Networks Hide the Decline in Credibility of Climate Change Science


Executive Summary

For years the global warming alarmists’ mantra has been “the science is settled.” But a recent series of shocking disclosures about climate science has shaken the credibility of that claim.


The first scandal – ClimateGate – came Nov. 20, 2009, after someone leaked thousands of e-mails from a major climate science group: University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The e-mails were full of startling admissions like this one: “We can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment.”


Since then there has been an avalanche of admissions and disclosures spreading online through Web sites and foreign newspapers. The cumulative effect has impacted the truthworthiness of the climate science movement. Yet the networks haven’t even adjusted their news coverage of the global warming issue to reflect the discoveries.


As President Obama readies his push for cap-and-trade at a potential cost of trillions of dollars, the news networks maintained warnings about the “precarious” state of the environment. They depicted the Earth as threatened by global warming and only discussed climate science errors in one-sixth of climate change stories.


The Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute examined every network report containing the terms “global warming” or “climate change” on morning and evening newscasts between Nov. 20, 2009, (the day the ClimateGate scandal broke) and April 1, 2010. These were some of BMI’s findings:


    Broadcasts Silent about Scandal, Then Defend Alarmist Science: It took ABC, CBS and NBC 14 days to even mention the ClimateGate e-mail controversy. When they couldn’t get away with it any longer they downplayed its threat to the credibility of the global warming movement. CBS’s Wyatt Andrews defended alarmists against accusations of “fraud” and “deception” saying “if that’s true, it’s a fraud adopted by most of the world’s leading scientists …” Networks Bury Climate Science Revelations with Avalanche of Warming Stories: The networks aired more than six times as many global warming alarmism reports than they did stories mentioning any of the problems with climate science research (86 to 13). ABC and NBC both aired stories about Arctic photographers that indicated their pictures were proof of global warming, even though they were not part of any scientific analysis. Media ‘Disappointed’ by Lack of Results in Copenhagen: There has been no media attempt at objectivity: all three networks supported the purpose of the Copenhagen climate conference. CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson said, “Few would argue with the U.S. having a presence [there].” But by the end of the conference some reporters fretted about the lack of a binding agreement. NBC’s Lester Holt said the conference “fell far short of what many hoped for.” ABC’s Charles Gibson said the non-binding nature of the agreement makes “you wonder if this really is worth the paper it’s printed on.” NBC the Worst: Seventy-five percent of stories on NBC (42 out of 56) promoted the global warming movement’s perspective, compared to 48 percent on CBS (16 out of 33). During the Copenhagen summit, NBC described left-wing protests (demanding more action be taken to prevent climate change) in flattering terms, despite hundreds of arrests. “The protest has a bit of a feel of a street fair,” NBC’s Anne Thompson cheerfully claimed. CBS the Best: In addition to the lowest percentage of alarmist reports, CBS was also the only one of the three networks to mention climate science errors beyond ClimateGate. On Feb. 4, 2010, the “Evening News” reported the incorrect Himalayan glacier prediction as well as problems with Chinese weather station data.


To improve coverage, BMI recommends:


    Don’t Ignore Problems with Alarmists’ Data: All three networks avoided reporting on ClimateGate for 13 days; it wasn’t until the 14th day that NBC finally broke the silence. If the cover-up and potential manipulation had been done by scientists arguing against the threat of climate change, would the networks have ignored such a scandal? Report Both Sides of Climate Science Debate, Don’t Advocate One Side: Reporters have a professional responsibility to remain objective and avoid inserting their own opinions into stories. Many network reporters have sorely missed that mark when it comes to reporting on global warming and climate change. Be Skeptical of Scientists and Politicians Pushing Threat of Warming, Not Just ‘Naysayers:’ Journalists should always look for ulterior motives, possible biases and sources of funding on the part of their subjects rather than taking their word for it. A healthy dose of skepticism especially toward the politicians and scientific alarmists would have resulted in much better reporting on climate change. Find Other Scientific Viewpoints: There are many scientists who are not part of the global warming consensus. The media often unfairly lump them into one group with labels like “skeptic,” “denier” and “naysayer.” This is an injustice given the widely divergent views in the scientific community. Network reporters should reach out to such scientists and hear what they have to say instead of dismissing and disparaging them. They could begin by attending the 4th International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago May 16-18.

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