USA Today Decides Climate Debate Over

USA Today  Decides Climate Debate Over
The nations newspaper disregards scientific criticisms of global warming theory and doesnt include any scientific opposition in its one-sided cover story.

By Dan Gainor
June 13, 2005

     The global warming debate is over just ask the people at USA Today. The nations colorful daily led its front page with a one-sided climate change story June 13, 2005, declaring the end of the argument and failing to include any scientific voices to the contrary.

     The article, written by Dan Vergano, follows a trend in news coverage documented by the Business & Media Institute in the study Destroying America to Save the World. Vergano filled his story with terrifying temperature predictions including a middle of the road projection of an average 5-degree increase by the end of the century, according to Caspar Amman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

     The graphic accompanying the article projected a possible 7.3 degree increase in temperatures by the year 2100 if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to increase. The story also cited the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which estimated that global temperatures will rise 2 to 10 degrees by 2100.

     But those temperature figures are hardly undisputed. Pat Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, has commented extensively on the subject.

     The variation in the constant warming trend has been so tiny over the last 35 years that one can say with confidence that the range should be between 1.0 and 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit from 2001 to 2050, Michaels wrote in April 2005.

     According to Vergano, corporations, politicians and religious groups agree that the problem is real. Conspicuously absent from his article were legions of scientists who dont agree.

     The IPCC, which Vergano repeatedly cited as a source of climate change information, has hundreds of scientists working on its reports. But more than 17,000 scientists signed a petition in 1998 urging the United States not to join the Kyoto Protocol, which would further regulate greenhouse gases. That petition states:

     There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.

     The Russian Academy of Sciences also advised President Vladimir Putin not to sign on to Kyoto because they disputed the science behind the treaty.

     The article left out the costs for the United States to comply with Kyotos regulations. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that cost as high as $400 billion annually. Vergano made the point that political leaders will support such measures only if the benefits come at a low cost to the economy, though he did not say what those costs might be, or what would constitute high or low costs.

     Vergano said, What the various factions don't necessarily agree on is what to do about it, but its not enough to point that out, said Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

     None of the proposed solutions would be cost-effective, Ebell said. He said the USA Today article failed to consult a sufficient range of analyses.

     Also on the subject of regulatory costs, Vergano cited a utility provider who indicated that power companies want to know what sort of carbon constraints they face so they can plan long term and avoid being hit with dramatic emission limits or penalties in the future. He couched this in terms of companies going along with global warming theory, rather than reporting on the stiff payments that might be imposed on industry. He mentioned corporations who have expressed skepticism about the science of global warming theory, but Vergano didnt bother to include comments from any of them.

 Experts from one side

     Vergano relied on several climate change advocates and even Greenpeace to make his claim that the debate is over. One of these is the University of Virginias Michael Mann, who claimed, All the time we should have been moving forward ... has been wasted by arguing if the problem even exists.

     Mann is the architect of what is called the hockey stick because his temperature-modeling graph forms that shape and has been used for years to claim that temperatures rose suddenly in the 20th century. According to the February 14, 2005, Wall Street Journal, an amateur analyzed some of the data and concluded that not only were there flaws, but that the statistical technique tended to draw hockey-stick forms.

     Mann admitted this, according to the Journal. He also corrected the other flaws but claimed they didnt impact the overall result. The problems dont end there. Mann wont release all of the data, so no one can double check his entire effort. The graph also de-emphasized a warming period around the year 1000 and the little ice age in the 15th century.

     Another expert Vergano cited was Jim Dooley, who leads the Battelle Joint Global Change Research Institute and the Global Energy Technology Strategy Project's research related to carbon capture. Dooley has several responsibilities for the institute and, according to its Web site, is also in charge of developing Battelle's private sector businesses relating to carbon management which would rely on climate change being a reality. Dooley and his organization arent disinterested bystanders. The site describes the mission of the institute to minimize the threat of global climate change.

     The article concluded by focusing on a stockholder resolution in May that asked ExxonMobil to explain the scientific basis for its ongoing denial of the broad scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global climate change. Vergano focused on how the resolution garnered 10.3% of shareholders' votes, rather than point out that it lost by a nearly 9-to-1 ratio.

     For more information on media coverage of global warming, see the BMIs Special Report Destroying America to Save the World: TVs Global Warming Coverage Hides Cost of Kyoto Treaty.