On March 19, the Drudge Report, a website run by Internet gossip Matt Drudge, posted the banner headline "EXCLUSIVE: GORE FACES HILL GRILLING ON 'WARMING'; QUESTIONS AWAIT FORMER VP," and purported to reveal several "[p]roposed questions" that former Vice President Al Gore will have to answer when he testifies on the impact of global warming before two congressional committees on March 21. Drudge exclaimed in his "exclusive" report that the questions "could lead [sic] Gore scrambling for answers!"
But one purported question is based on a theory that has been debunked by the scientific community:
How can you continue to claim that global warming on Earth is primarily caused by mankind when other planets (Mars, Jupiter and Pluto) with no confirmed life forms and certainly no man-made industrial greenhouse gas emissions also show signs of global warming? Wouldn't it make more sense that the sun is responsible for warming since it is the common denominator?
In fact, the claim that global warming on uninhabited planets suggests that global warming on the Earth is not likely caused by human activities has been dismissed by scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a report it released in February, concluded that both greenhouse gases and solar radiation are contributing to global warming. The report included a section titled "Human and Natural Drivers of Climate Change," which noted that "[c]hanges in the atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases and aerosols, in solar radiation and in land surface properties alter the energy balance of the climate system."
The claim that the sun -- rather than human activities -- is responsible for global warming has been trumpeted by nationally syndicated columnist John McCaslin, who wrote in his March 2 Washington Times column that a February 28 National Geographic News article "cites 2005 data" showing similar warming trends on Earth and Mars as "evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun." In fact, the National Geographic News article, to which Drudge linked, did not itself assert the existence of evidence that "changes in the sun" are largely responsible for global warming -- as McCaslin suggested -- but rather reported on "one scientist's controversial theory." The article first quoted "Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England's Oxford University" saying that the claim that the sun is largely responsible for global warming is "completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion" and that it "contradict[s] the extensive evidence presented in the most recent IPCC report." The article added that "[t]he conventional theory is that climate changes on Mars can be explained primarily by small alterations in the planet's orbit and tilt, not by changes in the sun" and that "most scientists think it is pure coincidence that both planets are between ice ages right now." The article further reported that "the biggest stumbling block in" the theory is the "dismissal of the greenhouse effect," and quoted Amato Evan, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said that "without the greenhouse effect there would be very little, if any, life on Earth, since our planet would pretty much be a big ball of ice."
Rush Limbaugh made a similar claim on September 21, 2005, selectively reading on his nationally syndicated radio show from a year-old article to falsely suggest that a 2004 study by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research found that an increase in solar brightness is the sole cause of global warming. In fact, the article, which appeared in the London Telegraph on July 18, 2004, specifically noted that the study's lead author did not believe increased solar brightness was responsible for the dramatic rise in global temperatures over the past 20 years; according to the parent organization of the group that conducted the study, solar brightness "plays only a minor role in the current global warming."
Drudge also noted that Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, invited Bjørn Lomborg to "appear at the hearing." As Media Matters for America has noted, Lomborg is an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. In his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Lomborg purported to conduct a "non-partisan analysis" of environmental data in the hope of offering the public and policymakers a guide for "clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems." His conclusion was that the concerns of scientists regarding the world's environmental problems -- including global warming -- are overblown. But in January 2002, Scientific American ran a series of articles from four well-known environmental specialists who lambasted Lomborg's book for "egregious distortions," "elementary blunders of quantitative manipulation and presentation that no self-respecting statistician ought to commit," and sections that they said were "poorly researched and ... rife with careless mistakes."
As Media Matters has previously noted, ABC News political director Mark Halperin has claimed that Drudge "can influence the news like Walter Cronkite did" and said that "[i]f Drudge has a siren up, people know it's something they have to look at." Halperin's book, The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Random House, 2006), which he co-wrote with Politico Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris, includes a chapter titled: "How Matt Drudge Rules Our World."
From the Drudge Report "exclusive":
GORE FACES HILL GRILLING ON 'WARMING'; QUESTIONS AWAIT FORMER VP
Sun Mar 18 2007 20:23:00 ET
Temperatures are predicted to reach a high of only 43-degrees on Wednesday in Washington, but look for high-heat to come out of Al Gore's scheduled appearances on The Hill!
Gore is set to appear before Rep. John Dingell's [D-MI] all powerful Energy and Commerce Committee in the morning and Sen. Barbara Boxer's [D-CA] Environment and Public Works Committee in the afternoon.
Both are expected to have overflow seating, and protesters, both for and against Gore.
Gore will get a 30 minute opening and then Boxer and her republican counterpart, Sen. [James] Inhofe [OK], each get 15 minutes each of questioning in addition to their opening statements. Other senators will only get 5 min of Q & A.
"Democrat Dingell is a big global warming skeptic, so do not expect him to go too lightly on Gore," predicts a congressional source.
[Dingell has also invited Gore critic, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, Adjunct Professor, Copenhagen Business School, to appear at the hearing. Lomborg is author of the book 'The Skeptical Environmentalist.' He recetly [sic] wrote: "The cacophony of screaming does not help."
Proposed questions for Gore, which are circulating behind-the-scenes, have been obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT -- question that could lead [sic] Gore scrambling for answers!
Mr. Gore: You have said several times that we have 10 years to act to stave off global warming. Was that 10 years from the first time you said that or 10 years from now? We just wanted to get a firm date from you that we can hold you to.
Mr. Gore: How can you continue to claim that global warming on Earth is primarily caused by mankind when other planets (Mars, Jupiter and Pluto) with no confirmed life forms and certainly no man-made industrial greenhouse gas emissions also show signs of global warming? Wouldn't it make more sense that the sun is responsible for warming since it is the common denominator?
Mr. Gore: Joseph Romm, the executive director for the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, has said we must build 700 large nuclear plants to stave off climate change. Where do you stand on the need for nuclear energy?
Mr. Gore: Do you think the earth is significantly overpopulated and that is a major contributor to your view of climate change. (If yes, what do you think is a sustainable population for the planet?)