Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Banner Day for Media Bias: The NYT’s Friday the 13th On Global Warming

The New York Times outdid itself in media bias on Friday the 13th. It reported that “the nation’s scientific establishment” as represented by the National Research Council has reaffirmed that “global warming is real” and that “its effects are already becoming serious.” The NYT warns that we must act now because “adverse changes in the climate system…may be impossible to undo.”

The NYT regrets that “the answer comes at a time when efforts to adopt a climate-change policy have stalled in Washington, with many of the Republicans who control the House expressing open skepticism about the science of climate change. Other legislators, including some Democrats, worry that any new law would translate into higher energy prices and hurt the economy.”

For those few and uninformed skeptics, the NYT assures us that “Not only is the science behind the climate-change forecast solid, but the risks to future generations from further inaction are profound.” Already, “the sea level is rising in many American towns” and the average United States air temperature has increased by two degrees in the last 50 years.

The only skeptic cited is Texas Representative Joe Barton, who “swiftly dismissed the council’s findings.” But pay no attention to Barton. We are informed he is “leading the charge against further regulating carbon emissions,” presumably a stooge for Texas’s “Big Oil.” (A photo of a scowling Barton is attached to the article).

According to the NYT, the committee itself “is an unusual combination of climate scientists, businessmen and politicians,” and even includes “non scientist, Jim Geringer, a conservative Republican.” Such a committee would clearly bend over backwards to be fair.

The report ends on an unsurprising note. America’s greatest scientists recommend that the federal government spend a gazillion dollars on scientific and engineering research before it is too late.

Well, anyone can read the summary of the Research Council’s report on line, which I did. Here is what I found in a few minutes of research:

1) On the Committee:
Of the first eight names, only one appears to be a climate scientist. The others are engineers, lawyers, and public policy types. There are other names, but I did not want to waste my time. I presume the pattern holds. No top climate change skeptic, like MIT’s Richard Lindzen, is included. This report was not written by climate scientists but by public policy wonks.

2) On the certainty of the science:
The report tells us, contrary to the NYT account, that the science is far from certain. I quote: “How will the climate system respond to increased greenhouse gases? The exact value of ‘climate sensitivity’—that is, how much temperature rise will occur for a given increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration—is uncertain due to incomplete understanding of some elements of the earth’s climate system.” Note the wobbly use of language, such as “exact” or “some elements,” to signal that the science is “almost certain.” I can imagine the illustrious committee members searching for appropriate qualifiers that would not let the cat out of the bag.

3) If the science is uncertain, why act now?
The report, which is not a study of climate science but of risk management, argues that the potential environmental damage from temperature increases (which the committee admits we really do not understand) is so large that we cannot afford to wait until we understand the science. (With this argument, we should wipe North Korean and Iran off the map now because of the future risk of their future nuclear weapons).

4) How about the NYT’s claim of “rising sea levels in many American towns?”
Not surprisingly, I could not find this is in the report (perhaps it is hidden some where). There is only a general reference to risks to coastal areas from future rises in sea levels. The NYT’s claim is puzzling. How can sea levels be higher in one coastal town and lower in another nearby town? I’d like the NYT writer (Leslie Kaufman) to explain that one. (I do recall an earlier NYT report with “Rising Sea Levels and Global Warming” in the headline, but it turned out to be subsidence. The earth was inconveniently dropping not the sea level rising).

The NYT is again trying to tell us that the science is certain and that anyone who disagrees is a stooge or an idiot. If global warming alarmism is so scientifically proven, why is it that respected top scientists at institutions such as M.I.T., Princeton, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin say there is no scientific evidence to support it? Has the Times ever tried to answer this question? Global warming alarmism should not be taken seriously until and unless the question is satisfactorily answered.

Why should a layman give global warming alarmism any credence if these scientists do not? There is never such certainty in science, as the Research Council’s own report confirms.

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