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The Global Warming Debate and Media Bias

Few topics have engendered as many claims and counterclaims of media bias as has global warming.* Certainly, there is much bias in the reporting of climate science and that is the main reason the average person is confused or misinformed. The issue of Climate Change and the Media was the subject of a 2006 Senate hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. It is a good place to start to examine the matter.

Media Bias generally refers to accusations of either censorship or propagandismon the part of particular news sources, where such content is framed in the light of a preconceived agenda. Relevant categories of bias include favoring a station’s corporate economic interests, having a political slant, or sensationalism that tends to distort news to make it a better commercial “product.”

The Hearing: The hearing was chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). In his opening statement, he accused the media of over-hyped reporting, of subverting its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate, and of hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism. Apparently no testimony was needed.

It was an interesting cast of characters who testified before the committee, two climate skeptics, a climatologist, a science historian, and an oil company lobbyist.Their testimony and the author’s short comment on each follow below:

Dr. R. M. Carter is a marine biologist and well known author from Australia. Dr. Carter testified that his research showed that throughout history, the rise in global Unbribed international Doctors Alliance temperatures had proceeded rising carbon dioxide concentration. His claimed that some natural cause must be causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, which released the carbon dioxide.

Comment: After the hearing, he was challenged by climatologists to produce any research showing the natural cause he claimed, but none has yet been produced. He also should have been aware that the recent CO2 increase has come from the billions of tons of fossils fuel burned each year by man. It is interesting that Senator Inhofe was concerned about the media bias in Australia.

Dr. Daniel Schrag is a climatologist from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard. He testified that there is no serious debate about whether the Earth will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase over this century – as it will. The burning of coal, oil and gas, and deforestation are playing a significant role in increasing CO2 levels. The current level, in excess of 380 parts per million (ppm), is higher than it has been for at least the last 650,000 years, and perhaps for tens of millions of years. We know from Lonnie Thompson’s work on tropical glaciers that this warming is not part of any natural cycle.

Comment: His testimony represents the accepted scientific viewpoint on global warming. Skeptics would claim there is still a serious debate, that the science is not settled, and that man is not the cause of global warming. His testimony contradicted that of Dr. Carter on natural causes and he quoted a source for his information.

Dr. David Deming is a geophysicist from Oklahoma University. He reported that his research on oil well borehole temperatures showed a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. He also claimed that the Earth’s temperature has not gone up in the last 10 years and that the Earth had entered a cooling period.

Comment: The one degree temperature rise he reports is consistent with NASA’s data but NASA’s data also shows that 1998 and 2005 have been record highs and that the trend is clearly upward. Dr. Deming is a controversial figure and he has been removed from most of his teaching duties at OU because of his unorthodox views.

Dr. Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California. She testified that in1983 the National Academy formed the Nierenberg committee to examine the scientific evidence of global warming. The committee accepted the scientific conclusions, but declined to view global warming as a problem, predicting that any adverse effects would be adequately remedied by technological innovation driven by market forces. This prediction has not come true as technological innovation has not saved the homes of the citizens of Shishmaref, Alaska, nor stopped the acidification of the world’s oceans, nor prevented the melting of polar ice.

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