It is interesting that it is not the scientists who are making the comparisons to Holocaust-deniers, but members of the media. For instance, Scott Pelley, who recently interviewed NASA's James Hansen for CBS's '60 Minutes', has been quoted on the CBS News PublicEye blog,
"There is virtually no disagreement in the scientific community any longer about 'global warming'....the science that has been done in the last three to five years has been conclusive."
Pelley posted this quote to the same blog:
"If I do an interview with [Holocaust survivor] Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?"
This comparison between global warming skeptics and Holocaust-deniers illustrates the upside-down worldview that makes the public increasingly distrustful of the media. The Holocaust has mounds of documented evidence: survivors, eye witnesses, photographs, movie footage, concentration camps, artifacts, death showers, ovens, human bones. What does manmade global warming have? The theory that mankind has caused the globally averaged temperature to be 1 degree F warmer than it was a century ago. (I'm sure holocaust survivors appreciate the minimization of their ordeal through use of this analogy.)
In stark contrast, what we do have as a direct result of the environmentalist-led restrictions on the use of DDT is tens of millions of deaths, and hundreds of millions of cases of severe illness, from malaria in Africa. The silence from scientists on this is remarkable. Thankfully, the trend against DDT bans is finally changing, with countries like South Africa virtually eliminating malaria with DDT. Is mankind really ready for another major policy catastrophe based upon environmentalist (and media) rhetoric?
Whenever you see any media statement that "the science is settled" on global warming, note that exactly what is settled about global warming goes unmentioned. If it were stated, the statement would either be false, or at least it would not convey the necessary urgency to 'do something about global warming'. Or maybe today's journalists can not deal with that level of complexity...but for the time being I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.
So, just what part of, "the science is settled on global warming", is really settled? Well, I would say that our current period of globally-averaged warmth is pretty indisputable, though possibly over-estimated. I say "globally-averaged" because some areas have actually cooled in the last 100 years. Furthermore, the majority of climate scientists would probably agree that some part of that warmth is manmade. But in contrast to the warmth itself, which has actually been measured with thermometers, its attribution to mankind's greenhouse gas emissions is only one possible explanation among many.
A minority of us would suggest that we really don't know how much of the current warmth is manmade versus natural. I suspect we are the Holocaust-denying, cancer-ignoring, flat-Earthers who still think the Moon landing was staged.
Marc Morano of Cybercast News Service recently reported on a curious teleconference where environmental group representatives, members of the media, and a Democratic congressional staffer joined in bashing those who would stand in the way of convincing the public that we should all "be afraid, be very afraid". One of those participating was Mark Hertsgaard, author of an article in the recent Earth Day issue of Vanity Fair, which had a (literally) green cover that included environmental experts such as Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and (of course) Al Gore.
In his article, Morano related some of Hertsgaard's comments:
"People in the American media in the last six weeks have begun to say 'the debate is over'. [There is] a lot more coverage than we have ever seen of 'global warming'; a lot more pointed coverage than we have ever seen. It is very striking that it is years behind the coverage in Europe," Hertsgaard said.
"People in Europe talked about the 'the climate loonies in the United States.' The Brits do not understand why people pay attention [to skeptics]", he added.
So, once again, we apparently need to look to Europe for our cues on what we should believe about global warming and climate policy, just as we should rely on their judicial rulings.
Further, the teleconference group derided "free-market think tanks". Reporter Paul Thacker offered, "I have often felt that these think tanks are kinda there just to dissuade journalists from covering these issues effectively...". Yes, and you know it's a well kept secret that free-market advocates only exist to keep everyone from learning how well socialism has worked throughout history. (Note the free-market comfort from which a free speech-loving journalist in a free-market economy can so freely bite the invisible hand that feeds him.)
Even Dr. Global Warming himself, James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies -- who participated in the same teleconference -- cautioned the others against pushing the rhetoric too far: "I am a little concerned about this, in the sense that we are still at a point where the natural fluctuations of climate are still large -- at least, the natural fluctuations of weather compared to long-term climate change." This is a much more moderate musing than some of his recent views, which include the warning that we might have only ten years left to turn things around, global warming-wise.
Dr. Hansen's advice might be too late. With upcoming movies, books, and the inevitable continuing stream of news stories about global warming science being settled, the tone of the debate does not appear to be ready to moderate any time soon. Despite the recent Gallup Poll results which indicated that, even though Americans believe that global warming will probably be worse than the media coverage suggests, on the environmental worries scale, global warming still only rates a 2.
Still, I'm left wondering...why does the global warming issue seem so much more important to the media than to the public -- to the point where they have do demonize skeptics with ad hominem attacks? Do they know something we don't know? I suspect it is more the reverse.
And how, exactly, do the media make the jump from "global warming being real", to the warming being entirely manmade, to the warming being catastrophic, to the faulting of the U.S. government for not implementing policy changes (Kyoto, Domenici-Bingaman) that won't help the problem anyway? That wasn't a rhetorical question...I really do want to know the answer. Send me an e-mail if you happen to know.
Dr. Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite. He's also a member of the TCS Science Roundtable.