Friday, March 24, 2006

Bill Steigerwald: Media Hot Air on Global Warming

Bill Steigerwald
March 24, 2006

Wonder why Fox News polls show 60 percent of Americans think global warming is either a crisis (16 percent) or a major problem (44 percent)? It’s because for almost 20 years Americans have been under-informed and effectively brainwashed by mainstream liberal media.

A recent example of how one-sided the journalism of global warming is occurred after research scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder released a new study alleging that Antarctica’s ice is melting faster than previously thought. As the school’s March 2 press release stated, according to a study of satellite data, Antarctica’s massive ice sheet is not growing, as a 2001 study had predicted, but is “in significant decline.”

As much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year is being lost, the study found, because more ice is melting or falling into the sea than is being created by snowfalls. That sure sounds like a "significant" amount of ice water: It's 30 times what L.A. uses per year. But it's an ice chip compared to Antarctica's 7 million cubic miles of glaciers. As any devout reader of The New Yorker magazine fiction knows, rapidly melting polar ice caps -- and the resulting scary rise in ocean levels -- is the hottest theme in the global warming hysteria industry. New scientific "proofs" of our doomed melting planet are dutifully trumpeted in media almost daily, often without perspective and rarely with any journalistic skepticism.

The New York Times’ March 3 piece on Antarctica was short and perfunctory. But it made sure to note that the study “added credence to recent conclusions” that global warming “caused by humans was likely to lead to higher global sea levels” than previously thought. And what will be the sea level rise when that 36 cubic mile ice cube joins Earth's 320,000,000 cubic miles of ocean? A whopping 0.4 millimeters per year, says the study. For non-scientists, that's 0.015 inches. (20,000 years ago -- about 19,985 years before the SUV was invented -- global sea levels were 400 feet lower than today.)

The L.A. Times’ report, though longer, had no room for caution, uncertainty or critiques from other scientists about the findings. The idea that a mere three-year study, which used satellites that can’t distinguish between ice and rock to measure a continent larger than the United States, might be less than definitive never crossed the reporter’s mind.

Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin’s piece was the most thorough and most balanced. Sure, she never challenged the official global warming party line and her story was given the standard hyperbolic headline, “Antarctic ice sheet is melting rapidly: New study warns of rising sea levels.” But in the interest of fairness and balance, she called Oregon state climatologist George Taylor, a known global warming skeptic, who told her what any honest, sensible scientist would: that “a lot more research” is needed to understand Antarctica’s complex climate and ice trends.

Taylor told me last week he was not happy with the way he was treated by The Post, however. He was identified as someone “who writes for the Web site TCSDaily (, which is partly financed by fossil fuel companies that oppose curbs on greenhouse gases linked to climate change.”

Taylor, an Oregon State University professor, said "that implies I sold my soul to the devil." Yet he hardly is a tool of the oil industry. He says he’s written about six pieces at about $500 a pop for TCSDaily, an excellent conservative-libertarian website whose many sponsors include ExxonMobil.

Funny. No one else in The Post's article who gets government money had his credibility smeared. Just the guy who wasn’t a global-warming true believer. Sen. John Kerry appeared at the story's end, saying the polar meltdown meant the United States must act quickly to impose mandatory limits on CO2 and other greenhouse gases. What if The Post had discredited Kerry "as a rabid wind-surfer who has a vested interest in preserving current sea levels off Nantucket"? Or that he's "the husband of a wealthy ketchup heiress who gave a $250,000 award to scientist Jim Hansen, the Founding Father of Global Warming Doomsayers, who appeared on ABC's 'Good Morning America' March 2 warning of sea level rises of 80 feet in a few centuries"? Would anyone have complained about a bias?

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Bill Steigerwald is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's associate editor. Call him at (412) 320-7983. E-mail him at:

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