Beck's global warming special dominated by industry-funded "experts," serial misinformers
Research ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & MATT GERTZ
CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck's May 2 hour-long special, Exposed: The Climate of Fear, purported to present the "other side of the climate debate that you don't hear anywhere." Introducing the show, Beck stated: "I want you to know right up front, this is not a balanced look at global warming." Indeed, Beck relied heavily on people with energy industry ties and others espousing positions on global warming that have been soundly debunked or rejected by the overwhelming majority of scientists studying climate change.
Here is a list of those featured:
- Marlo Lewis: Lewis is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), an institution funded by the energy industry. As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Lewis has said that "global warming is real and humans play a role," but has argued that "[t]rying to do too much to stop warming would be a waste of money better used on new technologies." As The Washington Post reported on March 19, 2006, CEI, "which widely publicizes its belief that the earth is not warming cataclysmically because of the burning of coal and oil, says Exxon Mobil Corp. is a 'major donor' largely as a result of its effort to push that position." According to Lewis' biography on the CEI website, he once appeared on C-SPAN to explain "why taxing the oil industry for 'excessive profits' is counterproductive." On February 10, the Post reported that Kenneth P. Cohen, Exxon Mobil's vice president for public affairs, said that "Exxon's foundation, which he heads, decided in 2005 to cut funding [for CEI], though that came to light only last fall."
- Timothy Ball: Ball is a climatologist who is also the chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, a Canadian environmental think tank whose three-person board of directors includes an executive of the High Park Advocacy Group, a Toronto-based lobby firm that specializes in 'energy, environment and ethics." Timothy Egan, High Park Advocacy Group president, is "a registered lobbyist for the Canadian Gas Association and the Canadian Electricity Association," in addition to serving on Natural Resources Stewardship Project's board. Ball was previously an adviser to the industry-funded Friends of Science, which, as the Toronto Globe and Mail reported in August 2006, was supported by "a coalition of oil-patch geologists, Tory insiders, anonymous donors and oil-industry PR professionals." Additionally, according to ExxonSecrets.org, Ball has contributed to Tech Central Station. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Tech Central Station Daily is a website that from 2000 to October 2006 was operated by the Republican lobbying firm DCI Group, which, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), is also a "registered ExxonMobil lobbying firm."
Ball has consistently repeated debunked claims aimed to cast doubt on global warming. For instance, in November 2004, Ball claimed that global temperatures have "warmed from 1680 up to 1940, but since 1940 it's been cooling down. The evidence for warming is because of distorted records. The satellite data, for example, shows cooling." Ball added: "[S]ince 1940 and from 1940 until 1980, even the surface record shows cooling. The argument is that there has been warming since then but, in fact, almost all of that is due to what is called the 'urban heat island' effect -- that is, that the weather stations are around the edge of cities and the cities expanded out and distorted the record. When you look at rural stations -- if you look at the Antarctic, for example -- the South Pole shows cooling since 1957 and the satellite data which has been up since 1978 shows a slight cooling trend as well."
But, as Media Matters has previously noted, several studies have shown that the urban heat island effect is minimal. The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that "[t]he total temperature increase from 1850-1899 to 2001-2005 is 0.76°C [0.57°C to 0.95°C]. Urban heat island effects are real but local, and have a negligible influence (less than 0.006°C per decade over land and zero over the oceans) on these values."
- Patrick J. Michaels: Michaels is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute; research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia; author of two books on global warming, The Satanic Gases and Sound and Fury: The Science and Politics of Global Warming (both published by the Cato Institute); and editor of World Climate Report, a biweekly newsletter on climate studies funded in large part by the coal industry. According to a 1998 article by Institute for Public Accuracy executive director Norman Solomon, the Cato Institute has received financial support from energy companies -- including Chevron Companies, Exxon Company, Shell Oil Company, and Tenneco Gas, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Foundation, and Atlantic Richfield Foundation. In addition, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, a July 17, 2006, memo from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) by general manager Stanley R. Lewandowski Jr., detailed IREA's financial support for Michaels:
We here at IREA believe that it is necessary to support the scientific community that is willing to stand up against the alarmists and bring a balance to the discussion. Many scientists have an opinion, but only a minority have any involvement in climatology. We decided to support Dr. Patrick Michaels and his group (New Hope Environmental Services, Inc.). Dr. Michaels has been supported by electric cooperatives in the past and also receives financial support from other sources. He has A.B. and S.M. degrees from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Michaels is the Virginia State Climatologist, Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, a Senior Fellow in environmental studies at the CATO Institute, and a Visiting Scientist with the Marshall Institute in Washington, DC. In February of this year, IREA alone contributed $100,000 to Dr. Michaels. In addition we have contacted all of the G & T's over in the United States and as of the writing of this letter, we have obtained additional contributions and pledges for Dr. Michaels group. We will be following up with the remaining G & T's over the next several weeks.
Michaels has falsely suggested that former Vice President Al Gore endorsed exaggerating the threat of global warming, as Media Matters documented. Further, on the March 21 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Michaels repeated a false comparison between Gore's claim that global warming could cause "sea level worldwide [to] go up 20 feet" with a section of the 2007 IPCC report, which, in the scenario Michaels cites, states sea levels would rise about 8 to 18 inches by the end of the 21st century. But as Media Matters has noted (here and here), Gore was specifically addressing what could happen if the West Antarctic ice shelf or the Greenland ice dome "broke up and slipped into the sea" at an indefinite point in the future. The portion of the IPCC report that Michaels cited referred only to projected sea-level increases before 2100 based on increases in temperature. Michaels used this false comparison as the basis for characterizing Gore's position as "beyond shrill" and "thermonuclear."
- Chris Horner: Horner is a senior fellow at CEI and author of the book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism) (Regnery, February 2007). He has appeared on Beck on at least three separate occasions to attack the "hysterical movement" of environmental activists warning of the threats of global warming (April 23, April 5, and March 21), as Media Matters has noted. For instance, during the April 5 edition of Beck's television program, Horner declared Gore's film to be "pure science fiction," and, among other things, pushed the misleading claim that that "it'll be almost 10 years since we've experienced any warming," and that "it hasn't warmed since 1998." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, according to NASA, 1998 was a particularly warm year because "a strong El Nino, a warm water event in the eastern Pacific Ocean, added warmth to global temperatures." Despite the temperature spike that occurred in 1998, the Climatic Research Unit's Global Temperature Record and a surface temperature analysis of 2006 by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) show a general warming trend since 1970. Moreover, a February 2007 NASA Earth Observatory news release states, "By the early 1980s, temperatures surpassed those of the 1940s and, despite ups and downs from year to year, they continued rising beyond the year 2000."
- John Christy: Christy is the director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and Alabama state climatologist. Christy and fellow University of Alabama professor Roy Spencer co-authored a 2003 global warming study based on extensive data from weather satellites. Their report, which concluded that the troposphere had not warmed in recent decades, was ultimately found to have significant errors. The New York Times reported that when their miscalculations were taken into account, the data used in their study actually showed warming in the troposphere.
Christy also contributed an essay skeptical of climate change to Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death (Crown Publishing Group, 2002). The book was released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
- Bjorn Lomborg: As Media Matters has noted, Lomborg is a "political scientist" at the Copenhagen Business School who, in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, 2001), 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 -- were overblown. But in January 2002, Scientific American ran a series of articles from four well-known environmental specialists that 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 were "poorly researched and ... rife with careless mistakes." Lomborg has repeatedly attacked Gore's documentary and, as Media Matters documented, used a false comparison to suggest that the IPCC "fundamentally rejects" Gore's claim that the world's sea-level could rise 20 feet as a result of warming.
In introducing Lomborg, Beck noted that because Lomborg was "not a scientist," but a political scientist. ... I'm not going to ask any science questions." Beck has previously hosted Lomborg on at least two occasions (January 17 and September 21, 2006).
- David R. Legates: As Media Matters has noted (here and here), Legates is associate professor of geography and director of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware. His 2006 report, "Climate Science: Climate Change and Its Impacts," was published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank that has received substantial funding from energy interests such as ExxonMobil Corp. The report concluded that "the science does not support claims of drastic increases in global temperatures over the 21st century, nor does it support claims of human influence on weather events and other secondary effects of climate change."
Legates' report claimed that "average summer air temperatures at the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, have decreased at the rate of 4 degrees F per decade since measurements began in 1987." Legates attributed this finding to a 2004 report by climate scientist Petr Chylek of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. But Legates ignored a study published by Chylek a year later that attributed this cooling trend to local climate patterns -- specifically, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Chylek then analyzed the temperature record in the Danmarkshavn region of Greenland -- an area on the northeastern coast apparently unaffected by the NAO -- and found that the warming rate there was 2.2 times faster than the global average. This corresponds with United Nations climate change models that show Greenland warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet and partially explains the rapid deterioration of the Greenland ice sheet in recent years.
- Patrick Moore: Patrick Moore is a former leader of the environmental activist group Greenpeace who has served as a corporate consultant since 1991. His public relations firm, Greenspirit Strategies, specializes in strategic communications for mining, fossil fuels, logging, and nuclear power industry clients. As the Center for Media and Democracy reported, Moore's "past work with Greenpeace has proved an irresistible hook for many reporters" in their coverage of his clients.
Moore is co-chair and paid spokesman for the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC), which describes itself as "a large grassroots coalition that united unlikely allies across the business, environmental, academic, consumer and labor community to support nuclear energy." In fact, as the Columbia Journalism Review reported, CSEC was formed by the Nuclear Energy Institute in 2006 and continues to receive most of its funding from that body. NEI is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technology industry, and seeks to "promote the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technologies in the United States and around the world."
As the Brattleboro Reformer reported on January 16, Moore serves as spokesman for the Vermont Energy Partnership, a nuclear industry front group that seeks to prevent the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. He is also an adviser for the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, a lobby group that promotes the renewal of the operating license for the Indian Point nuclear power plants. According to Jim Steets, spokesperson for Indian Point plant operator Entergy Corp., the company was "instrumental in the founding of New York AREA" and continues to partially fund the organization.
During his appearance on Exposed: The Climate of Fear, Moore touted nuclear power as a clean, safe source of energy. He stated: "That is what actually drives me nuts, is you've got Greenpeace and other major environmental groups saying that the civilization and the environment are going to be destroyed by global warming, catastrophe, chaos, and all of these scary words, and yet they are unwilling to adopt nuclear energy." Beck replied: "Look, America should embrace nuclear power, even if it's to get off the foreign oil bandwagon." Moore has repeatedly stated that he does not believe that there is a link between global warming and human activity. In an open letter to the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, Moore wrote: "Certainly the Royal Society would agree there is no scientific proof of causation between the human-induced increase in atmospheric CO2 and the recent global warming trend, a trend that has been evident for about 500 years, long before the human-induced increase in CO2 was evident." According to The Honolulu Advertiser , he has also claimed that global warming would be beneficial: "In direct opposition to common environmentalist positions, Moore contended that global warming and the melting of glaciers is positive because it creates more arable land and the use of forest products drives up demand for wood and spurs the planting of more trees."
Beck also hosted two guests who did not appear to question the scientific consensus relating to global warming, Martin Eberhard and Bill Lord. Introducing Eberhard, the CEO of Tesla Motors, Beck stated: "He probably doesn't agree with anything in this special, except maybe for this: It's ideas like his that are part of the solution." Eberhard did not discuss scientific issues concerning the causes of global warming; rather, he promoted his company's high-performance electric cars, with which, according to Beck, he "hopes to solve two major concerns: the CO2 emissions and, importantly, the male midlife crisis, while looking damn sexy doing it."
Beck introduced Lord as "another guy who probably doesn't agree with one word of this special," and interviewed Lord about his solar-powered home. Lord asserted: "On balance, we probably are generating as much as we use, so essentially it's a net-zero type of situation. We have to pay slightly more than $7 a month."