Media Push ‘Staggering’ Outlier Climate Claims of Economic Harm

If you’ve been tuned into TV news the past few days, you’ve probably heard “climate change could strip away 10 percent” of U.S economic growth by 2100. What you likely didn’t hear was why that was an “embarrassing” exaggeration based on the earth warming 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

CNN sounded the alarm following the Nov. 23, release of the U.S. National Climate Assessment Report. NBC’s shows Today and Nightly News, CBS’ This Morning and Evening News, ABC’s Good Morning America all panicked over the report’s many alarming claims including how much it would damage the economy. Print and online media also promoted the report, its “starkest warnings” and proclaimed climate change would “shrink US economy and kill thousands.”

CBS This Morning anchor Anthony Mason warned on Nov. 24, “A shocking new report shows climate change could soon knock out 10 percent of America’s economy.”

Nightly News didn’t expressly state 10 percent figure, but had other “staggering, long-term economic consequences” to warn about. Political reporter Kelly O’Donnell said, “The report projects Sea level costs of as high as $118 billion, infrastructure damage of $32 billion, with drought and heat expected to reduce U.S. agricultural productivity.”

“Among the report’s predictions and worst-case scenarios: America’s GDP dropping by 10 percent by the end of the century, hundreds of billions of dollars lost,” ABC correspondent Whit Johnson said on Good Morning America.

But the very day the report came out, University of Colorado political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr., criticized that 10 percent warning about GDP as “silly season.” He added that the research had been funded by liberal environmentalists and potential Democratic presidential candidates Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg through their organizations. He pointed out the double standard urging people to “imagine if research funded by Exxon was the sole basis for claims.”

He elaborated a day later, showing that particular forecast was the “top line” (most extreme) one and used 15 degrees of warming to generate a 10-percent reduction in the economy. He pointed out that even the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said more than 4 degrees of warming by 2100 was “unlikely” in all the other models.

“The 15 deg F temp increase is 2x most extreme value reported elsewhere in the report (95th percentile of RCP 8.5),” Pielke tweeted on Nov. 24.

He continued in a second tweet, “Shouldn’t such an outlandish, outlier conclusion been caught in the review process? Not a good look that sole review editor for this chapter is an alum of the Center for American Progress ... which is funded by Tom Steyer. Even rudimentary attention to COI [Conflict of Interest] would avoided this.” His additional tweets clarified that he views climate change as real, but reports need to be based on good science.

None of those television media reports mentioned that the extreme predictions were from an “outlier” model. No scientific critics or experts (Pielke or others) were included in those stories about the federal climate report. Climatologist Pat Michaels called the report “systematically flawed” because the models it used “dramatically overforecast warming ...” Experts also criticized the assessment’s choice to ignore “trends in rainfall and flooding” from hurricanes and the landfall hurricane trends.

But the only critic most broadcast chose to include was President Donald Trump who was repeatedly mocked for his attitudes toward climate change.

“You can’t spin your way out of science, folks” CNN’s John Avlon quipped about Trump on Nov. 26.

Also trying to bolster those alarming forecasts, CBS This Morning co-anchor Norah O’Donnell proclaimed, “that report by many agencies has the science behind it.”


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Economy Environment Global Warming Government Agencies ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS Evening News CBS This Morning NBC NBC Nightly News Today CNN
Julia A. Seymour's picture