mind, this Administration has made expectations so low, that when they finally sign this weak agreement that they negotiated, people will mistake it for leadership." Newspapers made space for critics so far to the left that they oppose the Kyoto accord for not going far enough, but not for non-industry or non-congressional critics who oppose the treaty as unnecessary.

The common assumption among reporters is summed up by staff writer James Gerstenzang in the November 1 Los Angeles Times: "Many scientists believe the energy-intensive, carbon-emitting activities of modern industrialized society are causing a dangerous warming of the global climate. They fear the warming is occurring as carbon dioxide and other gases trap the Earthís reflected solar heat like an invisible thermal blanket."

Thatís one view, but itís not the full story. Many scientists ó 17,000 have signed a petition opposing energy-use restrictions ó disagree with the conventional wisdom of the press. Scientists skeptical of global warming argue that temperature increases over the past century 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 carbon dioxide emissions after World War II; that according to weather satellite data, independently backed by balloon-borne source sensors, the Earth has cooled slightly over the last two decades (with 1998 being an exception because of El Nino); and that as computer models have improved over the last few years, they have also forecast lower and lower temperature hikes over the next century. Current predictions are down to one to two degrees Celsius over the next century, compared to the 1990 prediction of 3.3 degrees Celsius.

These scientists, and many economists, also question whether a warmer Earth would be such a catastrophe. Thomas Gale Moore, an economist at the Hoover Institution, points out that mankind flourished during the two periods in human history that were warmer than today. "Warmer climates have longer growing seasons and higher productivity," he writes in his book Climate of Fear. "The net result of warming and enhanced precipitation would be to boost farm output." Moore also argues that people living in warmer climates tend to live longer and healthier lives, and that many people must think warm climates offer a better quality of life since millions have moved or changed jobs to live in warm locales.

But global warming remains the story about which the press will not allow skepticism to be heard.

ó Rich Noyes


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