A Global Warming Shaggy Dog Story from ABC

August 31st, 2006 12:01 AM

"Last Days on Planet Earth" was the alarming title of ABC's 20/20 special tonight, a show that presented seven frightening scenarios that could lead to our extinction. But the bottom six in the countdown, things like supervolcanoes and asteroid strikes, nuclear annihilation and superbugs (natural and man-made) were only window dressing for the real point of the show; the number one threat to human existence...global warming.

Hostess Elizabeth Vargas trotted out carefully selected environmental scientists to explain the concept to anyone who has been comatose for the past decade or so, leading up to the star of this 20/20 special - Al Gore. Gore sonorously (and soporifically) intoned his orthodoxy, and declared a fatwah against any heretics who might disagree with his conclusions.

There is no debate, Gore declared, about the causes and effects of global warming, and if anyone disagrees, well then, they're obviously in the pay of the polluters. Vargas and the 20/20 team helpfully provided file footage of tobacco executives testifying before Congress, in case anyone didn't get the message.

How then to explain Richard Lindzen, the man that Alex Beam, writing in the Boston Globe, calls "MIT's inconvenient scientist"? Lindzen definitely does not believe that the debate is over:

Here's the kind of information the "scientific consensus" types don't want you to read. MIT's Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen recently complained about the "shrill alarmism" of Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth." Lindzen acknowledges that global warming is real, and he acknowledges that increased carbon emissions might be causing the warming -- but they also might not. "We do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change" is one of Lindzen's many heresies, along with such zingers as "the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940," "the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average," and "Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."

Lindzen has come under political and legal attack for daring to state his views. Beam details it in his column.

The bottom line is this: the public is ill-served by journalists who present one side of an issue simply because they've swallowed that side's argument that those who disagree are greedy liars. Elizabeth Vargas and her bosses at 20/20 should be ashamed of themselves. This piece shows just how easily agenda journalism can slide over into propaganda.

More of the "non-existent" global warming debate here, here, and here.