Newsweek's Attack Job on 'Global Warming Deniers'

August 6th, 2007 1:35 AM

Kudos to Marc Morano of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Minority Staff (and former staffer for Rush Limbaugh) for surrendering several hours of his life in the cause of debunking an incredibly, almost jaw-droppingly bad article, "Global-Warming Deniers: A Well-Funded Machine" (by Sharon Begley with Eve Conant, Sam Stein, Eleanor Clift and Matthew Philips) in the August 13 Newsweek.

I read the Newsweek article after having been alerted to it by Marc, and my thoughts mirrored some of his:

Is Newsweek even a news outlet worth taking the time to respond to in posts like this? Does Newsweek, a quirky alternative news outlet, even have an impact on public policy anymore?

Based on the quality of the Newsweek piece, which, I trust, any thinking person will disregard as propaganda, I suspect the answer increasingly is "no." Marc, who is more generous to Newsweek than I, does come up with a value in Newsweek's piece:

Journalism students across the world can read this week’s cover story to learn how reporting should not be done. Hopefully, that will be Newsweek’s legacy -- serving as a shining example of the failure of modern journalism to adhere to balance, objectivity and fairness.

It is almost like the Newsweek writers and editors were watching the controversies the New Republic has gotten itself into by publishing stories without properly fact-checking them, and said to themselves: How can we get ourselves some of that kind of attention?

I know that sounds far-fetched, as theories go, but when people go so far out of their way to make fools of themselves, is it not reasonable to wonder if they are doing it on purpose?

The Newsweek article is here; Marc's criticism, which, as harsh as it seems, is actually too nice, can be found here. Marc's criticism focuses on the issue of climate science, and how Newsweek reported it.

The Newsweek piece is nothing but a collection of every canard the environmental left has said about conservative and free-market organizations on global warming going back to the late 80s (if not earlier), without regard to accuracy. Allegation after allegation is made in Newsweek about organizations as well as individuals who oppose the environmental left's agenda on global warming, yet the piece does not even pretend to include even a token rebuttal. It's not as if the facts were unavailable to Newsweek, either: One of the reporters on the story, Sam Stein, called the National Center for Public Policy Research (which I head) for, he said, information on the history of the climate change debate on July 26, around 2 PM. I called him back personally a bit after 3 PM, told him I would be happy to talk to him about this, and left my direct dial number. I never heard from him again. The way we "patterned" our work was still described by Newsweek, however -- in a quote from former Democratic lawmaker Tim Wirth, a green activist and Clinton appointee who is definitely on the other side of the policy fence, and who has no idea what he is talking about.

Gee, is Tim Wirth really an expert on how conservative and free-market think-tanks "pattern" our work? Even more than we are?

The Newsweek article reads like a post on one of the poorer climate alarmist blogs, with a couple of comments from the nutroots tossed in for color. It's that bad. Take, for example, Newsweek's lead, a broadside attack on the (unnamed) American Enterprise Institute:

Sen. Barbara Boxer had been chair of the Senate's Environment Committee for less than a month when the verdict landed last February. "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," concluded a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, green groups and businesses in 40 countries. Worse, there was now at least a 90 percent likelihood that the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels is causing longer droughts, more flood-causing downpours and worse heat waves, way up from earlier studies. Those who doubt the reality of human-caused climate change have spent decades disputing that. But Boxer figured that with "the overwhelming science out there, the deniers' days were numbered." As she left a meeting with the head of the international climate panel, however, a staffer had some news for her. A conservative think tank long funded by ExxonMobil, she told Boxer, had offered scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on. "I realized," says Boxer, "there was a movement behind this that just wasn't giving up."

Compare Newsweek's rendition with the facts: The American Enterprise Institute offered scientists, including some who in no way can be seen as allies of the so-called "skeptic" camp, $10,000 to review several thousand pages of scientific material from the most recent United Nations IPCC climate change report and write an original piece of 7,500-10,000 words reflecting their view of it. Hard work, in other words, for an appropriate -- based on the market -- fee. No requirement was made that the scientist disagree with, or criticize, the IPCC report. Newsweek reported this as "offer[ing] scientists $10,000 to write articles undercutting the new report and the computer-based climate models it is based on" -- a completely unfair description. (For more on what the American Enterprise Institute was trying to do, and the way the mainstream media, starting with the Guardian, screwed up the story, read "Scenes from the Climate Inquisition" by by Steven F. Hayward and Kenneth P. Green in the February 19 Weekly Standard.)

The Newsweek article doesn't get any better from there. Fortunately, it's so bad it lacks credibility, and will contribute to the mainstream media's downward spiral, but Marc Morano's debunking is worth reading anyway.