Prompted by Scarborough, Stossel attacked Gore with Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity

On MSNBC's Scarborough Country, ABC's John Stossel attacked former Vice President Al Gore and delivered a stream of false and misleading claims on global warming. Noting that Gore “implies the argument” about global warming “is over,” Stossel repeatedly attempted to downplay, obscure, or deny the threat posed by human-induced global climate change, as depicted in Gore's documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. In fact, the vast majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring and that human activity is contributing to the problem.

On the June 28 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, ABC News 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel attacked former Vice President Al Gore and delivered a stream of false and misleading claims on global warming. Noting that Gore “implies the argument” about global warming “is over,” Stossel -- at Scarborough's prompting -- repeatedly attempted to downplay, obscure, or deny the threat posed by human-induced global climate change, as depicted in Gore's documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. But as Media Matters for America previously noted, the vast majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring and that human activity is contributing to the problem.

Media Matters has previously debunked similar global warming falsehoods advanced by Stossel while promoting his new book Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel -- Why Everything You Know is Wrong (Hyperion, May 2006).

Stossel made his comments during a brief solo interview with Scarborough, and during a panel discussion also featuring Tyson Slocum, director of the Critical Mass Energy Program at the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. In introducing Stossel, Scarborough stated that he “believe[s]” in global warming. But throughout the segment, Scarborough offered Stossel opportunities to attack Gore, and agreed with some of his claims, at one point inviting him to "[c]lear up the myths, the lies, the downright stupidity that Al Gore and others may be giving Americans."

Claim #1: National Academy of Sciences left open possibility that global warming is caused by “all natural influences”

In response to Slocum, who stated that a June 22 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report “conclusively proved that ... global warming is real” and is “the direct result of man-made developments,” Stossel stated that the NAS report “said we can't rule out that this [climate change] is just natural.” He claimed that the report's authors “said we think” global warming is “man-made,” but that “we don't know” and "[w]e can't rule out that these are all natural influences." He further urged viewers to “look it up ... and read the whole [report] instead of the summaries from the liberal media.” In fact, the report affirmed the “scientific consensus regarding human-induced global warming,” based on multiple “lines of evidence” supporting “the conclusion that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming” of the Earth.

Produced in response to a request from Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), the report examined “the state of scientific efforts to reconstruct surface temperature records for the Earth over approximately the last 2,000 years and the implications of these efforts for our understanding of global climate change.” The report noted that although these temperature record reconstructions “are not the primary evidence for the widely accepted views that global warming is occurring, [and] that human activities are contributing, at least in part, to this warming,” they “are consistent with other evidence of global climate change and can be considered as additional supporting evidence.” Specifically, the report noted that “the numerous indications that recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia ... supports the conclusion that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.” The report further stated that “the scientific consensus regarding human-induced global warming would not be substantively altered if, for example, the global mean surface temperature 1,000 years ago was found to be as warm as it is today.”

Claim #2: Stronger 2005 hurricanes not the result of global warming

Scarborough began his interview of Stossel by attacking Gore's suggestion, in An Inconvenient Truth, that global warming contributed to the intensity and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes in 2005. In his accompanying book, An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It (Rodale Books, May 2006), Gore noted a July 31, 2005, study by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel that Gore said “supported the scientific consensus that global warming is making hurricanes more powerful and more destructive” [An Inconvenient Truth, p.92].

Scarborough also attacked the Associated Press, which published a June 27 article in which 19 climate scientists who had seen the film largely agreed that it “conveyed the science correctly.” The article acknowledged “concern” regarding “the connection between hurricanes and global warming,” but noted that although "[t]hat is a subject of a heated debate in the science community," “Gore cited five recent scientific studies to support his view.”

Scarborough stated that for Gore to assert that global warming is “causing hurricanes and it may have caused Hurricane Katrina” is “just ridiculous,” adding that “there is no proof of that.” Stossel agreed, claiming that “the serious scientists scoff” at those claims. He added that although “warmer water can encourage hurricanes,” hurricanes “run in cycles” and “alarmists always want you to think it's man's fault.” Following up on Stossel's remarks, Scarborough stated that “scientists all say” that hurricanes “go[] in cycles,” yet “the AP” and “other news agencies seem to give Al Gore a free pass” on his claims of a link between global warming and more severe hurricanes. Stossel later agreed that although “it's possible” that global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, Gore “cherry-picks information and ... the press is giving him a free ride.”

In fact, a June 27 study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) supported the link Gore suggested between global warming and the strong 2005 North Atlantic hurricane season. A June 22 press release announcing the study's findings stated that "[g]lobal warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor." Specifically, the study found that "[d]uring much of last year's hurricane season, sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic between 10 and 20 degrees north ... were a record 1.7 degrees F above the 1901-1970 average," “global warming explained about 0.8 degrees F of this rise,” while "[a]ftereffects from the 2004-05 El Nino accounted for about 0.4 degrees F," and a natural cycle in sea-surface temperatures “explained less than 0.2 degrees F of the rise.” “The remainder [of the rise] is due to year-to-year variability in temperatures,” according to the study.

Claim #3: Sen. Inhofe not “bought off” by energy interests

When Slocum asserted that Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) -- whose office has criticized An Inconvenient Truth and the June 27 AP article reporting the scientists' defense of the film's science -- was “bought off by the oil and coal industry,” Stossel accused Slocum of “the usual smear” of "[a]nybody who disagrees" with the idea of global warming, adding “I would like to see the payment.” In fact, an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) shows that from 2001 to 2006, Inhofe has received more campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries than from any other industrial sector -- more than $300,000. CRP also notes that from 1989 to 2006, Inhofe received more campaign contributions from energy and natural resource interests than from any other sector (the finance sector was the runner-up) with total contributions from energy and resource interests approaching $1.3 million.

Claim #4: Global warming not “a crisis”

Stossel also suggested that global warming is not a “crisis.” But as Media Matters for America noted when Stossel previously downplayed the threat posed by global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 2001 that "[r]ecent regional changes in climate, particularly increases in temperature, have already affected hydrological systems and terrestrial and marine ecosystems in many parts of the world." Additionally, the IPCC Summary for Policymakers (SPM) noted that, if global warming trends persist as predicted over the next century, the impact on human systems could be catastrophic. “Projected adverse impacts” of climate changes, according to the IPCC, include:

  • "[R]eduction in potential crop yields in most tropical and sub-tropical regions for most projected increases in temperature" and “in most regions in mid-latitudes.”

  • “Decreased water availability for populations in many water-scarce regions, particularly in the sub-tropics.”

  • “An increase in the number of people exposed to vector-borne (e.g. malaria) and water-borne diseases (e.g. cholera).”

The IPCC also noted that “simple extremes,” such as "[h]igher maximum temperatures; more hot days and heat waves over nearly all land areas" -- which are deemed “very likely”-- could result in some of the following:

  • “Increased incidence of death and serious illness in older age groups and urban poor.”

  • “Increased heat stress in livestock and wildlife.”

  • “Increased risk of damage to a number of crops.”

  • “Increased electric cooling demand and reduced energy supply reliability.”

The IPCC also asserted that "[m]ore intense precipitation events" are “very likely over many areas,” resulting in:

  • “Increased flood, landslide, avalanche, and mudslide damage.”

  • “Increased soil erosion.”

Claim #5: U.S. “the cleanest country in the world”

When Scarborough gave Stossel an open invitation to "[c]lear up the myths, the lies, the downright stupidity that Al Gore and others may be giving Americans," Stossel claimed that although “we produce more carbon dioxide” than any other nation, the U.S. is “also the cleanest country in the world.” Although Stossel did not identify his criteria for proclaiming the U.S. the “cleanest country,” he made the pronouncement during a discussion of global warming, which is caused by CO2 and other gases. In addition to leading the world in CO2 emissions, as Stossel acknowledged, the U.S. has led the world in overall greenhouse gas emissions - in both absolute and per-capita standards - for years. Data recently submitted by the U.S. to the United Nations (U.N.) Climate Secretariat and reported in the media show that this trend continued through 2004, when U.S. greenhouse emissions reached a record high of 7.07 billion tons.

Claim #6: Activists fighting global warming are “socialists”

In response to Slocum, who noted that “China just implemented stronger fuel economy standards than the United States” and argued that “international cooperation” was necessary to combat global warming, Stossel replied: “Sounds like socialism to me.” He later added that “at bottom,” anti-global warming activism such as Gore's, is motivated by “a hatred of capitalism,” and “a hatred of industrial production.” He continued:

STOSSEL: As we get wealthier, the air gets cleaner, we can afford to do things that maybe, some day, if the globe is warming, we have to make adjustments. It's our wealth that will allow us to save the world. If we let these socialists control our lives, we'll all be worse off.

By Stossel's logic, newly confirmed Bush Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson appears to qualify as a “socialist[].” As Media Matters noted, the investment bank Goldman Sachs and The Nature Conservancy, both of which Paulson chaired, urged mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. In its November 2005 "Environmental Policy Framework," Goldman Sachs stated that "[v]oluntary action alone cannot solve the climate change problem" and expressed a commitment to “work[ing] to develop partnerships with other organizations to help identify and promote effective and efficient regulatory/policy approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Stossel has previously claimed that global warming is “another foolish media-hyped scare,” as Media Matters documented. In a December 10, 2004, 20/20 segment, Stossel reported on novelist Michael Crichton's book, State of Fear (HarperCollins, December 2004), to present a one-sided view on the significance of global warming. During the segment, Stossel portrayed skepticism about global warming as just as scientifically valid as respectable scientific research and opinion showing that the climate is changing; misleadingly suggested that projections of the future global climate are comparable to a local news channel's “weather forecast”; and highlighted Crichton's claim that climate scientists have an incentive to exaggerate global warming in order to win grants.

From the June 28 edition of MSNC's Scarborough Country:

SCARBOROUGH: In his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore claims global warming will cause more flooding on a catastrophic scale if American politicians don't do something about it now. Those claims, along with Bill Clinton's charge that global warming is causing an increase in hurricanes, has senators and some scientists boiling mad. They claim Gore is getting a free ride from a passive press and selling the world junk science.

With me now to talk about it, John Stossel. He is a correspondent, of course, at ABC News and co-anchor of 20/20, he is also author of the still best-selling book, Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. And John, I checked the and New York Times. That book is selling like hot cakes.

STOSSEL: Good. Maybe this will help.

SCARBOROUGH: You talk about global warming in there. You know, I tell you where I come from. I always tell my viewers I believe in global warming. I think it's happening. Fine.

But at the same time, for Al Gore and Bill Clinton to say that it's causing flooding, that it's causing hurricanes, and it may have caused Hurricane Katrina, that's just ridiculous, isn't it? There is no proof of that, is there?

STOSSEL: No. And the serious scientists scoff at that. The warmer water can encourage hurricanes, but they run in cycles. But the alarmists always want you to think it's man's fault so you will turn your life over to them and they can tell you what to do.

SCARBOROUGH: And by the way, I need -- when you talk about it going in cycles, you -- meteorologists, scientists all say that. I remember being warned in Florida five years ago about the next cycle, that from 1900 to 1945, we didn't have a lot of hurricanes -- or we had a lot of hurricanes. Then it slowed down for the next 60 years, and they said we're coming into a time where the water's going to start heating up again. And yet the AP, other news agencies seem to give Al Gore a free pass. Why?

STOSSEL: They do. And I went to the movie this weekend, and my wife and daughter, they both just believed every word. “Oh, my gosh, this is really happening.”

SCARBOROUGH: My sons are, you know, trying to drag me to see it.

STOSSEL: And it's possible, but he cherry-picks information, and you're right, the press is giving him a free ride.

SCARBOROUGH: You know, the Republican senators sent a press release saying the Associated Press has made the claim that this passes muster with all the scientists that saw the film. That's not the case either, is it?

STOSSEL: No. I've talked to the scientists. Al Gore implies that the argument is over. There are no skeptics. Well, there are no skeptics about global warming. The globe is warming, but climate changes. Is man doing it? Is it a crisis? Would Kyoto do any good? No.

I mean, even if America signed Kyoto and if every country that did sign it obeyed it -- which they are not going to do -- and if China and India were included, which they are not, it would make hardly any difference. Even the proponents of Kyoto admit that.


SCARBOROUGH: Let's bring in Tyson Slocum. He is Public Citizen's director of energy programs. Tyson, jump in and get us, buddy. Where are we wrong?

SLOCUM: You are wrong on everything. I cannot believe how irresponsible these comments are coming from Mr. Stossel.

With all due respect, in November, the Republican chairman of the House Science Committee asked the National Academy of Sciences to settle this global warming debate once and for all, and two weeks ago the National Academy of Sciences, with a, the best scientists available in the United States, put together a report that conclusively proved that the -- that global warming is real. That we have the highest temperatures in the last 25 years over the last 400 years of recorded temperature history and that these rising temperatures are the direct result of man-made developments.

This is the National Academy of Sciences. I, I ask all the viewers out there to do a Google search and go to the National Academy of Sciences report. This misinformation campaign by the Luddite skeptics out there is the most irresponsible misinformation campaign since weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

SCARBOROUGH: Are you a Luddite?

SLOCUM: Absolutely not. And this whole thing about Senator Inhofe in the Science Committee in the, in the United States Senate, saying that Al Gore's movie is ridiculous, that is also very irresponsible. And he is bought off by the oil and coal industry. The Republicans on that committee that issued that press release criticizes Gore.

STOSSEL: See, this is the usual smear. Anyone who disagrees is bought off by the oil and coal industry.

SLOCUM: It's true.

STOSSEL: I would like to see the payment.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, well, Tyson, I haven't gotten a dime. In fact, all I do is kick around and I, and I have you on the show and I spend most of my time kicking around oil companies, talking about alternative fuels, talking about how our energy policy is stupid. John, respond.

STOSSEL: Well, my earpiece fell out so I missed part of what he said, but the National Academy of Sciences report says, you know, we can't rule out that this is just natural. I wish people would look it up --

SLOCUM: They said --

STOSSEL: -- and read the whole thing instead of the summaries from the liberal media.

SLOCUM: They, they conclusively said it was man-made.

STOSSEL: They said we think man, man-made. Man is contributing to this, but we don't know. We can't rule out that these are all natural influences.

SCARBOROUGH: And, and, and Tyson, isn't that again -- you heard the beginning of this conversation with both John and I believe there is global warming, we just think Al Gore and others are being alarmists about it.

SLOCUM: There's no alarmist about the facts that are on the ground here. The fact is, is that NOAA, in the federal government, has shown that there is conclusive evidence that the tropical waters are getting warmer as a result of global warming and while that doesn't lead to more hurricanes, what it leads to is more intense, and and hurricanes, hurricanes that are more intense.


SCARBOROUGH: I think we all agree -- but, but isn't, isn't the problem in the end, though, Tyson, that even if America does that, even if Great Britain and the Western powers do that, you have China and India and these developing countries that don't have any environmental regulations and the pollution coming from that region is going to dwarf what the United States puts out.

SLOCUM: Well, actually, China just implemented stronger fuel economy standards than the United States has. So China is starting to understand it. They are starting to understand the ravages that their heavy reliance on coal is.

I am not holding up China as a model of, of environmental activism, but what the reality here is, is that the United States with less than 5 percent of the world's population, contributes to 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. China, with a billion and a half people contributes to14 percent. So what we clearly need is international cooperation and we cannot deny that global warming is a fact. .And we --

STOSSEL: Sounds like socialism to me.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. John, I'll give you the final word here. Clear up the myths, the lies, the downright stupidity that Al Gore and others may be giving Americans.

STOSSEL: Well, that took me 300 pages in the book. But let me just say that this, at bottom, it's a, a hatred of capitalism, a hatred of industrial production. Yes, it's true, we, we produce more carbon dioxide, but we are also the cleanest country in the world.

As we get wealthier, the air gets cleaner, we can afford to do the things that maybe, some day if the globe is warming we have to make adjustments, it's our wealth that will allow us to save the world. If we let these socialists control our lives, we'll all be worse off.

SCARBOROUGH: All right. We'll have to leave it there. You know, every time Tyson comes on, he's called a Marxist by [CNBC host] Jim Cramer.

STOSSEL: Jim Cramer called him that.

SCARBOROUGH: A socialist by you. Tyson, thank you so much. I appreciate you being with us. And I'll agree with you next time you are on the show. John Stossel, thank you so much. John, again, the author of Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity. Thanks for being with us.