CNN's Collins did not challenge CEI fellow's distortion of Gore's sea level claim

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

During an interview with the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Marlo Lewis, CNN's Heidi Collins did not challenge Lewis' assertion that, in An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore claimed that global warming would cause sea levels to rise "20 feet ... in this century." Lewis added: "That is science fiction, but Gore presented it as fact. It's scaremongering." In fact, Gore was 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, not "in this century."

On the October 12 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-anchor Heidi Collins did not challenge the assertion by Marlo Lewis Jr., a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that former Vice President Al Gore -- a 2007 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize -- in his film, An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics, May 2006), claimed that, because of global warming, sea level would rise "20 feet ... in this century." Lewis added, "That is science fiction, but Gore presented it as fact. It's scaremongering." As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, 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, not "in this century."

As Media Matters also documented, in a February 2007 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that "[c]ontraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to continue to contribute to sea level rise after 2100," and that "[i]f a negative surface mass balance were sustained for millennia, that would lead to virtually complete elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7 m," which is equivalent to approximately 23 feet.

During the CNN segment, Collins introduced Lewis only as "a critic of Gore's global warming claims," a "senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute," and the author of "A Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth." She did not note that CEI has received funding from energy industry sources, including, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted, more than $2 million from the Exxon Mobil Corp. since 1998. According to the weblog Think Progress, Exxon Mobil no longer provides funding to CEI. On the August 15 edition of NBC's Nightly News, NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson noted that "[t]he Union of Concerned Scientists says Exxon Mobil gave almost $16 million over seven years to denier groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute." Thompson aired a clip of Lewis claiming, "We don't take that position because they invest. It's the other way around, and any environmental group that is honest and has any familiarity with us knows that to be the case." In addition, as Colorado Media Matters noted, CEI has received funding from right-wing financiers and organizations, such as Richard Mellon Scaife, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the October 12 edition of CNN Newsroom:

COLLINS: Al Gore sharing the Nobel Peace Prize, but his concerns not shared by all. Marlo Lewis is a critic of Gore's global warming claims. The senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute has written A Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth. Thanks for being here. What was your reaction when you saw the announcement this morning?

LEWIS: Well, I was not surprised, but I was also displeased.

COLLINS: Why is that?

LEWIS: Well, I don't think that Al Gore's policies, which the Nobel committee celebrated and mentioned as one of the reasons for giving him the ward -- the award lead to peace. Rather, I think those policies lead to global instability and political strife within nations, between nations, because basically what Al Gore and the global warming crusade want to do is put an energy-starved planet on an energy diet -- and this is a recipe for poverty. And poverty does not lead to peace; it leads to conflict.

COLLINS: So, if he had gotten some other type of award for his work regarding global warming in particular, you would be OK with that?

LEWIS: Well --

COLLINS: As in, you know what I'm saying, the Nobel Science Prize of some type?

LEWIS: I wouldn't be OK with that, but for a different set of reasons, which is that An Inconvenient Truth is basically a lawyer's brief for a political agenda. It's completely one-sided. Gore only mentions or cites studies that supports his point of view. He then exaggerates, in many cases, the evidence that he presents.

In some cases, he's just plain wrong. For example, 20 feet of sea level rise in this century is not in any sense a scientific possibility. That is science fiction, but Gore presented it as fact. It's scaremongering.

COLLINS: Well, let me interrupt you just for one second, because for --


COLLINS: -- the people out there, the average American who does not have the science background and is trying to really make sense whether or not this phenomenon is occurring, number one, and number two, whether or not man caused it to happen. How do I know what you're talking about? What evidence in particular -- what science is really behind your positions?

LEWIS: OK, I did not dispute that there is global warming or that mankind is causing a lot of the warming that we've seen in the last 30 years. That -- those are really uncontroversial positions -- or propositions. It's the fact that this means 20 feet of sea level rise or the claim that Gore made very heavy-handedly in An Inconvenient Truth that the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was driven by global warming. That really is a fabrication, and it's manipulative. It's a form of fearmongering -- and so, that's politicized science. That's not real science.

COLLINS: How should it have been written?

LEWIS: How should Gore have written it?

COLLINS: That particular point about Katrina?

LEWIS: Well, he might have pointed out that when Katrina made landfall, it was only a Category 3 storm, so the devastation that it caused, you -- there was no reason to think that it was because of some kind of extra oomph that it got from global warming because we've had Category 4 and 5 storms before the era of global warming. What he should have said was that there was 30 years of government failure to build adequate flood defenses for New Orleans, and that was the real root of the tragedy.

COLLINS: So, overall then, let's talk about the idea of global warming. Should people be concerned about it? Should there be someone out there that is getting dialogue to happen? That is one of the things that was said in the announcement this morning for the peace prize is that, you know, Al Gore is someone who has basically gotten people talking about this.

LEWIS: Yes, he's gotten people talking about it, and we can give him credit for that. The way he's gotten people to talk about it is manipulative and misleading. He has -- he is presenting global warming as a planetary emergency. In other words, this is a civilization-ending catastrophe that's unfolding, and that is simply not based on science.

And the tragedy here is that he is now diverting public attention, political will, and potentially trillions of dollars in global resources from much more urgent threats to human welfare like HIV/AIDS in Africa, malaria in Africa, malnutrition all around the world, water-borne diseases. These are lethal killers that are killing millions of women and children a year, and we could address those and actually save millions of lives for a fraction of what we are going to spend if we follow Al Gore down the Kyoto road.

COLLINS: Well, trying to give some equal time here to obviously an issue that is still very much in the forefront and still very hotly contested. We appreciate your insight.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Heidi Collins
CNN Newsroom
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