Accuracy in Media

As the first anniversary of the global warming treaty, also known as the Kyoto Protocol, has come and gone, a steady stream of stories from the mainstream media continues to reinforce the notion that global warming is indeed a real phenomenon that is significantly caused by human activity and exacerbated by U.S. refusal to sign on to Kyoto. Our media have let it be known in no uncertain terms that scientists who oppose this “consensus” are either bought and paid for by oil companies or ignorant of the facts and evidence. What’s more, they are not worth paying any attention to.

The latest entry into the debate is a 60 Minutes segment on CBS. Scott Pelley reported that “the scientists you are about to meet say the debate is over.” Their expert in this case is Bob Corell, who was picked in 1987 by Ronald Reagan to look into the climate change question, and, they say, has been studying it ever since. According to Corell, “glaciers that were growing until the 1990s and are now melting,” and “98 percent of the world’s mountain glaciers are melting.” He predicts that “Sea level will be inundating the low lands of virtually every country of the world, ours included,” and he says that “all that water will push sea levels three feet higher all around the world in 100 years.”

There is much evidence that contradicts the assertions made in the 60 Minutes story. In response to a one-sided Fox News’ special on global warming last November, AIM editor Cliff Kincaid linked to some articles that highlighted the information contradicting the conventional wisdom.

Challenging this latest CBS story, admirably enough, is Brian Montopoli, who writes for the CBS site called Public Eye, a combination blog and ombudsman that CBS has created outside the control of CBS News. Its self-described purpose is to explain how and why CBS reports what it does, and how it makes those editorial decisions. It is part of CBS Digital Media, which operates CBS’s websites. Following the Scott Pelley piece on global warming, Montopoli, who came to Public Eye from the Columbia Journalism Review, challenged Pelley to explain “why the voices of the skeptics were not heard in the piece.”

“There is virtually no disagreement in the scientific community any longer about global warming,” said Pelley. “The science that has been done in the last three to five years has been conclusive…There’s just no longer any credible evidence that suggests that, a, the earth is not warming or, b, that greenhouse gasses are not the cause…

“It would be irresponsible of us to go find some scientist somewhere who is not thought of as being eminent in the field and put him on television with these other guys to cast doubt on what they’re saying,” he went on. “It would be difficult to find a scientist worth his salt in this subject who would suggest this wasn’t happening. It would probably be someone whose grant has been funded by someone who finds reducing fossil fuel emissions detrimental to their own interests.”

But as I have shown in a previous commentary, there are many scientists who are skeptics, including more than 17,000 who have signed the Oregon Petition, which states that “There is no convincing evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

We recently received an email from one of our readers who discussed an  exchange with reporter Tom Costello of NBC News. The reader criticized as “ludicrous” NBC’s suggestion on a program that last year’s devastating tsunami was evidence of global warming.

Costello responded as follows: “In fact, you are absolutely right.  Big mistake on our part…..and once again, thank you for drawing our attention to it. It’s not a mistake we’ll repeat.”

That’s a good step forward. NBC should also apologize on the air.

It’s time for a major network program to look at the evidence in a balanced fashion, presenting the best representatives of all sides of the debate.

That’s what we thought professional journalism was all about.

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