Accuracy in Media

Alaska is melting, at least according to the New York Times. Forests are dying, thawing permafrost is causing pavements to buckle, and Native American villages are crumbling. Times reporter Timothy Egan broke this sensational story in the June 16 Sunday edition, complete with color pictures of the buckling highways and eroding shorelines. The cause of all these problems, according to Egan, is a seven-degree-Fahrenheit rise in the average temperature in Alaska over the past 30 years. He attributed the higher temperatures to global warming or Mother Nature’s “prolonged mood swing,” implying that it might be reversible. But he quoted scientists at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks saying the changes were due to “indisputable climate warming.”

Editorially, the Times didn’t equivocate. It declared that Alaska is now experiencing the long-anticipated effects of global warming. Columnist Bob Herbert, its chief doomsayer, used the Alaska report to excoriate the Bush administration for its lack of “urgency” on global warming. The Times is miffed that the President “unsigned” the Kyoto Treaty and prefers voluntary measures to reduce the putative cause of the warming-greenhouse gas emissions.

On July 8, a Times editorial praised California’s legislature for passing a law that will require automakers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The editorial declared this was “unquestionably the most important step” in curbing greenhouse gas emissions since Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Treaty in 1997. It cited warnings by “mainstream scientists” that climatic, environmental, and economic catastrophes will result if global warming goes unchecked. Citing Egan’s June 16 article, it said, the “astonishing seven degree increase” in temperatures in Alaska shows “what we all have to look forward to?unless the Bush administration follows California’s example.”

The Times Got It Wrong

But what used to be regarded as the paper of record got the Alaska warming story wrong. Alaska’s average temperature did not rise by seven degrees over the past 30 years. The Times ran a correction saying that it was 5. 4 degrees Fahrenheit, citing a study by the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UA/Fairbanks). But the Center’s, and the Times’, number was still too high, according to Prof. Gerd Wendler at the Alaska Climate Research Center.

Prof. Wendler says it is still “too great by a factor of two for the 1971 to 2000 period.” He bases this on National Climate Data Center information, gathered from four “first class weather stations” professionally serviced by the National Weather Service. His calculations have been replicated and verified independently. Professor Wendler asked the Times for a correction on June 18, but it has failed to run one or explain why it was sticking to the contested number.

On the Internet, Tech Central Station attributed the warming trend to a spike in temperatures during the Great Pacific Climate Shift in 1976-1977, a pattern that has been repeated over the past 100 years. Subtract those years, and there is no warming trend after 1977. Professor (emeritus) Sue Ann Bowling, a climat-ologist with the Atmospheric Sciences Faculty at UA/Fair-banks, confirmed to AIM that the Pacific climate shift caused a “step change” in temperature trends around 1976-1977.

Both Wendler and Bowling were mystified by the Times’ num-bers. Wendler speculated that his colleagues at the Center for Global Change may have used an earlier time period or numbers from other stations. Other scientists, speaking anonymously, think that the Center for Global Change may have fudged the numbers to support its projections of future change, which have temperature increases in Alaska doubling or even tripling by 2100.

Wrong Numbers, Wrong Consequences

If the corrected numbers in the Times article are off by a factor of two, does that mean that the Times’ predictions of catastrophic consequences are equally wrong? For the Times, along with environmental activists, left-liberal politicians (and Senator John McCain) and those “mainstream scientists” the Times likes to quote, it doesn’t really matter. When it comes to global warming, for this group “the debate is over.”

Likely presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., in his opening statement at a recent congressional hearing, captured the mood of this group by saying that it is now “time to shift the focus from the science to the solution of climate change.” By solution, Kerry means mandatory reductions of CO2 emissions and other curbs on industry, particularly automakers. Politicians like Senators Kerry, McCain and Lieberman have all climbed on the global warming bandwagon, and one source claims that twice as many climate change bills were introduced in the 107th Congress as in the previous two sessions combined. State officials, like California Governor Gray Davis and the Democratic attorneys general of 10 other states are all impatient with Washington’s emphasis on voluntary controls. They want President Bush to support new legislation to curb emissions.

Activists applaud these measures, but would prefer to launch a “new industrial revolution” to fundamentally transform the way we “power the global economy.” This means “new fuels, new engines, new industrial processes, and new ways to generate electricity” (but not nuclear power). They urge Americans to “adjust to new realities” or go the way of the dinosaurs. You can tell how serious the issue is getting when trial lawyers start speculating about filing class-action lawsuits seeking damages on behalf of individuals or even countries that claim they have suffered from the effects of global warming.

A Failed Hypothesis

But the science on global warming, and its putative causes, is by no means settled. The earth’s atmosphere has both warmed and cooled over the centuries without any human activity being responsible. Dr. S. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), points out that a study of CO2 and temperatures over the past 11,000 years that was analyzed in both Science and Nature in 1999 found that the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere tends to follow, not precede, a rise in temperature. Dr. Singer reminds us that “the bulk of the temperature rise in the 20th century took place before 1940, while most of the CO2 emissions took place after 1940 and coincided with a slight climate cooling between 1940 and 1975.” The satellite temperature readings from 1979 through June 2002 have risen at the rate of only 0.1 degree Fahrenheit per decade or 1.0 degree per century.

The global warming advocates rely on projections of the earth’s surface temperatures derived from computer models to support their claims that we are facing disaster if we don’t take decisive action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The increase projected for the 21st century is 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit compared to an increase of 0.7E to 1.4EF in the 20th century. Advocates, like the authors of a recent National Research Council report, claim that, “warming trends are most clearly marked by surface temperature measurements-which have been recorded daily at hundreds of locations for more than a century.” Critics don’t dispute that some warming has occurred. They say the surface temperature data are not a reliable measure of the increase, citing the poor coverage of oceans and higher latitudes and the location of many stations near urban areas, making the data susceptible to an “urban heat island effect.”

Satellite Data More Convincing

AIM has repeatedly pointed to the value of data collected by microwave sounding units that fly on a constellation of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar-orbiting satellites. These TIROS-N satellites record temperature fluctuations in the lower troposphere (up to about 5 miles) and the lower stratosphere (about 9-12 miles up), where the effects of greenhouse gases should be most apparent. As the NRC report concluded, “if global warming is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it should be evident not only at the earth’s surface, but also in the low-mid troposphere.”

But it isn’t. As noted above, satellite data show a 0.1EF increase per decade since 1979, when the program was started-a dramatic difference from the surface temperature trend. The satellite data correlate with those collected by weather balloons using completely different sensors. The coverage is global and extends over oceans and surface areas where land-based systems are infrequent. Measurements are taken in atmospheric layers above the effects of urban heat islands. The satellite sensors are calibrated by NOAA’s practice of putting new birds in orbit before older satellites are retired. But global warming advocates generally ignore satellite data. During the Clinton years, as reported in the January-A 2000 AIM Report, Dr. D. James Baker, the Undersecretary of Commerce who headed NOAA and “owned” the satellites, ignored these data because they refuted the global warming hypothesis.

For global warming advocates, the chief culprit is greenhouse gas emissions, and especially CO2, produced by burning fossil fuel. Deb Callahan, President of the League of Conservation Voters, a Washington-based political action group that funds “pro-environment” candidates, says “carbon dioxide pollution” is to blame for all the problems. Another advocacy group, Environmental Defense, labels carbon dioxide “global warming pollution.” This simply reflects the consensus of global warming advocates who point to human activity, especially fossil fuel burning, as (mostly) responsible for the warming trends.

To its credit, the Bush administration has tried to slow down the global warming propaganda machine. James Mahoney, the new Assistant Secretary of Commerce who is the deputy chief of NOAA, used his recent congressional testimony to remind the Senate that “substantial uncertainties remain to be addressed” in global warming science. He said scientific knowledge about “specific cause-effect relationships” is only beginning to emerge. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has embraced the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 18% over the next decade. The administration prefers voluntary methods, but it still pours billions of dollars into climate change research.

Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT, disputes the link between climatic change and CO2. In 2001, he testified before a Senate committee that past major climatic changes were either “uncorrelated with changes in CO2 or were characterized by temperature changes which preceded changes in CO2 by hundreds or thousands of years.” Lindzen argued that there is no demonstrable linkage between growth in CO2 generation and major climatic change of the type forecast by global warming advocates. Others stress that if CO2 emissions really are the culprit, then temperatures in the troposphere should be warming faster than surface temperatures. The satellite data show the reverse is true.

A central problem with global warming theories is the reliance on two large computer models to project impacts of warming and greenhouse gas emissions on the environment. These two models, according to the critique, vastly exaggerate the atmosphere’s sensitivity to increasing CO2 and cannot replicate other variables like clouds or water vapor that also impact climates. Most damaging, the models fail to accurately simulate recorded experience when put to the test, so many wonder why these models should be used to support policy making on climate change.

It’s Not About the Science

The dirty secret is that global warming is driven more by the search for funding than the search for scientific truth. “Big science” was adrift in the early 1990s, like many other beneficiaries of the Cold War, and was desperate to sustain its federal funding. Global warming had all the key attributes of the next big cause. It could be used to frighten the politicians and the public, using threats of catastrophic consequences to extract billions of dollars for research to prevent it. The science was immature, and the door was wide open to all sorts of proposals and projects by scientists promising solutions. High-performance computers were the tools, and the projects promised to be long-term and career-sustaining. Getting funds was easy. As MIT Professor Lindzen has noted, “saving the planet” had a nice ring to it and seemed to portend big bucks at the end of the global warming rainbow.

By the early 1990s, there was a convergence between the proponents of big science and the left-oriented activist community. Many of the Left’s old myths and socialist dreams had collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union, and many seized on global warming as another path to reining in Big Business and reducing the standard of living and comfort level of the average American. Global warming also offered another avenue for leftists to continue their “blame America first” campaign. Advocacy groups constantly reminded citizens that it is the U.S. that is largely to blame for greenhouse emissions. For example, a newly released study by Environmental Defense blames the U.S. for generating 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide and says that American cars and light trucks alone emit more carbon dioxide than almost all the other nations of the world combined. Environmental Defense says driving a car, especially an SUV, is the most egregious sin one can commit from a pollution standpoint. Since Americans have demonstrated they won’t cut emissions on their own, big government will have to step in and impose curbs and controls on autos and industry in general. Clearly, advocacy groups and lobbyists had found a new hot-button issue to support their fund raising.

Global warming fanatics found powerful allies in the Democratic Party, and especially then Senator Al Gore. Government control and public opinion were the levers needed to implement the global warming agenda. Activists would need to capture key policy jobs in those federal agencies with science portfolios, like the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and NOAA. Once secured, these jobs would give activists control of the key levers of influence over the scientific community-research grants and federal funding of national labs and universities. They knew that they could always buy scientists who would turn out scientific studies and research reports that would help them shape and mold public opinion.

The Clinton/Gore Legacy

The Clinton/Gore victory in 1992 opened that door. President George H.W. Bush’s refusal to personally attend the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and his reluctance to accept binding agreements on carbon dioxide curbs gave the Clinton/Gore team another issue in their campaign to show that “President Bush was out of touch with the people and their daily concerns.”

Once in power, Al Gore, a strident environmentalist, began to remake the government bureaucracy in his image. His life experience in Washington had taught him the value of the old Washington truism, “personnel is policy.” He established a White House Climate Change Task Force and placed his former legislative aide, 29-year old Kathleen McGinty, in charge of a new White House Office on Environmental Policy. He put her on the National Security Council, the new National Economic Council, and the Domestic Policy Council as a symbol of the importance of environmental policy in the Clinton White House. McGinty would be in charge of seeding the government bureaucracies with “greens” and was reputed to have an enemies list of Bush holdovers. Former NASA chief scientist Robert Watson, a Gore favorite, became associate director in the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). Gore brought in other “green” lawyers and lobbyists to populate the new White House positions.

He installed his former legislative director, Carol Browner, as the new EPA administrator in 1993. Under Browner, EPA became the central coordinator of the federal global warming campaign, dispensing funds through a variety of inter-agency committees and programs. At the Defense Department, the position of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security was established, and the CIA established a task force to apply national technical means (satellite collection platforms) to monitor world environmental issues. Tim Wirth, a former Democratic senator from Colorado, became Undersecretary for Global Affairs at the State Department. He led all U.S. negotiations on climate change. As a senator, Wirth had proclaimed that it didn’t matter if the science of global warming was right or wrong, the economic and environmental policies would be right for America.

Naysayers Not Wanted

The fate of Bush appointee William Happer, a highly respected Princeton physicist, is symptomatic of Gore’s remaking of the bureaucracy. Happer had been asked to stay over until a new Assistant Secretary of Energy could be appointed, but he quickly ran afoul of Gore and his climate control group in the White House. Happer had initiated a research program to test the various ozone depletion theories then in vogue and had found that the empirical results were not matching the theory’s predictions. When he told a House committee that “there probably has been some exaggeration of the dangers of ozone and global climate change,” White House officials promptly fired him. Gore had already decided that ozone depletion would damage crops and increase the rate of skin cancer.

Robert Watson had predicted that an ozone hole would open up over Kennebunkport, ME, President Bush’s vacation home. Happer had publicly ridiculed Watson’s suggestion and so Happer was almost certainly on McGinty’s enemies list. Happer, in a later interview, correctly identified the Clinton/Gore approach as “politically correct science.” The huge amounts of funding made available by Clinton/Gore ensured that the new administration would get the “answers” on global warming it was seeking. Happer said that science was being turned on its head. Instead of science driving policy, policy now determined the results it wanted and then paid scientists to come up with them.

Also, at the Energy Department, a staff lawyer from the Natural Resources Defense Council, another Washington-based environmental advocacy group, became Secretary Hazel O’Leary’s chief of staff and then went on to become an assistant secretary, with control of over $1.3 billion annually in climate-change funding. The Energy Department doled out billions of dollars in global warming funding to its National Laboratories, which had convinced the department that many of its computer models used to develop nuclear weapons were applicable to climate modeling. In addition, the Department funded university research grants and scholarships in the various climate-change academic disciplines.

The largest Energy project is the Atmosphere Radiation Measurement (ARM) project, run by Sandia National Laboratory along with the other nuclear weapons design laboratories. The ARM program even has its own air force; it uses a fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and propeller-driven aircraft to collect cloud data at three sites: Oklahoma, the western Pacific Ocean, and Alaska’s North Shore. The Department recently signed an agreement with Australia to begin data collection at Darwin. Congressional skeptics have wondered what, if anything, these programs have to do with nuclear weapons, but they continue to fund them nonetheless.

Over its two terms, the Clinton administration pumped nearly $20 billion into global warming science and technology initiatives. By 2002, the EPA website advertised that more than a billion dollars was still available for grants for the purpose of reducing greenhouse emissions.

Scaring The Public

As part of its campaign to mold public opinion, the EPA sponsored regional conferences throughout the United States to dramatize the potential impacts of climate change. In May 1999, for example, the EPA visited South Florida and the Florida Keys to warn local residents of the potential impacts for their region of global warming. Local EPA officials, area activists and outside speakers told attendees that global warming is real and that their area would be particularly hard hit. One local activist told the conference that global warming represents “the largest single threat to our planet that we know of, including a nuclear holocaust.” A professor of environmental health from Columbia University predicted an outbreak of water-borne diseases like malaria as the sea level rises in the wake of global warming. A “hurricane expert” predicted a 50% increase in hurricanes in that year alone. (In fact, the number of hurricanes decreased in 1999 in comparison with past years.) Others predicted that the Everglades would disappear, as would safe drinking water and clean air.

Global warming advocates also had a reliable ally in the mainstream media. In most cases, the media simply report research findings and results handed to reporters in government news releases and interviews. The more provocative and alarming the reports, the more likely they are to find their way onto the front page. The Alaska report on the dramatic impact of warming was funded by NOAA, Department of Interior and National Science Foundation grants. Rarely do reporters challenge the “science,” and rarer still do they present global warming as anything other than an accepted fact among scientists.

The media have helped create the false impression that the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is a serious threat that calls for drastic action. Agreement with this seems to be a litmus tests for Times reporters covering science. One such reporter, Kenneth Chang, answered a question on the Times Internet site about global warming by saying that it’s a complicated subject, but 97% of all scientists think it is real and is caused by CO2 emissions. He said there are uncer-tainties in the science, but he admitted that he tries to write his articles on global warming from the majority viewpoint. Nevertheless, he had a good article in the Times last April that corrected the impression given by an earlier story by another reporter that global warming was affecting Antarctica. Chang reported that the interior of Antarctica is actually cooling, and he gave credit to the satellites that provided this information. They are rarely mentioned by the Times and other media.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., Chairman and Publisher of the New York Times, to Bo Jones, Publisher and CEO of the Washington Post and to an editor of your choice.




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