Drudge, Fox News again suggest a few days of cold weather trump climate change science

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Following the Drudge Report's lead, Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity each suggested that, in Cavuto's words, a "massive snowstorm," which recently hit the East Coast, calls into question the scientific consensus on "global warming." However, climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather provide any evidence for or against the existence of climate change.

Echoing a Drudge Report headline from the previous day that read, " 'Largest public protest of global warming' ever in USA faces DC March snowstorm!" Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity each suggested on March 2 that, in Cavuto's words, a "massive snowstorm," which recently hit the East Coast, calls into question the scientific consensus on "global warming." However, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather provide any evidence for or against the existence of climate change, and scientists have concluded unequivocably that the earth is warming.

Hannity, in particular, speculated that the snowstorm may be a message from "the big guy up there" to clean energy activists protesting at a coal-fired power plant in Washington, D.C. Referring to the March 2 protest, Hannity stated:

HANNITY: All right, take a look at the protesters carrying forth the legacy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King -- shivering in the snow as they protest the Earth's rising temperature as a foot of snow falls. Now, maybe it's just a coincidence that nearly every global warming protest occurs on the exact same day that we have a major snowstorm, or maybe the big guy up there is trying to send a message to these people. We report; we'll let you decide.

Hannity also hosted former McCain campaign adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer and college football analyst Lou Holtz, who each also suggested that spells of cold weather prove that global climate change is not occurring.

Similarly, Cavuto stated, "As a massive snowstorm wreaks havoc up and down the East Coast, what better time to hold a global warming protest?" Discussing the topic with Steven Biel, Greenpeace global warming campaign director, Cavuto also said, " If it's warm, it's global warming. If it's cold, it's global warming. I can't win with you guys." During the segment, Beil noted that "[s]cientists have never predicted that global warming would mean that there's no more snow." Beck also suggested on his show that short-term weather is relevant to climate change, saying, "[B]y the way, if you're in the New York area -- well, if you're in half the country -- they got a snowstorm. Aren't you sick of this global warming thing?"

On March 2, 2008, The New York Times reported that climate scientists reject the notion that conclusions about global warming can be drawn from short-term weather conditions:

Many scientists also say that the cool spell in no way undermines the enormous body of evidence pointing to a warming world with disrupted weather patterns, less ice and rising seas should heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and forests continue to accumulate in the air.

''The current downturn is not very unusual,'' said Carl Mears, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a private research group in Santa Rosa, Calif., that has been using satellite data to track global temperature and whose findings have been held out as reliable by a variety of climate experts. He pointed to similar drops in 1988, 1991-92, and 1998, but with a long-term warming trend clear nonetheless.

[...]

Michael E. Schlesinger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, said that any focus on the last few months or years as evidence undermining the established theory that accumulating greenhouse gases are making the world warmer was, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a harmful distraction.

Discerning a human influence on climate, he said, ''involves finding a signal in a noisy background.'' He added, ''The only way to do this within our noisy climate system is to average over a sufficient number of years that the noise is greatly diminished, thereby revealing the signal. This means that one cannot look at any single year and know whether what one is seeing is the signal or the noise or both the signal and the noise.''

[...]

Some scientists who strongly disagree with each other on the extent of warming coming in this century, and on what to do about it, agreed that it was important not to be tempted to overinterpret short-term swings in climate, either hot or cold.

Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist and commentator with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, has long chided environmentalists and the media for overstating connections between extreme weather and human-caused warming. (He is on the program at the skeptics' conference.)

But Dr. Michaels said that those now trumpeting global cooling should beware of doing the same thing, saying that the ''predictable distortion'' of extreme weather ''goes in both directions.''

Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan who has spoken out about the need to reduce greenhouse gases, disagrees with Dr. Michaels on many issues, but concurred on this point.

''When I get called by CNN to comment on a big summer storm or a drought or something, I give the same answer I give a guy who asks about a blizzard,'' Dr. Schmidt said. ''It's all in the long-term trends. Weather isn't going to go away because of climate change. There is this desire to explain everything that we see in terms of something you think you understand, whether that's the next ice age coming or global warming.''

As Media Matters has noted, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 "Synthesis Report" concluded that "[w]arming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level" and that "[m]ost of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [defined in the report as a ">90%" probability] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [human-caused] GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations."

Fox News hosts Megyn Kelly and Brit Hume previously echoed The Drudge Report in suggesting that winter storms cast doubt on global climate change. Fox News' Trace Gallagher and Brian Wilson also cited the "irony" of snowfall in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the United States on the day Al Gore testified on global warming before a Senate committee, while Bill Hemmer said the weather on the day of Gore's testimony was "making for an inconvenient forecast."

From the March 2 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: As a massive snowstorm wreaks havoc up and down the East Coast, what better time to hold a global warming protest?

[...]

CAVUTO: All right, back to all this snow pounding the East Coast. Is this any time to hold a global warming protest? My next guest says there's no better time, because this is global warming. Steven Biel is with Greenpeace and, Steve, last time we were on, I was just saying how you guys like to have it both ways. If it's warm, it's global warming. If it's cold, it's global warming. I can't win with you guys.

BIEL: Well, today turned out to be a pretty nice day actually. The sun came out and there's, right now, over 3,000 people in Washington, D.C., risking arrest in the largest action of civil disobedience, non-violent civil disobedience, against global warming in U.S. history and it's inspiring. It really is. It's --

CAVUTO: But did you time it with a blizzard?

BIEL: We ordered up the weather, just like that. No, we -- not -- no, we didn't.

CAVUTO: OK. You know the reason why -- this confuses me, because these climatic changes we have going on, maybe that's what they are -- climatic changes. They have nothing with global warming, per se, and that maybe what's happening is just something that is -- that shifts and now, given the severity of this particular winter for a lot of folks -- in Mississippi, they're looking at a half a foot of snow; they don't even know what that is -- that maybe it's nothing more than that. No sinister cabal to destroy the Earth by corporate America, just the Earth going through a funk, and now, it's cold again.

BIEL: Well, you'd be hard-pressed to find a climate scientist or a physicist who agrees with that.

CAVUTO: Actually, no. Actually, I've had dozens on this show, but that not withstanding, what is it where in an argument, when I -- I wasn't talking to you per se, Steven, but one of your counterparts, who said, I think, last year, "Neil" -- it was a fairly, you know, mixed winter at the time -- "get ready for warmer and warmer winters; get ready for Florida to be, if you've got coastal property, for it to soon be underwater."

BIEL: Right.

CAVUTO: "Get ready to just wear your Bermuda shorts throughout the winter," which is not objectionable if it's a fashion statement, but my point is that, that didn't happen. There was a lot of shoveling going on. And people from Mississippi to Alabama to Georgia, all the way up to Maine, are probably seeing this global warming protest and saying, "What?"

BIEL: Well, temperatures are on average getting warmer. Scientists have never predicted that global warming would mean that there's no more snow. In fact --

CAVUTO: But, wait a minute. This winter, at this point, is 1.7 degrees cooler than last winter at this time. I don't know how they calculate that, but that's the latest info I have.

BIEL: On average, worldwide temperatures are increasing. Ten of the warmest years on record are all in the last 20 years.

CAVUTO: But I just told you -- I just told you this winter is almost 2 degrees colder worldwide than last winter, at this time. So, are we going collectively for a year? Are you going to tell me that being colder is just like being warmer? What?

BIEL: Well, I don't think scientists would say that that particular data point that you're singling out from all the broader temperature trends worldwide accurately leads to a conclusion that global warming doesn't exist.

From the March 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: All right, if there's a terrible snowstorm happening, a protest about global warming is going on somewhere, and today is no different. Now with snowstorms causing problems all over the East Coast, the organization Capitol Climate Action revved up to stage an act of mass civil disobedience at a coal fire power plant in Washington. Now, it's all happening and Susan Sarandon was there, and she billed it this way.

SUSAN SARANDON (actress) [video clip]: Gandhi, Martin Luther King -- they were willing to stand up for what's right, even if it meant peacefully breaking the law. Civil disobedience can overcome great challenges and global warming is the greatest challenge of our time. On March 2nd, thousands will come together in Washington, D.C., for a historic protest on the climate crisis. Many will continue our tradition of peaceful civil disobedience. The American people will take a stand at Congress' own coal-fired power plant -- the glaring symbol of coal's hold over our government.

HANNITY: All right, take a look at the protesters carrying forth the legacy of Gandhi and Martin Luther King -- shivering in the snow as they protest the Earth's rising temperature as a foot of snow falls. Now, maybe it's just a coincidence that nearly every global warming protest occurs on the exact same day that we have a major snowstorm, or maybe the big guy up there is trying to send a message to these people. We report; we'll let you decide.

[...]

HANNITY: The environmental nut cases: first of all, they have a great idea. They don't like the idea of soft toilet tissue, 'cause it hurts the virgin forest. But that's number one; number two: Every time they have a global warming summit or -- it snows.

PFOTENHAUER: It snows. Right.

HANNITY: You like that coach? It cracks me up.

HOLTZ: I knew where you were going. I'll tell you what. Hey, I'm just walking over here; I don't have a coat. I'm freezing, eight inches of snow, and I said, thank God for global warming. I'd have really been cold.

HANNITY: Now it's the new ice age. Yeah, exactly.

PFOTENHAUER: You're right. You're exactly right.

HOLTZ: Am I lucky?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, you know, it's hilarious, 'cause when you talk to the scientists, they said "you could make the case just as much for global cooling," and then, you know, that they're -- that this stuff is just run amuck. But I'll tell you what: With Carol Browner in that White House, buckle up.

HANNITY: And Doug, by the way, Nancy Pelosi couldn't make it 'cause of the snow.

PFOTENHAUER: 'Cause of the snow.

DOUGLAS SCHOEN (Democratic strategist): I guess what I would say is I think there's global warming, but I worry about cap and trade as being a tax on --

HANNITY: That's a big issue.

SCHOEN: -- carbon, which is going to retard our economy.

HANNITY: You know what? You're too reasonable a Democrat. I --

PFOTENHAUER: Yeah. They're going to bail out the auto -- they're going to bail out the auto --

SCHOEN: A centrist Democrat who wants to find --

PFOTENHAUER: -- industry, and then hit them with cap and trade.

From the March 2 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Two of the world's most credible scientists that disagree with Al Gore on global warming -- and by the way, if you're in the New York area -- well, if you're in half the country -- they got a snowstorm. Aren't you sick of this global warming thing?

Anyway, they're on tomorrow's radio program and in my free email newsletter. You don't want to miss these guys. You can sign up and find out all the information at GlennBeck.com. And don't forget, set your Tivos and DVRs to watch the show all week and make sure you tell your friends, 5 o'clock Eastern time, set your Tivos. This is the place to be.

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