CNN's Brain Freeze On Climate Change

Despite the clear scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that humans are causing it, CNN's Erin Burnett treated climate change as the subject of debate.

Burnett set up a discussion on her Wednesday show with a weather report and CNN's opinion polling on climate change, rather than scientific facts.

Throughout the segment, Erin Burnett OutFront aired a badly misleading graphic suggesting that global warming is “on ice” because public opinion has changed. The phrase carried a question mark during most of the discussion, but eventually dropped it:

CNN global warming graphic

In contrast, here's a chart from the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change showing the long-term change in global temperature:

Met Office global temperatures chart

Last year was also the hottest year on record in the U.S.

One of Burnett's guests, CNN contributor and conservative blogger Erick Erickson, rattled off a litany of debunked arguments to advocate against taking action on climate change. Erickson described climate change as “a problem we probably have to get used to,” rather than one “we can cure.”

Fellow CNN contributor John Avlon tried to bring some responsibility to the discussion by saying that the subject of the debate should actually be how we deal with climate change, rather than climate change itself.

Although Burnett said she agreed with Avlon, she immediately tried to cast doubt on science related to the climate. Burnett said a study recently found that some corals have adapted to higher water temperatures and suggested this was reason to be suspicious of government acting on climate change.

Though Burnett did not specify which study she was referring to, a study released last year by marine biologist James Guest discussed the adaptation of coral to warmer temperatures.

Guest told Science magazine that finding evidence of adaptation “does not mean that the global threat to reefs from climate change has lessened.”

Reporting on climate change doesn't have to be burdened by false balance. For instance, much of PBS' coverage has acknowledged the scientific consensus on the subject -- and even featured climate scientists.