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 # 337  

 May 2001




Kyoto Coverup: TV News Gives One-Sided View On Global Warming

by John Carlisle

 

If you want the straight dope about the seriousness of the alleged global warming problem, beware of the media - namely television.

So concludes a recent study published by the Media Research Center, a media watchdog group. Although there is considerable scientific uncertainty about the global warming theory, the study finds that TV news routinely ignores the many prestigious scientists questioning the theory while giving generous coverage to global warming theory proponents.

The study, "Clamoring for Kyoto: The Networks' One-sided Coverage of Global Warming," examined 51 global warming stories that aired on the five early evening cable and broadcast news programs - ABC's "World News Tonight," the "CBS Evening News," CNN's "Inside Politics," the Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Brit Hume" and the "NBC Nightly News."1

These stories, airing between January 20 and April 22, 2001, coincided with President George W. Bush's dramatic decisions to not regulate carbon dioxide and to scrap the Kyoto treaty, the Clinton-era treaty that would have mandated economically-drastic reductions in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

The stories, with the exception of Fox, were overwhelmingly supportive of environmentalists' claims that human-induced global warming is underway and will threaten the planet if steps aren't taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Among the MRC's key findings:

o Views that man-made global warming will cause catastrophic climate change received six times as much media attention as the views of scientists who doubt this.

o Networks gave Kyoto supporters more than twice as much airtime as was given to supporters of Bush's decision to reject Kyoto.

o There were only seven references to the fact that some scientists are skeptical that human actions are causing global warming.2

While gloom-and-doom coverage makes for dramatic headlines, it grossly misrepresents the level of scientific skepticism about global warming.

For instance, TV news rarely mentions that over 17,000 scientists signed a petition organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Health, stating: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of... greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere." The signers include 2,100 climatologists, meteorologists and environmental scientists well-qualified to evaluate the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. One prestigious signer is Dr. Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences.3

What the public also doesn't understand - and television doesn't tell them - is that the alarmist global warming reports frequently cited by the media as scientific support for the dangers of warming do not reflect a consensus of scientists.

Dr. Richard Lindzen, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations (UN) panel whose conclusions are most often cited as the reason Americans should believe the global warming theory, accuses the UN entity of issuing dramatic statements about the alleged impact of man-made global warming that he and other IPCC participating scientists do not support.4

For example, the IPCC recently announced that "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations." But Lindzen says that statement is scientifically indefensible - there may not have been any significant warming over the last 60 years and such warming that did occur was "inconsistent with greenhouse warming."5

More revealing and perhaps most ominous is the intimidation of scientists by IPCC officials. Lindzen says IPCC "coordinators" often pressure scientists to tone down their criticism of the climate models that the IPCC uses to make frightening global warming predictions. Says Lindzen, "I have personally witnessed co-authors forced to assert their 'green' credentials in defense of their statements."6

Perhaps the TV networks' biggest disservice to the global warming debate is that they treat the IPCC as if it were a respectable scientific body. In fact, the IPCC is nothing more than a government bureaucracy that needs global warming to stay in business. Lindzen says that IPCC leaders do not have especially impressive credentials in climate research but "they are... enthusiasts for a negotiating process without which" they would be out of a job.7

An international government bureaucracy unethically stoking public fear of an unproven environmental threat to keep the dollars flowing. Now there's a story for the evening news - but don't hold your breath waiting for it.


Footnotes:

1 "Clamoring For Kyoto: The Networks' One-Sided Coverage of Global Warming," Media Research Center, Alexandria, Virginia, May 2001.
2 Ibid.
3 John K. Carlisle, "Cooling Off on Global Warming," National Policy Analysis, Number 284, The National Center For Public Policy Research, Washington, DC, April 2000.
4 Testimony of Richard S. Lindzen, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, May 2, 2001.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.


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John K. Carlisle is director of The National Center for Public Policy Research's Environmental Policy Task Force. He can be reached at [email protected].



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