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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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Monday, February 28, 2000

Volume 8, Number 4

Kudos... to the Washington Post’s Curt Suplee

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 since 1500.

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 industrial pollution.

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.

Rich Noyes


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