Newsweek Editor Calls Mag's Global Warming 'Deniers' Article 'Highly Contrived'

Newsweek Debunks Itself Following EPW Blog Detailing Sloppy Reporting

Posted by Marc Morano - Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov 12:39 AM

[Note: For more background on Newsweek's controversial article see August 5, 2007 EPW Blog: "Newsweek's Climate Editorial Screed Violates Basic Standards of Journalism" (LINK)]

Washington DC - Robert J. Samuelson, a contributing editor of Newsweek, slapped down his own Magazine for what he termed a "highly contrived story" about the global warming "denial machine.” Samuelson, writing in the August 20, 2007 issue of Newsweek, explains that the Magazine used "discredited" allegations in last week's issue involving a supposed cash bounty to pay skeptics to dispute global warming science and he chided the Magazine for portraying global warming as a "morality tale." (LINK) Samuelson’s article titled “Greenhouse Simplicities," also characterized the "deniers" cover story as "fundamentally misleading."  The harsh comments by Samuelson followed an Inhofe EPW Press Blog report which detailed major problems with the original article. (LINK)

"Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. Last week's Newsweek cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder," Samuelson wrote. 

Who would have thought that Newsweek would debunk its own embarrassing cover story a week later in the very next issue?  This kind of reversal does not happen very often in journalism.  [Note: It previously took Newsweek 31 years to admit its 1970's prediction of dire global cooling was completely wrong. See October 24, 2006 article: Senator Inhofe Credited For Prompting Newsweek Admission of Error on 70's Predictions of Coming Ice Age – (LINK)]

In this week's issue, Samuelson's writes: "As we debate it, journalists should resist the temptation to portray global warming as a morality tale—as Newsweek did—in which anyone who questions its gravity or proposed solutions may be ridiculed as a fool, a crank or an industry stooge. Dissent is, or should be, the lifeblood of a free society."  

Samuelson also noted, “Newsweek’s ‘denial machine’ [cover story] is a peripheral and highly contrived story."

And despite the best efforts of Newsweek’s propaganda team, Samuelson was not convinced that there was a powerful “denial machine.”

“The alleged cabal's influence does not seem impressive,” he wrote.

This is a very inconvenient turn of events for the ideologically driven and very sloppy team of writers led by Sharon Begley, Eve Conant and Eleanor Clift. Newsweek's management must have realized that their global warming 'denial' cover story (LINK) was so woeful that they were forced to run a complete rebuttal in the very next issue from one of their very own editors.

One can only imagine the internal discussions at Newsweek over this surprising turn of events. Below is a portion of Samuelson's column, recommended for anyone interested in understanding the mainstream media's utter failure to comprehend the basics of balance, objectivity or fairness in climate reporting.

[Also note: EPW's Blog critique of the 'denier' article titled "Newsweek's Climate Editorial Screed Violates Basic Standards of Journalism,” has been updated with additional information on the funding of skeptics vs. the man-made global warming mega infrastructure. Please see (LINK) for updated blog. Plus, a blockbuster U.S. Senate report is set to be released in the Fall 2007 that will feature hundreds of scientists (many current and former UN scientists) who have spoken out recently against Gore, the UN, and the media driven climate “consensus.” Please keep checking this blog for updates. (LINK) ]

Excerpts of Samuelson's article in this week's Newsweek

Greenhouse Simplicities (LINK to complete article)
By Robert J. Samuelson

Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue - We in the news business often enlist in moral crusades. Global warming is among the latest. Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. Last week's NEWSWEEK cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder. It's an object lesson of how viewing the world as "good guys vs. bad guys" can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story. Global warming has clearly occurred; the hard question is what to do about it.

If you missed NEWSWEEK's story, here's the gist. A "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." This "denial machine" has obstructed action against global warming and is still "running at full throttle." The story's thrust: discredit the "denial machine," and the country can start the serious business of fighting global warming. The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading.

The global-warming debate's great un-mentionable is this: we lack the technology to get from here to there. Just because Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 doesn't mean it can happen. At best, we might curb emissions growth.

Consider a 2006 study from the International Energy Agency. With present policies, it projected that carbon-dioxide emissions (a main greenhouse gas) would more than double by 2050; developing countries would account for almost 70 percent of the increase. The IEA then simulated an aggressive, global program to cut emissions based on the best available technologies: more solar, wind and biomass; more-efficient cars, appliances and buildings; more nuclear. Under this admitted fantasy, global emissions in 2050 would still slightly exceed 2003 levels.

Even the fantasy would be a stretch. In the United States, it would take massive regulations, higher energy taxes or both. Democracies don't easily adopt painful measures in the present to avert possible future problems. Examples abound. Since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, we've been on notice to limit dependence on insecure foreign oil. We've done little. In 1973, imports were 35 percent of U.S. oil use; in 2006, they were 60 percent. For decades we've known of the huge retirement costs of baby boomers. Little has been done.

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Against these real-world pressures, NEWSWEEK's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. NEWSWEEK implied, for example, that ExxonMobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability. (The company says it knew nothing of the global-warming grant, which involved issues of climate modeling. And its 2006 contribution to the think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, was small: $240,000 out of a $28 million budget.)

The alleged cabal's influence does not seem impressive. The mainstream media have generally been unsympathetic; they've treated global warming ominously. The first NEWSWEEK cover story in 1988 warned the greenhouse effect. danger: more hot summers ahead. A Time cover in 2006 was more alarmist: be worried, be very worried. Nor does public opinion seem much swayed. Although polls can be found to illustrate almost anything, the longest-running survey questions show a remarkable consistency. In 1989, Gallup found 63 percent of Americans worried "a great deal" or a "fair amount" about global warming; in 2007, 65 percent did.

What to do about global warming is a quandary. Certainly, more research and development. Advances in underground storage of carbon dioxide, battery technology (for plug-in hybrid cars), biomass or nuclear power could alter energy economics. To cut oil imports, I support a higher gasoline tax—$1 to $2 a gallon, introduced gradually—and higher fuel-economy standards for vehicles. These steps would also temper greenhouse-gas emissions. Drilling for more domestic natural gas (a low-emission fuel) would make sense. One test of greenhouse proposals: are they worth doing on other grounds?

But the overriding reality seems almost un-American: we simply don't have a solution for this problem. As we debate it, journalists should resist the temptation to portray global warming as a morality tale—as NEWSWEEK did—in which anyone who questions its gravity or proposed solutions may be ridiculed as a fool, a crank or an industry stooge. Dissent is, or should be, the lifeblood of a free society.

For Samuelson's full article go to: (LINK)

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Newsweek's Climate Editorial Screed Violates Basic Standards of Journalism

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