Rocky uncritically reported state GOP panel's climate change criticisms, provided no opposing viewpoints


In an article about a state Republican legislators' gathering to discuss global warming, the Rocky Mountain News uncritically reported the comments of GOP lawmakers and global warming skeptic William Gray, but it did not note that Gray's theories have been called into question. The News also did not report the opinions of scientists or legislators who agree with the consensus view on global warming.

An April 28 article in the Rocky Mountain News about a Republican legislator group's discussion of global warming uncritically reported the assertions of several GOP state lawmakers as well as the comments of William Gray, whom the News identified as a "respected hurricane forecaster, Colorado State University professor and global warming skeptic." The article failed to note that Gray's views regarding climate change have been questioned both by those who support and disagree with the idea that global warming is man-made. It also did not include any points of view opposing or questioning those of the GOP lawmakers or Gray, and did not report any comments from scientists or legislators who share the consensus view that human activity is largely responsible for observed climate change forcing.

Additionally, the News article by Todd Hartman included comments on global warming science by Marlo Lewis, whom it incorrectly identified as "a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute." In fact, Lewis is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative institution largely funded by the energy industry.

In contrast to the News article, an April 28 Associated Press report about the Republican-sponsored meeting posted on KMGH 7News' website noted the comments of Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, who stated that "natural changes in the environment cannot account for the magnitude of global warming in the past four decades."

From the April 28 Rocky Mountain News article by Todd Hartman, "GOP panel agrees: Warnings of global warming overdone":

The 12 or so people, lawmakers included, who showed up to hear the Republican Study Committee of Colorado discuss global warming Friday found politics to be just as hot.

The gathering in a Capitol hearing room opened with Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Loveland, telling the group that, when it comes to climate change, the public has heard "much less hard sciences ... (than) political science."

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, described efforts to slow global warming as "an attack on the free-market system, an attack on capitalism and an attack on countries that have progressed to the point where their economies are excelling far beyond other countries'."

"I believe there is a concerted effort by many environmentalists in the world to do us harm because they don't want to have the greatest country in the world be the United States," he said.

Harvey was followed by William Gray, the respected hurricane forecaster, Colorado State University professor and global warming skeptic. Gray has become a favorite among those who believe environmentalists, Democrats, Al Gore and John McCain & Co. are overdoing it on global warming.

Gray criticized what he views as a stacked system in which scientists study climate change because it's an easy way to get government grants.

"This is driven by the scientists getting money to study it," Gray said. "They skew these facts in a certain way and write reports to scare people."

Gray seemed taken aback at all the attention former vice president Gore has received with his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

"I've been 50 some years working at (forecasting)," Gray said. "How does he know more than I do?"


The final speaker, Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, gave a crisp overview of his book-length critique of Gore's movie, arguing that Gore overemphasizes doomsday scenarios.

Lewis says global warming is real and humans play a role, but he said the temperature rise will be at the low end of scientists' predictions.

Trying to do too much to stop warming would be a waste of money better used on new technologies and solving other world problems, he said.

At one point during his critique, he asked who in the room hadn't seen Gore's movie.

Almost everyone raised a hand.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, a wide variety of sources have called into question Gray's so-called expertise on the subject of climate change. For example, a May 28, 2006, profile of Gray by Washington Post Magazine staff writer Joel Achenbach reported that the weblog Real Climate -- produced by scientists who support the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by human activities -- "criticized Gray for not adapting to the modern era of meteorology, 'which demands hypotheses soundly grounded in quantitative and consistent physical formulations, not seat-of-the-pants flying.' " The profile also noted that "when you press him [Gray] on his theory of how thermohaline circulation has caused recent warming of the planet and will soon cause cooling, he concedes that he hasn't published the idea in any peer-reviewed journal. He's working on it, he says."

Criticism of Gray's "theory" has not been limited to supporters of the scientific consensus on global warming. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of meteorology Richard S. Lindzen -- whom Achenbach described as the global warming skeptic with "probably ... the most credibility among mainstream scientists" -- said of Gray: "His knowledge of theory is frustratingly poor." According to Achenbach, Gray also asserted that former Vice President Al Gore -- whose documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, highlights the scientific consensus on global warming -- "believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews." (Gray has since reportedly expressed regret for this comment.)

In reporting Lewis' comments, the News noted that he "says global warming is real and humans play a role," but 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."

In contrast to the News' reporting, the AP quoted the opposing viewpoint of Trenberth, who, it reported, "challenged Gray's assertion that ocean currents have more effect on temperatures than carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases." The AP further quoted Trenberth as saying, "Global warming is pervasive. It has an influence on everything ... It has an influence on ocean currents, it has an influence on hurricanes, it has an influence on rainfall."

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