Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160
Inhofe Speech: Cooling Down the Rhetoric on Recent Global Warming Coverage
Back to the Good Old Days of ‘Global Warming' Hysteria
Washington, D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said today that due to the recent coverage by alarmists and the mainstream media, "it feels like we're back to the good old days" of global warming hysteria. Resurrecting the famous picture of his family, who made an igloo during the epic blizzards of 2010 called "Al Gore's New Home," he delivered a speech in order to help provide a sense of balance and accuracy to the recent attempt by the mainstream media to link the hot temperatures of the past few weeks to man-made global warming.
In his speech today, Senator Inhofe pointed out that not even the most committed global warming alarmists can claim that any percentage of the heat over the past few weeks can be attributed to human causes. He detailed a conference call organized by the far-left group, Climate Communication, which was held to spoon-feed reporters talking points about how to link the recent hot weather and wildfires to man-made catastrophic global warming. Yet, even though the scientists on the call were some of the foremost alarmists in the field, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer and Dr. Steven Running, when pressed neither of them could say if any percentage of today's warm temperatures is due to man-made causes.
Senator Inhofe said these efforts to scare the public have failed every time and they will fail again and again.
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Mr. President, today I would like to help provide a sense of balance and accuracy which is clearly lacking in the mainstream media's attempt to drum up global warming hysteria due to the recent weather events across the country.
First of all, I must say it feels like we're back to the good old days. It's certainly been a while since the mainstream media used the term "global warming." It's hot today so according to the alarmists, we have proof of global warming.
Just last Friday National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco was quoted by the Associated Press saying that the wildfires and hot temperatures over the past few weeks will likely convince Americans that global warming is real.
But this is dangerous game to play because then what do they say when winter comes? As soon as it turns cold, no doubt the alarmists will go right back to using "climate change" and start saying again that just because temperatures are freezing it doesn't mean that the planet isn't over-heating.
Mr. President you may remember the story of my family who, back in the epic Washington blizzard of 2010, built an igloo outside the Library of Congress and called it "Al Gore's New Home." That story created a media blizzard that even I never expected - I'd even say that the story was pivotal moment in the global warming debate.
Just after the igloo story broke, reporter Dana Milbank warned the alarmists to stop using weather to justify global warming because then what do they do when the weather doesn't cooperate with their predictions of a melting planet? As he wrote, "In Washington's blizzards, the greens were hoist by their own petard." Milbank concluded his column writing, "If the Washington snows persuade the greens to put away the slides of polar bears and pine beetles and to keep the focus on national security and jobs, it will have been worth the shoveling."
But not everyone got that memo: in July 2010, the hot summer that followed the intense blizzards when my family built the igloo, Jon Karl of ABC News asked me to do an interview outside in the heat. It was obviously an ambush but anyone who knows me knows I love ambushes, so I agreed right way. "How's that igloo doing now?" Jon Karl asked, while bringing out ABC's incontrovertible proof that global warming was happening. It was a pan with an egg in it. They hoped it would be so hot outside that the egg would fry - only it didn't.
They clearly haven't learned their lesson. Now that the weather is hot, many of my alarmist friends are again rushing out to ask me how that igloo is doing. Ed Schultz of the ED Show said "Climate experts say we are feeling effects of global warming right now." His guest, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post answered: "Welcome to the rest of our lives."
And I'm sure everyone has heard about another recently botched stunt by the environmental organization 350.org, who planned last Saturday to melt a giant ice sculpture in the shape of the word "Hoax" with a question mark. Alarmist Bill McKibben of the group wrote on twitter "Everyone and his brother covered Inhofe's igloo, will be curious to see how many cameras appear for the melting Hoax." Apparently there wouldn't be enough cameras: at the last minute they sent out a press release cancelling the event, purportedly because they did not want to upset those in West Virginia who were suffering a great deal from the heat wave. My guess is that they realized that the ice sculpture wouldn't have melted as fast as they had hoped, or that there wasn't enough interest. And of course, let's not forget that this is the same group that is working actively to end coal production in this country.
In addition to the recent activity from my alarmist friends, the hot weather has also brought some of my favorite global warming reporters out of hiding and they have been all too eager to link today's weather events to man-made greenhouse gases - of course many of the most outspoken global warming alarmist scientists have been happy to play along.
But the important point I want to make today is that no one, not even the most committed alarmists, can claim that any percentage of the warm weather is due to man-made greenhouse gases - and I'll go into the details of that a little later in my speech. This is an inconvenient truth that global warming reporters have kept out of their headlines and in some cases their stories as well.
Seth Borenstein of the AP, one of the most prominent global warming reporters came out last week with another scary headline proclaiming "This US summer is 'what global warming looks like.'" Similar stories appeared in Reuters, The Hill and Politico.
Then, this morning, Time magazine ran a piece by Bryan Walsh with the headline "Now Do You Believe in Global Warming?" I was happy to see that Mr. Walsh began his article with the story of my family's igloo - and while he didn't ask the question directly, he also wanted to know how that igloo was doing in the heat. He concluded his piece with "We're living in an igloo in the summertime, and the ice is melting all around us."
It's time to take a trip down memory lane: Don't forget that Time is the same publication that told us in 1974 that we should be very worried about a coming Ice Age.
Thirty years later, during the height of the global warming movement, they changed their tune. The image that is sealed in everyone's memory is the Time Magazine cover from 2006 which featured the last polar bear standing on the last cube of ice with the headline warning us that we should "Be Worried, Be Very Worried" about global warming.
But the truth is that even when you ask an alarmist directly, they won't specifically link the recent weather events to human activity.
How do we know? We recently came across a recorded conference call held by a group called Climate Communication. As their website confirmed, this call was held to spoon-feed talking points to reporters on how to link the heat over the past few weeks to man-made global warming.
To his credit, AP reporter Seth Borenstein asked the most important question of the call: he asked what percentage of the recent warm weather can be attributed to man-made gases. Now I want to be completely accurate so I would like to quote in full Borenstein's question as well as the answers that he got from Dr. Michael Oppenheimer and Dr. Steven Running, two of the foremost global warming alarmist scientists.
Seth Borenstein: Let me try and put you more on the spot, Mike and Steve: I know there's no attribution - you haven't done attribution studies, but if you ballparked it right now and had to put a percentage number on this, on the percentage that the heat wave, the percentage of blame you can put on anthropogenic climate change, on this current heat wave, and on the fires, what percentage would the two of you use?
Dr. Michael Oppenheimer: Come on, I'm not going to answer that. Yes I will answer it, and my answer is: I won't do it. You know, we have to do these things carefully, because if you don't, you're going to end up with bogus information out there. People will start disbelieving because you'll be more wrong, more often. This is not the kind of thing I want to do off the top of my head. Nor do I think it can be done, you know, convincingly, without really taking - doing careful analysis, so I'll pass on this one and see if Steve has a different view.
Dr. Steven Running: Well, I already got way too hypothetical in my last answer. Yeah, it's... it's probably really dangerous for us to just lob out a number. I - We could certainly lob out some guess, but it wouldn't be based on the kind of analysis and statistical rigor that we want to put out into the public arena.
Seth Borenstein: Okay let's make it easier. 50% line...how about 50% line: Is it more than 50%, do you think, or less? Just, you know, on one end. More or less?
Now let me stop there for a moment. Seeing that the Seth Borenstein was asking an inconvenient question, one of the moderators tried to step in and tell the AP reporter that his question was a bad one. Let me quote from the recording again:
Susan Hassol, Moderator for the Climate Communication conference call: Seth, most of the scientists I talk to say it's a contributing factor and that's what we can say and that it's really not even really a well-posed question, to ask for a percentage, because it just - what you're asking really is for a model to determine the chances of this happening without climate change or with climate change and models are not very good at that.
Let me stop again. Borenstein didn't take well to the fact that the moderator attempted to shift away from the question and he doubled down on Oppenheimer. Let me quote Borenstein further:
Seth Borenstein: I understand, I've been covering this for 20 years, I understand. I don't need a lecture, thank you very much. What I'm asking for is when the fingerprint - when the attribution studies are done, two or three years later, it's already beyond people's memory. I'm just looking for whether you could say this is - global warming was the biggest factor, more than 50 - most of the factor, you know, either more or less than 50%...
Dr. Michael Oppenheimer: I honestly don't think you can really put a number right on it. What I honestly think is global warming has in general made this part - that part of the world - warmer and drier than it otherwise would be, and that makes it fertile ground for fire events like the one we're seeing. So did global warming contribute? Yes. Can I really make any sort of estimate - numerical estimate- about how much? Not really sitting here on a telephone at my desk, and maybe not even if I had six months."
Here's the irony: their website specifically explains that the purpose of the call is to give reporters the link relating hot weather to human-caused global warming. It states, "Climate Communication hosted a press conference featuring experts discussing the connections between extreme heat and climate change." But when pressed they couldn't make that link.
Again, Borenstein asked a great question - a question that badly needed to be asked - but unfortunately none of that information appeared in his article for the AP. Without that link, Borenstein was forced to make his article about what global warming could look like in the future.
But in doing so, he left out any mention of uncertainty expressed by scientists. Borenstein quoted Chris Field a lead author of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was released in March. According to Field, this report warns of "unprecedented extreme weather events" due to global warming. But as usual, Borenstein failed to mention that even the IPCC, which normally heightens the fear factor as much as possible, admitted in that same March report that there is significant uncertainty regarding linking extreme weather events to human causes.
Also missing from that article was any mention of Borenstein's interview with climatologist Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, but fortunately, she was good enough to post her answers on her blog. As Curry explained "We saw these kinds of heat waves in the 1930′s, and those were definitely not caused by greenhouse gases. Weather variability changes on multidecadal time scales, associated with the large ocean oscillations. I don't think that what we are seeing this summer is outside the range of natural variability for the past century. In terms of heat waves, particularly in cities, urbanization can also contribute to the warming."
Borenstein did, however, manage to include one skeptic voice in the mix, John Christy, which is a huge improvement in balance from his previous global warming reporting.
There was another interesting part of the conference call that I think is worth mentioning. When ABC News reporter Bill Blakemore asked about the affect of La Nina and El Nino on today's hot weather, Dr. Oppenheimer was again uncomfortable about this question and said it was "off message." Yet NOAA came out today and had a different opinion. As Andrew Revkin of the New York Times explained on his blog, "In a briefing and several postings today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reviewed the most notable climate and weather events of 2011. Many of these events - from an extreme East African drought to Australian deluges - were significantly driven by a ‘double-dip La Niña' cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, agency scientists said."
In yesterday's Tulsa World, there was an opinion piece that directly addressed this El Nino and La Nina debate and how it affects Oklahoma specifically. The op-ed mentions an interview in April of 2008 with Tulsa National Weather Service meteorologist Nicole McGavock regarding Oklahoma's record rainfall that month. As McGavock said, "Don't go blaming global warming, but rather blame El Niño's counterpart, La Niña. La Niña happens when the weather is cooler near the equator along the Pacific Ocean, which causes atypical weather. This can shift rainfall patterns. Tulsa not always sees the effects, but we've seen them this year."
That same opinion piece mentioned another article published in December 2011 which was about Oklahoma's drought-filled summer of 2011. In it, associate state climatologist Gary McManus said "Did this hot summer happen due to global warming? Probably not. I think when we study this summer, we will find that we would have had the warmest summer regardless of global warming."
With all this in mind, it's no wonder that when Time magazine asks the question, "Now do you believe in global warming?" the answer is resounding: the American people are no longer buying it. As the Washington Post recently reported, global warming is no longer an issue of concern for Americans, and one of the reasons is that the public doesn't trust those who use hot weather as proof of global warming. The public has clearly grown weary of the alarmists' fear campaigns.
Just how bad have things gotten for the global warming movement? Well, one indication is that no one is even talking about global warming except me and Representative Markey. In a Politico article yesterday, Representative Markey accused Republicans of being "silent on the threat of global warming" and called for Republicans to hold hearings. While Representative Markey is quick to accuse Republicans of silence, he says nothing of the silence of his fellow Democrats.
When was the last time anyone heard President Obama or the Democrats mention global warming? In fact, their campaign has failed so miserably that President Obama, running for reelection, is pretending to support oil and gas to gain votes. The irony is that the President who came into office promising to slow the rise of the oceans has presided over the complete collapse of the global warming movement.
Since President Obama took office nearly four years ago, not one global warming cap-and-trade bill has been debated on the Senate floor. In fact if anything, they are regressing in support for their pet issue: last year 64 Senators went on record as wanting to rein in the Obama-EPA's global warming regulations.
The far-left environmental community has clearly been instructed to keep quiet, although sometimes they can't help themselves and they get into trouble like 350.org. They are no doubt assured that if President Obama is reelected he'll do everything he can to achieve his global warming agenda through regulations because the American people rejected his attempts to do it through legislation.
He just doesn't want the American people to know it. How can he convince them that so much economic pain is necessary now that they global warming movement has completely lost the trust of the public?
That won't stop some of the usual suspects from continuing to try to drum up global warming hysteria - but we wouldn't count on Al Gore coming out of hiding to help them, or President Obama saying anything to back them up, at least not before the election. They're on their own. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.