One of journalists’ hoariest bromides is that it’s not news when
a dog bites a man, but it is news when a man bites a dog. Given
that, it’s really worth paying attention when the Washington
Times praises a story published by its longtime nemesis, the
Washington Post — and even protests the fact that the story
wasn’t splashed on the Post’s front page.
Writing in the Science section of the Post on President’s
Day, Curt Suplee reported on two different studies that apparently
complicate the media’s rush to judgment on global warming. First,
Suplee told readers about a study designed to measure temperature
change over the centuries; researchers bored 616 holes at locations
all over the Earth looking for indications of temperature changes
According to Suplee: "The new five-century findings — which
confirm a smaller study the group published in 1998 — suggest that
natural temperature variation may be larger than previously thought.
Any warming detected during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was
almost certainly not caused by human society. It is likely to be the
product of natural processes — perhaps a recovery from the ‘Little
Ice Age,’ a cold snap that gripped Europe from 1400 to 1850.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels did not rise appreciably until the
early 19th century."
Those who believe that the dire prospects of future global
warming requires government intervention in the economy say that the
warming is a consequence of carbon dioxide emissions created by
industrial activity. But if the Earth’s natural temperature swings
are larger than previously thought, that raises the possibility that
the warming that has been detected in the last 100 years is partly,
perhaps largely, a reflection of those natural variations, not
Then Suplee pointed to a second study that documented the fact
that while surface temperatures show increased warming over the 20th
century, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s, weather balloon
and satellite readings over the past 20 years found no consistent
warming pattern. "This contradiction suggests that either the
surface measurements or the satellite/balloon figures are simply
wrong," wrote Suplee.
"Moreover," he continued, "it casts doubt on the computerized
global climate simulations, or ‘models,’ that are used to assess the
threat of warming. In general, the models predict that enhanced
greenhouse warming should heat the air in the lower troposphere —
the layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth, and the one
sampled by balloons and satellite readings."
In drawing attention to its rival’s reporting, a February 22
Washington Times editorial noted that the debate over global
warming could get very political this year. "We’ll be hearing a lot
from Al Gore about the threat of ‘global climate change’ in the next
few months," the Times promised. "And, if elected, Mr. Gore
may pursue economically disastrous policies to combat this bogeyman
— without waiting for the facts to justify his crusade. Bear that in
mind next time you hear him — or some media know-nothing — spout off
about the imminent doom we all face from driving our bad old SUVs."
It’s odd that the CBS Evening News, which stressed the
perils of global warming in January (see "CBS Rings Alarm Bells on
Global Warming"), hasn’t mentioned the issue of climate change since
the 500-year study was released on February 17, 2000. But kudos to
Curt Suplee, for spotlighting studies that much of the rest of the
media ignored, and for introducing a healthy dose of skepticism into
the debate over global warming.