Friday, December 12, 1997 (Volume One, No.40) -- Media Inquiries: Keith Appell (703)683-5004
Network Kyoto Conference Coverage Ignored Climate Scientists Skeptical of Global Warming Theories
Imposing an Energy Crisis Without Debate?
Polls commissioned by
groups as diverse as Greenpeace and Citizens for a Sound Economy show that most climate
scientists are nowhere near a consensus that human activity is causing a disastrous
warming of the planet. Yet climate scientists skeptical of global warming were almost
completely left out of the news this week as the delegates to an international conference
on climate change in Kyoto, Japan agreed to drastic cuts in American energy use.
On the three
major network evening news shows (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News,
and NBC Nightly News), there were 19 stories about the conference from December 1
to 11. Only three included a soundbite from a climate scientist unsure of global warming
theories. The rest simply assumed that science supports such theories.
On the December 8 NBC Nightly News, for instance, Tom Brokaw told viewers:
"At the global warming talks in Japan today, almost unanimous opinion that human
beings, in fact, do influence the earth's temperature, but there was agreement on little
else." Peter Jennings reported, on the December 10 World News Tonight, that
"negotiators from 160 countries struggled to the end for an agreement to control
man-made gases that many scientists say are making the world dangerously warmer." The
night before Jennings had said "most scientists" warn of dangerous warming. And
on the December 1 CBS Evening News, correspondent Barry Petersen, announced that
"environmentalists see catastrophes of biblical proportions, from droughts to melting
ice caps that send sea levels rising."
A rare attempt at balance was an "In Their Own Words" segment on the December
1 NBC Nightly News. "The truth is," said Dr. Richard
of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "we know so little about
it, that we don't have a clue whether increasing carbon dioxide will make the climate more
stable or less stable." But this was only after Brokaw had undermined his
credibility, introducing him as someone whose "views are not exactly in the
The absence of scientific debate in the media on global warming isn't new to Kyoto
coverage. A Free Market Project Special Report found that in the 48 global warming stories
between January 1993 and October 1997, only seven stories mentioned that some scientists
are skeptical of warming theories; only two went on to mention their arguments.
The networks did allow debate, however, on the economic impact of the treaty. On
December 11, ABC's Jack Smith ran soundbites from both those who predicted economic pain
(Jonathan Adler of the Competitive Enterprise Institute) and those who said it would be
painless. Smith said "energy costs could rise 20-30 percent, it's said, making U.S.
industry uncompetitive and sending millions of jobs overseas."
CBS reporter Scott Pelley also was balanced. "Imagine cutting by nearly one-third
the emissions of vehicles, power plants, and industry. It would require a new generation
of engines, the virtual end of coal power, and a revolution in efficiency," Pelley
said before going to treaty supporters who argue that "the need for change will
launch new industries."
At NBC, correspondent Robert Hager included the economic arguments of
both sides, but ended on a doomsaying note: "Treaty makers say the threat to the
climate is such that we have no choice, but it's not clear yet the American public is
ready to pay the bill." -- Timothy Lamer, Director, Free Market Project
L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent Baker, Tim Graham, Editors;
Eric Darbe, Geoffrey
Dickens, Gene Eliasen, Steve
Kaminski, Clay Waters, Media Analysts; Kristina Sewell, Research
Associate. For the latest liberal media bias, read the
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