Today’s hearing is the fourth global warming hearing I have held as Committee chairman. We will examine the media’s role in presenting the science of climate change. Poorly conceived policy decisions may result from the media’s over-hyped reporting. Much of the mainstream media has subverted its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate. We have seen examples of this overwhelmingly one sided reporting by “60 Minutes” reporter Scott Pelley, ABC News’s Bill Blakemore, CNN’s Miles O’Brien, Time Magazine, the Associated Press and Reuters, to name just a very few outlets.
There are three types of climate research: first, the hard science of global warming by climate scientists, second, the computer modelers, and finally the researchers who study the impacts. Rather than focus on the hard science of global warming, the media has instead become advocates for hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism – and I’m not the only one who believes this. Here are just two examples of believers in man-made global warming who have been critical of the media.
First, Mike Hulme, the Director of the UK based Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research -- a group that believes humans are the driving force of global warming – chastised the media and environmentalists last month for choosing to use the “language of fear and terror” to scare the public. Hulme noted that he has found himself “increasingly chastised” by global warming activists because his pubic statements “have not satisfied [the activist] thirst for environmental drama and exaggerated rhetoric.”
Second, a report in August 2006 from the UK’s Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research also slammed the media presentation of climate science as – and I am quoting again here -- “a quasi-religious register of doom, death, judgment, heaven and hell, using words such as ‘catastrophe’, ‘chaos’ and ‘havoc.’” The report also compared the media’s coverage of global warming to “the unreality of Hollywood films.”
In addition, former NBC Newsman Tom Brokaw’s one sided 2006 Discovery Channel global warming documentary was criticized by a Bloomberg News TV review that noted “You'll find more dissent at a North Korean political rally than in this program” because of its lack of scientific objectivity.
The media often fails to distinguish between predictions and what is actually being observed on the Earth today. We know from an April 23, 2006 article in the New York Times by Andrew Revkin, that “few scientists agree with the idea that the recent spate of potent hurricanes, European heat waves, African drought and other weather extremes are, in essence, our fault (a result of manmade emissions.) There is more than enough natural variability in nature to mask a direct connection, [scientists] say.”
The New York Times is essentially saying, no recent weather events – including Hurricane Katrina – is because of man-made global warming. Yet most of the media fails to understand this fundamental point and instead focus on global warming computer model projections of the future as if they were proven fact. This is perhaps the easiest scientific area for the media to exaggerate and serve as advocates for alarmism. Climate modelers project all kinds of scary scenarios of the future and the media then erroneously presents these scenarios as a scientifically based. But these computer models are not hard science.
Clearly, we cannot today somehow disprove catastrophic predictions of our climate in the year 2100. But if the observations of what is happening today are not consistent with what global warming models predict should occur, than what we do know is that our understanding of the globe is incomplete. The fact is, the biosphere is extremely complex and startling discoveries happen every year. This point was driven home earlier this year when the Journal Nature reported that trees emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Trees are everywhere, yet we didn’t even know this most basic fact about our planet.
It is unfortunate that so many are focused on alarmism rather than a responsible path forward on this issue. If your goal is to limit emissions, whether of traditional pollution or CO2, the only effective way to go about it is the use of cleaner, more efficient technologies that will meet the energy demands of this century and beyond.
The Bush administration’s Asia-Pacific Partnership is the right type of approach – it stresses the sharing of new technology among member nations including three of the world’s top 10 emitters who are exempt from Kyoto – India, South Korea, and China, which in 2009 will become the world’s largest CO2 emitter. What is disappointing is that the President’s program gets more positive press in other countries than it does here.
So the alarmism not just continuing in the media, it’s advancing. They are becoming more desperate because former supporters of their views are now changing their position. Former advocates such as David Bellamy, Britain’s famed environmental campaigner, and Claude Allegre, a French geophysicist and former Socialist Party Leader who is a member of both the French and U.S. Academies of Science. Allegre now says the cause of warming remains unknown and the alarmism “has become a very lucrative business for some people.” In short, their motivation is money. And he’s right… its about money.