Reporters Explain Why Balance Isn’t Needed On Global Warming

taped(h/t Ralph) Is it morally permissible to allow “climate deniers” to appear in print and televised media?

Columbia University journalism students wrestled with this question recently at a screening of the new documentary, “Merchants of Doubt.” “Merchants,” based on the 2010 book by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, endeavors to smear skeptics of anthropogenic global warming as the henchmen of the fossil-fuel industry. The film is light on evidence, as I show here, but heavy on verve. Director Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”) traces the stories of sly 1950s tobacco reps who hired scientists to cast doubt on a growing consensus that smoking was unhealthy. The film’s implication, insinuated rather than demonstrated, is that global warming doubters are likewise mercenary.

If you buy that argument, then it makes some sense to keep “deniers” from deluding the public. In a room full of journalism students in training to ask tough questions and root out the truth, everyone bought it.

Global Warming Opposition Equals Propaganda

“It is a lie to say that global warming poses no danger,” New York Times reporter Justin Gillis told the crowd as part of a panel after the screening. He was responding to a question from the editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, who had asked him whether news outlets present a “false balance” when they cite both proponents and skeptics of anthropogenic global warming. Since the science is “settled,” and “consensus” has been achieved, why not quote only the proponents? “Journalists care about the truth—that’s my only care in life, to find the truth,” Gillis added. “To act as if the evidence is half and half is to tell a lie. I refuse to perpetuate that lie.”

“Accurate information about climate change is a human right,” insisted Emily Southerd, campaign manager for the advocacy group Forecast the Facts. “Accurate information” in this case apparently means “consensus” information. Southerd shared that her organization is petitioning news stations to quit booking “deniers” like Marc Morano of ClimateDepot.com, one of the “merchants” shown in the film. Wendell Potter from the Huffington Post recommended that newspapers create a new “propaganda beat” with reporters devoted solely to unmasking the “deniers” as frauds.

It’s hard to take such caviling seriously when the New York Times is running beguiling hit pieces on respected (but climate-skeptic) astrophysicist Willie Soon and cheering a McCarthyite investigation into seven other professors who expressed skepticism towards the idea that global warming is dangerous and man-made. In the United Kingdom last summer, after global warming-skeptic Lord Nigel Lawson appeared on the BBC, the head of the BBC Complaints Unit announced that “minority opinions and sceptical views should not be treated on an equal footing with the scientific consensus.” Lawson has not been on the BBC since.

Skeptics are not exactly popular in the media. Gillis acknowledged a tacit pact among print journalists to stop giving credence to climate skeptics. He called this an “enlightenment” that began ten or 15 years ago. American television, he noted, still lets a few skeptics onto the air; broadcasters have yet to come out of the Dark Ages.

Denying the Deniers

The merits of the term “denier” also got some play among the panelists. Southerd cast a strong vote in favor of the term: “these people need to be labeled what they are: climate change deniers.” Gillis explained the need to maintain the appearance of impartiality. “This is much like the abortion wars: what term you use signals what side you are on.” His own preference was to describe the “deniers” as “people who oppose climate science.” He was adamant, though, that these opponents-of-climate-science should never be called “skeptics”; all scientists are professional skeptics, and it would be inappropriate to honor the climate-doubters with such a term.

One member of the audience thought to ask about the funding for pro-anthropogenic global warming scientists. What if someone investigated the money that supports global warming research, and made a “Merchants of Doubt” sequel about the consensus scientists? An excellent question, especially since in the last 15 years pro-sustainability and global warming research has enjoyed nearly $400 million in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); $3 billion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; $600 million from the National Institutes of Health; $1.7 billion from National Science Foundation; and even $2 million from the National Endowment for the Arts.

No worries about that, Gillis responded: “99.9 percent of climate science is funded by the government.” That means, he explained, that each grant is disclosed by number to the public, making every transaction transparent and trustworthy.

But Gillis neglected to explain that studies from twodifferent organizations have uncovered in this federally-funded research cozenage and artifice of exactly the sort “Merchants” espies in climate change doubters. Paper trails indicate that the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other federal agencies solicited climate science research that supported their conclusions, cherry-picked peer reviewers known to be sympathetic to the pro-global warming cause, and overlooked conflicts of interest by assigning research papers to be reviewed by members of the same organizations that produced the research in the first place. In response to concerns such as these, the House of Representatives is considering the Secret Science Reform Act and the Science Advisory Board Reform Act to try to bring transparency to the research these federal agencies use as the basis for their environmental regulations.

But none of this was relevant, apparently, in an evening’s conversation about threats to the integrity of climate science. Perhaps such obstinate belief in the credibility of global warming research should itself be labeled a kind of doubt-denialism.

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  • Avatar

    Al Shelton

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    The student are guilty of misunderstanding the crucial claim of the skeptics.
    First off, skeptics are NOT climate change “deniers”. The climate is always changing. Skeptics are adamant that CC is NOT man-made, nor is it caused by CO2.
    If these journalist student were half ways intelligent they would understand that.
    Some are guilty of the very things that they accuse skeptics of being:
    that is: Huffington Post recommended that newspapers create a new “propaganda beat” with reporters devoted solely to unmasking the “deniers” as frauds.
    The fact is that the CAGW Alarmists are the “frauds”. They are pushing a pleftwing political agenda and care less about the validity of the science.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    GR82DRV

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    Somewhere in the 1960’s journalism schools stopped teaching students to report the news and started teaching journalistic activism driven by agendas of the left. This has been a huge loss to a country dependent on an informed electorate.

    Instead of balanced information we now get propaganda peddled by arrogant “reporters” who decide which stories match the political template of the day.

    This is a particular shame since universities used to take pride in being an open arena for ideas and debate. Today, while bending over backward to accommodate the left PC agenda in the name of [i]diversity[/i] and [i]tolerance[/i], most universities have become known as the [u]most[/u] hostile places in our country for intellectual and political free speech, disciplines that should be [i]central[/i] to a quality teaching institution’s charter.

    True campus diversity must begin with balanced faculty. Since the 1960’s colleges have self-selected and tenure protected like-minded left-thinking teachers who live in a world of intellectual isolation. If non-liberal students are made to feel disrespected and unwanted on campus imagine the plight of professors who don’t accept the political orthodoxy of the left.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Gator

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      The man with the highest IQ ever tested, Christopher Langan, said that “[i]academia is a breeding house for parrots[/i]”.

      [i]College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

      By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

      Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences hit President Lawrence Summers with a vote of no confidence after he privately wondered about the abilities of women in science and math. (Steven Senne — AP)

      The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.[/i]

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8427-2005Mar28.html

      Diversity in all things, except thought.

      [i]”40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and [b]21% as liberal[/b].” [/i]

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/120857/Conservatives-Single-Largest-Ideological-Group.aspx

      Academia is not representative of the real world.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        GR82DRV

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        [quote name=”Gator”]
        By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

        The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.[/i]

        Diversity in all things, except thought.

        [i]”40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and [b]21% as liberal[/b].” [/i]

        Academia is not representative of the real world.[/quote]I think even the 72% of faculty reporting as liberal is intentionally skewed by those not wanting to openly acknowledge their bias. I live in a state university town and have many friends in faculty there. I honestly can’t identify a [i]single[/i] non-liberal on teaching staff.

        The only way for 21% of the population (as cited in the Gallup Poll) to dominate our society is by intentional control and censorship of education and media.

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Gator

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          [quote]I think even the 72% of faculty reporting as liberal is intentionally skewed by those not wanting to openly acknowledge their bias.[/quote]

          Absolutely true. I know conservative pro-life Catholics who voted for Skeeter simply because their unions told them to.

          Then there is the media…

          [img]http://archive.mrc.org/biasbasics/images2005/MBBChart1A.jpg[/img]

          And roughly 90% of Hollywood votes dhimmicrat,

          So there it is. The left has overtaken academia, the media, and pop culture.

          Reply

  • Avatar

    John Wilder

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    I took a course in college entitled: THE SOCIOLOGY OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS. In his chapter on the media he concludes it with this statement: “In. this world, there are liars and then there are damned liars and then there is the media/”

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Aido

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    The BBC’s charter requires it to be fair and impartial.

    On January 26th 2006, the BBC held a meeting of “the country’s best scientific experts” (their words), to discuss climate change. It was decided at the meeting that no airtime would be given to anyone who dissented from the view that man-made CO2 is warming the earth dangerously.

    The meeting was attended by:

    9 environmentalist activists
    4 academics (non-scientific)
    4 from non-BBC media
    3 businessmen
    1 from UK government
    1 from US government
    1 politician
    1 from the church of England
    4 scientists.

    In addition, there were 28 BBC employees:

    head of comedy
    director of news
    manager TV weather news
    editor, children’s channel
    editor, entertainment
    development executive, drama
    radio 5 head of news
    head of natural history unit
    head of political programmes

    The meeting was chaired by a foreign affairs correspondent.

    ’nuff said.

    Reply

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