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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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Thursday, April 5, 2001

Volume 9, Number 4

Earth in the Frying Pan: Time’s Pushy Promotion of Global Warming Fears

Thanks to Time magazine, it’s now perfectly clear: President George W. Bush doesn’t just want to bust the federal budget with his too-big, pro-rich, anti-poor tax cut at the same time he poisons our children with the same arsenic-tainted water that we’ve all consumed for the past half century. As the April 9 edition of Time made clear, Bush is also eager to doom all of humanity — and the entire planet — to a hellish global warming made virtually certain by his decision to abandon the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — an international regulatory scheme that would, if ratified, force the United States to cut its carbon dioxide emissions back to 1990 levels.

"The global reaction was swift and furious," claimed Time’s senior writer Jeffrey Kluger as part of the magazine’s 15-page "Special Report" on global warming (which included a nifty "What You Can Do" section. One tip: run your dishwasher only when full). "Governments condemned the President’s stance as uninformed and even reckless, noting with outrage that the U.S. is home to 4% of the world’s population but produces 25% of its greenhouse gases. French President Jacques Chirac called on all countries to implement Kyoto — never mind Washington. China’s Foreign Ministry called U.S. actions ‘irresponsible.’" Not until the reader has flipped a couple of pages does Kluger add the potent fact that the Kyoto negotiators exempted China, classifying it as a "developing" country.

"Every so often, my colleagues and I think a public-policy issue is so urgent that we should give it special treatment in the magazine," enthused Managing Editor James Kelly in a letter to readers. "We explore at length the reasons President Bush abandoned the Kyoto accord and the ensuing uproar, but we devote the first part of the package to a meticulous account of the scientific research that shows the world is getting warmer."

It’s a heavy sell: On the cover, Time featured the Earth as an egg in a frying pan; the accompanying text set the tone: "Climbing temperatures. Melting glaciers. Rising seas. All over the earth, we’re feeling the heat. Why isn’t Washington?" Inside, the magazine likened climate change to "nuclear war or a collision with an asteroid" in terms of global warming’s "potential to damage our planet’s web of life."

Evidently, readers are supposed to get the fact that the scientific debate on warming is over (no more questions, please), and that Bush’s decision to kill a moribund treaty was reckless and short-sighted. Time apparently thinks the administration’s rejection of environmentalists’ preferred treaty is proof that Bush’s campaign pledges of concern were a cynical tease. "When it comes to the environment in general," Kluger lectured, "the President must answer charges that his campaign sales pitch was little more than bait and switch."

In the main cover story, "Life in the Greenhouse," Michael Lemonick, treated a recent United Nations’ report on climate change as the Holy Grail, while his text frequently echoed the talking points of the radical environmental groups. While Lemonick briefly mentioned the views of two more skeptical scientists, Richard Lindzen and John Christy, he portrayed them as doubting only "how much — and how high temperatures will go." But the point made by scientists such as Dr. Fred Singer, of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, is that the data fails to support the dire predictions of global warming believers who are insisting on immediate changes in public policy.

"The evidence against a warming trend is overwhelming," Singer wrote in a recent op-ed. "Weather satellite observations, the only truly global measurements, independently confirmed by weather balloon data, show little if any rise in mean temperature. The well-maintained network of U.S. stations, after removal of urban heat-island effects, shows no appreciable rise since about 1940! Non-thermometer data from various ‘proxies,’ like tree rings, ice cores, ocean sediments, etc., all show no warming trend in the past 60 years."

All of which would be news to Time’s readers, who were told that the case for global warming has already been made: "A decade ago...evidence that the climate was actually getting hotter was still murky," Lemonick wrote. "Not anymore. As an authoritative report issued a few weeks ago by the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes plain, the trend toward a warmer world has unquestionably begun." Lemonick’s article was decorated with factoids "making the case that our climate is changing." Among the worrisome trends alarming Time: Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossoms bloom seven days earlier in the spring than they did in 1970. Tourists, mark your calenders!

If even the most mild of the U.N. panel’s predictions came to pass, the consequences would be severe — frequent and intense storms, droughts, coastal erosion, and agricultural disruptions, Lemonick warned. "But if the rise is significantly larger, the result could be disastrous. With seas rising as much as 3 ft., enormous areas of densely populated land — coastal Florida, much of Louisiana, the Nile Delta, the Maldives, Bangladesh — would become uninhabitable. Entire climatic zones might shift dramatically, making central Canada look more like central Illinois, Georgia more like Guatemala. Agriculture would be thrown into turmoil. Hundreds of millions of people would have to migrate out of unlivable regions."

"Public health could suffer," he continued. "Rising seas would contaminate water supplies with salt. Higher levels of urban ozone, the result of stronger sunlight and warmer temperatures, could worsen respiratory illnesses. More frequent hot spells could lead to a rise in heat-related deaths."

Lemonick approvingly cited the views of a prominent left-wing environmental activist: "But if temperatures reach the IPCC's worst-case levels and stay there for as long as 1,000 years, says Michael Oppenheimer, chief scientist at Environmental Defense, vast ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica could melt, raising sea level more than 30 ft. Florida would be history, and every city on the U.S. Eastern seaboard would be inundated."

The point of all of this doomsaying, of course, is to urge immediate action to cut back on the industrial activity that Time blamed for global warming. But there’s no indication of the price to be paid — in lower living standards, increased financial strain, and diminished rates of technological innovation — if the United States and other developed nations actually swallowed this cure and curtailed their economic activity. Yet, Lemonick conceded, "in the short run, there’s not much chance of halting global warming, not even if every nation in the world ratifies the Kyoto Protocol tomorrow."

And, if there is doubt that Time meant to add its weight into the current political debate, the "Essay" on the magazine’s back page would put it to rest. In an open letter to President Bush, several liberal luminaries, organized by Time and including Walter Cronkite, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter and billionaire George Soros (last seen attacking Bush’s proposal to repeal the estate tax), call on him to deal with what they call the "momentous" threat of global climate.

"No challenge we face is more momentous than the threat of global climate change. The current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol are a matter of legitimate debate," the group conceded. "But the situation is becoming urgent, and it is time for consensus and action." Editor Kelly, in his letter to readers, recounted the ingenuity displayed by his colleagues in reaching all members of this group. It took a cell phone call to reach Gorbachev in Italy, it turns out, while "tracking down Jimmy Carter required the assistance of Time’s Hugh Sidey," Kelly explained.

Doubtless, Planet Earth appreciates Time’s efforts.

Rich Noyes



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