CNN's Sanchez Fairly Moderates Debate Over Climate Change

James Balog, Director, Extreme Ice Survey; & Mark Morano, | [Update, 9:15 pm: Video added below the fold.]

CNN anchor Rick Sanchez fairly moderated a debate between glacier photographer James Balog and Marc Morano of on Thursday’s Newsroom about the issue of climate change. Sanchez did not side with either one of the debaters in his questions during the segment, and asked both reasonable questions [audio clip from the segment available here].

The CNN anchor led the 3 pm Eastern hour with a preview of the debate segment, as he played a video clip from Balog of a glacier in Alaska, and made his first hint that the ClimateGate scandal was going to be mentioned later: “The man who shot this video used to think global warming wasn’t real. He’s changed his mind. But leaked e-mails from prominent climate scientists tell a different story. You’re going to hear both sides.”

Before introducing both of his guests in the last segment of the hour, Sanchez played more glacier video from the photographer, as he further detailed the climate change controversy, and made another indirect reference to the ClimateGate e-mail scandal:

SANCHEZ: One side says the planet is heating up, it’s mostly our fault, and there’s plenty of proof and we’re in big trouble. The other side says nonsense. If we’re warming up, it’s a natural thing, and anyone who believes otherwise is playing with the data for- what, political reasons?

Let me show you something. It’s a very cool piece of video- roll it, if you could, Rog? That’s a glacier right there. It’s in Alaska. It’s the Columbia Glacier. You’re looking at two years of pictures, squished down to show you how this mountain of ice moves, ebbs, and flows. The scientist who made this video and lots more say[s]- look, this is evidence that glacial ice is going away- and not just going away, it’s always gone away- but it’s going away way too fast. He says it is shocking, that this is an emergency.

And here he is to tell you that for himself. That’s James Balog. But wait, I’ve got the other side, as I mentioned, as well- the side who says, nonsense. That’s Marc Morano from, and wait until you hear how fired up he is, especially now that there’s been a pile of e-mails floating around that some say is lending weight to [the] ‘climate denials’ movement.

For the remainder of the segment, the CNN anchor moderated the discussion between Balog and Morano, prompting them at times to explain their case:

SANCHEZ: James, let me start with you. I saw the video. I was impressed. It worries the average person to think that that much ice is going into the water and it could possibly make the waters all over the world rise. Convince me that’s the truth.

JAMES BALOG, DIRECTOR, EXTREME ICE SURVEY: Yeah. You know, Rick, I was a climate change skeptic once. When I saw the evidence that was in the ice, I saw the short-term evidence that we were recording and understood how that was embedded in a very, very, very long-term scientific record collected by thousands of very hard working, very cautious, very skeptical scientists from all over the world for decades. Then I realized that we had an issue here. This is not a fiction.

SANCHEZ: James- all right, James, you think he’s wrong? I’m sorry. Mark, you think he’s wrong?

MARC MORANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CLIMATEDEPOT.COM:  Well, yeah. I mean, certainly, you can go out and photograph some glaciers and say they’re melting. Was James photographing the size of one and a half Texas increase in Arctic sea ice since 2007 this summer? Was James photographing the Antarctic sea ice record highest sea level in the summer- sea ice cover in the summer this past summer. Where was James’s cameras then?

SANCHEZ: All right, let’s stop there- let’s stop there. You just raised two questions. Let him answer it. Go ahead, James.

BALOG: These are terrific points. There are obviously natural short-term variations in these cycles. The long term that is- you know, the two, four, six, eight, 10, 20, 100-year trends are very, very clear, and that’s what the denialists like to focus on. We have [unintelligible]-

SANCHEZ: All right, tell me about something. [unintelligible] I’m just going to stop for a minute, because I want our viewers to just not hear two guys going back and forth. I want them to get some evidence here they can put their heads around.

BALOG: Sure.

SANCHEZ: I was reading your material, James, for example, and it said in 1997, 1995, 2003, 2004- I think 2006, correct me if I’m wrong, were like the hottest years on record. Is that true? Is that accepted? Can we say we know that for sure or not?

BALOG: Absolutely, that’s correct-

MORANO: You cannot-

BALOG: And we also have very- we have very clear numerical information recorded all around the world by many, many, many, many people-

SANCHEZ: All right, so let me go back to Marc. Let me go back to Marc.

BALOG: Measuring a one-point- excuse me.

SANCHEZ: Go ahead.

BALOG: A 1.3 degree warming trend over the past 100 years. This is real. This is consequential.

SANCHEZ: Okay. Those are quantified numbers, Marc, and that’s important in this conversation. How do you refute that?

MORANO: Sure, but- we’re coming out of the Little Ice Age, which ended around 1850. So, of course, we’ve warmed. But to say it’s the hottest on record, you’re only going back to temperature records 1870, 1880, and you have a lot of biased warmings in there. A lot of the temperature sensors- they’re near concrete, near air conditioners. There’s people actually documenting all the bias. If you look at the satellite data, we actually have had no significant warming since 1998. Actually, no warming- we’ve been cooling in recent years. The entire scare is based on climate models. It’s the climate models.

SANCHEZ: Why would the [unintelligible]- I’m interested- I just don’t want to run out of time- I’m interested in your word, ‘bias.’ Why would people want to make up a story like this? To what end?

MORANO: Biased thermometers-

SANCHEZ: The thermometers are biased?

MORANO: Biased thermometers- they’re placed- yes, they’re placed near air conditioner outlets. They’re placed in hot asphalt-


MORANO: And that’s one of the ways they get this. But again, we’re only talking 120 years. We’re in the coldest period of the Earth’s history geologically. In other words, 90% of the Earth’s history has been warmer than today. We haven’t be able to support ice on either pole. So for James-

SANCHEZ: We’re down to 30 seconds- we’re down to 30 seconds before we go to Wolf [Blitzer], and then we’ll continue. So let me stop you, Marc, for a minute, and then we’ll continue on Answer that- you’ve got 30 seconds, James.

BALOG: With all due respect, this is absurd. This is not the coldest period. This is a distinctly warm period-

MORANO: Geologically-

BALOG: We have a very clear record of climate history going back nearly a million years. We are clearly in a cycle where nature is not natural anymore. The evidence shows that with great precision.

SANCHEZ: All right. Let me stop you both there.

MORANO: That’s not the case.

The day before, on Wednesday’s Situation Room, CNN commentator Jack Cafferty devoted one of his “Cafferty File” segments to a fair presentation on the ClimateGate scandal, and most of the viewer e-mails he read came from manmade climate change skeptics.

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