Accuracy in Media

The Environmental Working Group of California (EWG) unwittingly did John Stossel of ABC News a great favor recently. They boosted his ratings. When they learned that he had interviewed a group of schoolchildren for a program he was producing titled “Tampering With Nature,” the EWG swung into action. Goaded by the EWG, seven of the parents signed a letter to Stossel retracting the permission they had given for the interviews of their children to be used on the program. They accused him of misrepresenting the story he was doing and asking leading questions. They said they were “disturbed by the way your staff withheld your involvement with the segment.”

One of them was a father who had watched the interview and had complimented Stossel and asked for his autograph. He changed his mind after hearing from the EWG, an organization that had been trying for a year to get ABC to fire Stossel. It specializes in exposing what it believes are dangerous chemicals in the air, water and food, but it has links to other environmental groups such as the Earth Day Network, which places a lot of emphasis on indoctrinating schoolchildren. It says in a message to teachers on its Web site, “Kids have always been some of the most enthusiastic environmentalists.”

Stossel showed how youngsters are being indoctrinated in grade school, chanting slogans and writing letters in class to President Bush criticizing his environmental stands. An Earth Day spokeswoman proudly announced that 15 bags of kids’ letters had been delivered to the President. Stossel asked, “Is this education or is it environmental boot camp? He showed that the boot-camp approach works with young children.

But the parents who yanked their kids failed to sabotage Stossel’s program. Other children took their place and it went on as scheduled. The publicity generated by the parents’ action helped increase its audience. It garnered the most viewers and the highest ratings in the 10 p.m. time slot, beating out NBC’s popular “Law and Order.” It even drew more viewers than “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which preceded it on ABC.

That was a great achievement for a politically incorrect program that debunked claims that our air and water are getting more polluted and that human activities are causing the earth to overheat, posing a threat to human life. The youngsters Stossel interviewed showed by raised hands and a voice vote that they thought our air and water are getting more polluted. When Stossel said government figures showed the opposite, many of the kids accused the government of lying.

He showed how kids as young as seven or eight were scared to death by tall tales they had heard about the dire effects of global warming. He said the kids who had been denied their chance to express their fears on this show had said, “Global warming’s melting Canada and we can all die.” The new kids had the same fear. One was shown earnestly saying, “Floods will happen, and we won’t be able to breathe. And if we can’t breathe, we will probably go extinct.”

Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, who has correlated variations in the global temperature over time with sun-spot cycles, commented, “I think it’s tragic that someone has frightened these kids.” John Christy, who publishes a monthly record of the changes in the temperature of the earth’s lower atmosphere as measured by instruments on NASA satellites, commented: “We looked very closely at hurricanes, at tornadoes, at hail, at storminess. None of those things are increasing. They are not getting worse.”

Stossel presented opposing scientific views from scientists who are members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Robert Watson, the chief scientist for the World Bank, presented a scenario of doom and gloom. He said the overwhelming majority of scientists share his view, a view that the mainstream media, including ABC News help spread. But Stossel cited a petition urging rejection of the Kyoto treaty that was signed by 17,000 scientists. It said there is no convincing evidence that the greenhouse gases are altering the earth’s climate.

Dr. Richard Lindzen of M.I.T., a critic of the global warming theory, discussed the scare tactics that are employed by its advocates that were reflected in the responses of the young children. He said, “The average person hears the temperature has changed half a degree. So what? It changes more than that while they wait for the street light to change. They need something to get people excited. So they start talking about ice sheets melting, disease vectors advancing and storms increasing.”

One thing missing from this outstanding program was the fact that John Christy’s satellite data show no significant warming trend since 1979, when the series began.

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